Wine

Visit Italy’s First Zero Carbon Vineyard

Travellers who want a genuinely eco-friendly vineyard tour can now enjoy one, safe in the knowledge that their vineyard’s eco-credentials are backed up by hard fact. Monte Vibiano is Italy’s first zero carbon winery and in many years, their carbon output is negative by several hundred tons.

Here in the Umbrian hills, the Fasola Bologna family’s 2,000 year old castle mellows serenely in the afternoon sun and the olive trees are hundreds of years old.  However, against this timeless background Lorenzo Fasola Bologna, the pioneering young head of the family business, has harnessed modern technology to provide visitors with an entirely zero carbon experience.

Visitors tour the olive groves and vineyard by electric vehicle. After inspecting the vines and plunging into the heart of life on a busy working farm guests return to the eco-terrace for a tasting. They sample bruschetta and cold-pressed olive oil alongside the award-winning wines produced from the eight different grape varieties growing on the farm. The bar’s made from unused corks, the tables from wood that’s been cut down on the farm, and the electricity on the entire estate comes from solar panels.

 

For more information on Monte Vibiano’s green project visit www.360green.it

We’re a proudly responsible company. It’s possible to visit Monte Vibiano as part of Drink Dine Discover’s Italian gourmet weekends, which operate seasonally. 2014 departures are 15th May, 12 Jun, 25th September and 16th October. Costs from £1,185 per person for 4 nights/5 days, excluding international flights.

For more information please contact Alex on alexandra@drinkdindediscover.co.uk or +44 (0)7841 624773

Categories: Eco, Italy, Vineyard, Wine

Bonfires, Beef and Bodegas

Call me crazy, but I actually love that time of year when the weather shifts into woolly scarf season, publications stop advising you on how to lose weight and bare skin and start actively encouraging you to snuggle under layers and tuck into hearty winter food. For me, Bonfire night signals that start of winter and provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate; a night to wrap up warm, nurse a cup of mulled wine by a large fire and indulge in something rich for dinner. So, here is my favourite recipe to feed a group for fireworks night –a  warming casserole  with my own Spanish twist

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Aimee’s Spanish Syrah Stew

Ingredients

900g braising steak, cut into squares

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 heaped spoon plain flour

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 ring chorizo, sliced

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 bottle Spanish Syrah, or similar red wine

350g shallots, peeled and whole

4 piquillo peppers, sliced

2 x 400g tins butter beans, drained

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (Gas Mark 4)
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large casserole dish or oven proof pot. Add the beef and cook over a medium heat until browned. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  3. Add the flour and combine with the oil and meat juices. Add the sliced onion, garlic and peppers and cook until softened.
  4. Add the Chorizo and paprika and simmer for 4 minutes. Return the meat to the pot and add butter beans.
  5. Pour in the entire bottle of wine. If it does not cover the other ingredients, add some water.
  6. Season with salt and pepper, then cover and place in the oven. Cook for 2-2 ½ hours, stirring occasionally.

 Food and Wine Tour Tuscany

Serving Suggestion

I like to serve this dish with buttery garlic mashed potatoes and curly kale. My ideal wine pairing would be a hearty bottle from my favourite Toledo Bodega:  Finca Loranque Syrah –Tempranillo 2006, with its jammy dark berry aromas and subtle kicks of spice.

 

 

Categories: Christmas, City Break, Food, Foodie, Madrid, Seasonal, Spain, Wine

Discounted Vinopolis Tickets With Drink Dine Discover

Wine Tasting at Vinopolis

We recently visited Vinopolis, a wine tasting experience on London’s South Bank. We loved it so much we wanted to share it. We’ve arranged a special discount for Drink Dine Discover customers.

Get £10 off any ticket to the wine experience on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays throughout November. Choose which self-guided wine tasting ticket you would like and then enter our unique discount code (DDD10OFF-13)

Choose from the below options:

Essential Tickets
7 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience
Normal price: £27pp
https://shop.vinopolis.co.uk/The-Essential-Wine-Experience.html

Classic Tickets
12 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience
https://shop.vinopolis.co.uk/The-Classic-Wine-Experience.html

Quintessential Tickets
16 tokens to spend in the Vinopolis Wine Tasting Experience
https://shop.vinopolis.co.uk/The-Quintessential-Wine-Experience.html
 
All tickets include an introductory ‘how to taste wine’ session before guests are at leisure to explore over 100 wines, spirits and champagne. Wine experts are on hand throughout the experience to offer tips and make recommendations.
 
