It was an absolute delight to have my first meal out in a restaurant since lockdown this week. Myself and two colleagues visited Forza Wine to sample our way through most of their menu and taste a couple of their wines.
Aside from a few quite significant changes you notice at the start – number of seats down about 2/3rds at least, menus in plastic covers, more emphasis on safer service – you almost immediately forget.
It will come as no surprise to learn that food and drink are my biggest passions. While lockdown has brought along many great things to it – more time at home, more home cooking, homemade amaro, welcoming so many new customers along – I've been longing to return to restaurants, bars and pubs.
The delights of the table – someone bringing you new dishes, sampling different wines, conversations where you really get to know the people around you – are never the same at home.
I ran a poll last week on Instagram asking whether the new Eat out to help out scheme was more or less likely to encourage you to eat out in August. Over 300 of you voted in the end, and the results went 48/52.
A couple of my friends are seeing the August EOTHO scheme as a way to visit a tick off a load of restaurants on their bucket list. I could think of no greater way to spend Mondays to Wednesdays in August.
This week's Taste looks at food wines, while Learn answers a question I've received this week – about sediment and similar things in the bottom of your bottle.
Taste - Food wines
Rosé so often is a wine to drink rather than pair, but we're big fans of food + rosé pairing. Grab Tesco's Finest Provence rosé (£9), then pair with a grain-based salad on a hot summer's day. Pale rosé like this acts very similarly to light whites. So a nice salad, roast chicken, or softer cheese works wonderfully.
Chablis and oysters is one of the wine world's most famous food and drink pairings. Chablis has been on my mind recently having been fortunate enough to taste a couple of great bottles from the Burgundy wine board. William Fèvre's Premier Cru (£25.99 from Waitrose) is everything Chablis should be: lime zest, grass, apples, hay, clean, mineral and pure. An absolute classic Chablis that will suit any oyster pairing.
Every now and again, you drink a wine that has just totally hit its stride in drinking terms. Lots of great reds are barely ready if you buy them in their youth. When I tried the Bellwether shiraz-malbec blend it blew me away. This is wonderfully rich with sweet blackcurrant, and blackberry, as well as some smoky, meaty influences from the shiraz. Eat this with salty, hard cheese for a true meal of simple pleasures.
Learn - What's in the bottom of my bottle?
We had a few questions this week about various bits people have seen in the bottom of their Chateau Payral.
Sediment in wines is often one of two things, either tartrate crystals or leftover yeast/lees. If you spot these, it's harmless to the wine – though you might want to avoid drinking them directly.
They most frequently appear in wines made naturally or with low intervention: a sign that a wine hasn't been filtered. Decanter has covered their harmlessness before.
All in all, sediment of any kind is unlikely to be pleasant to drink, but won't be a sign that there's something wrong with the bottle.
In fact, you can more often than not use it as a sign that there's probably been greater care made in making that bottle of wine than not.