Toast the arrival of spring with vintage Champagne, red Rioja and a modern makeover of Calvados
Additional words: Mark de Wesselow
30&40 Single Cask Calvados
Calvados, Normandy’s apple brandy, is an even more off-piste drinks order these days than Armagnac or Cognac. 30&40, however, is an intriguing new Calvados from three young friends with backgrounds in music and design whose aim is to persuade drinkers to think of Calvados as they would a single malt whisky. The three single cask expressions range from a smoky 3-year-old to a spicy 15-year-old and the almond and citrus complexity of the 25-year-old. If you’ve never tried Calvados, dip your toe in the water with a bottle of the 3-year-old or order a glass at the end of a meal at the likes of Blacklock, Frenchie and Core by Clare Smyth. And if you really want to put some hairs on your chest, they make an eau-de-vie as well.
Champagne AYALA Le Blanc de Blancs 2012
This beautiful-looking Blanc de Blancs from a great vintage is produced by Ayala’s chef de cave Caroline Latrive from 100% grand cru grapes grown in Côte des Blancs communes such as Le Mesnil, Cramant and Chouilly. Delicate aromas of citrus, apple, yellow plums and white flowers lead to a delightfully mineral palate that has zip and richness in equal measure. It’s a focused expression of Chardonnay at its most pure, but with six years ageing it’s starting to have maturity, too, which means creaminess on the palate and a silky persistent finish. For a treat, pair it with scallops or turbot.
The Glengoyne Legacy Series: Chapter One
Highland whisky distillery Glengoyne has just launched its first new global release in two years. The Glengoyne Legacy Series: Chapter One is the first in a series of annual releases designed to express the distillery’s 186-year history in liquid form. Chapter One marks the moment in 1869 when distillery manager Cochrane Cartwright slowed down the speed of distillation to a third of the industry average (its stills run more slowly than any other distillery to this day) and first introduced sherry casks to Glengoyne. Expect a rich, fruit flavour profile of toffee, pear, cinnamon and vanilla, and a punchy 48% ABV.
£54.95, Master of Malt
Island Street Porter
This dark and moody porter from craft-beer obsessives Salcombe Brewery ticks all the boxes if you’re looking for something different. Its blend of eight malts produce light aromas of licorice and dark chocolate, followed by a palate that combines coffee, chocolate, nuts, roasted grains and dried cherries. And it’s absolutely delicious. Rich, velvety and packed with flavour, with no hard edges or bitterness, it’s a beer to savour and drink slowly. It’s lovely on its own, but with this much complexity, it pairs perfectly with rich meat dishes.
£30 (case of 12x330ml bottles), salcombebrewery.com
Viña Pomal Compromiso 2015
The two main grapes of this most engaging treat wine are Tempranillo (elegance and juiciness) and Grenache (expressive charm), with other grapes like Mazuelo, Graciano and Maturana Tinta adding complexity, finesse and personality. Succulent aromas of red fruits, violets and toastiness on the nose give way to spices, white pepper, vanilla and mocha on the palate, all beautifully knitted together. Because of the winery’s naturally cool location on the higher reaches of north-western Rioja, with Atlantic influences too, the grapes are some of the purest and most elegant in Rioja. Great with full-bodied, meaty stews. Try it at the Wines from Spain Tasting at Sky Garden in early March.