Italian wines with the Manchester derby
Football talk, I'm afraid. It's half-time in the Manchester derby game. City started off badly, went 1-0 down. The prize? A place in a cup final, City's first since 1981, although this semi is over two legs.
I love this wine, which I've been drinking for the last couple of nights. It's one of my wines of the year, I reckon. I opened it to celebrate the first game under the charge of Roberto Mancini.
I've decided that I love Nebbiolo. It's so uncommercial, making wines that are pale in colour, brutally tannic, high in acid, complex in flavour, and generally hard to get.
Very excited to try a rather obscure but wonderful Italian red last night. It's from Piedmont, but the grape variety is Pelaverda, which is grown mostly in the commune of Verduno. This is the sort of red wine I just love. Fresh, natural, complex and expressive.
Lots of good wines on show at the Bunch tasting today. The Bunch is a grouping of five of the UK's leading merchants: Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Adnams, Tanners and Yapp. Here's one of my favourites:
Passopiscaro 2006 Sicily
Made by Andrea Franchetti of Tenuto di Trinorio fame, this is a wonderfully complex wine from Mount Etna, a region of Sicily that’s currently attracting a lot of attention. Franchetti has 8 hectares of old vines, at high altitude (from 650–1000 m), and this is a varietal Nerello Mascalese, harvested in November. Viticulture is organic, with no herbicides or fertilizers; 2300 case made. It’s a pale cherry colour with a wonderfully complex nose of red berry and cherry fruit together with savoury, spicy, herby, slightly meaty notes in the mix. The palate is rich, generous, spicy and herby with lovely warmth and some complex meaty, earthy notes. Imagine a cross between a refined, old-style Barolo, top red Burgundy and Château Musar, and you are sort of getting there. Amazing complexity, a hint of funk, but just lovely. 93/100 (£26.79 Corney & Barrow)
You know, I think Oddbins may be back on form. I’m having quite a bit of joy with their wines of late. And now their 20% discount applies to six-bottle purchases, making their pricing pretty good. The latest? An interesting Italian mountain white.
Andrian Gewürztraminer 2008 Südtirol, Alto Adige, Italy
14% alcohol. Wonderful stuff: richly textured and grapey with sweet lychee notes. The palate is rounded and off-dry with a spicy, Turkish delight edge, as well as notes of melon, grape and lychee. Thick and intense with lovely personality. Quite Alsace like in style, with good acidity and some minerality. 91/100 (£13.99 Oddbins, but £11.16 with six-bottle purchases)
I love minerality in wine, even if I can't define it very well. I just know it when I see it. Here are two lovely mineralic whites of real interest. They're not totally obvious at first sip - rather, these are wines that creep up on you and grow in depth as you drink them.
Fiona and I headed off to Kingston for lunch today. We checked out Jamie's Italian (www.jamieoliver.com/italian), one of the restaurants in the neighbourhood Italian chain that Jamie Oliver is in the process of building.
Vin Santo is a sweet wine from Tuscany that's made by picking grapes and then drying them for a while to concentrated the sweetness and acidity. These are then fermented and aged in small barrels, sealed with wax. Here's a short film made during my Chianti Classico trip of Vin Santo production at Castello della Paneretta:
Italian restaurant chain Carluccio's (www.carluccios.com) are having a wine festival. It began a few days ago and runs through to the beginning of August, and features Sicilian wines from Planeta and the Settesoli co-op. These wines are really good, and they're exceptionally well priced, and so I thought I'd draw my readers' attention to it (no commercial link). There are free tastings of these wines every Thursday, as well as a series of special dinners.
It has been one of those rare blue sky and sunshine days here in west London. The combination of heat, sunshine and Sunday puts everyone into a good mood. It would be the perfect day if we didn't have a chavvy fair on the green outside our house (incidentally, this is the same fair that was present when Google sent their streetview cameras down our road - key in tw134af as a postcode and you'll see it.)
Please try this wine! It's really, really good.
Really nice Italian white tonight. It's not a terribly obvious wine, but it shows real purity and focus. And when you give it a bit of attention, it begins to reveal all sorts of subtle complexities. This is real wine.
Went to see Man City play Fulham at Craven Cottage this afternoon. Located on the bank of the River Thames opposite Putney, Fulham's ground is pretty, compact and really easy to get to, and it's one of the away games I try to catch each year.
