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Lucy Maud Montgomery from Anne of Green Gables said, “I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers. It would be terrible if we just skipped from September to November, wouldn't it?” We wholeheartedly agree. Not only because the idea of 2021 coming to an end before it’s even really begun is an idea too terrifying to comprehend, but also because October brings with it so many oenological, gastronomical and cultural delights – both as events in themselves, or in the form of comforts that make a darkening month that much more bearable. Here are our sips, tips and tops spots for October.
October’s arrival tells us Autumn is certainly a-foot and, while we’ll never say no to an evening out, we also think it’s about time we celebrate the delights of what’s behind our own front doors, which is why we’ve settled on the theme of Home Comforts for this month. We’ll be celebrating sips you can shake up at home when putting your shoes on for an evening in the rain seems simply too grim, foods that bring your beloved casserole to life after a dusty summer and, of course, wines that were made both for sharing round your table, and for those quieter nights that come hand-in-hand with Autumnal hibernation.
We’re now in the final month of our Autumn Case, and there’s been no better time to indulge in some new recipes and new wines, paired to take your at-home evenings to new heights. It places squash and slow-cooked ragu centre stage, while introducing you to new grape varieties, regions and producers that have captured all we think is magical about Autumn in a bottle: enveloping aromas of earth, spice and orchard fruits; comfortingly smooth, medium bodies; crisp backbones reminiscent of fresh October mornings; and warm herbal undertones that love the season’s top ingredients.
Meanwhile, October 2021 sees London Cocktail Week’s extension to a whole month of celebration, so we’ll be bringing you plenty of delicious recipes for cocktails you can enjoy from the comfort of your kitchen (starting with International Vodka Day), as well as recommending places to head to that will lift your spirits…any day of the week.
Beetroot – Cabbage – Celeriac – Celery – Carrots – Cauliflower – Chard – Chillies - Jerusalem Artichoke – Kale - Kohl rabi – Leeks – Marrow – Mushrooms – Parsnips – Potatoes – Rocket – Spinach – Swede - Winter Squash - Pumpkins.
Apples – Pears – Quince – Autumn Raspberries
We’ve just been diving into the world of lees-aged wintery whites, to tell you a little bit more about how the white wine styles we’re recommending for the next few months are made so, of course, we placing one such wine front and centre of our October recommendations. Harking from Alpine vineyards in Italy’s Alto-Adige, the Pinot Bianco from Cantina Andriano has everything you want from an Autumnal white wine: refreshingly high acidity, a medium body and soft, full palate, mature fruit flavours and a lively minerality that makes it the perfect pick to pair with just about anything you’ll be plating up – we promise.
Pale yellow with flecks of green, we’re in love with the look of this drop, let alone its stunning orchard nose of apples, pears, apricots, peaches and subtle herbaciousness. Not every Autumnal meal needs kilos of weight behind it, so this is our recommendation for a white wine to pair with the season’s lighter dishes – it goes particularly well with the likes of burrata and spaghetti carbonara (lucky Pinot Bianco..)
In the middle of this month we’ll be introducing our Seasonal Subscribers and Wine Club members to the Owner and Head Wine Maker of Tuscany’s Castello Romitorio. An estate purchased by an artist, and maintained as a cultural crossroad between art and wine, these are bottles that are to be judged by their covers – as beautifully crafted on the inside as out.
The Brio, (meaning ‘oomph’ in Italian), is a stunning example that’ll be gracing every dinner party our team hosts this month. Made from 100% Sangiovese grown in the warm coastal Maremma region of Tuscany, this bottle will hold its own – and captivate its drinkers – at any Autumnal event, exuding elegance and bursting with colourful notes of ripe cherry, raspberries, warm Tuscan earth and hints of leather. It’s beautifully acidic, thanks to both altitude, volcanic soils and a proximity to the Tyrrhenian Sea and its drinkability will ensure you never throw the word ‘drinkable’ around willy-nilly again. The perfect pairing for Tuscan treats – ragu, roasted meats, pizza, Tuscan soup, steak and pecorino. Come for the label, stay for the ‘oomph’.
Given the month of October is dedicated to Cocktails, and it’s kicking off with World Vodka Day, it was a no-brainer to make our favourite Vodka one of our Drops of the Month. Pure and exceptionally smooth, with a finish of delicate spice and caramel, The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s Organic Rye Vodka is a stunning reflection of what these master distillers are capable of – and will leave you questioning why you’ve only just discovered them.
Underpinned by the motto “from grain to glass”, this vodka is produced exclusively from organically grown, ancient populations of heritage grain, making for a flavour profile that’s wholly superior to any bottle you’ll have sipped before. Oh, and by the way, they are the UK’s first organic grain-to-glass distillery, and the only distillery in the world using ancient heritage grain to produce their full range of spirits. While the weather’s wet and windy, we’d advise you stay nice and dry with a TOAD martini.
There are few grapes better suited to Autumn’s meteorological and gastronomical delights than a Pinot Noir and, as strong believers in finding small-production, quality flavours that give you serious bang for their buck, we’re completely enamoured with what Austria has to offer. This Pinot Noir is made by Johanneshof Reinisch, a family-run winery working organically over 40 hectares of vineyards, the soils of which are warmed by thermal spas running underground.
