In a brief digression from my usual wine related writing, I would like to wish my readers a Happy Easter, a time to celebrate renewal, wherever you may live.
In line with celebrations, this is a good time to celebrate the wonderful mosaic art of our friend Sharen Taylor, whose studio is in Paphos, Cyprus, where I visited Sharen. Apart from her professional background as a conservationist and the work she has done with respect to archeological projects in the area, Sharen is a talented mosaic artist who is passionate about introducing others, including children, to this form of art and culture through her customized workshops and her commissioned work.
Sharen Taylor, Mosaic Artist.
Childrens’ Community Project : Architectural Mosaic Map; Sharen Taylor Mosaics.
By participating in Sharen’s workshops, Its possible to can get a personal appreciation of the skills used by the Greek and Roman artisans who, over a thousand years ago, created the exquisite mosaics in the buildings and excavations at the Paphos Archeological Park. I found my amateur mosaic making experience a walk in history, with admiration for the incredibly subtle work of those past artisans.
Saussignac, a small village of approximately 420 people in SW France in the Dordogne area of Nouvelle Aquitaine, really is a village of wine.
Route to Saussignac village
Dusk at the end of a hike in the Dordogne – the outline of Chateau Saussignac
Bergerac Wine Region showing Saussignac and Sigoulès
Apart from being the name of the village, where the chateau dates from the 17th century and is on the site of a much older building, Saussignac is also the name of the Saussignac Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée. The wines of this appellation are a late harvest botryrized wine made mainly from Sémillon grapes. This is a distinct category of the natural sweet wines produced from withered, shriveled grapes; a Vin Liqoreux, on the same honeyed track as a Sauterne or a Monbazillac. These wines of liquid gold can be savoured best with foie gras or a blue cheese, like Saint Augur or Roquefort, a dessert or even as a chilled aperitif. Several wine makers in the Saussignac area make these delicious wines, which should definitely be savoured by anyone visiting the area.
Saussignac is home to several wine makers, many of whom are organic farmers.
One such innovative organic farmer, writer and educator is Caro Feely from Château Feely. Caro is hosting a free zoom virtual presentation and discussion on the Climate Change Crisis on Friday, November 12 at 5.00 pm UK or 6 pm France. To sign up, Caro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org www.chateaufeely.com
An addition to the local community wine makers are Frank and Riki Campbell, new proprietors at Chateau de Fayolle in Saussignac. Their goal is to promote the wines of the area on a global level.
Chateau de Fayolle, under the new ownership of the Campbells, is offering platters of cheese and charcuterie with wine tastings in a newly renovated and up to date wine tasting room, which has wonderful views over the rows of vines. Great recommendations of the wines and ambience have been received from wine loving friends in the area and visitors from Bordeaux, so it’s well worth a visit. Check out details on their website: http://www.chateaufayolle.com
To complete the picture of Saussignac as a village of art and wine, I would be remiss not to mention the creative work of Mike and Lee McNeal Rumsby at Le 1500; the boutique hôtel, bistro and painting retreat in the middle of the village opposite Château Saussignac. Lee managed some of the world’s finest hotels and Mike’s paintings are sold internationally, so Le 1500 is definitely a place to visit and enjoy. http://www.le1500.rocks
The village of Saussignac continues to live up to its reputation as a place of Art and Wine.
In the heat of the summer, who wants to do much cooking? Its more about finding some shade and maybe jumping into a pool surrounded by flowers; like here at a friend’s garden. I recently finished this semi abstract painting…
Early evening shadows – a Friends’s garden and pool. July 21 Acrylic
A Cypriot friend, a self confessed ‘foodie’, suggests that I try a local Cypriot whey cheese renowned in the Paphos area. At the next Paphos Saturday morning fruit and vegetable market I enquire about this cheese from my usual vendor and discover she makes both fresh halloumi and anari cheese! Not only does she make this cheese but she and her daughter recommend how to serve it! Perfect!
With the anari cheese and recipe in hand, off we go for a coffee and then I prepare the cheese for a salad lunch – perfect for hot summer days.
