Red wine, figs in chocolate… just another Friday night at home


ChocolatefigsJust another Friday?  I wish.  But if I ate like this every Friday I’d be twice my current size and probably stuck at home on account of being unable to fit into any form of public transport!  So what was the occasion?  Well, I hadn’t seen Bronwyn for a month, and I felt like cooking and staying in, so the logical solution was a mini-dinner party at home! Very exclusive guest list – just me, Bron and Nick.

So while the wind howled outside, we feasted on a roast turkey joint (Tesco does them – all sprinkled with herbs and ready for the oven) and gravy, with baby potatoes done in olive oil, garlic and rosemary, and creamed spinach for greenery.  Hearty just-like-mom-used-to-make comfort food for a decidedly cold and unpleasant night.  Of course, all this eating needed some balancing alcohol, so we started with a bottle of red brought back from our recent trip to France.  Like all of the wines we bought, this one was native to the appellacion where we were staying – Cotes de ProvenceCotes de Provence is a rather large appellacion, extending from Marseilles to Nice and stretching inland into the hills as well and its wines are generally neither as fashionable nor as expensive as, say Burgundy or Bordeaux.  Part of the reason might be that 80% of the wines produced there are rosé, which has struggled with its own bad publicity for ages.  But as a lover of rosé (and particularly the dry ones that this area can produce) I felt quite at home!  Because of the southern location, the region also tends to get more sun than other regions of France, so the wines tend to be bigger and bolder which, combined with the very reasonable prices, seriously appeals to the South African palate!

So the first wine we had was a Domaine du Bois des Demoiselles, Cuvée des Amis 2003 from Draguignan in the Cotes de Provence appellacion.  The wine’s name translates rather charmingly as “Estate of the Wood of the Young Ladies, Vintage of Friends 2003″ and it bears out what I said above about hot climate = big wines with its 13% alcohol, but unfortunately I can find no indication on the bottle or on the Web of what grape varieties it contains.  But we can take an educated guess – the red dominant red grape varieties in Cotes de Provence are Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault, Tibouren, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Here are my sketchy tasting notes:

Colour:  deep ruby, almost opaque with purply edges
Nose:  heady, jasmine, also inky – like a bottle of blue ink (don’t laugh!!)
Palate:  Big, bold wine!  Ripe cherry fruit upfront with a lingering burnt caramel finish.  Very smooth tanins and a medium to long finish.  Delicious.  For under £5 (French prices, unfotunately…) this was a total and utter bargain.  New World wine from an Old World region at positively Third World prices.  Bargain. Based on the tasting I would guess there was a fair whack of Cabernet in this, but blended with something softer like Cinsault or Grenache to give it the softness on the finish and take the edge off.  A big Cabernet on its own can be a bit terrifying!

Clearly, that bottle did not stand a chance, and soon we were moving on to a bottle of 2001 Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (also 13% alc) which we found on the wine rack – probably bought for a previous dinner and never consumed, probably from Oddbins or Tesco.  What can I say – WOW.  It’s a good thing that we had this after the French wine as this is such a biggie that it would have obscured anything drunk after it.  Here are the notes, getting more concise as the evening wore on 😉

Colour:  Very dark to opaque, garnet.  Some sediment visible at the base of the glass.  Maybe it was unfined or unfiltered??
Nose:  I don’t know what the ratio of Shiraz to Cab was but it was just a huge whiff of pepper – an absolutely classic Shiraz nose, with the Cab adding some plum-jammy notes
Palate:  Another HUGE wine.  Lots of fruit upfront – blackberries, jam, yummy.  Liquorice and pepper on the finish, very, very smooth tannins and a long, delicious finish.

As you can see, a good night for two previously untested wines – sometimes you just get lucky! After we had retired waddled from the table to the comfort of the sofa and were looking at the photographs of our respective trips to South Africa and Ireland, I remembered that it was Twelfth Night and therefore the day to take down the Christmas tree.  Much as I didn’t have the energy to do anything about it at that moment, I did realise that this meant we could finally eat the little edible gifts that had been hanging in its branches since November.  When we had our “Christmas in November” lunch, my friend Olwen had very kindly brought me some little stuffed figs in chocolate, individually wrapped in red paper and tied up with string like tiny gifts, from Carluccio’s.  I had instantly decided that these were too pretty to eat immediately and should rather decorate the Christmas tree for a while.  And besides, we had faaaaar too much food that afternoon already!  So there they hung until Friday night when we each got one to unwrap and eat at our leisure.

Feeling like indulging yourself?  Well, take my advice.  Slip into somethign cashmerey, grab a good book, make some fresh coffee and curl up on the sofa eating these babies all afternoon.  The figs were stuffed with candied peel and the tartness of the peel beautifully offset the sweetness of the figs.  Then the whole fruit was coated in dark chocolate – my favourite – so that the whole thing was decadent without being syrupy-sweet.  They were truly fabulous and served as the perfect dessert – without my having to lift a finger!!  Thanks Olwen – and I think you may have earned yourself an invitation to the next Friday evening mini-dinner that I plan 😉

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  1. says

    Wow! I don’t know much about wine- just what I like- but your post makes me want to learn more. And as for the little stuffed figs in chocolate…well, it’s a good thing I’d have to order them from Carluccio’s, because if they were on the shelf at Sainsbury’s I’d be in big trouble.
    I’m glad I found your blog and I’m looking forward to checking back…cheers!

  2. says

    Your wine reviews make me feel like one of those people thatcan’t get those 3D hidden images, actually I am one of those people but that’s another story.
    Had an epiphany on Thursday with a 7yo local red and must try harder next time and from now on its cases and cellaring.

  3. says

    Hi Moira and welcome to the blogosphere! You’re right about the figs – if they were too easily obtainable I’d be a blimp… As for the wine, hey, you’re in a fab country to be able to sample tons of both Old and New World wines to suit every budget. No need for the flowery language – just get drinking! 😉 Only one golden rule though: TAKE NOTES. You will never believe (or remember!) that Sauvignon Blanc smells like green peppers unless you can refer back to the last 3 bottles you have had and can see a trend emerging. There are also some great basic tasting courses for beginners – I know the London Wine Academy has great tutors and isn’t stuffy or condescending in any way. Have fun!
    Aaaaah, those 3D pictures… Yes, I too struggled long and hard to see them but now I’m in recovery. One day at a time.
    Cases and cellaring is certainly the way to go – there’s nothing I hate more than opening a bottle and finding it is the Holy Grail of wines – and the only bottle I bought. Aaaaarrrrrgh!! But with storage space at such a premium here, it isn’t a viable option at the moment. As it is, I challenge you to move any item in any cupboard, drawer or shelf in my house and not find a bottle of wine hidden behind it. Back in SA we had a 200+ bottle wine collection squirreled away in a 68sqm apartment – locating a particular bottle was like a treasure hunt!!

  4. pieletjies says

    Well! Did I find myself in a bit of bother now?
    There I was, taking your advice, slipped into something casmerish, grabbed a good book (Blue Boy), dipped my tart peel, kicking and screaming, in chocolate, tried to eat this baby all afternoon long, when I sudeenly realised you said FIGS! A,E,I,O,U. Whats in a vowel? Anyway, who wants to eat FIGS? Especially all afternoon long?