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Top 10 Wine Upcycles

Lots of wine paraphenalia lying around from some enthusiastic toasts to Summer? Want to give them a new lease of life? From attainable to ambitious, here’s our round-up of some of the best upcycling options out there. A worthy reason to drink more if ever one were to be created.

 

Lamp

The most obvious, yes. But with beauty being in the eye of the beholder, it’s all about the interpretation. From Lightbulb to fairy lights; simple candle to precariously balanced candelabra; painted stencil to full-blown jeweled embellishment, the humble wine bottle is the most wonderful vehicle for your (or someone elses) creative license.

 

Door stop

Another master of simplicity. Fill your favourite bottles with water, or sand & prop that door with a certain fondness & finesse. Magnums work best, or heavy punted champagne bottles. Combine the 2 & you’re onto a winner both sides of the consumption equation!

 

 Box shelves

 So perhaps a slightly more voluminous consumption ask, but collecting wooden boxes is never a bad thing, even if it just equates to some kindling. Or sturdy boxing. From simple stacking to a more complicated structure, boxes make for wonderful shelves, both practically & aesthetically. & ups the sourcing bar. Ahem, what bottles are distributed solely in wooden cases…?

 

Coat/Hat stand

 

Ladies & Gentleman, as you come into the hall, please be so kind as to leave your coats on the… bottles. Just makes sense. In a reassuringly cyclical kind of way. Simply cut the bottles & affix to whatever board you choose; OR leave as it & embed them into whatever stand you choose. I mean, its SOUNDS simple, right!? (we opted for the less arts & crafts version)

 

Cork bathmat

 Absorbent, easily collectible AND I would say a relatively nice thing to step out of the bath onto. Corks are an under-used by product of a wine-enthusiast. Rescue them from the dog and/or fire; or pop round a few local bars & restaurants. Before you know it a wealth of options will be at your creative fingertips. Face up in a frame, or woven together as more of a traditional mat. Those delicate post-bath feet will be ever so grateful.

 

Wineglass chandelier

Arguably you may want to keep your wine glasses to, well, drink from. But die-hard upcyclists may well just want to given them another lease of life. And they do look ever so pretty. Bottles work too, reasurringly. Corks will just have you a cricket field down-under, although never say never.

 

Hanging plant pot

Flowers love bottles almost as much as we do. Either cut the bottle & make a little bed, or drop seeds & soil in. And wait! Or affix to wall & use as a decorative receptacle for cut flowers. Many an inspired idea & many a happy plant.

 

Garden edging

 In keeping with the green-fingered theme, why not set your garden beds with upturned bottles. A neat way of keeping everything in check; & a slightly less conventional bottle-count. For fully immersive greener than thou fare, imagine what microclimate you’re creating for sundry bugs & soil dwelling types. If they’re lucky there might even be some dregs to boot. Happy worms indeed!

 

Cork board

 Maybe obvious. But for good reason. And why not use something obvious to remind you of all those oh so obvious nitbits that regularly get forgotten. Precisely for that reason. Go small, or BIG & set the whole wall up.. A well-stopped reminder of forgetfulness.

 

Wine clock

Not for the DIY faint hearted, but ever so worth it’s labour of love. AND a timely reminder of when to open the next bottle, set old (preferably cleaned) bottles around a clock for an at once timeless & timeful upcycle. Deciding which bottle corresponds to which hour of the day best left to the artist’s discretion.

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  • Top 10 Wine Quotes

    As one of languages great looseners, it should come as no surprise that there is no shortage of wise wine words in our world.  From the Greeks to the Romans, religious leaders to writing greats, leading pioneers to, ahem, Basil Fawlty; it appears that most of the worlds greatest thinkers & creators just so happened to like doing so with a glass of wine in their hand (Mr Fawlty perhaps came a cropper in not drinking enough of the stuff).

    Herewith a round-up of the Top 10, which could easily have been a Top 20+..

     

    “Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever”

    Aristophanes (c. 446BC – c.386BC)

    A great Greek wit, also known a the ‘Father of Comedy’, Aristophanes was pretty good at saying clever things. And now we have an authentic testimonial as to what provided his cerebral inspiration.

     

    “In wine there is truth. (in vino veritas)”

    Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – AD 79)

    One of the most famous wine quotes & with good cause; Pliny the Elder, like any good straight-roaded Roman, has left a legacy that works in most languages & is ever used by other authors, merchants & even growers themselves.

     

    “Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried & with fewer tensions and more tolerance.”

    Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

    If it’s good enough for a man who is considered one of the founding fathers of the American state & could list inventor, diplomat, author, political theorist & printer among his many achievements/roles, then it’ll do for us. And that’s one busy mind to calm.

