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A Postcard from Roses

The Costa Brava may not have the glitz of the Cote d’Azur in France but neither does it suffer from the bleak architectural choices that scar too much of the Spanish coastline further south. Indeed this ‘wild coast’ has much more to offer than simply sun, sea and Cava. For serious eaters, Girona the main city, is once again home to the world’s best restaurant; El Celler de Can Roca. Half an hour further north, those appreciative of the great Spanish surrealist, Dali, will find much to enjoy in both his place of birth Figueres and the secluded and wistfully beautiful Cadaques. I, however, am in Roses, a working fishing port that combines the prosaic with enough easy beauty to attract a throng of tourists, principally from neighbouring France.

Until relatively recently Roses was most famous for being the home of El Bulli, Ferran Adria’s legendary location for his very particular take on modern gastronomy. Even with Ferran’s retreat to his laboratory, one does not have to look far to find great cooking amongst the paella palaces and chipirones and chips restaurants that prevail in the streets nearest the beach. Rafa’s restaurant on Carrer de San Sebastia is as unassuming as any of its neighbours and it is only when the food arrives that you realise that you may never eat food this good again. I have had the good fortune to eat here on three occasions and on each there has been at least one dish that would be in my top ten plates of all time…I can pay it no greater compliment than that.

Yet Roses for me is about the chance to cook rather than be cooked for. The fish shops that extend along the dock are stocked with a catch so fresh that most are still rigid with rigor mortis. I bought five fat, coral coloured Red Mullet and baked them anointed with nothing more than some lemon, good oil and accompanied by a delicious Sauvignon/Moscato blend from Cava specialist Gramona. Tomorrow we leave continental Europe, fatter, browner and happier than when we arrived (well I am) but looking forward to some English summeriness in our next destination…Sudbury.


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No Beefsteak but some Burgundy

Having being recently invited to lunch at Le Cocotte, a restaurant of some standing here in Taipei, I was looking forward to the food almost as much as the wine. The occasion, a gathering of the ‘Beefsteak and Burgundy [dining] Club’ meets monthly and is populated by a diverse membership whose specialisms range from robotics to removals.

On arrival I was handed a glass of ‘Champagne’ and having tasted it I looked behind the bar for the bottle. I should have expected as much but the sight of the four wines we were to be served over lunch, sitting swaddled in tin-foil, produced the very slightest of palpitations deep in my innards. I knew that it would not be long before I was asked ‘what I did for a living’ and the realisation that a wine ‘expert’ was in their midst would make the blind tasting an altogether more interesting prospect…for some.

As we took our seats, paid homage to the Queen and our respective leaders of State, all I could think about was the origin of the inch of effervescence that sat whispering from the flute before me. ‘Touch of yeastiness, chalky texture, citrus and apple fruit…ok, its traditional method, old world, more than likely French but definitely not Champagne, acidity is too low…so Cremant but which, de Loire or de Bourgogne…?’, oh the joys of drinking in public. I’ll be honest, I went for the Loire, seduced by the apple and minerally mouth-feel, ignored the bright but not whistle clean acidity and of course if you close your eyes to the obvious you end up looking foolish; it was from Burgundy.

The wines that followed were more straightforward. Firstly an excellent, aromatic and pointed dry Muscat from the Minervois, then a dough and bruised apple scented Savagnin from the Cotes du Jura, before a final sweet wine from Ste-Croix-du-Mont. This appellation being on more elevated terrain, peers down through the botrytis inducing mist onto the vineyards of Sauternes that squat on the opposite shore of the Garonne.

I do not know if I will be invited back, but tasting (even when blind), drinking and eating in good company, especially when accompanied by some less than usual wines is a rare pleasure. Below are reviews of the four tasted:

Maison Vitteau Alberti, ‘Cuvee Agnes’, Cremant de Bourgogne NV
Grape: Chardonnay
Wine-making: Traditional method
Note: As mentioned above, this has a lovely chalky texture and fine fruit. The acidity is crisp and less taut than Champagne but this makes it easier to appreciate. Good value.
Price: 1,480NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes,

Clos du Gravillas, ‘On the Rocks’ Muscat Sec, 2013
Grape: Muscat blanc a petit grains
Wine-making: Stainless steel
Note: This is excellent Muscat with the sweet aromas of grapes and white flowers whilst being deliciously dry, bright and minerally. Excellent value
Price: 1,080NT
Score: 16.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, 

Domaine Berthet-Bondet, Cotes du Jura, 2009
Grape: Savagnin
Wine-making: Kept in old oak barrels for three years without topping up and with a veil of flor adding aromatic complexity.
Note: Not the most popular wine of the day but these strongly savoury and bone dry wines require a certain amount of practise to appreciate. If you like Fino Sherry or Amontillado you will like this.
Price: 1,680NT
Score: 16/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes, 

Chateau La Rame, ‘Traditionnel’ Ste-Croix-du-Mont, 2012
Grape: 100% Semillion
Wine-making: This is botrytised sweet wine matured in tank for two years.
Note: Sweet but with good freshness this young, honeyed apricot and lemon scented wine has less obvious fat than a Sauternes but most would never notice the difference. The price for a full 750ml bottle is a bargain.
Price: 1,580NT
Score: 15.5/20
Available from: Le Cellier des Poetes,

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