Ts&Cs

Not valid in conjunction with any other offer
Attendees must be 18yrs or over
Offer valid on standard Essential, Classic and Quintessential wine tasting tickets (which are not available in December)
Not valid on Saturdays

Categories: Special Offers, Wine

Munching My Way Through Madrid…

It already seems too long since  myreturn from our Gourmet Madrid trip, but I can still taste the warm, gooey centre of freshly fried tortilla and the rich spiciness of Toledo wine. If you’ve never experienced this vibrant city, let me try to entice you with a little breakdown of what we saw, ate and drank…

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Tapas, Tapas, Tapas

Every major city in Spain may lay claim to having the best tapas, but the incredible diversity of offerings and value for money (providing you avoid the ubiquitous tourist traps) makes Madrid my firm favourite. We spent a lot of time in the Mercado de San Miguel, savouring traditional Vermut aperitivos, sumptuous jamón Iberico, and Madrid’s famous fiery potato dish, patatas bravas.

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Wonderful Wine

I always find that you get so much more from the experience of tasting wine if you have a little insider knowledge, so for our first day we spent the afternoon learning the basics with our slightly eccentric host Julián. In the basement cellars of Madrid we were shown all the tricks of the trade through a series of fun games and quizzes, leaving us ready to swirl, sniff and sip in vineyards like the pros. After this we all headed for a gourmet tapas meal with the best Sangria in town!

 

Carafes and Castles

Our fist vineyard venture took us into the mountains on the outskirts of the city and to some of the most impressive views around, which we got to enjoy at a custom built tasting area carved from the very rose granite which helps to make the wine so delicious. The bodega owners also run the local old Castillo, which just happens to be the sight of the signing of the marriage contract between Isabella of Castile and Fernando of Aragon which united the kingdoms of Spain. After a private tour of the castle we are treated to a homemade lunch in the old chapel – heavenly!

DSCN2224When visiting this area around Madrid you should never miss a chance to see the magnificent El Escorial monastery – part building of worship/part palace where the kings and queens of Spain have been buried for centuries in awe inspiring marble tombs. We had just enough time to admire the building and have a moment to get lost in the gallery of art treasures within before it was time to head back to the city for a taste of traditional Basque fare in one of Madrid’s favourite little family-run spots.

 

The Original Capital City

Today’s excursion was to the ancient city of three cultures; the former Spanish capital of Toledo. Famous for its unrivalled blend of Catholic, Islamic and Jewish architecture, as well as top notch steel and mouth-watering marzipan, this is a wonderfully eclectic place where you can wander the cobbled streets and come across cathedrals, mosques, and synagogues nestled between shops filled with swords, suits of armour and golden yellow almond creations!

DSCN2379As the former seat of power in Spain, naturally Toledo needed a good supply of wine (such an important life staple!) The wines of the area may have been overshadowed by the fame and popularity of Rioja to the North, but Toledo vineyards have history and the passion of family producers who have been harvesting for generations on their side. We visited one such vineyard, whose methods have changed little since the 18th century, when prestigious French architects were brought over to design the perfect winery. The fruits of their labour have been enjoyed by royalty, politicians and celebrities, and today by our little group of wine lovers. After a fascinating tour by wine expert Jorge, we are treated to glasses of 3 fantastic reds, the great value of which was such that several couples decided to buy additional suitcases for the journey home to accommodate as many bottles as possible!

 

Back to the Future

This evening’s meal saw us discovering the very best of Madrid’s new wave of modern, quirky cooking and tantalising twists on the classics. Abraham Garcia, the eccentric and very talented owner and chef, took us on a taste safari, from curried lentil and crab soup, through decadent porcini and foie sauce with freshly grated truffle, all the way to white and dark chocolate panna cotta with coconut and rum sauce… and even more in between! All washed down with fabulous local wine and a glass of cava and lemon sorbet – perfection!

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The Last Supper

Our final day was a chance to explore independently, with some choosing to visit Madrid’s iconic “Big 3” art galleries, whilst others strolled the bustling streets of unusual shops and lively bars. Our farewell lunch took place at a proper Spanish hour – 3pm. We headed for another great restaurant institution of Madrid, where the walls are crammed with bullfighting paraphernalia and family photos, and the atmosphere is like a large but cosy dinner party. The traditional jamón, Manchego cheese, rich croquettas, and gigantic, succulent steaks are like gourmet comfort food – it’s enough to make you feel like a true Spaniard! And hopefully, that’s exactly what the group came away with – a little taste of the real Spain, and in particular, Gourmet Madrid.