     

    “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

    Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895)

    French chemist & microbiologist Pasteur’s progressions in the prevention of disease & infection has saved & continues to save lives all over the world. High falooting praise indeed.

     

    “In victory, you deserve champagne. In defeat you need it.”

    Napolean Bonaparte (1769-1821)

    Luckily Napoleon’s feuds generally left him deserving of his tipple of choice, but it’s good to think that he had a good 6 years of quaffing to toast off his final defeat in 1815.

     

    “God made only water, but man made wine.”
    (“Dieu n’avait fait que l’eau, mais l’homme a fait le vin”)

    Victor Hugo (1802 – 1855)

    Wise words from a man many considered God’s gift to French literature, or the West-End at least. Unfortunately the Euro curtailed his permanent deification when it ousted the Franc (on a 500 note, no less).

     

    “Be careful to trust a man who does not like wine.”

    Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

    As one of the most influential thinkers in the history of humankind, not to mention sporter of one of the best beards, Marx clouts in with a not insubstantial amount of trustability.

     

    “Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”

    Pope John XXIII (1881 – 1963)

    Given his ripe old age of election, one might assume Pope John XXIII knew a thing or two about how men should age. How much he knew about wine only those lucky enough to receive communion from him will know, although one suspects he was very wise about both.

     

    “Language is wine upon the lips.”

    Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941)

    If Woolf’s wine was poured with as much lyrical abandon as her words, she was a very lucky lady indeed. Perhaps we should all take a leaf out of her book; or indeed sip out of the glass.

     

    “I can certainly see you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the different between Bordeaux & Claret.”

    Basil Fawlty (ran 1975 – 1979)

    John Cleese’s iconic Basil Fawlty trumps in with a faux-pas, yet again, as he tries his best & fails to charm the very class he loves to hate in the ramshackle & ever-choatic Fawlty Towers. We suspect Manuel was dispatched to do some hefty head-scratching in the cellar once the order was taken.

     

    So there we have it, & with ample in reserve, but somehow it feels apt to let Basil Fawlty wallow a little longer.   Here’s to opening a bottle & stumbling across great ravines of our minds as yet undiscovered!

     

     

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  • Top 10 Wine Cheeses

    Cheese & wine; Wine & cheese.. such long-timers, you’d be hard pushed to know which one to put first. And for good reason. These old pals enjoy an honest & mutually-beneficial relationship where, if the right match is made, both sides strive to compliment & bring out the best in each other.  However, get it wrong & all sort of rifts break out, of varying levels of palate-bashing intensity. True to relationship form, there are no rules or set patterns: sometimes opposites attract, sometimes like-for-like bond.

    Read on for our top 10 cheeses & their liquid soulmate (& some analysing of their chemistry)..

     

    Brie

    This creamy staple of any cheeseboard worth its biscuits is actually the most generous in terms of wine match; not a picky oozer. And it meets its match with the ever-obliging, equally as fickly-allied Riesling which dances its way through the cream & makes you want more. Of both. Works particularly well with a younger brie; if you’re feeling like going old, why not try a good old fashioned Chablis?

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/brie-de-meaux
    or http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/brie-de-melun for a bit more maturity.

    Brie, known as the Queen of Cheeses, has enjoyed many a regal endorsement over the years & used to be a necessity if paying tribute to the King; any other cheese simply wouldn’t do!

     

    Comté

    France’s biggest cheese produced. And for good reason; this delicious salty, nutty & well aged (preferably.. go for 24 months if you want the crystalline crunch!) cow’s cheese is the perfect accompaniment to a glass or 2. In fact it needs something with a bit of punch. And it should come as no surprise the best contender comes from the same region. A vin jaune from the Jura slips down a treat; it is both oxidative & intense.. in fact the 2 work so well together, I would argue they actually bring out respective bests.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/comte-destive

    Comté was one of the first cheeses to benefit from protected origin status, having been assigned its AOC (Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée) in 1958.

     

    Crottin de Chavignol

    If you’re going to go regional, stay regional.. wine & cheese are certainly no exception to this rule. Both ‘of the earth’, origin-specific products compliment each other like holly & ivy. For a taste of the Loire, try a fresh goat with a chilled glass of Sancerre & summon the magic carpet.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/crottin-de-chavignol

    Goats are not indigenous to France, they were herded over during Moorish invasions, so we’re effectively nibbling on a little bit of history with each mouthful of Crottin. (& sup of Sancerre)

     

    Aged Gouda

    Despite the conventional strong cheese-strong wine approach, sometimes ying & yang makes for wonderful palate-harmony. Try a softer red, like an Austrian Blaufrankisch – delicious & bursting with ripe fruit; it has enough structure to hold its own & yet gracious enough to not compete with old Gouda’s intensity.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/gouda-boerenkaas-4-year

    Dutch town Gouda became notorious for its weekly cheese-weighing competition; the old ‘waag’ (weighing house) is now a museum dedicated to.. cheese!

