Wineweek 145: Best Pics From London

Finally back home. For the past three week’s it has been a marathon of travel in Finland, Estonia and most recently Great Britain. Tomorrow autumn will start with a return to the office and daycare; cold winds will blow and sooner than we know it, winter is here. For us that is actually not that bad, as we always have our long holiday starting in December, but until then days will just get shorter and we would rather be somewhere else. I am one of those people who was born to the wrong side of the globe. During our years in London we always exclaimed that we moved there for the weather. This year, however, the beginning of August was a bit chilly even there. But we had some awesome food and wine to keep us warm. I even found a possible new obsession.. The best pics from our trip to London var så god! Continue reading “Wineweek 145: Best Pics From London”

Wineweek 109: The Christmas Calendar

Finally December, and only 20 days to go until Christmas. I am a fan. M is not. We travel south every year to utilize the quiet time of year to enjoy some warmth and sun. And we don’t really celebrate Christmas there under the palm trees, perhaps just go for a nice dinner. The trip its self is enough of a present. However, to compensate for the “loss” of the Christmas parties (or perhaps due to the fact that I like presents), M has almost every year made a surprise Christmas calendar for me. Last year, we travelled very early, so it did not make sense lugging the calendar on the trip. But this year again, I discovered a stack of surprises waiting for me on December 1st. I am always a bit overwhelmed. This year as well. But nothing really beats the surprise of the wine-calendar of 2014. So I thought we would take a quick peak at what it looked like two years ago. Continue reading “Wineweek 109: The Christmas Calendar”

In the Heartland of Chardonnay

I don’t think that I have disclosed this piece of news yet, drumroll… we are going to Champagne in June! I can barely sit still when thinking about it. We will travel to Paris and Reims on the 2nd of June (or maybe even on the first if I can change my flights) and return on the 6th. The 6th is actually the National day of Sweden, so it is an extra day off. The trip will be short, but that does not matter. We are going to Champagne!! Continue reading “In the Heartland of Chardonnay”

Wineweek 70: March Maddness

Another wineweek written from Stockholm. It has been a while since we have been on any wineventures. It was a conscious decision. To stay more home I mean. We wanted to have more time to wind down. To be honest, traveling is quite tiring. Fun, of course, but it drains energy. So this spring you will get much more stories from our lovely home city. And probably you will also get a lot of stories from Magnusson, our cellar. Since we paid a small fortune for the membership, we are making use of the members-bar and Friday champagne-events. I recall us reasoning something like: “we will not go out to eat that often if we can use the Magnusson members-bar, so we will actually save money”. Right! Anyway, the coming week we will hit the road again as London is calling! Continue reading “Wineweek 70: March Maddness”

London on my Mind

Every year, we do a few trips back to our former home city of London. To be honest, I did not live there that long that I could credibly call it home. But there is something about that city that is always on my mind. I am going crazy as we speak just thinking about walking down the early spring streets of London in a few weeks time. As it is my lazy week, I am not going to write much new today. However, I though I would lift up some of my old posts on the wine-spots I long for. We have some exciting reservations for new places and restaurants, so I promise some new material soon.  Continue reading “London on my Mind”

Vivant: Great foodie wine bar in Paris with a Swedish touch

Our recent trip to Paris, not surprisingly, entailed a lot of nice food and wine. We have already reviewed the excellent Frenchies Bar a Vin but we did also visit other places. On the day we arrived we wanted something close by the hotel so opted for Vivant Cave for dinner. It is a very narrow small space where the bar takes up a large part of the entire premises and behind it the chefs are working on creating the nice small or mid-sized plates. There is seating all along the bar as well as at a few tables that have been crammed in at strategic places. There are also several wine fridges lining the wall opposite the bar.

The restaurant used to be owned by Pierre Jancou but he has now moved on to new projects. I had not read up on the new chef before but being seated at the bar and having the chef take the orders for us I right away heard the unmistakable Swedish accent. The new chef is indeed Swedish, Svante Forstorp , but while relatively new at Vivant Cave he has plenty of experience from before for example from Aux Deux Amis. He makes some lovely small dishes behind the counter, the limited space does not seem to bother him at all. Not only is the food very good, it is also great to watch him at work. I am of course a bit of a sucker for the open kitchen but I am a firm believer that it keeps restaurants honest.

We opted for a selection of different dishes but among the highlights were the asparagus, the spicy pasta (chili and fresh lemon) as well as the smoked foie gras with cabbage. The place is known to have a good selection of, in Paris so trendy, natural wine and we were rather pleased with the wine recommendations. We tried an lovely Brut Nature champagne from Ruppert-Leroy  as well as an excellent Austrian sparkling from Strohmeier as well as some nice reds – the reds were very different, one extremely light while the other was much darker and fuller. I think the picture gives a pretty interesting comparison.