Categories: City Break, Food, Foodie, Holidays, Madrid, Spain, Tapas, Vineyard, Wine

Top 5 German Wines for Winter

Ahr Valley in the Winter

After working hard on our German Christmas Markets trip in November, I find myself with a serious craving an elegant Riesling or a hearty Pinot Noir. Picturing myself by the open fire of a snow covered inn straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, these are my seasonal favourites I wish I were sipping…

  1. 1.       2011 Philipps-Eckstein Graacher Domprobst Riesling Sekt

In my perfect wintery setting, I would be starting with a glass of golden, sparling Sekt, Germnay’s sparkling wine. This one is made using the traditional, Champagne method, and stands out for its balanced toastiness and fruit, with just a hint of spice.

  1. 2.       2011 Saar Riesling Van Volxem

For me, no trip to Germany (even an imaginary one) should be without a glass of elegant, dry Riesling. I love this wine in particular for its mineral expression, lively acidity and delicious hints of ripe apples and pears.

  1. 3.       2011 Walporzheimer Kräuterberg, Ahr-Spätburgunder

Spätburgunder, (Pinot Noir) doesn’t get any better in Germany than those of the beautiful Ahr Valley. I’ve picked just one example from the many we will be trying on our German Christmas Markets trip: a delicious Pinot Noir with toasty aromas, a delicate hint of vanilla,and bursting with black cherry and ripe plums on the palate.

  1. 4.       2009 Kollmann-Lex Dornfelder

The Dornfelder grape variety was bred in 1956 and, though a relative newcomer to German viticulture, has already made a big impact with its signature deep colour, velvety texture and ability to benefit from barrique aging. This wine is earthy and almost herbal on the nose, with rich black fruit flavours and a hint of spice.

  1. 5.       2003 Dönnhoff Oberhauser Bruke Riesling Eiswein

I love the story behind this Eiswein, a German dessert wine produced from grapes frozen on the vine to concentrate the must. Apparently on this particular year the perfect time for grape picking coincided with Christmas day and resulted in the Dönnhoff family spending their Christmas plucking frozen grapes in sub-zero temperatures. But, though I feel for these dedicated producers out there in the snow, I wouldn’t be without a snifter of the stuff each winter! And thanks to this family’s efforts on Christmas 2003, we have a deep, jammy sweet wine packed with plum and vanilla aromas to see us through the cold.

Categories: Christmas, DDD, Food, Foodie, Germany, Spain, Wine

Gourmet Madrid – My Love Affair With the Mercado San Miguel

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I have just returned from Drink Dine Discover’s inaugural trip to Madrid, a whirlwind of tapas and Tempranillo, history and jamón. If you have never visited Spain’s oft-overlooked capital and you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, then you need to get over to Madrid and explore the delights of eating and drinking in Europe’s city that never sleeps.

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Madrileños are often referred to as gatos by the rest of the country, cats who roam the streets at night and don’t return home until dawn. Even by Spanish standards the capital’s residents are extreme in their eating habits – dinner is regularly not served until midnight and topping into the abundant bars for a caña (small beer) and a tapa is a daily ritual. Life here seems to centre around socialising and for the residents of Madrid, socialising means one thing; eating out.

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To acquaint you with the Madrid philosophy when it comes to gastronomy, I would head first, as we did, to the Mercado San Miguel, a glass and wrought iron structure handily situated just off Plaza Mayor. I guarantee that any foodie walking in will feel like a kid in a sweet shop (quite literally at some of the chocolate stalls). Wander between fantastic displays of vegetables, cheese, fish and meats interspersed with bars and tasting stations serving beer, wine, vermut (the classic Madrid aperitif), sherry, Champagne and sangria with plates of delicacies made from anything and everything, all on offer under one roof. Open from 10am to 2am, this mouth-watering spot in the Old Town is so much more than simply a place to buy your groceries. Mercado San Miguel is a unique experience of social shopping, with tables and stalls in the centre and the buzz of people eating, drinking and chatting as they taste before, whilst and after they buy.

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After a few hours of acclimatising to the volume of Spanish conversation, the speed of service and abundance of regional flavours, you should be perfectly set up to explore the rest of the city’s gastronomic offerings. As they say in Spain; “que aproveche!”

