Hidden culinary gems of Cyprus: Zucchini flowers

These edible Zucchini flowers now in season and for sale at the weekly Paphos market catch my eye a couple of weeks before I decide to experiment with stuffed Zucchini flowers.

I enjoy these delicacies in restaurants.   When you buy the flowers you realize how fragile they are.  The flowers need to be prepared and cooked quickly before they spoil.

Here is the approach I take,  based on looking at various preparation references and combining different recipe ideas..

First,  it’s important to remove the stamen or pistil from within the flowers. I also gently rinse each flower to check there are no insects hiding there!

Second, I make up a recipe from the fridge with bacon and mushrooms, chopped and sautéed.   Add this to a soft French goat cheese with lots of chopped mint.

Third,  I carefully stuff the flowers with the mixture and cook on a cookie sheet in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

Fourth,  the great tasting!

Success!   The stuffed zucchini flowers taste good.   The cooked flowers add a subtle sweetness to the dish and the mint is delicious and typical of Cypriot food.       Only eat the flower petals not the stems or the green leaves.

For a wine pairing, I suggest a Tsangarides organic Chardonnay, which complements the creaminess of the stuffing well or perhaps a Viognier.

What would I do differently next time?   From the recommendation of a Cypriot friend who knows about local dishes,  instead of using a French goat cream cheese, (which is what I had in the fridge when I decided to make this dish!j or perhaps an Italian Ricotta as an alternative, I would use fresh Anari, which is a fresh mild whey cheese produced in Cyprus and made from goat or sheep milk.   The authentic recipe!

Kali Orexi! // Bon Appétit!

References:  Tsangarides Winery   Tsangarideswinery.com

Various on line references about the preparation of stuffed zucchini flowers

Hidden Gems in Cyprus

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

🍷🌸

References

Oleander Stone House. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21159835?adults=2&translate_ugc=false&federated_search_id=48cd5f40-d787-41a1-a5aa-848c0b530033&source_impression_id=p3_1622369311_KbLQG9pu4Xzc9%2FkC&guests=1

Lantana Stone House

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/21167741?adults=2&translate_ugc=false&federated_search_id=48cd5f40-d787-41a1-a5aa-848c0b530033&source_impression_id=p3_1622369362_9girLWMM56POoMgD&guests=1

Tsangarides Winery,   http://www.Tsangarides winery.com

A Wine Auction Sale in February 1822 in London and the ‘back’ story of the wines.

When a story hooks you,  you go deeper…at least I do with topics like wine, history, geography…  This post is another look at the wines listed for sale by Mr. Christie in 1822, as illustrated by these beautiful enamel labels, which would have adorned decanters to identify and serve the wines.

This is my second post about this intriguing Mr. Christie sale advertisement, which put me on the path of discovery. That is, discovering more about the wines listed for sale nearly two hundred years ago.

In my last post, the focus was on Frontiniac, Sack, Calcavella.

This post is about Malaga, Cape, Paquaret/Pacaret and Lisbon wines. These wine names are beautifully illustrated in this photo-collage of enamel labels that are in the collection of enamel expert, Dr Richard Wells.   Richard kindly put together this grouping to reflect the wines from the cellar of Mrs. D’Oyly and I greatly appreciate his generosity in doing so.

 

Several of these label names, like Malaga, Cape and Lisbon are generic in nature for the particular geographic regions.

Malaga, for example, is the term that was applied generically to any variety of heavy sweet, usually red fortified wines that originated in the Malaga area in southern Spain, including certain kosher wines served at Jewish celebrations.   Spanish Malaga is made from Muscat grapes, and from a variety known as Pedro-Ximenez and these grapes are usually sun-dried to concentrate sweetness. Vineyards are in the Malaga Mountain Range and in the Ronda Mountain Range.     These are liqueur wines with a fairly high sugar content.

This area with its Mediterranean climate is one of the oldest wine regions in the world, since the arrival of Phoenicians almost 3,000 years ago.

Its not surprising that Mrs. D’Oyly’s 19th century cellar contained Malaga wines as they were at their greatest quality around that time before the phylloxera louse so badly affected vineyards in Europe.

Dr Wells tells me that the Malaga enamel wine label is French from the second half of the 18th Century.

