Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Gin Renaissance

One of my favourite subjects, Gin is now enjoying a renaissance. With it comes not only a proliferation of small batch distillers, but also a flurry of media attention.
I was thrilled to hear a programme recently on Radio 4 detailing this revolution, based in the Museum of Gin (the 'Ginstitue' on Portobello Road). This kind of interest in not only the quality of Gin, but also its provenance and production methods is highly encouraging. We are moving away from the 18th Century perceptions of Gin as 'mother's ruin', and to a 21st Century embodiment of an artisanal delicacy.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Dairy Cocktails

When I was asked to write an article on dairy based cocktails, my head was immediately filled with the sound of Calvin Harris singing “it was acceptable in the 80’s”. Fortunately, it’s a short song, so it wasn’t long before I was able to focus on the task at hand.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

IWSC Associate Judge of the Year 2011

The International Wine and Spirit Competition is the most prestigious competition of its kind in the world. Established in 1969, the competition sees entries from 82 countries put through a two stage judging process including full blind tasting and chemical analysis. The judging panel reads like a who's who of the wine and spirit world, and is comprised of people who excel in their fields.

The amazing awards dinner at the Guild Hall

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day Three

After the delights of the Côte de Beaune on on Day Two, our third and final day in Burgundy began in quite possibly the most picturesque little town known to mankind: Meursault. As the sun rose on the town hall, this sleepy village yawned into action, the light streaming across the vineyards in on the horizon.

The almost criminally attractive town hall in Meursault

Friday, 25 November 2011

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day Two (part two)

(Part one here)

The third chapter of our trip to Burgundy took us about an hour and a half south on the A6, to the southern part of the Côte-d'Or: the Côte de Beaune.

Land here is knee-tremblingly expensive. I'm told that 1/24th of a hectare (about 400 square metres, or 20mx20m) recently exchanged hands for 900,000 Euros. It seemed almost blasphemous to walk on it.

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day Two (part one)

Day two of our vinous adventure began, unsurprisingly, where day one had ended: Chablis. After a quick breakfast, we set about trying to find the inimitable Patrick Piuze (accompanied, incidentally, by a rather lovely sunrise).

Sunrise in Chablis

I've been aware of Patrick Piuze for a few years now, and imagined that a brief walk through Chablis would take us right past his door - it's not that big a town, after all. The reality was far more difficult, with the lettering on his door being negligibly bigger than the words you are reading now. This, he tells us when we finally arrive, is quite intentional. "Only the post-man knows where we are" he tells us, giggling with obvious amusement.

Burgundy Visit, 2011 - Day One

On November 21st, Bibendum’s Training Team packed up and headed to Burgundy for an educational extravaganza.
Why Burgundy? Simple, really: if you can understand Burgundy, then you can understand Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from all over the world. And November is an ideal time to visit, since the sun-seeking tourists are long gone, the harvest is completed, and the wine makers are still around making wine rather than on their annual pilgrimage to various wine shows around the world.
Our first visit was to the village of Prehy in Chablis, where we met with Bernard Legland. This enthusiastic wine maker took us immediately to a beautiful hillside from where we could view his vineyards. The panorama which unfolded was stunning, as you can see below:

Panoramic view of Chablis

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Filthy Martini

It has long been the case that Mrs Lowe prefers the Dirty Martini to it's sweeter, more citrus counter-part. I confess it's a cocktail I find extremely unpalatable, the olive brine being a cloying, heavy, dominating flavour which simply destroys the delicate subtleties of any half-way decent Gin (in my humble opinion).

However, in the interest of research, I set about trying to create a Dirty Martini which even I, having made no attempt over the years to hide my contempt for such a concoction, could enjoy.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Molecular Margarita Video

Oh dear. They've only gone and let me loose with a video camera...
Due to popular demand (that is, one person asking), I've made a short video showing in a bit more detail how I made the margarita which I featured in this blog recently.
It's been pretty hastily put together, but hopefully it might be of some help to someone out there. If not, please send your details over and I will refund you 3 minutes and 33 seconds of your life back.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Armagnac Tour - Samalens (part two)

Our second distillery of the day, Samalens, was an absolute delight. We were greeted by Pierre, the great-grandson of John Samalens, who founded the distillery in 1882.
Located in the heart of Bas Armagnac, the landscape was notably different from Tenareze - not least by the surprising abundance of sunflower fields.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Armagnac Tour - Larressingle (part one)