Categories: City Break, DDD, Food, Foodie, Holidays, Spain, Wine

Top 5 German Christmas Markets

Christmas Market Gourmet Tour

It may only be September but I find myself already in hibernation mode, shying away from the cold, drizzly gloom outside. I am in serious need of some hearty, warming comfort food… and perhaps even a trip out of the country to search for it! After all, what could be more festive as we head into winter than a visit to the land of Christmas charm? I present to you, my favourite Yuletide spots in Germany:

1. Aachen

As the closest Christmas market to the UK, this ancient little spa town nestled on the Belgian border seems the logical place to start. Once the seat of Emporer Charlemagne, it still guards his treasures, from gold and jewels to the very buildings themselves – glorious examples of Medieval architecture, including the oldest cathedral in Northern Europe. With such a beautiful and historic setting, Aachen’s Christmas market couldn’t be better positioned, but it is its local delicacies that often steal the show. The speciality here is Aachen printen, a type of gingerbread exclusive to the town, which appears everywhere in an abundance of shapes and sizes.

Aachen Gingerbread (printen)2. Nuremburg

One of the most highly attended Christmas markets, Nuremburg’s pageantry and strict rules on authentic offerings gives the experience a very family-friendly feel. The main attraction is the Christkind, or Christmas Angel, a local girl chosen each year to open the market form the balcony of the Frauenkirche and to represent the spirit of Nuremburg’s Christmas celebrations.

3. Monshau

One of Germany’s best kept secrets, Monshau was awarded Most Beautiful Christmas Market in West Germany, and though small, this perfectly preserved little town certainly delivers as a truly quaint and festive market. I recommend checking out Monshau’s Christmas House; 3 stories filled entirely with decorations to admire and buy throughout the Christmas season.

Christmas Market in the Ahr Valley4. Dresden

Often cited as Germany’s oldest Christmas market with a history dating back to 1434, Dresden’s version even has its own name, Striezelmarkt. The name comes from the word Hefestriezel, a sweet delicacy which, centuries later, has become known as “Dresden Christstollen”. Today this local Christmas cake is the culinary focus of Dresden Christmas market, along with the world’s largest nutcracker and Christmas Pyramid!

5. Cologne

 

If you are still having trouble choosing just one Christmas market, then why not head for Cologne where an astounding 7 different markets are held each year! Whether you fancy the impressive backdrop of the Cologne Cathedral market, or the Cologne Harbour Christmas Market with it’s gourmet focus next to a chocolate factory, or even the cabaret and shows of Christmas Avenue, Cologne’s Gay and Lesbian Christmas Market, there’s something for everyone in Cologne!

 

Categories: Food, Foodie, Germany, Holidays, Wine

Germany: More than just Beer and Bratwurst?

Aachen Christmas Market

Over the last few months we have been busy researching and organizing our first wintery gourmet trip and as the seemingly inevitable washout August bank holiday arrived we were ready to launch Drink Dine Discover’s German Gourmet Christmas Markets. Germany may seem the obvious travel choice for a nation that inherited its love of Christmas from a German prince (thanks Albert!), but on closer inspection there are lots of surprises in store behind the wooden doors of those fairytale, snow-covered inns.

 

First up is our alternative to the usual Oktoberfest fare with our stay in the picturesque Aar Valley, not far from Cologne, where some of the country and indeed the world’s finest Pinot Noir is produced. Most people will not be too familiar with German wines, probably associating the country with aromatic whites such as Riesling or low-quality mass-produced semi-sweets the likes of Liebfraumilch. For the longest time, I quite agreed. I do like a nice dry Riesling, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the stuff to warm your cockles in the depths of winter. So when I first met Anne, now our resident German wine expert, her love and knowledge of her country’s diverse and ancient wine production changed my attitude entirely. Pinot Noir, or Spätburgunder as it is known in Germany, is a real specialty of the Aar Valley, with its steep vineyards whose hilltops are crowned with castle ruins all along the river. Here the wines are red, rich and hearty and the perfect starting point for our tasting tour of seasonal game, family owned distilleries and freshly baked flammkuchen (a type of German tarte flambée).

Aachen Gingerbread (printen)As we move towards the Belgian border we will also travel through cosy villages that appear to be straight out of a Brothers Grimm tale, trying specially smoked fish by a wintery lake and learning about (and of course indulging in) scrumptious printen, a type of gingerbread only produced in Charlemagne’s favoured spa town, Aachen. Once the Coronation place of German Emperors, this picturesque little town still houses Charlemagne’s treasury, as well as one of the country’s best and most charming Christmas markets.

