We're mid Wine Week here in London, and there's been a host of amazing events, tastings and tours afoot. These vary from beginner classes to events for the true geek to er, really geek out on. Plus there's the opportunity to engage with the events that surround this, including RAW where there was the opportunity to understand the growing category of natural wines.
It's a great week all in all, and I've loved it over the years for helping me explore and learn. Of course I love a glass of wine, but also, wine offers an interesting category of flavours and textures that I've grown more interested in putting into cocktails.
This becomes more the case when the sun starts to creep out (very slowly it seems over the last few weeks...) and I want lighter cocktails to enjoy with friends; As more occasions to get together outside with some good food and drink rises with the weather, I find myself reaching for some wine cocktails more frequently. Wine is of course a great partner for food, and much as I do when I'm pairing with a dish, I love being able to adapt the various flavours and weights of my drinks to make sure the two intertwine seamlessly. Using a wine in a cocktail allows me to use its breadth of flavours but be able to adapt these and the texture to match the dish.
Here are some of my favourite wines to use in cocktails:
Although in the boozier class of wine, these bone dry Spanish exports have long been favourites and I tend to always have a fresh bottle in the fridge. They're a little more forgiving with timing than your average white wine (although they're great to cook with, and stellar drunk by themselves, so they don't last long!) and give an amazing depth to aperitif cocktails. Tio Pepe's ultra-dry, green olive notes and La Gitana's coastal-licked salinity need some scant herbal or fruity touches, and a little bite on the side and you're set for an early evening.
There are some amazing Champagnes from both the big houses and smaller growers that are easier to access now, as well as fantastic additions from Spain and England, but in a recent pepsi-challenge, my team and I have had some great success with this style of sparkling wine made in the 'traditional method' in Italy. It has a wonderful depth and a nice balance of citrussy acidity. We use a fantastic edition from Passione Vino at White Lyan that makes brilliant sparkling cocktails.
It's hard to choose specific varietals from the many regions, countries and grapes but the brightness I've found in Austrian Rieslings has meant I've become a big fan of mixing with them. This could easily have been the buttery richness I love in Burgundian Chardonnay or the inky depth of a Rhone Syrah, but lifting the light florals from a favourite Riesling with some soft herbs, a light honey and some citrus is great on a sunny day.
Mas Amiel Maury
I'm a huge fan of port and in particular Tawny port, but this vin doux naturel has lovely oxidised notes, and a great dryness that means it's hugely versatile in some cocktails. It can lean towards rich, dessert-eque serves, or you can serve it long and chilled with some ice, some crushed berries and a sparkling mixer (try Fevertree ginger ale) for an amazing summer cobbler.
This is quite a divisive category of wine that relies on extra skin contact to bring a drying tannin and a distinct funk. Some of the amphora-aged orange wines from Georgia I've had have been amazing, but this Slovenian example formed the base of an 'Orange Wine Vermouth' that I paired with some Campari and soda for a great twist on one of my favourite light, aperitif hi-balls - the Americano:
Add all to a microwave safe container, cover, and blast on full power for three minutes, allow to cool, then strain:
450ml Radikon Orange wine
200ml Mr Lyan Gin
15g dried orange peel
5g dried lemon peel
6g dandelion root
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Peel of one fresh grapefruit
4 sprigs fennel tops
Build over ice and top with soda and garnish with a slice of orange:
25ml Orange vermouth