Anari is made in a large round – similar to how some soft goat cheese is made in France and elsewhere. The idea is to slice the cheese into rounds for serving. In the local presentation, the round of anari is then covered with a combination of carob syrup and honey and served in this way. We generally eat very few sweet things but I did have pomegranate syrup in the kitchen for cooking as well as honey. So on went the pomegranate and honey covering for the slice of anari cheese. The response! Absolutely delicious and surprisingly not sweet.
if I were to recommend a wine, I would choose an unoaked Chardonnay or a Viognier to complement the creamy, honeyed flavours of the Anari cheese prepared in this way.
Fresh anari will keep in the fridge for up to a week, so we enjoy a slice of cheese presented in this honeyed way several times!
Ricotta is a similar cheese so this will be an alternative when I can’t buy fresh anari and it will be interesting to make a comparison.
Simplifying meals is important on hot summer days!
A beautiful, peaceful garden awaits you: the sun is shining yet there is shade from the heat, bees are buzzing, birds are singing, the oleanders are blooming and the sky is dazzlingly blue.
The gardens at Oleander and Lantana Stone Houses, Lemona
Village views, hillside walks, old stone houses surround us and a winery to taste and buy wines is close by. What more could anyone want who may be seeking a time and place of true calm to restore the spirit?
A half day painting in the idyllic garden of Marcelina Costa in Lemona, in the foothills of the Troodos mountains about 1/2 hour from Paphos Airport, introduced us to this wonderful space where complete rest and rejuvenation would be possible.
Painting in Lemona
En plein air painting!
Filling the canvas en plein air!
Two independent stone houses, Lantana and Oleander, set within this meandering garden are available to rent through both Booking.com and Airbnb.
Ever a gracious host, Marcelina is multilingual in Greek, English, German and Polish and delights in explaining the history of the village, highlights local walks, and offers her homemade jams, lemonade, and baked goodies.
What makes Marcelina’s stone houses even more appealing to the wine lover is the proximity of Tsangarides Winery, literally around the corner in Lemona village, making white, red and rosé wines from indigenous grapes, Xinisteri, Mataro and Maratheftiko as well as the noble grape varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay, Tsangarides is always a favourite winery of mine for their consistency and high quality.
I have met with Angelos Tsangarides, who with his sister are fourth generation proprietors of the winery and I have previously written about their wines in 2016 and 2018. Since then, in addition to its traditional vineyards, the winery has cultivated organic vineyards and produce a series of organic wines as part of its overall portfolio of wines.
Map to Lemona and Tsangarides Winery – courtesy Tsangarides Winery
This painting excursion to Lemona reminds me to visit the Tsangarides winery again, and soon!
Creative endeavours have helped many people get through the challenges of the past pandemic year and I am grateful to Marcelina for the opportunity to paint in her hillside garden and to be reminded of the beauty of Lemona, including Tsangarides Winery and the surrounding countryside.
We’re all spending so much more time at home these days. It’s inevitable that someone will ask, “How are you spending your time?” That is, in addition to whatever work one might be doing at home and/or looking after children.
Painting for pleasure – Almond tree in blossom
A Heron out fishing
Growing lettuce and chives
Pots and pans – everyone’s cooking
For myself, in addition to observing all the social distancing rules here in British Columbia and usual responsibilities at home, I am painting, gardening and growing lettuce and chives, walking in nature and cooking!
Cooking seems to be the main preoccupation for people I talk to. Not just the every day stuff but getting creative. As a friend said to me, “…after years of not bothering much with cooking, I’ve got all my old recipe books out and I am enjoying making good meals. It fills some time and I eat well!”
Other friends have said they are enjoying watching reruns of the charismatic American cook, Julia Child (1912 – 2004) and her cooking shows; great entertainment! Julia Child is recognized for bringing French cuisine to the American public with her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Her television programs were and clearly are, very popular.
One way that we can support the wine industry is through buying more wine! How about exploring new combinations of wine and food or selecting great wine by itself that we haven’t tried before?.
