‘Armand’ enjoys the taste of a Black Queen on the tongue

Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2011

Never let it be said that ‘Armand’ is a stuffy old so-and-so, with no sense of adventure. When a friend of mine brought this to drink over dinner, I was incredibly sceptical – the way someone only acts when they think that they know more about wine than they actually do. I am not a fan of these people, but found myself in their gauche shoes at this point. Nevertheless, we chilled this bottle and sat down to open it together, while I strained at the leash and resisted telling my friend that she was a barbarian with no idea about wine. Happily, I was proved wrong.

Sparkling Shiraz is big money in Australia. For the stuff that you’ll want to try (and buy), the method is exactly the same as that used by the house of Champagne, and the results – much like its more famous French counterpart – are often breath-taking. As with all sparkling wine, use flutes to serve this; and don’t be put off by the extra fizz you’ll get upon pouring the first glass. Concentrate instead on the incredible nose of black fruits, chocolate, cherries and a modicum of oak. In the mouth, the fruit remains powerful without being overbearing, and then just a hint of residual sweetness dances over the tongue. The finish is a good length, normally accompanied with a look of bemusement for first-time drinkers. Drink it with good red meat, barbecue, or cheese.

Available at Oddbins, at around £20 per £750ml bottle


Adnams Copper House Dry Gin

It is always good to catch up with old friends. I was reminded of this in July, when I caught up over email with a chap I hadn’t seen since university. We ended up meeting one Saturday afternoon for a couple of pints, and realised that neither of us had really kept in touch with many people from our days in those hallowed halls. It was great to see him, but also terrible to realise that we had wasted time. I’d missed his dry wit and the ease with which we can make each other laugh.

This gin had in fact danced its merry way across my palate a fair few moons ago, but I drank so much of it I forgot how tasty it was. It wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered it, and I felt a similar pang of regret over the wasted time in my life when this hasn’t been in my drinks cabinet. It has won numerous awards over the course of its relatively short lifespan, and it’s easy to see why. It presents a nose-full of spices before the juniper hits you, with the mouthfeel being a touch viscous. Whilst it makes a very good G&T, take the advice of the distillery and use orange as your fruit in this. It works slightly better in gin-based cocktails.  

Widely available at around £26 per 70cl bottle