Pacaret, Paquaret (also spelled as Paxarete)

This is another Spanish dessert wine.     It’s a wine of the deep south of Spain, like Sherry, from the Andalusia area. It was made in different styles, both dry and sweet and was also made from the Pedra Ximenez grape.

A note of interest: in the 17th and 18th centuries, Sherry was known in England as Sack and this is described in my last post.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Pacaret was generally considered to be a “ladies” wine, and suited to the American custom of drinking wines mainly after dinner.

Pacaret is listed in Thomas Jefferson’s Paris Wine Cellar list of 1787 and he continued to order Spanish wine, including Pacaret after he became the third President of the United States in 1801.

The Paquaret enamel label is English from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

The Pacaret enamel label is French from the same period.

Lisbon.

The reference to Lisbon on the auction sale poster refers to the historic Denominaçâo de Origem Controlada, (DOC) wine region west of Lisbon, or Estremadura as it used to be known, and can include wines such as Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas.     This area was known for fortified wine production; off dry topaz coloured wines that have nutty aromas and flavours. The grape varieties appear to have been Arinto and Ramisco.   When fortified, using distilled grape spirit,  the wines were world renowned in the 19th Century. Again, it’s not surprising that these wines would have been in Mrs. D’Oyly’s cellar. While similar to Port, these wines are not Port, which is only produced in the Douro river valley area and according to present law is only shipped from Oporto.

The manner in which wine names change over time is worth noting and the name of Carcavelos is a good example. Wine labels from the 18th and 19th centuries would be made for Calcavallo or Calcavello wine, which is the older name for Carcavellhos or Carcavelos wine as it is presently called. The change was to move away from Spanish spelling, which was a hold over from the Spanish occupation of what is now Portugal in the 17th century.

In a letter dated May 26, 1819, Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States of America (1801 – 1809), wrote to his wine agent in Marseilles referring to sweet wines including Frontignan from France and Calcavallo from Portugal.   He clearly appreciated wine and designated both wine and friendship as a, “True restorative cordial”.

Another quote from Thomas Jefferson about Calcavella wine is in my previous post.

Moving to the 21st century, the name for the wine area around Lisbon was changed in 2009 from Estremadura to Lisboa VR (Vinho Regional), again to focus on the Portuguese language.

In the modern era, the wine areas of Carcavelos, Colares and Bucelas have been affected  by real estate development in the suburbs of Lisbon and the coastal town of Estoril.   There is apparently some interest and activity in reviving the historic legacy and indigenous grapes of the area. We will wait and see.

The Lisbon enamel label in the photo collage is English, again from the late 18th/early 19th centuries.

Many people will have visited these areas of southern Spain and the Lisbon area of Portugal and not necessarily known anything about the 19th century history of these wine areas.    I’ve flown into Malaga and driven up the coastal mountain highway to Ronda, little knowing this history.   I stayed in the area 20 years ago and did some early morning runs as I prepared for the BC Arthritis Society Marathon in Hawaii!

Similarly, as a child my family spent many holidays in the Portuguese coastal areas of Cascais and Estoril at a time when Cascais was still a fishing village and the area was on the cusp of real estate development.   Little could I imagine then that years later I would be commenting on the wine history of the areas in the context of a George 1V era sale of Lisbon wines!

Cape: this is the generic term for the geographic area around Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

 

A noteworthy three-century viticulture tradition exists in the area originating when the Dutch arrived and South Africa became an important staging post for both Holland and England for trade with the East.

At the end of 1654, the first cuttings of vines arrived at the Cape from Holland and were probably young vines from the Rhineland. Wine was pressed for the first time in 1659.   In 1688, French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and extended the vineyards and improved the quality of the wine. By 1711, South African wines were becoming known and travellers spoke of the ‘world famous Constantia wines”, which were sweet wines.   In 1805, as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Great Britain took possession of the Cape.  Around the time that Mrs. D’Oyly’s wine cellar was developed probably from the late 1700s on, the export of Cape wine to Great Britain flourished.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, the Constantia Valley was known for its legendary dessert wines.   These were the halcyon days of these wines, which were fortified for overseas patrons in order to survive the long voyage and generally unfortified for local consumption. The original grape varieties were probably Muscat, Pontac and maybe Chenin Blanc.

The Groot Constantia winery dates from 1685 and has a museum section on their website, which provides the chronology of their history.

