Tag Archives: Marks & Spencer

Monsieur Kir’s Discovery


What do you do with some white wine without much flavour but that has too much acidity to make enjoyable drinking?   I might use it for cooking or in a salad dressing replacing the vinegar or lemon juice.  But Felix Kir, mayor of the town of Dijon in France just after the 2nd World War, had a better plan: he mixed it with some local blackcurrant liqueur and served it at official receptions.  Thus, the delicious aperitif we now call Kir, after the man himself, was born.

KirIn fact, Mayor Kir didn’t actually invent the drink – he re-invented it.  The blackcurrant liqueur, Crème de Cassis, was first sold commercially in Burgundy in the mid-1800s and, very soon afterwards, local café owners started adding it to the thin local red wine to make a sweeter, richer and altogether more palatable drink.  And so it continued until much of the red wine disappeared during the War, leaving an excess of white – not the high quality Chardonnay we now expect of white Burgundy but of another variety, the neutral, acidic Aligoté mentioned earlier.  Blanc-cassis, as it was originally known, was born, soon renamed ‘Kir’.

Initially 1 part of Cassis was mixed with 3 parts of wine, although, these days, 1:5 is more common (and the International Bartenders Association surprisingly recommends 1:10).  Variations include using sparkling wine instead of still to make Kir Royale – don’t waste good Champagne for this! – or replacing the Cassis with  Crème de Mûre (blackberry liqueur) or, my favourite as a summer aperitif, Crème de Pêche (peach). 

If you can’t find Aligoté, any crisp and not-too-aromatic white wine works just as well.  Or, try the original red wine mix – now generally known in French restaurants as a ‘Cardinale’ – very pleasant, but more of a winter drink.  And, as for the Cassis, Marks and Spencer’s have a very drinkable one at £10 a bottle – and a little goes a long way. 

But whichever you prefer, next time, raise your glass to Monsieur Kir for his enterprise.


Down Mexico Way!


There has been so much in the papers recently about Mexico that, when I noticed a bottle of their wine on Marks & Spencer’s shelves, I decided to try it – especially as it had one of the most eye-catching labels I have seen for a long time featuring a stylised bird dating back to Aztec times.


Mexico has been making wine for almost 500 years since the days of the earliest Spanish settlers, yet domestic consumption has always been patchy and so the wine industry has never really thrived there. This is a shame as much of the country has an ideal climate, similar to that found in parts of the Mediterranean.  Baja California, the long peninsula off America’s west coast that reaches out into the Pacific, is particularly well-suited.  Here, the cold currents and coastal fogs that make California’s Napa Valley such a premium wine region are also at work, moderating an area that would otherwise be far too hot to grow grapes for quality wine. 

The bottle I bought, Quetzal’s Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc blend (£6.75) comes from the northern part of this coastal strip – the Guadalupe Valley.  It’s a clean, fresh, quite aromatic white, ideal on its own as an aperitif or with seafood – the label suggests seared scallops and I wouldn’t disagree.  The wine has plenty of attractive tropical fruit flavours and the13% alcohol gives it some richness and body.  All in all, quite a bargain at less than £7 and a good example of the unusual and interesting bottles that are now regularly appearing on Marks & Spencer’s wine shelves.

I’m sorry that, if the much talked about wall gets built, my American readers may not be able to buy this, or, indeed, any other Mexican wine; on the evidence of this bottle, your loss is our gain!