If we live in wine growing areas, we have the opportunity to support our local wineries through their wine-clubs and/or buying local wines at our local wine stores. It all helps the industry that has been through tough times for a few years.
Here in British Columbia, the wine growers in the Okanagan Valley struggled with fierce wild fires two years ago and now are facing loss of wine tourism and loss of sales to restaurants and bars.
Wherever we live, whether in North America or Europe, or elsewhere, it’s important that we support the local agricultural wine-growing sector if they are to survive.
In the spirit of practicing more wine and food pairing, here are some tips:
Think about the component parts of both the dish and the wine. When considering the food dish, consider whether or not there is a sauce with the food. This can make a big difference as to which wine is chosen. For example, chicken prepared with a creamy sauce would pair well with a chardonnay, which fuses with the creaminess of the cream sauce. Chicken prepared with a spicy sauce would pair better with a Gewurztraminer.
Balance the power of the food dish and power of the wine. Be careful not to kill the wine or dish with too powerful a wine or dish. If big red wines appeal, then drink with roast meats or stews.
Consider the complexity of the food, i.e. the number of ingredients – this can make selecting an appropriate wine more challenging. Considerations would be the level of acidity, the spices/herbs in the dish, whether there is saltiness or sweetness. Having considered these elements, decide which aspect of a multi ingredient dish is to be “activated’ with the wine choice.
Consider that specific regional menus often pair well with corresponding regional wines. After all, they’ve grown up together! For example, Italian dishes often contain tomatoes and olive oil. Tomatoes are very acidic. A characteristic of Italian wine is noticeable acidity. If you are preparing an Italian dish, select a wine with acidity. If you choose a regional dish from another area, see if you can find a suitable wine to complement that particular regional food.
If some old sweet wines appear in your wine storage area, enjoy with aged, strong cheeses.
The idea is to experiment and keep good notes, so the successful and not so successful pairings can be noted!
The most important objective for wine and food pairing in these challenging times is to bring enjoyment to the table. Sometimes, a really good bottle of wine is best enjoyed on its own before or after the meal, if an obvious pairing doesn’t come to mind.
Let’s do what we can to support our local wine industry, our local wine growers and local wine shops!
Finally, to quote Julia Child:
“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook – try new recipes, learn from your mistakes,
And above all have fun”.
This sounds like perfect advice for experimenting with wine and food pairing.
Bon Appétit et Bonne Continuation!
Reference: Julia Child 1912-2004. Lots of information and YouTube material on the web.
Xynisteri, an indigenous grape in Cyprus makes one of my all time favourite white wines for the summer. Refreshing, with lemon/lime, grapefruit and apple notes and balanced on the acidic side with flavours of tropical stone fruits; think mango and also apricots and peaches. On the nose, there are floral and fruity tones.
Four Cyprus wine producers of Xynisteri White wine
It’s a great sipping wine for the patio, yet also perfect in food pairings such as fish, white meat and even salads with fruit.
I have my favourite four producers: their wines are similar yet with nuanced, discernable differences.
Here is the line-up of these four producers including the name of their Xynisteri wine,
Vouni Panayia Winery, Alina Xynisteri. I have written about Vouni Panayia before. They were awarded Decanter Platinum Award as best value Cypriot White wine for their Alina Xynisteri 2016.
Vasilikon winery, Xynisteri
Tsangarides Winery, Xynisteri – I have written about Tsangarides Winery previously as well.
Kolios Winery, Persephone Xynisteri
I should add that there are other producers of Xynisteri wines who I am not yet familiar with.
Xynisteri is a robust grape variety that grows well at high altitudes. Xynisteri is the main white grape variety grown in Cyprus. It is one of the two indigenous grape varieties used in the production of Commandaria, the amber-coloured sweet Cypriot dessert wine. Commandaria’s heritage dates back to 800 BC and has the distinction of being the world’s oldest named wine still in production. Xynisteri is also used for the production of the local spirit, Zivania.
If you are in Cyprus as a visitor, or resident, I suggest you look for these Xynisteri wines on restaurant wine lists and try them all over time and see which you prefer.