 

 

Ahr Valley in the WinterThough we are just scratching the surface of the wonderful richness of the German countryside, culture and cuisine, it has already become clear that images of frankfurters and flagons really are crude stereotypes. Though the beer is without question very good, and hearty plates of sausages and sauerkraut will no doubt make an appearance these are not the things that make Germany so rich and complex. I think perhaps Germany’s wealth lies in the surprising nuances and quirky traditions of its’ people, history and, of course, gastronomy, that only the inquisitive traveler experiences.

 

 

Categories: Christmas, Food, Foodie, Germany, Holidays, Wine

Stars, Stripes and Stereotypes

Wine Review

The USA and its citizens have perhaps the most diverse and polarised stereotypes of any other country in the world. Think America and you may envision anything from cowboys to clinical obesity. Similar opinions seem to exist when it comes to their wines, with the mass commercialisation of certain below-par offerings dominating our UK market and doing the same for American wines as Blue Nun did for German Rieslings. Yet New World fans still sing the praises of Californian viticulture and recently I have found myself agreeing with them.

Although our gourmet tours focus on Italy and Spain, we love a little variety, so here’s a list of 5 of my current favourites from across the pond, having reminded myself of a fair few during last week’s 4th July celebrations!

  1. 1.    Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2011

Charles Smith Wines, Columbia Valley, Washington State

I love this funky modern Riesling, with its fresh acidity and complex minerality. Hints of orange and lime make this the perfect accompaniment for spicy Asian dishes or prawns on the BBQ.

  1. 2.    Wild Boy Chardonnay 2010

Au Bon Climat, Santa Barbara, California

A psychedelic label featuring the free-flowing bearded winemaker, Jim Clarenden, is at odds with the bottle’s contents – this is a serious wine. Clarenden’s Burgundian influences definitely shine through in this oaked, citrusy Chardonnay. Salmon, shellfish or chicken would all go down well with this west coast gem.

  1. 3.    Vin Gris de Cigarre 2012

Bonny Doon Vineyard, Santa Cruz, California

A pretty shell pink colour reminiscent of Provence and subtle hints of citrus and summer fruits making a delightful crisp and fresh wine that still has complexity. Summer in a glass!

  1. 4.    Domaine Drouhin Pinot Noir 2009

Willemette Valley, Oregon

 Burgundy has definitely inspired the wines of this estate, perhaps Oregon’s foremost Pinot Noir producer. This 2010 vintage is an incredibly accessible example, with the strawberry on the nose that you would expect, as well as red cherries and a subtle hint of spice. Delicious and elegant.

  1. 5.    Incredible Red Zinfandel, 2010

Peachy Canyon, Westside Paso Robles, California

This Incredible Red from a small family-run estate on America’s West Coast is, I think, incredibly good value for money. A far cry from the clumsy, mass-produced Zinfandels that plague pub wine lists, this incarnation of Italy’s Primitivo grape is a great example of the variety’s possibilities in the States. Every glass is packed full of flavour, starting off with forest berries, moving into more complex notes of leather, spice and vanilla. A big, American wine with a lot going on!

Categories: Wine

Elderflower Champage

Alexandra collecting elderflowersWe’re pretty committed foodies here at Drink Dine Discover, to say the very least. It’s fair to say that we’ve never had a meeting yet that hasn’t involved a least a crunchy little biscotti or a glass of Amarone. However, although we’re known for our gourmet tours in Tuscany, it’s not just Italian food that we love, and June is a month of bounty in the British hedgerows. As the countryside turns vivid green and frothy white, our thoughts have turned to elderflowers. More specifically, being girls who love a few bubbles, to elderflower champagne.

Making Elderflower ChampagneUnless you’re very lucky, this is something that money simply can’t buy: you have to make your own. Making elderflower champagne is pretty straightforward- all you need is sugar, lemons, a splash of vinegar and yeast, then just add elderflower and water and sit back and wait for it to ferment. There are numerous recipes available, but we’ve always used this one by the delightful Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall with great success.

ElderflowerOur one tip? Though Hugh advocates glass bottles, it’s absolutely essential to make sure they’re flip top and we’d be tempted to go for plastic. Why? Well, if you forget a stray bottle and leave it lurking deep in the depths of the larder, the pressure keeps building, and one day, like a friend of ours, you’ll end up with shards of glass embedded in the wall and a sticky mess on the floor.

After a week or two, your fizz’ll be ready to drink. And if you simply can’t wait that long? There’s always elderflower fizz: just take elderflower cordial and add it to your favourite champagne.

Categories: Wine

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