Service was in general very attentive and the staff were happy to explain the all-French menu to us. I also very much liked the pleasant atmosphere here, staff were relaxed and that made guests relaxed as well. We ended up chatting with people seated next to us at the bar and it did really seem very popular with foreigners visiting (we had Danes, Brits and Americans around us).The price level was rather decent as well, not exactly cheap but definitely value for money. Will be on my list for places to return to if in the area.

Portugal Part 3: Visiting the premier wine maker in Dão

There is no doubt in my mind that Álvaro Castro is one of the top wine makers in Portugal. He makes an impressive range of wines in his different Quintas in the Dão region.
Alvaro de Castro is an engineer who inherited the vineyards in 1980. At that time he decided to dedicate himself fully to the wine business and restore the family tradition of producing wines. His first vintage was produced in 1989. Today he also works closely with his daughter Maria Castro.

I am sometimes struggling to grasp the range of wines that Alvaro produces. He has two main brands and that are Quinta da Saes and Quinta da Pellada but also a large variety of special projects like Carousel, Primus, PAPE, Doda (in cooperation with Dirk Niepoort) as well as his entry level wines under the Saes name. Wine production has ancient roots at Quinta de Saes. There are even records from 1527 of tax paid in wine from the Quinta and the Quinta as such dates back at least to 1258 when the earliest references of it can be found.

The vines at the different vineyards range in age from a few years up to 65 years old. As it is in Dão there is no surprise that it is planted in the hills, the average altitude is around 550 meters. The area is close to highest mountain range of Portugal and the national park of Serra d’Estrela and it also means that the vineyards are not planted in the regular pine tree surrounded clearings. The total area amounts to more than 60 hectares. The soil is granite with rows of sand and clay. They have more than 30 varietals planted but some of the bigger ones are Alfrocheiro, Cercial, Encruzado, Jaen , Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional

I struggled a bit to find the place as there are no real signs for it once reaching the approximate location given by the GPS. I did however by chance see something that looked like some wine barrels and decided to turn into the yard there and luckily it was enough. I was greeted by Álvaro’s daughter Maria (and the three friendly dogs following her) so I knew I was in the right place. She informed me that most people need to ask for directions in the little village close by.

Maria told me to leave my little Citroen behind as it would not be able to easily drive where we were going. We were heading up to the Quinta da Pellada and for that we need the 4-wheel drive of the old Toyota Jeep. So we all, the dogs included, jumped in and headed up in the hills. In addition to producing great grapes Quinta da Pellada also has some wonderful views and a grand old building that they are in the process of restoring. It was partially destroyed during the civil war but is now looking very nice. It is not entirely restored but already looks fantastic.

We also drove down to Saes and had a look at some of the newer vines that they are planting. I am certain that there are many more exciting things coming in the future this producer.
We then returned to the winery to sample some wines. I also had the pleasure of meeting Antonio Madeira, another wine maker, more on him and his wines to come in future posts. It was lovely to sit down inside by the fire place, protected from the slightly cold winds, and sample some of these great wines.

The wines we sampled were:
Quinta de Saes white 2014: Citrus and melon aromas. The palate is fresh and crisp with mineral and a hint of spice. Rating 3.

Quinta de Saes rosé 2014: Fresh with notes red fruit. On the palate is fresh with hints of fruit and a nice acidity. Not a bad wine but just not a great one. Rating 2.5

Quinta de Saes red 2012: A blend of Tinta Roriz, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Touriga Nacional. It is a young wine, dark ruby colored. Nice earthy aroma mixed with ripe berries. Balanced with a lot of fruit. At this price level an excellent wine. Rating 3.5.

Quinta de Saes Reserva Encruzado 2013: This a 100% Encruzado wine. Very nice touch of spice and fresh fruits, green melon and apple. Very nice and crisp acidity. Rating 3.5.

Quinta de Saes Reserva red 2012: Blend of old vines (up to 40 varieties) Dark and sweet fruits in the nose. The flavor has a mix of spiciness and sweet fruits. Nice balance and structure, long finish. Very nice wine. Rating 4

Quinta da Pellada white Primus 2012: Made from old vines so the percentages of grapes are not certain but there is Encruzada, Bical, Terrantez, Verdelho and more in there (I believe Maria mentioned it was 35-40 varieties). The nose has lovely mineral, melon and citrus and it has a lovely creamy mouth feel, crispy and mineral on the palate. It somehow remains light while being concentrated in flavor. Lovely now but should age very well. This could very well be one of my favorite whites ever. Rating 5.

