A blog from the team at Great Western Wine
Posted on March 6, 2015
The Italian peninsula is often referred to as the ‘boot’, with the most southern tip known as ‘the toe’ and the far south east dubbed ‘the heel’. To help simplify this varied country, we’ve prepared a short guide to the styles and grapes of North and Central Italy that’ll soon get you into your stride...
Tuscany is the Bordeaux of Italy – famous for its full bodied red wines made from local grape Sangiovese, sometimes blended with Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This is the home of Chianti Classico and Brunello but also other Sangiovese-based reds like Morellino di Scansano and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (not to be confused with Montepulciano the grape, famous further down the boot in Abruzzo, Central Italy). It’s not just red wine country though – white grape Vermentino thrives here, delivering crisp, lightly aromatic fruity wines. Like Bordeaux, there is also a Sweet wine made here too - Vin Santo - but its infinitely more affordable that the likes of Sancerre, brilliant with almondy biscotti biscuits and a coffee.
Piedmont is Italy’s other source of fine red wine, often seen as the country’s answer to Burgundy. Here the Nebbiolo grape is king – and the growing emphasis on single vineyards is akin to Burgundy’s grand and premier cru system. Nebbiolo is famous for its distinctive aromas of ‘tar and roses’, and is at its most aromatic and long lived in Barolo and Barbaresco. Barbera and Dolcetto are two other local grapes that are usually lighter and more immediately fruity, like a more tannic Pinot Noir. Again the white varieties should not be forgotten, like fruity, lemon-scented Gavi di Gavi, honest, grapey Moscato and the soft, rounded Arneis.
If Tuscany is Bordeaux and Piedmont is Burgundy, then the Trentino hills must surely be the Champagne of Italy. This is Italy’s region for top quality fizz, using the same production methods as Champagne and the same grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The wines are packaged equally smartly, with producers like Ferrari gracing the tables of some of the world’s best restaurants. Like Champagne, these wines can be Blanc de Blancs (white grapes only), Blanc de Noirs (black grapes only), non-vintage blends, wines of a single vintage, rosés and also prestige labels that are easily the equal of the best of France.
Veneto and the north east of Italy is the place to go for aromatics, fizz and innovation. The alpine area of Alto Adige is best known for fresh, vibrant varieties like the three Pinots; Bianco, Grigio and Noir, while the Prosecco region surely needs no further introduction. The same still, aromatic varieties abound in Friuli–Venezia Giulia whereas things start to get more varied in the Veneto, a region full of contrasts. Light and fruity is generally the order of the day, with every day drinking reds and whites from Corvina (Valpolicella), Pinot Grigio and Garganega (Soave). However, styles of Valpolicella like Amarone and Ripasso are revered as rich, heavy reds that are a great match for robust red meats and hard cheeses. There are also rebels like producer Anselmi making blends of local and international grapes outside the production rules of Soave, to great effect.
Central Italy is becoming equally innovative with producers making boutique versions of old forgotten classics like Lambrusco and more complex versions of the ever-popular Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. Areas like Marche are on the up, with brilliant whites made from the local Verdicchio and Pecorino grapes. Likewise, intriguing reds of intense ruby, like the amazing Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, underline the fact that this is an area of increasing sophistication at everyday prices.
So why not dip your toe into these Italian styles - you’ll soon be head over heels with what you find.
Watch out for Angela Mount’s guide to Southern Italy later this month
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on March 5, 2015
Here is a selection of some of our favourite, lesser known, Italian wines. There is something for everyone here, from crisp, dry whites to rich, savoury reds. Enjoy!
This is the perfect wine to have this Spring – it has enough froth and fizz to give you that all important pick-me-up while there’s still a chill in the air. This bright ruby wine is full of ripe, cherry fruit along with some savoury pepperiness that is ideal with charcuterie and hard cheeses. Lambrusco is now back on the wine lists of the world’s top Italian restaurants like London’s The River Café and Bocca di Lupo, or three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana in the wine’s homeland of Modena.
£13.95£12.28 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
Santadi are one of the jewels of the Mediterranean paradise of Sardinia. Tuscan legend Giacomo Tachis helps make world famous wines like Terre Brune and more affordable reds like this gamey Carignan. Fans of fuller bodied Pinot Noirs will be very happy to discover this little gem, with its notes of violet, dried fig, blackcurrant and porcini. A complex wine that opens up a world of Italian wine outside the mainland’s classics.