     

    Époisses

    For a cheese from France’s biggest wine-making region, this stinky gooey cheese washed down with a brandy made from pinot noir skins is surprisingly tricky to match (but being Burgundian we felt it couldn’t be missed off the list). Thankfully red burgundy does step up to the mark, but not your finest fare as you might expect. Go robust & rustic; a Beaune villages or a Beaujolais is needed to wash the lingering goo-goodness down. And it works!

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/epoisses

    So pungent is the aroma of a mature époisses, it is allegedly banned from public transport in France.. feels a bit cheesist.

     

    Camembert

    This reassuringly rich & creamy cheese comes in many guises, often baked as a starter & infused with all sorts of spicy, nutty, fruity additions. The BEST news about this bloomy rinded number is that bubbles (be they champagne, cava, prosecco or whatever cremant takes your fancy) are the perfect companion. The acidity cuts through the cream & the fizz plays a merry textural game. (not that we needed an excuse)

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/camembert-fermier

    Camembert’s luxuriously creamy nature has inspired many an author & artist: Salvador Dali’s ‘Persistence of Memory’ was concocted after some hearty gooey servings at dinner the night before..

     

    Stilton

    A powerful, salty & yet creamy cheese.. sounds like hard work for any wine to form a lasting relationship with. Until, that is, you have a glass of port in your hand. Stilton & port is one of those amazing couples; born in completely different parts of the world; strong, independent & even willful at times. Yet put them together & they just make sense. (Recommended even to those who wouldn’t naturally be drawn to either)

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/colston-bassett-stilton

    Stliton’s legally protected recipe requires 78 litres of milk to make one 8kg round of crumbly goodness.. Given that it can only herald from 1 of 6 dairies, that’s some busy cows!

     

    Manchego

    Tapas bars always have a sensory mouthful trick or 2 up their sleeve, & pairing a historic cheese with a historic tipple is just that.  Manchego is about as origin specific you can get, made in Spain’s La Mancha region soley from Manchega sheep’s milk. Its flavour profile moves gradually from tangy to nutty to sweet, but always with a mark of acidity.. Sherry, with its rich & complex flavours, & varying levels of oxidization harmonises perfectly with the cheese in a way that once you taste the 2 together, there’ll be no going back! Funnily enough they both happen to be from the same part of Spain…

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/manchego

    Manchego is extremely fortifying & nutritious, with a higher proportion of proteins than meat.. straight to the cheese course!

     

    Cheddar

    Often over-looked in all its ubiquity, our humble home-grown cow’s cheese has many guises & is well supported by a red Bordeaux, (which surprisingly few cheeses are) especially the older & more interesting it gets. Hard, aged cheeses need bold wines that aren’t going to be completely dominated; arguably a bold red needs the same food-wise.. reassuring to know all those gift-hampers got it right!

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/keens-cheddar

    Cheddar was actually first discovered by accident: a forgetful milkmade left a pail of milk in Somerset’s Cheddar caves..

     

    Tomme

    This mountain cheese seems simple enough on the outside, but can be complex – with varying balances of fruit, nut, acidity & mushroom depending its exact origin & age. Alsacian gewurtzstraminer (especially with a Tomme d’Alsace) works well whichever way the mountain tolls on the day of eating. Its delicate balance of sugar & acidity brings out the best in the cheese & vice versa.

    We recommend: http://www.lafromagerie.co.uk/tomme-de-savoie

    Tomme actually means small, roundish cheese, hence why it’s always followed by its origin; useful for wine pairing too, as fate would have it..

     

    So there we have it: 10 pairs we feel justifiably go the distance. However, tastebuds are an individual bunch, so why not experiment at home.. if nothing else you’ll drink well & be left with quite the cheeseboard!

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  • Top 10 wine films

    As Christmas rapidly approaches & evenings in become more of a scarcity,  a good film can provide a welcome excuse to cosy up & lay low. Wine films often get fairly mixed reviews, so we’ve compiled a top 10 of varying levels of wine-focus; worthy, we feel, of opening a bottle & settling in for the night.

     

    1. A Good Year (2006)

     

    A wine-lovers’ take the good life as British investment broker Max (Russell Crowe) inherits his uncle’s chateau vineyard in Provence. Trading in desk for vines, we see Max reliving his childhood & becoming softened by the vines & pace of life. Beautifully shot (directed by Ridley Scott) & a fine ode to Provence.