It's been a busy day. After seven months of just wine, I've taken on a science gig, producing a report from a two day conference on evaluating medical research. Feels a bit strange to be back in the world of science, but I figure it is important to keep up with it, seeing as wine science has been such an important (and modestly lucrative) field for me. A change of scenery helps keep you fresh.
Continuing yesterday's theme of Chianti Classico, this is a paradox of a wine from Chianti producer Fattoria Le Fonti. It's an IGT Toscana Sangiovese weighing in at 14.5% alcohol from a 2 hectare single vineyard. It's sweetly fruited, lush and ripe (in a modern style), yet also shows a hint of volatility, as well as some earthy, spicy notes (more traditional). The overall effect is pleasing and complex, but it's not an easy wine to come to terms with.
One of the estates I visited on my recent jaunt in Chianti country was Castello di Brolio, Barone Ricasoli's imposing property strategically placed on the border between the ancient city states of Florence and Siena. (The bomb-scarred Castello is pictured.)
A short film from my recent Tuscan excursion. I'm experimenting with Vimeo rather then Youtube as the hosting site. I'm not too happy with the quality on Youtube, so we'll see whether this is an improvement.
Went to Raymond Reynolds portfolio tasting today, in a rather crowded and warm upstairs room in a pub. Raymond's company is responsible for importing the vast majority of decent Portuguese wine into the UK, and so I follow what they do pretty closely, because I love Portuguse wine.
After a trip to Chianti country, I'm in a mood for Italian reds, and here's a good one. It's not from Tuscany, but the Veneto. It's delicious and quite elegant.
Sorry about the radio silence, but I have been on a tight schedule here in Chianti Classico country, and the hotel internet connection wasn't working last night. So now I'm taking a break in an internet cafe in Italy in a small gap in the program, before dinner and tasting tonight.
You know there's no excuse for boring wine. Most regions in the world are capable of making interesting wine, I reckon. It's just that commercial pressures, lack of imagination, and poor understanding of what is great as opposed to rubbish wine conspire to make interesting wines on the shelves of large retailers quite rare.
Three Soave wines tonight. I'm intrigued by Soave. On one level it can be pale and neutral and a bit boring. But made by growers who care, it has real personality. The three wines tried tonight have personality, for sure, but express varying facets of 'Soave'. They aren't terribly easy whites, because with this depth of flavour there are some aspects of their taste that are a bit challenging - in particular a slightly bitter, tangy, pithy character that wouldn't be a problem when they are drunk with food, but might be an obstacle to casual sipping. The easiest of the three to appreciate is probably the Tamellini, which tastes a little sweet.
Had a remarkable dinner last night. Filippo Mangani, who does some work with Les Caves in Italy, recommended a few places to us, and one of them was La Frateria di Padre Eligio, quite near where we are staying. So without knowing much about it, we booked, found our way there, and entered with very few expectations.
Had lunch in Montepulciano, a charming hilltop village. We ate at Caffe Poliziano, where the food was fantastic, and the view from the scenic terrace table was stunning. This afternoon we swam, and now we're off to find some dinner. Sorry for the brevity of the post, but time is short!
Spent the morning catching up with paperwork, doing some much-needed invoicing, before dodging the showers heading into town. I then headed for a 'Green Spain' tasting, featuring the wines of Northwest Spain - lots of Albarinos, and they were really impressive. The tasting itself was just perfect in a practical sense, too, with self-pour, plenty of space, lots of spitoons, an ideal room and not too many tasters.
I can't believe it's Easter. It has come very early this year, and instead of nice warm springtime weather, it has been freezing, with a biting wind. Despite the weather, though, I've had a couple of nice walks - this morning in Richmond Park (my favourite dog walking location at the moment, especially now that RTL has stopped mauling joggers and young children), and then this afternoon in Osterley Park (pictured).
Tonight I'm sipping the Recioto di Soave from Tamellini that I mentioned at the weekend. It's a serious effort, with a wonderful tangerine-like character, combining peachy, apricotty richness with a fresh citrus kick. It's complex and alive, with brilliant balance between the concentrated sweetness and fruity freshness. There's a unique personality to this wine: I don't think I've ever tried anything quite like it. It has a rich, almost viscous texture, but it avoids being at all cloying. With sweet wines, sweetness and acidity act in opposition (or is that apposition?), with one cancelling the other out in a see-saw like manner, but with both contributing to the intensity of the wine. This wine has a lot of acidity and a lot of sweetness, and the finish goes on for ages. It's £18.50 for 50 cl from Les Caves de Pyrene, and a bargain at this price, I reckon.