£11.50£10.12 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
If you like good quality Viognier, you’ll love Greco. In Tufo, Campania, the grape comes into its own, producing a crisp, minerally wine with lemon citrus, almond and hints of apricot and pineapple. The name ‘Devon’ on the bottle is a little confusing – no, it’s not named after the county in the English Riviera, but the Devon ice cap in the Arctic. Any clearer? Well, producer Antonio Caggiano once visited and was so impressed he named his wine after it...
£17.95£15.80 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
‘Inferno’ is the rather brilliant name given to one of the sub-zones of Valtellina Superiore. The rocky Alpine slopes are so steep, and summer temperatures so high, that toiling in these vineyards sometimes feels like ‘hell’. But it’s all worth it for the quality of the vivid ruby red wines with aromas of plums, mulberries, roses and dried violets. The Chiavennasca grape is a strain of Piemonte’s famous Nebbiolo, delivering savoury wines with elegant, lingering flavours of toasted hazelnuts and spice.
£17.50£15.40 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
This family run winery produces fabulous reds and whites in the Langhe area of Piemonte. White wines from here are becoming more and more popular – and you can see why. Made from 100% Favorita — Liguria’s Vermentino grape – this is crisp and fragrant, with hints of apple blossom and ripe citrus fruits. Ideal served as a Spring aperitif or with fresh seafood and herby roast chicken.
£13.50£11.88 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
Recioto is a sweet wine made with dried grapes from the Valpolicella area of Veneto - If you like Amarone, you’ll love this matched with rich puddings and cheeses. The grapes are dried for at least a month longer than those used for Amarone, giving the wine a distinctive ‘raisined’ flavour and notes of plum, cherry, dark chocolate and warming spice. Established in 1857, Bertani is still family owned, creating wines of both tradition and innovation.
£23.00£20.24 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
By Chris Penwarden
All prices above are based on our Italian promotion in March. Valid until 31.03.15
Posted on March 4, 2015
“The Chateau Margaux of Tuscany” Steven Spurrier
"....I love this wine, style with substance, proper Chianti that you need to have with traditional Italian fare – cherries, spice, leather, tomatoes, peppers - mmmmmm....!"
“Savoury richness on the palate. Excellent complexity and a real find."
Olly Smith - Mail on Sunday
Posted on March 3, 2015
'The Mighty Biferno' is a brilliant red wine that anyone can enjoy - great with food, a reasonable price, and very easy drinking. Recommended with Italian food; pizza, pasta, and tomatoes, I thought there was no better time to give a new recipe and wine match a go than the launch of our Italian wine promotion.
Based on recommendations across the board from the likes of Victoria Moore (The Telegraph), Olly Smith (The Daily Mail), and Angela Mount, I chose a tomato dish to pair with this wine. I didn't want to go for too basic an option, so started searching for rich tomato based dishes. After scouring the internet a little, I came across a recipe for confit tomatoes, and was immediately interested. Essentially just juicy tomatoes, garlic, thyme and oil cooked in its own juices for 3+ hours I knew I was onto a winner. If you have the patience to try this pairing out, I would highly recommend. The smell of the roasting tomatoes and garlic alone is enough to entice anyone - and you can always have a taste of the wine while you wait!
The subtle fruitiness balanced by a peppery spice, keeps the wine from tasting too sweet, working perfectly well with the richness of the confit tomatoes. With a sweet flavour of their own, and slight nuttiness from the roasted garlic, and fragrant thyme, the two go hand in hand. A perfect wine to kick off a casual dinner with friends, alongside some rustic bread, a selection of Italian meats, and a couple of jars of these tasty tomatoes.
Ingredients (makes 3 x 300ml jars)
- 1kg plum tomatoes, halved
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- good handful fresh thyme
- 100ml olive oil, plus extra
- 2 tbsp balsamic or sherry vinegar
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- Preheat the oven to 110C. Mix all ingredients together and place in a roasting tray with tomatoes cut-side up, and evenly spread out. Roast for 2.5 hours, turning tomatoes upside down half way through.
- In your jars, tightly pack the roasted tomatoes, juices and other ingredients, leaving 1cm space at the top and screw on the lids.
- Place in a large saucepan, with enough water to cover the jars. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 45 mins. When finished, allow the jars to cool in the water.
- Jars can be left in a cool place for up to 6 months. Once open, make sure you use them up within a week.
£8.50£7.48 (+10% off 12+ bottles)
Promotional prices above valid until March 31st
By Olivia Moore
Posted on March 2, 2015
Decanter April 2015
Here are some great reviews from the current edition of Decanter magazine – some to drink now and some to save for later in the year.
