Well, this is embarrassing...

BARBECUE FRIENDLY WINES

How we patted each other on the backs and exchanged booming high fives when a recent heatwave gave us the idea for today's feature. Alas, the British weather has left us looking somewhat premature. Still, the sunshine will come, believe it, and so too will the Birmingham Wine Festival (June 13 and 14), the city's excuse to try over 300 top tipples. We roped wine aficionado and festival organiser, Ian Harvey, into our wildly pre-emptive idea and here's his barbecue friendly wines on any budget...  
OLD VINES GARNACHA, £4.99
"Rich, yet subtle with a hint of oak, this is modern Spain in a glass. Lots of red and black fruits, it makes for an easy drink - very much a crowd-pleaser. At such good value it should be your glugging red. An ideal accompaniment to burgers and sausages, but soft enough for chicken and cheese." Buy it here
PHILIPPE MICHEL CREMANT DU JURA, £6.99
"An unbelievably good value alternative to Champagne, this multi-award winner is made from 100% Chardonnay. Light, crisp, with notes of apple and citrus, this is the perfect livener while the barbie warms up, and is a great match with seafood, green salads and nibbles."
Buy it here
RAVENSWOOD LODI ZINFANDEL 2011, £9.99
"Not the cloying pink pop that the grape is often known for, but Zinfandel as it should be: Big, meaty with bags of orchard fruits, black cherry, chocolate and spices. This is definitely one for the steaks, but also a great quality wine for any meat."
Buy it here 
DOM. SAINTE ROSE 'LE MARIN BLANC' MARSANNE ROUSSANNE 2012, £9.99
"Rich tropical fruit - think melon and pineapple - with a balancing acidity that gives it enough punch to stand up to some of those bold barbecue flavours. Not to be glugged, but a thoughtful partner to ribs and chicken. The BBQ wine for non-red drinkers." Buy it here
PETER LEHMANN RESERVE MARGARET RIVER SEMILLON
2005, £17

"A hugely underrated grape variety that shows lots of ability to age. Really full in the mouth with melon and citrus, but still light, zingy and refreshing, with a little bit of oily character. Salmon or mackerel are its perfect partners, but it's really versatile." Buy it here
CHEVAL DES ANDES 2007, £50
"This collaboration between Bordeaux's famous Chateau Cheval Blanc and Las Terrazas in Argentina produces a blockbuster of a wine that needs to be savoured. Lots of dark fruit, perfumed and very intense, this is a blend of three grapes, but predominantly Malbec. Deserves the very best steak." 
Buy it here.
Birmingham Wine Festival; 13-14 June; The Hyatt Regency; Prices vary.

MADIN IMMORTALISED

A few weeks ago we wrote about this stunning Spaghetti Junction print from a team of conceptual artists known simply as Dorothy. Their love of post-war architecture inspired 'Lost Destination', a series of prints that celebrate the uniqueness of brutalist structures and their latest is a paean architect John Madin's Central Library. To be in with a chance of winning one click here, or buy it (£35) here. Brunel University and Stockwell Bus Station have also been added to their wonderful collection. 
PLAY MILLENNIUM POINT LIKE A PIANO
 
If you know the collective noun for woodpeckers, we sincerely hope we don't have to sit next to you at a dinner party. The answer is a "descent" and the word lends itself as the title to a new sound-based installation, at Millennium Point. A series of electronic woodpeckers will be positioned in the public atrium. Spot one of several buttons, press it and a colourful bird overheard will chime a note. Get a whole group of you down and you can play Tchaikovsky. Probably. Part of Supersonic Festival, it's free and runs May 30 - June 14.
ONE GIN, TWO YEARS IN THE MAKING

Okay, okay, so this issue is getting a smidgen boozy, but it's Friday - go with it. Harvey Nichols, Birmingham, have taken delivery of a new locally made gin with a truly compelling bottle style designed by Jacky Tsai, of "floral skull" fame. D1 is made at Langley Green, just five miles from the city centre (ignore the bottle-emblazoned "London Gin", any gin can be called that, irrelevant of its origin) and is best drank with mint. It took two years for master distillers to perfect and there's a limited number available, so head in store, or buy here (£39.95). 
Venue: Cucina Rustica, 24 Ludgate Hill, B3 1DX; cucinarustica.co.uk 
Choice: Italian sausage gnocchi, £8.95 Chooser: Chef

Every visit to an Italian restaurant should go exactly like this. We arrived, told them we wanted the chef to cook whatever he liked, and waited. Brilliantly the chef took us literally and ignored the menu altogether, choosing instead to make us something he "just thought would be wonderful". Fluffy gnocchi with sun dried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, asparagus, two types of chilli and Italian sausage. There's a good chance he simply cooked whatever was at hand, but surely that's hallmark of a really skilled chef? Contrasting colours, contrasting textures, contrasting flavours, but universally exquisite. Bravo, Cucina Rustica! 
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