On the hunt for blackberries and beautiful wine

An Occasional Tipple With Raymond GleugAn Occasional Tipple With Raymond Gleug
An Occasional Tipple With Raymond Gleug
“Late August, given heavy rain and sun for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.”

Not my words, folks, that guarantee came from our late, great poet Seamus Heaney. Alas, unless I’ve been looking in the wrong places, it hasn’t happened so far this year. In fairness to Heaney, perhaps the second finest poet in the history of Irish poetry, the rain has been more sporadic than heavy of late and, if we disregard last year’s legendary summer, I don’t think we’ve had sun for a full week since he wrote his wonderful Blackberry Picking poem back in 1965.

Almost as magnificent as Heaney’s poem is my own annual blackberry crumble which, in accordance with Gleug traditions, I bake for my darling wife, the redoubtable Madame G., and I to feast upon on the second Sunday of September at our lovely home, Rose Cottage. Alas, so far this year the slim pickings we’ve gathered have barely been sufficient to adorn a couple of bowls of our breakfast cereal. For our juicy blackberry flavours we’ve had to turn instead to a pair of fabulous bottles of red wine. At this time of year a mature red with the plum and blackberry flavours of late Summer or early Autumn seems entirely appropriate.

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First among equals but just about gaining the nod as today’s Wine of the Week is the powerfully flavoured yet very approachable and wonderfully balanced 2020 Villiera Shiraz Merlot (£8.50, M&S). An impressive bouquet with lots of brambly dark fruit flavours and delicate spicing leads to an opulent palate with big cherry and blackberry flavours alongside gentle tannins before a lengthy finish with hints of black pepper and vanilla. This proved an ideal match to my slow-cooked minced pork with caramelised marrow, miso and assorted spices.

I’ve also been very taken by the satisfyingly savoury, sumptuously smooth and intensely fruity 2020 Cru de Cotes du Rhone Vinsobres (currently reduced to £8.50 from £10, Sainsbury’s). More of those seasonal plum and blackberry flavours dominate a tangy palate, mingling with backnotes of cherry, dark fruit and chocolate before a judiciously oaked finish with subtle strands of lick-your-lips liquorice. We plan to have it again with my Madame’s legendary Spanish chicken- chicken thighs baked with new potatoes, chorizo, red onion, chickpeas, garlic, spices and orange juice- a meal we routinely enjoy on the second Sunday of each September before that blackberry crumble. But not this year.

This year we’ll be enjoying the season of mists an mellow fruitfulness in Tokyo on the second Sunday of September, most likely sipping sake or knocking back Highballs. But I won’t forget you just as I won’t forget lovers of white for whom today’s final recommendation is the fabulously fresh, lively and zesty 2021 Pecorino Abruzzo Contesa (£9.95, Wine Society, www.thewinesociety or 01438-741177). This elegant, well-structured Italian white has a complex palate wherein pronounced lemon and peach flavours mingle with apricot, hazelnut and minerally backnotes before a clean, tingly finish. One for seafood or salads.

So there we have it. Gather up your pots and pans - those blackberries won’t pick themselves and we no longer have low-paid workers to pick them for us. My Madame and I just hope that you’ll leave us a few for our crumble which this year is pencilled in for the fourth Sunday of September. Till then, tipplers, sante!