These Cape wines took on a fame of their own as they were mentioned in at least two books that we might know.     In Jane Austen’s novel, Sense and Sensibility, Cape wine was mentioned as a cure for a broken heart!   Charles Dickens referred to it as a way to lift a character’s spirit in The Mystery of Edward Drood.   Were they writing from experience?  Perhaps tips worth noting!

The next post in this series about the Mr. Christie 1822 wine auction poster will be to share some history of Mrs. D’Oyly, whose generous wine cellar prompted these discoveries.

 

References:    Alexis Lichine’s Encylopaedia of Wines and Spirits and various references.

Thomas Jefferson:  Monticello.org

Groot Constantia:  grootconstantia.co.za

Dr. Richard Wells – enamel wine labels: http://www.drrwells.com

 

18th and 19th Century wine labels tell a story…

Last month, the fascinating poster for the sale of choice old wines on February 7, 1822, together with the images of the Cyprus enamel labels sparked interest.

Dr Richard Wells, my collaborator in identifying enamel wine labels, has kindly created this montage of labels from his collection, that represent the wines listed on the sale poster.

Most of the wines represented by these labels, with the exception of Rum,  are no longer consumed or popular, as they once were, so it’s interesting to know a bit more about them.   Apart from knowing more about the wines, the shapes and designs of the individual labels are really worth further examination for the colours, the floral motifs and in some cases grapes! and the shapes:  beautiful craftsmanship from another era.

All these wines were sweetish, a style of wine popular in Paris and London in the 18th and 19th Centuries.   Some of the labels and the wines are described below, more will be noted in the next blog.

Frontiniac label:  this is an English late 18th/early 19th century enamel label.    Frontiniac is a sweet muscadine wine made in Frontignac, France.      A reference to this wine in a collection of old plays refers to Frontiniac in this way:  ” One more Frontiniac and then a walk”.  With difficulty perhaps!

Sack label:  this is an English late 18th /early 19th century enamel label.  Sack is an antiquated wine term referring to white fortified wine imported from mainland Spain or the Canary Islands.  Most Sack was predominantly sweet.  Sack is commonly but not quite correctly quoted as an old synonym for sherry.  In modern terms, typical sack may have resembled cheaper versions of medium Oloroso sherry.  As a literary reference,  William Shakespeare’s character Sir John Falstaff, introduced in 1597, was fond of sack, and the Falstaff character said, “If I had a thousand sons, the first humane principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations and to addict themselves to sack”.

Calcavella label: this is probably an English label, again late 18th/early 19th century and unusually made from Mother of Pearl.    Calcavella is a Portuguese sweet wine that was noted in a wine sale in 1769.   Calcavella was noticed by Thomas Jefferson ( 1743 – 1826 and 3rd US President) when he was the US Ambassador to France from 1784 – 1789, right at the time of the French Revolution.  Later on, he would order Calcavella several times while living in the United States. When writing about wine, Thomas Jefferson said, ” I would prefer good Lisbon; next to that Sherry, next to that Calcavallo: but still a good quality of the latter would be preferable to an indifferent quality of the former”.

The remaining labels will be commented on in my next blog, together with an insight into the life and times of Mrs. D’Oyly, the widow highlighted in the sale poster and the late owner of these wines.

More to come…

Reference:   Dr. Richard Wells  www.drrwells.com

Various references to the wines and to Thomas Jefferson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mini-meze and wine: entertaining friends and supporting wine-growers

Entertaining friends, one or two at a time in a responsible social distancing way, is still something we enjoy hosting on the patio.   Offering what I call a mini-meze feels like an easy, no fuss option.

A meze in eastern Mediterranean countries involves quite a few different and delicious dishes.   I prepare an abbreviated version with roasted vegetables, slices of local feta with olive oil drizzled over and chopped herbs, either oregano or fresh basil from the garden, sliced tomatoes and various cheeses including the greek cheese, Kefalotyri. I add some form of protein, sometimes smoked salmon, or as in the photo above, a paté of sardines, anchovies and almonds – quite delicious with toasted black bread or crackers.

A photo of the rapidly growing Basil and Cilantro (Coriander) is included.   The planter is covered to protect it from a neighbourhood cat!

This mini-meze Is served in the context of enjoying a chilled white wine, usually an indigenous Cyprus white grape called Xinisteri, which is similar to Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris – in that continuum of freshness but not too acidic.   As mentioned previously, a favourite of ours is the Zambartas Xynisteri.