Our long awaited tour started with a rather medicore breakfast at Gatwick airport. Our stomachs could not possibly have imagined the gastronomic delights which were awaiting us the on the other side of the channel.
Two representatives from Bibendum Spirits, one from Bibendum Wine, and a further four from Hotel du Vin / MalMaison arrived in Gascony, the home of Armagnac, around lunch time, and were ushered to a rather delightful restaurant just by the river Gers.
To get in the spirit (no pun intended) of things, I decided to begin with La Cassolette d'Escargots, follwed by L'Entrecote de Boeuf, and finish things off with La Panna Cotta a la Vanille. A truly wonderful meal.
Fully refreshed from our flight, we made our way the short distance to our first distillery of the day: Larressingle.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Whisky for Beginners

Recently I was asked to write a (frustratingly short) introduction to the world of whisky. Always willing to oblige, I did exactly that.
Whisky is a real favourite of mine - indeed, it was whisky which got me interested in spirits in the first place. Apologies to those of you for whom this is old ground, but as I mentioned, the brief was for it to be a 'beginners guide'. Here it is:

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Vegetarian Wines

I was asked recently - minutes ago, in fact - if it's true that there are fish guts in wine. Simply put, the answer is no. But it reminded me of an article I wrote recently, which may or may not be of interest to some of you, so I'll post it here:

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Kick Ass Wine Matching

Last week I made dinner for the long suffering Mrs Lowe (@Luce700) - something which is not entirely uncommon. What made this particular occasion noteworthy was that the dinner was good. Really good. And the wine we served with it was simply heavenly. The two together made such a great partnership that I was compelled to put it down in writing, in the vague hope that someone else may, some day, stumble across this blog and share in the joy it brought us.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Margaritas, with the fresh sea air...

Salt rim, or no salt rim?
This debate has divided the Lowe household for quite some time.
For years, the most obvious answer has been the classic "half-salt rim" solution. Half salted, half not, and everybody's happy. Except they're not, are they? Everybody's half happy.
A new approach was clearly required. Enter the Cocktail Chemist.
Molecular Gastronomy has been quietly working it's way into the mainstream for some time now, spearheaded by names such as Heston Blumenthal. Molecular Mixology, it's far more excitingly named cousin, has been lagging somewhat behind, but is definitely starting to emerge.
So what's the answer then? Well, it's air. Obviously.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Chateau Lowe (Part Two) and Chapel Down

Vintage update!
After a stunning start to summer, the grapes have had a significant growth spurt. This picture was taken on July 8th, 2011:

I still haven't got a clue what grapes these will turn out to be: the vine was in the garden when Mrs Lowe and I moved in, and this is our first summer here. If anyone out there thinks they're up to the challenge of identifying them, please get in touch.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

IWSC Judging: behind the scenes

June 14th was a date I'd been looking forward to in my diary for quite some time. My debut judging with the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) was doubly exciting for the fact it was for the Tequila category, a long standing favourite of mine.

Upon arrival my first impression was, to be honest, that I must've taken a wrong turn. The venue looked more like the place they shoot Top Gear than somewhere you would expect to taste world-class flights of spirits.*

It turned out I was in exactly the right place, easily identified by the group of people outside the front door excitedly discussing agave spirit (which would have been a heck of a coincidence otherwise).

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Dilemma

When writing an alcohol-related blog, as I do, there comes a point from time to time when you're not drinking anything particularly new or exciting (sorry to shatter any illusions). This poses a problem. I do not wish to become a 'tasting bore', filling up the internet with entirely uninteresting tasting notes about things I've tried a thousand times before. I firmly believe tasting notes should only ever be posted in such a manner if they are, at the very least, remarkable.
However, I also do not want to be one of those bloggers who posts something once a year, and is then surprised and disappointed in equal measure when no-one reads it. Frequent, quality content is of course the Holy Grail of the blogging community.

Monday, 30 May 2011

How not to do it...

I recently came across this video on the web, and thought it so uncannily accurate - not to mention hilarious - that I couldn't resist posting it here.
It was written and produced by Philip Duff for the Manhattan Cocktail Classic (MCC) seminar "How To Behave In A Bar". I wasn't at said seminar, but if this is anything to go by, it must have been an awesome event.
Well done Philip, great work!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Chateau Lowe, 2011

I realise I've become a terrible blogger. With the best intentions in the world, I just never seem to get around to writing any of the things I intend to (that'll be my jet-set lifestyle getting in the way).
So I've decided the best thing to do it adopt a 'little and often' approach. So here's a little for you, to get the ball rolling.
We're just approaching the first summer in our little house in the countryside, and I'm delighted to have discovered a well established vine growing in the garden. The last week or so has seen the emergance of a few tiny grapes (see below).

For any American readers, a 50p is just a little bigger than a quarter. At a rough count, I think I've got about 50 of these little bunches. Nevermind 'single vineyard', this is going to be a single vine wine! It may well be terrible, but I'll have fun finding out, and will keep you informed of the progress.
Bye for now!