This seems like a perfect occupation when enjoying sunny days in Cyprus.
Daffodils in Green Park with Buckingham Palace beyond
Whenever I am in London and have a few hours to spare, I do the things I love the most here: walking and looking at art. I am always uplifted and inspired by these experiences.
Yesterday, I walked in Green Park and captured this daffodil laden view of Buckingham Palace.
Daffodils are one of my favourite flowers. Partly because they are cheerful, yellow harbingers of spring and partly because they bring back my childhood memories of playing in a spring garden at dusk, inhaling their lovely scent. Seeing them in full bloom in Green Park surfaced all these connections.
For my art fix, I came across a magical small exhibition of mainly pastels with some oils by the Impressionist artist, Degas (18 34- 1917) at the National Gallery. This collection on loan from Glasgow in Scotland, features Degas’s well-known subjects of ballerinas, racehorses and women attending to their toilette. If only one could draw or paint movement as he did!
The Degas exhibition at the National Gallery
Degas exhibition poster at the National Gallery
I have also been inspired recently hearing about a new vineyard in Buckinghamshire: Dinton Wines, which was started in 2013.
Enjoying English sparkling wines
Enjoying English sparkling wine
Dinton Folly, an English sparkling wine, is the brainchild of retired countryman Laurie Kimber, who planted 15 acres with the classic varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier on a south-facing slope with chalky soil and temperate climate. The neighbours of Mr. Kimber, and his family including his children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren harvest the grapes. The first harvest was ready in 2016.
Dinton Folly is so named because of its proximity to the ruins of a nearby castle and also refers to the idea of taking on such a challenging project later in life. Dinton Wines is an inspiring testament to the fact that it’s never too late to start making wine!
Dinton in Buckinghamshire is close to the Chiltern Hills, a famous place for hiking in the English countryside with picturesque villages and friendly pubs!
Grape picking neighbours of Mr Kimber introduced me to this wine recently. I was delighted by the refreshing, dry, balanced, sparkling wine with its appealing lower range alcohol level of 11.5% ALC.
Perfect to enjoy on an English spring day: Inspirational!
Dinton is near Aylesbury in the county of Buckinghamshire in the Chiltern Hills
Map from Dinton Folly website showing Dinton near Aylesbury
Dinton Wines dintonwines.com
National Gallery: Nationalgallery.org.uk
Maps courtesy of Dinton Wines and local tourist information.
Enjoying a morning coffee at our regular coffee bar in the Port area of Paphos is one of our favourite Sunday morning pastimes when in Cyprus.
Coffee at the Port, Paphos
Needless to say, this is after a good walk along the roughly paved sea walk that surrounds the Paphos Archeological Park.
Buying fruit and vegetables from the friendly stall holders at the Saturday morning Paphos market is another pleasure.
Umbrellas protect the fruit and vegetable stands from the spring sun, Paphos
Paphos fruit and. Vegetable market
Fresh from the Market, Paphos
My painting of fruits from the Paphos market
We have been shopping here for years now and there is always a sense of mutual satisfaction when we return: the same warm, comforting smiles and gestures reciprocated as we recognize each other. “Ah, you are back/ Ah, you are still here”, we collectively murmur from the heart.
This year during our visit I pay more attention to the wild flowers increasingly in bloom from February on. The tall, spikey Asphodels that I see everywhere. The anemone, a loner elegant in lilac blue. The mandrake, purple blue amid shiny leaves, reminiscent of spooky stories. The stately giant orchid. Perhaps above all I am drawn to the pink or white almond blossom buzzing with all manner of pollinators. For me, the sweetly scented flowers are the harbinger of spring.
Almond blossom near Paphos
Common Asphodel – Asphodelus aestivus
Mandrake – Mandragora officinarum
Giant Orchid – Barlia robertiana
Anemone coronaria – Crown Anemone
But what about wine?
Next time, I will write about a Cyprus wine we enjoy that I haven’t mentioned before.
Now back in Vancouver, with a rain-filled charcoal grey sky overhead, its good to bring these memories of Cyprus back to life.