I read in a French wine publication that a gloomy autumn, ‘ un automne morose’ is anticipated, in which bad news about the financial health of organizations is starting to become a reality and could affect the whole wine sector including sales for the upcoming festive season.  It’s probably a time to look out for great prices of choice still and sparkling wines.

Offering a mini-meze with wine is one way to continue to support our local/and or favourite winegrowers during these challenging times.

Reference:  Zambartas Wineries. http://www.zambartaswineries.com

More Covid culinary moments: salsa and rosé!

My favourite culinary endeavour right now is making salsa, in particular mango salsa.  

Just the name feels festive and so does the taste with the combination of sweet and contrasting flavours from the spring onion, red pepper, lemon juice and cilantro together with the mango.   Chopping all the ingredients up into small pieces and mixing with the lemon or lime juice makes this a really easy summer garnish.

There are many recipes on the internet but this is the combination I have been making with success and I really like it.   In consideration of friends who may not like cilantro, I serve that separately so people can add it to their taste.   We enjoy this salsa with prosciutto, cheeses, smoked salmon, roasted vegetables and the list goes on.   I have tried making the salsa with nectarines as that fruit has less natural sugar than mangoes but it didn’t really measure up from my perspective.

Rosé seems to be the perfect wine match and we have recently tried two that are new to us:    Zambartas Wineries 2018 Rosé from Lefkada, a Greek grape and Cabernet Franc, and Vouni Panayia Winery 2019 Rosé from local grapes, Mavro and Xinisteri.  

The Zambartas Rosé won a gold medal in the 2019 International Rosé Championship and is a darker rosé colour from the Cabernet Franc grape, similar in colour to the rosés from South West France.  13% ALC by volume.

The Vouni Panayia Rosé from the local grapes of Mavro (black) and Xinisteri is paler, more similar to the rosés from the South of France.  13.5 % ALC by volume.

Both wines offer red fruit flavours including pomegranate and are refreshing, good as a summer aperitif as well as with seafood or Asian style food.  We enjoy them both but in balance my favourite is the paler rosé from local grapes.

It’s time to enjoy the last few weeks of summer, with socially distanced outdoor eating and fresh and refreshing flavours.

Covid Culinary Moments: meat loaf with a difference and wine!

Lamb and feta cheese seems an unusual combination when I first hear of this a few years ago from Swiss/Austrian friends who serve us delicious lamb and feta burgers.

In a Covid culinary moment, I decide to see if I can replicate this combination and search for a recipe for a meatloaf with lamb and feta.   To my amazement, I discover a January 1997 recipe for Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese on the Southern Living website, a magazine I haven’t seen for many years in Vancouver but I see is still very active and interesting.

I made this meatloaf twice, the second time with great success. The first time, it does a belly flop when I turn it out of the pan.

Here’s how I modify the recipe to my taste: replace the green bell pepper with red pepper, added more fresh herbs, particularly rosemary, add chopped black olives and make a fresh tomato sauce, ‘Classic Tomato Sauce’ from the Epicurious site, rather than a bought sauce as suggested.   Additionally, to avoid the belly-flop routine, I make the full recipe, which is for 8 servings and put all the ingredients including the toasted pine nuts but not the feta cheese and olives, in the food processor for two spins to fully integrate all the ingredients before I layer the pan with the mixture and the feta cheese and olives.     A big bonus with this recipe is that it freezes really well, so I slice the meatloaf and individually pack slices for the freezer.

The big decision, of course, is what wine to serve with it.

My thoughts turn to a Nebbiolo wine from Greece that we enjoy in Nicosia, Cyprus earlier in the year. This delicious Nebbiolo from the organic vineyards of Ktima Karipidis in Thessalia, Greece with its full body tannins, high acidity and distinctive scent of fruit and liquorice would be a good match with the lamb and feta meatloaf with its tomato sauce. In my mind’s eye, I see myself enjoying this Greek Nebbiolo with my newly discovered meatloaf!.  Fantastic!

I have not been to the Thessaly area of Greece but I read that the area is bordered by Greek Macedonia and the Aegean Sea and has a thriving viticulture industry.   The wine waiter at Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, recommends this wine to us. It was a good recommendation, which we thoroughly enjoy.     The Nebbiolo grape is usually associated with high quality wines from the Piedmont area of Italy.

