Big and powerful, smelling of wood smoke, spice and pepper, leather and tobacco; this description could equally apply to wine as to the macho man in your life. With Father’s Day fast approaching, and lockdown showing little sign of easing up any time soon, let’s celebrate with what we’ve got, and wherever we are.
With fabulous local lamb now at its peak for a celebratory roast, or grilled on the BBQ if the weather is fine enough, my recommendations this month are for your favourite hunter, gatherer, carnivore.
Top choice for me has to be the renowned Chateau Musar; produced by the Hochar family in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon; not cheap at around £30, but vines have been cultivated in the region for over 6,000 years; this remote and unspoilt location, along with the hand-harvesting of the grapes by local Bedouins, ensured that these wines achieved ‘organic’ status long before the term had been used in Europe. Seven years in the making, and aged for one year in French oak barrrels, all of Musar’s wines are unfined and unfiltered, and therefore suitable for vegans. Dominated by the black fruit flavours of the Bordeaux grape Cabernet Sauvignon, Rhône grapes Cinsault and Carignan provide a supple spiciness. Variations from vintage to vintage retain the emphatic Lebanese style, and with time the wines become mellow and take on a tawny hue; the resulting wine is smooth on the palate with aromas of tobacco, spice and mocha. Richly-textured, the ‘crust’ formed in older wines is a common feature so these wines should be carefully decanted before drinking.
Closer to home, and back in Europe, try the Syrah and Grenache dominated Serabel Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Southern Rhône, at just under £20. A complex and distinctive wine, smooth and supple in texture with well-integrated tannins. On the palate look for pronounced pepper, spice, black cherry, tar, leather and roasted nut flavours.
Rioja lovers will enjoy a Vinã Ardanza’s Rioja Reserva, from the La Rioja Alta region. Available for around £22, and with an earthy, woody spice complexity, with its spicy character achieved through extended barrel ageing,
A preference for white? Then try the award-winning Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco ‘Antea’ Barrel Fermented, for around £10.
Whilst my any of us will have been hard hit financially as a result of Coronavirus, do bear in mind that the quality of the wine you buy increases exponentially for every £ you spend over a fiver. £8 – £10 is a good price point to aim for; it still works out at just over £2 per glass, much less than a pint of beer, which bring me nicely onto the other option to keep dad happy on Father’s Day.
I confess that I have never been much of a beer drinker myself but in an effort to increase my willingness to imbibe I do attend local events from time to time, many of which are held to raise money for local charities,
Not wanting to skimp on my research I am always keen to try tipples in support of our local economy, which will be needed now more than ever.
Here are is my selection from some Somerset producers.
Tapstone Brewing Co. Chard – Wild Woods 4.5% abv: A golden Indian Pale Ale with a distinctive pine and citrus character.
Sea Monster 4.2% abv, a blonde ale with tropical flavours accompanying the citrus. www.tapstone.co.uk
North Curry Brewery – Red Heron, 4.3%abv: This is the first of the five ales produced by this family run business. Made from pale and crystal malt, it is full bodied with a malty flavour that is balanced by the bitterness of golden hops.
They also have on offer Level Headed 4.7%abv, a traditional old English ale with a dark ruby colour and a rich full flavour. www.thenorthcurrybrewerycouk.
Windy Brewery offers Helm, 5.7%abv: A brown porter produced at the rear of The Volunteer Inn at Seavington. It’s made with dried yeast to ensure consistency (only available on site) and has a suggestion of toasted caramel toffee tinged with spiced marmalade. They also produce the popular Tornado, 4.2% abv, which has a smooth bitterness offset by forest fruits. www.thevolly.co.uk
As a special treat, if dad has a sweet tooth, make this scrumptious cake with this recipe in which you can use any dark ale. This rich, moist, dark cake, has just a hint of the liquorice character of the ale to offset its sweetness. Made in much the same way as sticky toffee pudding, even a novice can make this successfully.
- ½ pt. dark ale or porter
- 8oz. unsalted butter
- 12oz. caster sugar
- 2oz. cocoa powder
- 5 fl. oz. crème fraiche
- 3 medium eggs
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. ground mixed spice
- 9oz. plain flour
- 2½ tsp. of bicarbonate of soda
Grease and line a 9in. (23cm.) spring form cake tin
Preheat oven to gas mark 4/180°C/350ºF
Pour the ale into a large saucepan, add the butter, and heat until melted
Whisk in the sugar and cocoa
Beat the crème fraiche together with the eggs and vanilla and add to the mixture
Whisk in the flour, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda
Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 mins. – 1 hour (fan assisted ovens will cook more quickly)
A skewer inserted into the middle should come out clean, and the top should spring back if pressed gently
Leave the cake to cool in the tin
When cold, serve as is, or better still top it off with a rich dark chocolate ganache, or smothered in cream cheese frosting for true indulgence
Life is too short to be counting the calories.