Monday, 28 December 2009

New Year's Fizz

It's the time of the year for Champagne. Although we love the stuff, we hardly ever buy it here. It's just too expensive. We would have loved to give you a comparison between different brands, but buying a couple of bottles to test is something our liqour license budget doesn't allow. Therefore, we are going to give you a couple of links to some interesting articles on the subject. You will be able to find some good suggestions and background here:
Most of the major brands are carried by either OUA or African & Eastern, so have a look around. If you're looking for a reasonable, more or less budget Champagne, we would suggest Lanson Black Label Brut. This brand usually offers good value for money. And if you're feeling decadent, why not go for Billecart-Salmon Rosé. It is our favourite rosé Champagne. Quite pricy though, at 50 OMR.

The best option for your budget is probably to skip Champagne altogether and go for a sparkling alternative. There are plenty around, most of them being much cheaper than 'the real thing'. African & Eastern offers the South-African Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel. Ridiculously cheap at 5.900 OMR, and a very decent glass of sparkling wine at that.

Whatever your choice of drink will be on New Year's Eve, we hope you have a splendid evening. And we wish you a very good 2010 with lots of good food and lovely wine.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Modern tradition - The wines of Quinta do Portal

We told you before about our love for port wine. Christmas is a classic opportunity to enjoy some port, and the Taylor's LBV 2003 we suggested earlier may be a good one to enjoy after Christmas dinner. If you wish to spend some serious money on a bottle of port, the Taylor's 20 Year Old Tawny is also a very respectable choice (around 50 OMR at African & Eastern).

While the quality of port is widely recognized, the table wines of the Portuguese Douro Valley are less well known. They deserve better. The wines from this region are beautiful and gaining in quality year after year. Typically, red wines from the Douro are ripe and concentrated with dark fresh fruit, and the whites offer plenty of spice, minerality and (tropical) fruit.

There is only one Douro wine producer available in Oman, which is a pity. Nevertheless, this producer, Quinta do Portal, is interesting enough to give some attention here. It is one of a group of wineries who are at the forefront of the quality explosion of Douro wines in recent years.

Anyone who ever visited the Douro region will appreciate the challenges winemakers face here. The vineyards are extremely steep, as a result of which almost all grapes need to be harvested by hand. The grape varieties are all traditional Portuguese, with names you'll hardly find outside Portugal. Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (which is the same as the Spanish Tempranillo) and Touriga Franca are the most popular ones for both port and wine. Yet, there are also many vineyards with old vines, where a mix of many varieties is planted. It is often unknown which varieties are planted there, many of them being obscure and ancient. These traditional grape varieties (and the large amount of old vines) contribute to the unique taste of Douro wines. In the old days the wines could be a bit rustic (especially whites), but thanks to modern vinification techniques they are now fresh and clean, with plenty of potential.

Quinta do Portal produces a large array of both port and table wines. Only a small selection of these is available through OUA. The Quinta do Portal Douro Branco 2007 is a very good example of a good Douro white. It offers lovely spice and licorice notes, as well as ripe pear and some tropical fruit. It will pare nicely with fish dishes, or even some light meat. It is a pity that its red counterpart, Quinta do Portal Douro Tinto 2003, is a couple of years too old. To give this wine the credit it deserves, you should at least be able to try the 2005 (or younger). Both wines are around 10 OMR, which is on the pricy side. At that price, we would recommend to try the white and wait for a newer vintage of the red. Portal also produces a very good rosé wine, but that is sadly not available here.

OUA also offers two ports from Portal: Fine Tawny and Fine Ruby. Both are basic ports, and although they are quite good in their category, we would love to see some of the better ports on the shelves, such as the Reserve Tawny, or the very nice Late Bottled Vintage.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Food alert - Les Saveurs du Terroir

The guys and girls of Muscat InterContinental are doing a good job in organising interesting theme evenings. Their newest invention is called Saveurs du Terroir. It is aimed at the French (speaking) community, and highlights the regional French cuisine.

There is a Saveurs du Terroir evening every month. The first one was last month, and the second is planned for this coming Tuesday, 15th of December. This month's theme is l'Alsace et sa Choucroute, a three course meal (where sauerkraut is the main attraction of course) costst 25 OMR per person, including a bottle of wine per pair of people.

As far as we're concerned, this is not only interesting for the French, but for everyone who loves the French cuisine.

La Val Alboriño - an update

We've been horribly absent lately. We were busy and away, and then busy again. Our sincere apologies. The coming days will see a number of posts to catch up.

Remember our post on La Val Alboriño, and how disappointed we were? It had mainly to do with the fact that the wine was too old. When we were dining in Restaurant The Edge in Dubai some weeks ago (something we can recommend to anyone who wants to spend a large amount of money on incredibly good food), we were served the 2007 vintage of this wine. It was exactly as we wished the 2006 would be:
This wine from Bodegas La Val is made to reach ultimate freshness. No wood in this wine. The result is a wine that has lovely citrus flavours, the freshness of green apples and a light, spritzy feel. It had weight, but is light at the same time. It's serious fun, so to say.
So if you happen to be in the OUA store, and you stumble across this wine, please do buy a bottle (or two) as long as it's from a recent vintage such as 2007 or 2008. The price is 10.500 OMR, and when the bottle is good, it's worth it.