Closer to home here on the West Coast, we enjoy the meatloaf with our house Pinot Noir, which is from the Meyer Family Vineyard in Okanagan Falls, B.C:   also a good choice with the lamb and feta.

Taking time to discover new recipes and imagining wine pairings is enjoyable and creative in these unusual times and brings a smile to my face.

Perhaps the Heartman says it best with his inspiring ♥️ heart creations.

References:

Southern Living magazine: www.southernliving.com

(Search their recipes: Lamb Meat Loaf with Feta Cheese).

Classic Tomato Sauce   www.epicurious.com

Beba Restaurant, Nicosia, Cyprus.   bebarestaurant@gmail.com

Ktima Karipidis   www.karipidi.gr

Meyer Family Vineyards       www.mfvwines.com

Winery visits in the Time of Covid

Today, I saw the Heartman as I was walking along the seawall in Vancouver.

The Heartman, as we call him, creates beautiful arrangements of flower petals on the earth or grass, always in the shape of a heart.     He radiates calm and peace and his delightful work inevitably brings a smile or a photo opportunity moment to passers-by.

This heart symbol seems particularly appropriate as we all do our best to: “Be Kind, Be Calm and Be Safe”; the affirmation that British Columbians have taken to heart, literally, coined by Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia.

The focus on compassion and safety is reflected in the approaches to winery visits this summer where social distancing and safety are paramount for visitors to be encouraged to venture into winery tastings.

The key message for people planning to visit wineries during their summer holidays, whether here in BC or in other wine growing areas, is to anticipate the need to make an appointment for a wine tasting.     For now, drop in wine tastings are a thing of the past.       Additionally, the numbers of people tasting at any one time is sharply reduced, so check out how many people can be in the tasting party.   And, ask about the guidelines on spitting wine at the tasting area: some wineries provide a disposable spit cup, so a good idea to clarify this before the tasting begins!

Each winery creates their own wine tasting procedures as long as they keep to the guidelines around social distancing and sanitation.   This affects where the wine tastings take place, indoors or increasingly in outdoor spaces.  A point of enquiry is the definition of social distancing.   Here in British Columbia, we are operating with a 2 metre social distance.   In France, the social distance is 1 metre.   Figure out what that distance looks like, so you can conform to the expectation or leave more space.   Its important everywhere to know the guidelines, so you can: “respecter la distance de 1 mètre” or 2 metres, whichever is relevant.

Winery visitors can expect highly professional levels of sanitation for everything from counter tops to wine stemware to pour spouts on wine bottles with visitors being discouraged from touching bottles of wine for sale, unless buying them!

I visited the websites of two award wining wineries I know well in SW France to see what is on offer in these Covid times.   Both these wineries have 5 stars with Trip Advisor for their winery visits.

Chateau Lestevenie has clear instructions on their home page about phoning to arrange wine tastings.   They indicate that wine tastings are strictly by appointment to one household group per time in order to maintain social distancing.   Chateau Lestevenie is a beautiful countryside winery offering a wonderful visit and opportunity to learn with Humphrey and Sue Temperley and admire the work they have also done to promote the flora and fauna on their property.

Website: chateau-lestevenie.com         email: temperley@gmail.com

These comments above assume that the winery visit will be in person.   A growing element in wine tourism now is the advent of the virtual wine tour and tasting.

Another local winery in the Dordogne is Chateau Feely where Caro Feely has been busy launching a range of virtual experiences to enable people to experience Chateau Feely from anywhere.

Caro says: “We have been working flat out days, nights, weekends to get these new products developed and the response has been great.   We had started developing ideas for online courses as part of our wine school the last couple of years and the coronavirus offered the push and the ‘time space’ we needed to get the first products done.”

Caro has produced several videos on their website describing the biodynamic vineyard of Caro and her husband, Sean, including a one minute video produced about their new Virtual Discovery Wine Course.

Website: chateaufeely.com      email: caro.feely@chateaufeely.com

‘Down the road’ from these country wineries, in Ste Emilion and the areas around Bordeaux another approach to wine tasting takes place.   This year, many of the most famous chateaux in the wine world are conducting their wine tastings with merchants using video conferencing platforms like Zoom, Microsoft teams etc.   Samples of wines are shipped to the merchants in advance and then the tastings take place virtually with the chateaux technical directors discussing the wines and answering enquires from the merchants.   This is how the 2019 en primeur wine sale to merchants is taking place for many chateaux.  The good news is that it appears 2019 was a year producing a high quality vintage.