    Drink: A Provence rosé would be the obvious choice!

     

    2. Mondovino (2004)

     

    Documentary that tracks the effect of globalization on the wine world, specifically how capitalization & ego can control markets. It’s polarizing fare, as its’ long & really goes to town on some of the major characters in wine (Michel Rolland, Robert Mondavi & Robert Parker respectively). Hones in on their dogs when things get a bit close to the bone. Worth embarking on if the above titillates.

    Drink: depends what camp you want to sit on: a rustic Sicilian Nero d’Avolo or a bold Californian number. Luckily it’s long enough for both.

     

    3. The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969)

     

    Set in an Italian village during WW2, this beautiful old film tracks the battle of wits & bottles between the village mayor & occupying German forces who want to take all of their wine which the villagers have hidden in a secret cave. The Germans are given a few thousand bottles, but know there is a lot more lurking somewhere.

    Drink: well a Nebbiola or Barbera d’Alba of course

     

    4. A year in Burgundy (2011)

     

    Follows California-dwelling native-Burgundian Martine Saunier on her trips back home over the course of a year in doing so giving a rare insight into some of the oldest families in Burgundy. The love & dedication of the vignerons, from La Romanee Conti’s Lalou Bize-Leroy who is still involved in every aspect of the making of her wines, despite being in her 80s; to Dominique Cornin’s assertion that he really does have the best job in the world as he roams around on his horse carriage through his vines. A beautiful & extremely touching glimpse of an extremely specialist area.

    Drink: well I hardly need say, when you see the passion that goes into it’s creation, you will appreciate all the more.

     

    5. Tu seras mon fils (You will be my son) (2011)

     

    From Burgundy to Bordeaux, 2011 was quite the year for the 2 French greats. Although rather than a documentary, here we have a French film with all the tensions & passions we have grown to expect. Set in a fictional right bank estate, Tu seras mon fils sees the estates domineering patriarch set his down-trodden son against an upstart young winemaker in a battle for its inheritance. With cameos from the real estate (Clos Fourtet, as Bordeaux officionados will notice), this feels like a fictional trip down reality lane.

    Drink: Clos Fourtet if you’re feeling like pushing the boat out, but anything from St Emilion could suffice

     

    6. French Kiss (1995)

     

    Kevin Kline as the (not-so) prodigal son of a family of Loire winemakers who comes to the aid of fiancé in distress Meg Ryan on her way to France to confront her straying husband to be. Kline sits next to her on the flight, planting a stolen diamond necklace & vine cutting in her bag. After a comedy of deceptions, Kline & Ryan, travel through France on a few more, with sweeping vineyards providing a stunning backdrop to their respective games. Full of gallic reference, both the charming & the less so.

    Drink: A good Loire should do the trick

     

    7. This Earth is Mine (1959)

     

    A wonderfully twisted melodrama set at the end of the prohibition, portraying the issues that divided Napa valley in the 1930s. Claude Rains is patriarch of a Napa family who still insists on making wine every year, seeing it as a gift from god.   His wayward & callous grandson is determined to shift the grapes to bootleggers in Chicago instead. A telling & eerily resonant tale for the modern day.

    Drink: Well probably an Inglenook Rubicon (where it was filmed), to stay true to its roots.

     

    8. Red Obsession (2013)

    Russell Crowe takes the viewer on a moody & atmospheric journey across the continents, starting in Bordeaux & ending in China, or does it? Red Obsession is a beautifully shot Australian documentary that addresses the soaring Asian-Bordeaux relationship & the bubbles it creates, both financial & emotional. With interviews across the industry, wine is given an almost mythical quality & cultural juxtapositions, although rather simplistic, do all the talking they need to; obsession being a friend most fickle in nature.

    Drink: A Bordeaux worth obsessing about.. (there are many!)

     

    9. Somm (2013)

     

    Documentary following 4 men’s quest to become master sommeliers; real people trying to follow their passion under immense pressure, devoting their lives & sometimes sanity, to the humble grape. Since its inception 40 years ago, only 200 candidates have reached top sommelier level & here we see way, alongside unprecedented access to a world normally shrouded in secrecy. A voyeuristic tale via the lenses of hope, friendship & obsession.

    Drink: Anything. But make sure you’ve done your homework.

     

    10. Sideways (2004)

     

    Comedy/drama following 2 middle-aged men & respective crises on a road trip through California’s Santa Ynez vineyards. Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling writer in life-rut & his friend Jack is a cad about to get married. Wine divides then brings them back together, becoming an extended metaphor for their friendship.

    Drink: Califonian Pinot Noir. Lots of it.

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