Wine and drinks news: April 2016

Find out what olive booze pro Sarah Kingsbury and wine expert Victoria Moore have tipped to be drinking in April

Trend alert: Kombucha


Raw, fermented tea may not sound particularly appealing, but that’s exactly what kombucha is – and no wonder it’s been taking New York and LA by storm – it’s delicious. Made using water, tea, organic cane sugar and a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), it’s fruity, slightly sour, packed full of natural, live probiotics and is naturally low in sugar. Drink it neat, use as a mixer, or in cocktails. Thanks to its sour edge and the many fruit blends available, you can treat kombucha almost like a shrub in cocktails. Our favourite way to use unflavoured kombucha is in a mule – it works
really well with fresh ginger and lime, and is significantly lower in sugar than ginger beer. Buy it at healthfood shops and Whole Foods.

Coffee pods

Since the Nespresso coffee pod patent expired, competitors have been scrambling to get a piece of the action. Now Sainsbury’s has joined the battle alongside Lidl and Pact with the launch of a new range of Taste the Difference pods available in four varieties; Intenso, Lungo (for longer coffees), Ethiopian and Columbian. £2.50/10.

Book it!
Started in London, the famous Shake, Rattle and Stir gin journeys have now taken to the streets of Liverpool and Manchester. Expect five gin cocktails in five different bars and a healthy dose of knowledge from your expert gin guide, all for £45. ginjourney.com

Sink soju

We predicted big things for sake in our January issue and as it becomes even more popular, expect the door to open for more Asian spirits. Enter Korean soju. It’s mostly produced from rice or other grains, but starches like sweet potato can also be used. At an average of 20% ABV, this low-alcohol spirit sits somewhere between wine and hard liquor, and, surprisingly, is the most popular spirit in the world, easily outselling vodka. With the ever-growing popularity of Korean food and loads of great Korean restaurants, this is one to watch. Try it at Bó Drake, London.

Where to be seen

The Gibson, London
Two of London’s most respected bartenders, Marian Beke (ex-Nightjar) and Rusty Cerven (ex-Connaught), have teamed up to open their first independent bar paying homage to the somewhat forgotten classic it’s named after. The room is intimate, with a beautiful copper bar and banquette seating. First up has to be a Gibson (served in an ice-cold, stainless steel martini glass), but don’t neglect the rest of the vast menu, featuring all the outrageous flavours and garnishes you’d expect from this team. Try the Gibson Milk Punch; a spicy mix of nitro banana washed Barcardi heritage, water chestnut and coconut milk, pandan leaf, korma and peanut butter dust. thegibsonbar.london

Red Light, Bristol
Set back from Bristol’s Park Street, just along from one of Banksy’s most famous mural’s (Naked Man Hanging from Window), there’s a glowing red light and a telephone. Ring downstairs and, if you’re lucky, a well-dressed set of bartenders will guide you down to the dark drinking den that is Red Light. Art deco in style, with a mixture of booth seating and more relaxed corners of velvet chairs and chaise longues; the best seats in the house, if there are only a few of you, are at the bar. Here you can tap up the knowledge of the passionate team, including award-winning head bartender Dee Davies (the creator of Jinzu gin). redlightbristol.xxx

Head to the Cape
One of the places making the most noise in the wine world just now is South Africa. There’s a near-tangible sense
of excitement and energy emanating from the Cape. Wines are being made in unusual blends, in small (and sometimes never to be repeated) batches, and from grapes grown in wilderness vineyards where the vines are old, so their roots run deep and the fruit tastes rich.
I recently tried a gorgeous red made from grenache, pinot noir and cinsault – three grapes I’ve not found in the same bottle before. The grenache reached out with warm, open arms; the pinot noir was cranberry-bright and the cinsault wrapped itself around the two to create a silky whole. Delicious.
I can’t guarantee BLANKBottle Familiemoord 2014 South Africa will be around by the time you read this: one of the joys and frustrations of the new Cape is that small quantities mean you have to act fast. But I can recommend looking for other BLANKBottle wines, also the names: Mullineux, Alheit, Eben Sadie, Duncan Savage, Rall, Crystallum and Reyneke as well as established players who are making beautiful top-quality wines in a more classical style, like Newton Johnson, Hamilton Russell, Raats and Vergelegen. Swig is a good supplier, or hunt on wine-searcher.com for more places to buy.

Box wine is back!

What is a bagnum? It’s a magnum (1.5l) of good wine, in a bag not a bottle. Perfect for festivals, picnics and the times you fancy just one glass (it stays fresh for two weeks) or maybe two bottles (that bit’s up to you). Rouge du Grappin (1.5l, £25.95) is made from gamay; the white is chardonnay. £27.50. legrappin.com

Grassy, cold and edgy, with a nose-tickle of gunpowder and the bracing taste of citrus and elderflower rushing through the mouth – when sauvignon blanc from the Loire is good, it’s really good. The good news is that vintages of Sancerre (and the Sancerre-alikes of Pouilly Fumé, Reuilly, Menetou Salon and Quincy) currently are absolutely stellar: 2014 is the magic number. Snap them up. Domaine Teiller Menetou Salon 2014 France (£14.50, Yapp) has a broad, green flavour like fat blades of green grass with snow peas and lemon sorbet, and Domaine Philippe Raimbault Sancerre 2014 France (£15, selected M&S stores only) is classic and elegant.

André Brunel Grenache 2013 France (£8.49, Booths) is a lowly vin de pays but what you’re really getting is a cut-price taste of the work of one of the most highly respected producers in Châteauneuf du Pape. Perfumed and expressive – a red for spring lamb.

Zeren Wilson is the wine consultant for Smoking Goat, a Thai barbecue restaurant in Soho. He says: ‘A revelation since we put it on the list is Contra Soarda Vespaiolo 2014, from the tiny appellation of Breganze in north-east Italy. Grown on volcanic soil, this combines electrifying acidity, a seam of minerality, and a depth of fruit that can keep step with the chilli heat, smoke, and lime juice on the menu.’

You might also like

The hottest bar & drink news: March 2016

The hottest wine news: March 2016

Kombucha, the Ultimate Guide: Everything You Need to Know

How Europeans take their coffee


Tony Naylor’s nine ways to avoid a hangover