“Punches above its weight. Long, sinewy and vibrant rather than broad and full. Elegant berry fruit and spice notes. Finely honed tannins.” 17/20 - 90 points – James Lawther, Vintage Report Rhone 2013.
“Always great bang for your buck: sweet oak, floral lift, lashings of blackcurrant, juicy plum and crushed berry fruit. Long fine tannins and rolling acidity.” 17.5/20 - 91 points – Sarah Ahmed, Douro New Releases.
Quinta Do Crasto, Tinta Roriz 2012 (currently 2011 in stock – 2012 coming soon)
“Lovely purity, saturation and length of cinnamon-kissed succulent damson and blackberry fruit. Very firm but fine mineral tannins bode well for ageing.” 18.5/20 - 95 points – Sarah Ahmed, Douro New Releases.
“Mainly from the 1979-planted Dennis vineyard in Mount Barker. Great cedar, blueberry and cassis lift and concentration with savoury balsamic notes. Sinewy tannins and firm acidity give poise.” Sarah Ahmed, Ahmed’s top 10 to try from Great Southern.
In an interview with Ahmed, Howard Park’s Jeff Burch said that the 2010 vintage saw a dominance of Great Southern Cabernet in their Abercrombie flagship wine: “our Cabernets have more lifted perfume, finer and more savoury fruit than the comparatively sweet fruit of Margaret river and lithe, sometimes sinewy, tannins.”
By Chris Penwarden
Posted on March 1, 2015
Dinner invitations don’t get much better than this. Midweek catch up supper chez 2014 Masterchef winner Ping Coombes? Would be rude not to really… my part of the deal was to bring a selection of wines, so that we could try to work out exactly which styles would go with the diverse, complex medley of flavours that are found in Malaysian cuisine. So both a treat and a challenge for me – as I’ve learnt from matching food to Indian cuisine, there is no simple answer, and a there is a huge variety of different flavours which benefit from subtly different wines to bring out their very best.
I did my research early – Malaysian food is rich and exotic, a heady mix, which reflects the multicultural society and history of the country, and includes influences from Malay, China and India, with a touch of Thai thrown in as well. There is spice, a myriad of complex flavours, and different levels of heat in the dishes. There is also a greater delicacy than in many Asian cuisines, and, as I discovered, incredible depth and layering of flavours.
Ping Coombes hit our screens, and captivated us, when she, seemingly effortlessly, progressed through the rounds of Masterchef 2014, impressing dynamic judging duo John Torode and Greg Wallace at every turn, with not only her culinary prowess, but her consistency, and calm demeanour. Chatting to her over dinner, it was a far more gruelling and nerve-wracking process than she let it appear. But she triumphed with her innovation, precise flavours, and beautiful presentation; her influences, and her passion for food comes from one source – her mother, who brought her up in the Malaysian town of Ipoh, famed for its food.
With an array of bottles, and a kaleidoscope of colours and flavours in the dishes that Ping had prepared, we settled down, in her kitchen in Bath, for a hard working evening of food and wine matching - tough job but someone had to do it…
With no idea about the feast that Ping was preparing, I focused on spices, exotic herbs, chilli, coconut, mango and lemongrass when planning my selection, and picked a range of mainly aromatic white wines, with a fruity Rose and a juicy Pinot Noir thrown in…
We kicked off with some delicious little Malaysian prawn fritters, correctly termed as ‘Cucur Udang’, delicately scented and flavoured with turmeric and served with a spicy chilli and plum sauce dip; the texture combined the spiced tenderness of the seafood, with the crunch of the sautéed edges of the batter; this was a relatively easy match, needing a punchy, zesty, and vibrant aromatic white in the form of Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 2014, where the fresh, mouthwatering lime-zest character lifted these delicious morsels to an even higher level.
Next up, one of my favourite dishes of the evening – an exciting, vibrant, tongue-tingling salad, sublime in its simplicity, yet absolutely outstanding in the intensity and freshness of its tastes; based on very thinly sliced carrots and cucumber, spiced up with an exotic mix of five spice, lime juice, sesame oil and plum sauce, it was surprisingly subtle in style, despite the bold flavours. It overpowered the previously-tasted Sauvignon blanc, but played a blinder with the searingly dry, citrus and honeysuckle vibrancy of Johannishof Riesling Weingut Knipser 2012, whose floral, yet crisp character married perfectly with the spicy, dry freshness of the dish.
