Saturday Kitchen 5.2.11

(by peter)

Turns out my mid-week jaunt to Southam in Warwickshire (which you can read about here) was worth the effort.

Not only am I wiser about the worlds of darts, Bakewell tarts and the Grand Union Canal, but the wines I chose on location went down very well in studio.

Aggi Sverrisson, the Icelandic chef currently wowing diners in London eateries Texture and 28-50, was cooking cod with lemon purée and barley and cauliflower couscous.

For this fabulous creation, I chose the Tesco Finest Denman Vineyard Semillon 2010, Hunter Valley, Australia (£8.49, Tesco).

To be frank, I’d have loved it to be a little bit older, to have taken on more of that classic honeyed, nutty, candied lime character of aged Hunter Semillon. But it worked really well when we cooked the dish up at home – slightly less invasive than oaky Chardonnay – so it was great to see it working on the day as well.

Aggi described it as, ‘really good, actually: clean and fresh’.

‘Great match, fantastic,’ agreed presenter James Martin. While noting that the wine prices on the show were increasing in value ‘due to VAT and whatnot’, he added that this wine was ‘still a good bargain’.

He’s right, though.

When we started recommending wines on Saturday Kitchen, you could pick up absolute gems in the supermarkets at £4.99, sometimes even as low as £3.99. Not now. Those same wines, due to currency movements and steep rises in tax over the last few years, are now at least £2-3 more expensive per bottle. That’s almost a doubling in price in four years.

What’s left at those price points now is largely dross. Sadly.

If the tax rises scheduled for this year go ahead, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association estimate that the actual rise in taxation on wine in the last three years will have been 35%. That’s pretty whopping and, the WSTA argue, it’s hurting those normal households who are already struggling to make ends meet, as well as putting ‘thousands’ out of a job.

Anyway, enough current affairs, back to the kitchen and ‘the nation’s favourite cooking show’ (in the modest words of the BBC website…)

For Sat Bains’ braised mutton with roasted onion, pickled shallots and jus noisette with capers, I opted for the delicious, superb value Château les Ollieux Corbières 2008 (from £8.79, Oddbins).

This classic, herb- and floral-scented red from Mediterranean France drew admiring comments from all concerned.

‘Delicious,’ proclaimed Sat: ‘really cuts through the fat, again playing on the acidity’.

Aggi, meanwhile, said it ‘matches perfectly’.

Studio guest Katie Melua declared herself to be ‘delighted’.

James termed it a ‘bargain’ while noting that my piece to camera was ‘unbelievable: the tallest wine expert in the shortest shop!’ (It was pretty small, too – with low-hanging beams – good thing I hadn’t had a pint for lunch…)

Katie was served her food heaven, boeuf bourgignon with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots. The Virtue Cabernet Merlot 2009 (from £4.35, Waitrose) was my choice of accompaniment; James said it was a ‘bargain: not from Burgundy, it’s Chilean wine, but just as good’.

All in all, a very satisfactory day at the office. As ever, the show is available on the bbc iplayer (click here for the link) for the next week, with wine bits at 16.55 and 57:05.

Susie and I will also shortly be uploading a highlights selection of our best bits on Saturday Kitchen, when we revamp our site (coming soon!)