Economically speaking 2020 looks like a tough year for winemakers. At the en primeur level of wine sales, many chateaux are discounting their 2019 vintage prices to encourage sales. Inevitably, this price challenge will ripple down through the industry and affect all the wine-makers.

In the time of Covid, let’s be kind to our wine-makers and support them through an unforgettable year, which is bringing many challenges as well as opportunities for change.

History and Hospitality: wine and food stories told in silver. Part 2.

Looking at these beautiful silver condiment labels, I wonder about their history.    “What is their history?”;   ” Who used them and where?  “Tell me more…”

These sauce labels are part of a wine and sauce label collection managed by the Hampshire Cultural Trust in collaboration with the Allen Gallery in Alton in Hampshire  and were viewed  in October.  I wrote the story of the Bronte wine Label in my last post.

Silver labels for sauces, herbs and spices such as those illustrated for Tarragon, Oude, Cherokee, Cayenne, Anchovy  were made by silversmiths in the 18th and 19th centuries in England to be used to identify the contents of glass condiment bottles on the dining tables of the growing middle class in Britain.

Of those shown, the Tarragon label was made in1798, the Cherokee label made in 1780 and the Oude label made in 1841.   We know this because the hallmarks on each label identify the date in recognized and regulated letter code.

 

Apart from the craftsmanship demonstrated in the making of these single pieces of silver, these sauce, herb and spice labels represent different approaches to cuisine in this period of history and the diversity that came from their origins.

Herbs such as Tarragon, one of the four herbs named as “fine herbes” (parsley, chervil, tarragon and chives) was home grown and was, and is, used in classical French cuisine. Spices were more exotic and imported from many areas of the world and brought different culinary inspiration.    Both approaches to cuisine represent the march of history, global exploration and the corresponding impact on cuisine.

The history goes back a long way, including ancient times.   More recently Marco Polo, the great Venetian 13th century explorer mentions spices in his travel memoirs.     He wrote about sesame oil in Afghanistan, he described plantings of pepper, nutmegs, cloves in Java and cinnamon, pepper and ginger on the coastal area of India.

When Christopher Columbus set out on his second voyage in 1493, he revisited the West Indes and Americas, still hoping to go on to China, and brought back red pepper spices and allspice.

All the sea-faring exploration, military actions and colonization around the world over many centuries affected food tastes and cooking styles when people returned to their home countries with their new found food and flavour experiences..

The availability and access to spices in particular was often a function of economic wealth.   For example, the price of pepper served as a barometer for European business well being in general.

As is always the case, language reflects culture and how people live.  The phrase “peppercorn rent’, an expression used today to indicate a nominal amount, reflects the fact that pepper was used as a currency to pay taxes, tolls and rent. Similarly, in 1393, a German price list identified that a pound weight of nutmeg was worth seven fat oxen!

Researching sauce names reveals some interesting information!   I found Cherokee recipes from the southern United States referring to chicken recipes with chilies.   Béarnaise Sauce, the famous tarragon flavoured derivative sauce of Hollandaise, was referenced in 1836 culinary materials.

Oude was more difficult to track down. I did find a reference to a Crosse and Blackwell’s Oude Sauce used in a sausage pudding recipe from the 1800s.   Crosse and Blackwell, a British company making sauces since 1706, no longer make this sauce although they continue to make other condiment products.

Oude sauce has also been referred to as King of Oude sauce.    For example, an 1861 list of supplies included Crosse and Blackwell sauces: Essence of Anchovies, and King of Oude sauce, as well as Lee and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce, Mushroom Catsup etc.

Looking further into the Oude reference, my research indicates that the Oudh State (also known as Kingdom of Oudh, or Awadh State) was a princely state in the Awadh region of North India until 1858. Oudh, the now obsolete but once official English-language name of the state, also written historically as Oude, derived from the name of Ayodhya.

Joining the dots, I assume then that Oude Sauce would be spicy in a Northern Indian cuisine style, possibly with spices such as chilies, cumin, turmeric, garlic, ginger, coriander.