Quinta da Pellada Red 2003: Deep red color. The aroma is a mix of dark cherries and plum with some ripe fruits. Herbal and black cherries gives the wine a wonderfully concentrated mouth feel. Rating: 4.5

I also later sampled the Carroucel but will be a separate review on that. All in all a lovely visit and I do hope we can find someway to work together as they produce some excellent wines.

Artisan cocktails at the French inspired L’Aiglon

Artisan, you hear that word in front of everything these days. There is artisan bread, artisan coffee, there is even some “artisan” single farm butter in the supermarket at our mall (it’s a nice supermarket). The whole word seems a bit overused and perhaps unauthentic. According to wikipedia artisan means ‘hand made’, crafted with skill. And if something, the cocktails at L’Aiglon are only a few steps away from being art, crafted with care and passion. They are as good as craftmanship gets, much more artisan to me than that single cow butter on the supermarket shelf (I love butter, don’t get me wrong, but did the marketers run out of ideas or what)

The bar is located close to the popular Duxton Hill area on Dean Street (no 69). There are three distinct spaces: an outdoor terrace, the lounge and a private room that can be reserved for small groups if you are committing to a spend of at least 500 SGD (you get a lot of cocktails with that). The ambience is a bit Moulin Rouge meets China. Makes sense L’Aiglon being in Singapore and all and there is rumoured to be some French blood in the ownership. All in all very cool! We sat outside, as we Scandinavians tend to do, but ventured into the lounge to snap some pictures and follow the bar tenders at work. Even though it was valentines day it was still calm at 8pm, which we enjoyed very much, but as we are as we are, planners, we had reserved a table up front.

I ordered a French 69, a signature drink with Gin (I should really try something else than Gin sometimes), fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and Champagne. And M had a Jockey Club. We only had one drink each, but if we would have stayed for longer I would have gone for a Screaming Tomatoes ($22). I dont usually like Bloody Maries but this just sounded so interesting with fresh French cherry tomatoes and a bouquet of herbs. The flavor profile is peppery and savory; a spiked gazpacho. Vodka is used as the base. Ther is also an interesting house Champagne, J.M. Labruyère Cuvée Tradition ($24/$110), but as this was cocktail night, I settled for having a small hint of it in my drink.

L’Aiglon also has some bar snacks and finger food. People have been talking very fondly of the crab cakes and mini burgers. We had just been for dinner before so we skipped the salty nibbles, but ordered a great mini ice cream set for dessert instead. There were four small ice cream cones: caramel, strawberry, chocolate and vanilla. Very delicious and a perfect size just to get something small and sweet.

I can warmly recommend stopping by this place for those who are into cocktails. You can feel confident that your drink will be made with care and skill doing justice to the word artisan. Service was also, which is seldom the case in Singapore, very attentive and good.

Coffee, travels and approach to coffee bar reviews

Being into speciality coffee is often great but when traveling it can often be a disappointing coffee experience. There are of course plenty of great places spread out in the UK, US and the Nordic countries as well as more and more in Germany, Netherlands and Belgium. Latin countries such as Spain, Italy and France are however a totally different story, the quality of coffee is often depressing. Execution can be pretty good when it comes to consistent quality of the coffee made but the problem is usually with the actual coffee beans used. If you are not a fan of coffee that is dark roast, almost burned and with some level of robusta mixed in then it will not be easy to find anything to your liking . Asia on the other hand can be a mixed cup, so before my trip to Bangkok I did some research. And it appears as if there is a budding coffee scene, so we made a small list of places worth visiting.

More on that will follow in separate posts (as well as reviews of coffee bars from all over the place) but here a bit on how I will in general  approach coffee reviews. I will be giving ratings from zero to five with five being the best.

All my coffee bar/cafe ratings will rate the coffee quality as such, but it will be rating the quality on what I expect from a specialty coffee bar. So a rating of three is not at all bad so more think of it in the context that a place like Starbucks or somewhere where they serve Lavazza or Nespresso would be a zero but a place that serves a decent cup will be given a two. To clarify a bit for all of you who for example love Starbucks (yes I am aware that there are people out there who love it, in the same way some people think McDonalds have the best burgers, Taco Bell serves the best Mexican food and Moet makes the best champagne), the way I look at what coffee is similar to how I look at wine. The beans should usually be fairly light roast to bring out the specific flavors of that coffee and I usually prefer single origin or single lot coffees. While I realize this may not be for everyone, that is how I like my coffee.

I will also mention in case I tried any of the food and if so how it rates. There will also be rating of the ambience or feel of the place including the service. Some coffee bars are just not made to hangout but may serve excellent coffee while others may serve just decent coffee but can be perfect to spend time at.

The final rating is also how it rates vs the local competition eg a place that has five in coffee quality in for example NYC can have a a rating of three vs competition and in the same way a place that has for example a rating of two of coffee quality in Barcelona can have a five vs competition.