The grapes for this bottle are grown only in the best sites in their vineyards, producing what we know to be the juiciest, fruitiest, most balanced Pinot Noir for under £20 anywhere in Austria. Its red berry character is enveloped by a smoky intrigue and oak-influenced woody spice notes, underpinned by Pinot Noir’s adored earthy and mineral characteristics, making this bottle as serious as it is playful. Light and elegant, it’s most at home in Autumn, and sings alongside seasonal game dishes, or recipes highlighting October’s wealth of wild mushrooms.
Wine: Carema Classico, Produttori del Carema
An ethereal Nebbiolo from Northern Piemonte is hard to beat as the nights close in and temperatures drop. The nose on this one is complex – small, wild red fruits, forest undergrowth, crushed stones and hints of cinnamon – while its body is light to medium, and its lively acidity and spicy finish lifts you above the alpine peaks from where it stems.
It’s sky-high acidity is the perfect antidote to this dish’s indulgent cheesy base, while its earthy undertones are a beautiful pairing for our wild mushrooms. Its red fruit and floral characters are heightened by the dish’s moreish salty bite, while its low tannins are a timeless match for umami mushrooms as high tannins tend to bitterness when umami levels are high.
Food: Balsamic, Red Wine & Thyme Mushrooms with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 150ml warm water. Set aside for 20 mins, then drain and squeeze, reserving the soaking liquid.
2. Heat the butter in a large frying pan or heavy-bottom pot. When sizzling, add the shallot and cook for a few mins until really soft.
3. Add the garlic and thyme leaves, cook for 1 min more, then turn up the heat and add the soaked mushrooms.
4. After 1 min, add all the other mushrooms, add a glug of olive oil and keep stirring the mushrooms to evenly coat and cook. They'll take about 5-10 mins to really soften - be patient, you want the mushrooms to cook well for the best flavour.
5. Splash in the red wine and boil rapidly for 1 min.
6. Pour in the stock and reserved mushroom liquid, and simmer for 15 mins until you have a thickened stew. Turn off the heat. Season with salt and pepper.
7. For the polenta, bring the milk to the boil with 500ml water, the bay and thyme. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 20 mins, then fish out the herbs and bring back to the boil.
8. Add the polenta in a steady stream, whisking steadily. Cook for 1 min until thickened, then stir in the butter and Parmesan.
9. Place a generous portion of polenta onto a warm plate, sprinkle with parmesan, then load on the mushrooms and finish with more parmesan, thyme and olive oil. Serve with rocket and green beans.
The Sociovino team are regulars to our beloved Highbury Library, owned and run by a team as colourful, quirky and completely loveable as the bottles themselves. Focusing on organic, biodynamic and natural wines, its redefining what you might expect if you hear ‘wine bar’ and still think of dark rooms, oak panels and high leather seating. Casual, cool, and a spot where you can order Deliveroo to eat while you drink, these guys have everything going for them. If you’re not fussy, opt for one of the handful of by-the-glass wines – they’re always good, and it’s a short list so you can’t get too confused. If you’re looking for an adventure, dip into their full list – or browse the ‘library’ if labels are what really get you. Equally, drop them a message on Instagram or ask the staff and they’ll give you a great recommendation.
Find them here.
There are few pleasures greater than being welcomed with a bowl of complimentary Nocellara olives, a pleasure well and truly delivered by Hector’s. Small, local, and designed in GREAT taste, this is the perfect spot for a sip and a snack on a sunnier Autumn afternoon or evening. A European bottleshop and wine bar that draws from Jimmy Stephenson’s (of Hill & Szrok) deep cellar of wines – oldies, newbies, “natties” and classics – it’s inspired by the cave-à-mangers of Paris, the drinking holes of San Sebastián, cantina’s of Sicily, and the tascas of Lisbon. Queues start to form pre-6pm opening.
As it’s a month of celebrating Home Comforts, we thought we’d throw in a couple of home-eats options for the evenings you tire of heading out to wine bars…as a new resident in Brixton, Clem’s been depending on Baz & Fred’s for her dining table-less pizza and prosecco nights, and is yet to be disappointed by this Brixton village gem from mates Baz and Fred, who have been making pizzas since 2012, sourcing all of their ingredients from Italy, Spain or, whenever possible local suppliers. Grab a bottle of Sociovino Chianti Classico (or Prosecco), sit back and indulge – and maybe try their ‘Death Sauce’? Clem hasn’t been brave enough to.
Whether you’re more into sweet or savoury, Layla Bakery on Portobello Road is here to deliver the goods to those of you in the West. Founded by an ex-Pophams baker, you can be sure their selection of pastries is worth the walk up Portobello, and the vibe is just as delicious, making for a stunning evening (al-fresco or inside) of small plates and natural wines. Keep an eye on their instragram for regular guest chef pop ups – like pizza nights using their bread ovens. If you’re in it for the wine, we wouldn’t pop it top of your list just yet, with quite a small range and not a tonne of information on the bottles you’re buying, but we think they’re only just getting started so stay tuned. And stock up on the sourdough.
We’re certainly glad we live in a world where there are Octobers. Join us to explore the delights Autumn has to offer, through our monthly wine recommendations, recipes and, of course, our Seasonal Wine Subscription – just one more month to get your hands on our Fed By George special.
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