Sauce recipes, then as now, are typically not divulged..   While the ingredients for the generic Worcestershire sauce are known and include such items as barley malt vinegar, molasses, anchovies, tamarind extract, garlic, spices, which may include cloves, soy, lemons, the precise recipe for Lee and Perrin’s Worcestershire Sauce from 1835 is still a closely guarded secret after more than 200 years.   Tabasco Sauce, another well-loved spicy condiment, has been made in Louisiana in the United States since 1868 by the same family business.  The spice business and extraction of flavours from herbs and spices has been commercially active since the 18th century in line with the illustrated sauce labels.

McCormick is another maker of condiments in the United States that has been in this business since 1889.   The company has established a McCormick Science Institute (MSI).   “The MSI research program sponsors research which is focussed on advancing the scientific study of the health enhancing properties of culinary herbs and spices in areas which are considered to have the potential to impact public health.  MSI released a research paper in March 2018 identifying how herbs and spices increase the liking and preference for vegetables among rural high school students.”  Marco Polo and other early explorers would be pleased!

Thinking about the silver sauce labels on the condiment bottles on the 18th and 19th century dining tables, I wonder about the wine selection in those days to accompany foods using these sauces, especially the spicy ones.

No doubt the advice would be similar to that offered today.   For example, with a curry dish, I might consider a chilled white wine such as pinot gris or perhaps a gewürztraminer:  among rosé wines, I might consider a lightly chilled wine, but not too floral, a Côte de Province appellation comes to mind.   Among red wine choices, considering a lighter red wine and staying away from too tannic a wine would be a good idea to complement the spicy notes of the food.   Côte du rhône, Gigondas come to mind or perhaps an Alsace Pinot Noir.   I could apply these considerations to wines from other parts of the world in making a choice of wine to accompany a spicy food dish.

Viewing these 18th and 19th century silver sauce labels opened up a Pandora’s box of questions for me,  as the unknown name of Oude particularly caught my eye.  So much history and information evoked by a small, beautiful example of silver craftsmanship from over 200 years ago.

References:  websites for:  McCormick and the McCormick Science Institute, Hampshire Cultural Trust/Allen Gallery,  British Library.  Christopher-Columbus.eu, Lee and Perrin, Crosse and Blackwell, Tabasco.

The Art of Springtime Inspiration: Dinton Folly English Sparkling Wine

 

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!

I have also been inspired recently hearing about a new vineyard in Buckinghamshire:  Dinton Wines, which was started in 2013.

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!

References

Dinton Wines       dintonwines.com

National Gallery:   Nationalgallery.org.uk

Maps courtesy of Dinton Wines and local tourist information.

 

Dragons, Pirates and Wine: Château Quintus, Saint Emilion, France

I’ve seen a dragon in Saint Emilion.

Yes, really. I’m not kidding.

It’s about 3.30 p.m. on a sunny, warm autumn afternoon in November. We walk uphill into a bosky, oak wood with sunlight filtering through the leaves. The ground is covered in acorns that crunch noisily under our feet in this quiet space.

There before us with wings spread wide is the Quintus Dragon

All two tons of bronze on a stone plinth.

“Why is there a dragon here?” we ask our host, François Capdemourlin, the Estate Manager at Château Quintus.

He tell us that, in mythology, dragons protect treasure or special places.   The proprietors of Chateau Quintus in Saint Emilion consider that their 28 hectares of wine growing slopes are special. Hence the protective presence of the dragon, he says.

Commissioned by Prince Robert of Luxembourg, President and CEO, Domaine Clarence Dillon and created by Mark Coreth, a world renowned British sculptor, who specializes in large scale, dynamic animal and wildlife sculptures, the Quintus Dragon is spectacular.

The view from this wine property is also spectacular.   On a clear day such as we enjoy, its possible to see not only famous Saint Emilion chateaux, such as Chateau Angelus before us across the vineyards but also the areas of Pomerol and Fronsac, great wine areas in the distance.

Chateau Quintus is owned by Domaine Clarence Dillon, which owns Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion in Pessac Leognan in the Bordeaux Wine Region.   I wrote about Chateau Haut Brion in January: see the Whisper of History.

Chateau Quintus represents a relatively new venture for Domaine Clarence Dillon as it  extends into creating the more merlot-centric wines of the Right Bank of the Bordeaux wine area through the acquisition of two existing but separate wine properties.  Merlot, as the predominant variety in Saint Emilion wines, is the grape variety that gives softer tannins to wines.

As we talk about Merlot based wines, we smile as we reminisce about the 2004 film ‘Sideways’ featuring proponents of Merlot and Pinot Noir and wonder how many people remember that film now.

Back at Château Quintus there is an aura of calm efficiency about the property. This is a working vineyard: no wine tourist shop or public tasting area in sight.   This is the norm in the Bordeaux wine area with only a few exceptions.   Visits are by appointment only.   Wine tourism centres for this area are located in the UNESCO heritage town of Saint Emilion.

We tour the new winemaking area in the renovated chai or vat room and then drive to the Chateau business centre in a different area of the property, where there is a small tasting room.   Behind the tasting area, we can look through the glass partition to the wine barrel ageing room where the wine is quietly and patiently ageing.

It’s in this tasting room that our host tells us the story about pirates!

Images of Pirates of the Caribbean and swashbuckling figures come to mind and I can’t wait to hear the tale.

This is what happened. On a diving expedition in the Indian Ocean, off the Island of Mayotte, some years ago, divers found a cache of treasure on the seabed.   In this cache, covered with the debris of years on the ocean bed, was a 19th century wine bottle, still intact. On the neck of the bottle was the raised seal of Chateau Haut Brion engraved on the glass, still visible after all these years. Inspired by this historic find, the wine bottles of Chateau Quintus are especially made in the same 19th century style, in this instance with the raised engraved seal of Chateau Quintus.

I’ve mentioned dragons and pirates, now its time to mention the wine!

Chateau Quintus focuses on red wines and these wines are part of the Saint Emilion appellation.   As mentioned, the grape variety grown is Merlot together with Cabernet Franc.    In terms of wine production, the vintage has been controlled by Chateau Quintus since 2011.

Out of interest, white wines made in the Saint Emilion wine region are characterized as Bordeaux Blanc.

We taste a Chateau Quintus 2014 and their second wine, Le Dragon de Quintus 2014.     2014 was a challenging year with a hot Indian summer in the area that saved the vintage after difficult summer conditions.

The Chateau Quintus 2014 is made from 69% Merlot and 31% Cabernet Franc.   This is a smooth wine with red fruit and spicy notes.   It is a wine to age and enjoy over the next decade or so.

Le Dragon de Quintus 2014 is made from 77% Merlot and 23% Cabernet Franc and is a wine with soft tannins and plum notes to fully enjoy now.

It is interesting to hear the Estate Manager talk about vineyard management and the wine making process used at Chateau Quintus as it benefits from the expertise of the teams at Chateau Haut Brion and Chateau La Mission Haut Brion, all part of the Domaine Clarence Dillon organization.

Several examples of this collaboration are discussed:

One example is that the vineyard workers have been specifically trained in the way that Domaine Clarence Dillon prefers to prune the vines.

Another is that Chateau Quintus benefits from the on site cooperage or barrel making service resident at Chateau Haut Brion.

Yet another example is that the staff from the three different chateaux gets together for the wine blending process to determine the percentages of varieties in the year’s vintage.  Team members share their expertise to arrive at the optimum blend. Once the blending has been determined the wine is put in oak barrels for ageing over approximately two years.

I am always interested to know about initiatives that develop talent and skill within an organization and enjoy hearing these examples given by François Capdemourlin, who is clearly enjoying his exciting role managing this integrated wine estate.    Chateau Quintus is a new name in the Saint Emilion wine world, finding its way and supported by the investment of resources from the Domaine Clarence Dillon.  Watch this space, as the pundits say.

We’ve enjoyed an interesting and informative visit to Chateau Quintus and its time to thank the Estate Manager for his time, find our car and drive off towards road D33..

D33 is the main road on the way from Bergerac to Libourne and the city of Bordeaux.   Up high on the right hand side sits the town of Saint Emilion with its vineyards spread over  the hillsides.   We frequently drive that road.

Now I know where the Quintus Dragon lives, in that bosky wood on the hill high above the road. I know where to look when driving by.

Next time, I will raise my hand in a silent salute.

References.

Château Quintus.   http://www.chateau-quintus.com

Mark Coreth:  Check his Facebook page.  There are several websites and galleries including Sladmore Gallery in London and Messums Wiltshire that refer to his work.