Then came a great Malaysian version of street food - ‘Pings Buns’, puffed up, fluffy, soft buns which were filled at the table with rich, braised pork, meltingly tender, and glistening with its unctuous marinade and coating of soy, star anise, ginger and cinnamon; too rich for a Riesling, too savoury for a Gewurztraminer, the best match here was without any doubt the stylish, violet and raspberry scented Carrick Unravelled Pinot Noir 2012, bursting with the naturally sweet black cherry and spice fruit needed to match the richness of the dish. Spot on. A Chilean Rose wasn’t a bad pairing either, but was slightly overwhelmed.
However, the match of the night came in the form of the final, exquisite dish, Ping’s personal version of a rich Malaysian chicken curry, which included coconut milk, a rainbow of spices, chilli, mango, and many other magical ingredients. Any dish with the sweetness of coconut milk needs a spicy, off dry white to match the intensity and richness – and the exotic, fruity, ginger and lime zest scents, creamy tones, and honeysuckle and apricot flavours of Yealands PGR Pinot Gewurztraminer Riesling 2014, produced a food and wine marriage made in heaven. The flavours balanced, the tones matched, the combination of flavours mingled to bring out the very best in both the creamy, sumptuous curry and the spicy zip of the wine.
I strongly recommend giving Ping's recipe a try, and play around yourselves with the wines I’ve mentioned, it was a fascinating and fun experience. So much so that we’re doing a repeat match… the only problem is that I’m cooking! No pressure… The theme is Mediterranean and I’ve challenged Ping to pick her own selection of Italian, French, or Spanish gems for the event (with a little help from the lovely chaps at Great Western Wine); a learning curve for both of us – watch this space.
By Angela Mount
Posted on February 26, 2015
As our Iberian promotion comes to a close, we take a look at the top 5 wines from some of our favourite producers. Don't forget until midnight tonight you can receive an extra 15% off all wines, including wines already in the Iberian promotion, making it a total saving of 25%.
To receive the 15% discount enter FEBTREAT15 at the checkout
Powerful aromatics on the nose with apricot, white flowers, and spices such as clove, mint, and fennel. The palate displays sweet lemon and ripe melon with plenty of zing and grapefruit peel. A wine of great complexity and style and with bags of character. Treixadura is truly a noble grape!
" ...very well made wine with a good, punchy finish" - Jancis Robinson
Bright and pale lemon yellow in the glass with an enticing minerality on the nose followed up with crunchy green apple, camomile and lemons. Fresh attack on the palate leading into a fresh and crisp finish.
"...chalky lemony citrus fruit, cut with a salty green olive tang and mouthwatering, well integrated acidity" - Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective
Aromas of black cherry and red forest fruit - complimented with a light touch of spice and vanilla. A fresh, vibrant wine with a velvety texture.
"...bursts with terrific, lively, leafy, spiced black fruits and dark chocolate flavours. Perfect with everything from roasted red meats to strong cheeses." - Jane MacQuitty, The sunday Times
Dark cherry colour with balsamic aromas abd hints of ripe fruit. The attack is fresh and light, with soft, rounded tannins. Spicy and complex, the finish is persistent with subtle toasted oak character. Elegant, fresh and easy to drink.
"This is showing some classy evolution, with a smooth, complete nose of spicy, vital fruit." - Top wines under £100, Decanter
Extremely complex with nuances of mature fruit, minerality and herbaceous spice, with fine tannins and an elegant, long, lively finish.
"...an inviting bouquet of Asian spices, smoke, mineral, black cherry, and black plum leading to a high-toned, racy style of Priorat. The wine has plenty of sweet fruit, excellent volume, and a lengthy, pure finish." Jay Miller, Wine Advocate
15% off discount ends midnight 26.02.15 with the Iberian promotion available until midnight Sunday 1st March.
By Olivia Moore
Posted on February 25, 2015
The nose is lead by forest fruits with earthy notes and subtle touch of toast and spice. The palate is medium-bodied with plenty of up-front fresh fruit – redcurrant, blackberry and raspberry.
A good match to both red and white meats, particularly roast pork, beef carpaccio and also a great match to tomato based pasta dishes.
Posted on February 24, 2015
I'm often put off making paella, down to a preconceived idea that the lengthier list of ingredients makes it a much much trickier dish to make. Quite a firm fan of risotto as my go-to alternative, I tend to think I'm choosing an easier option, but this week, with just a few days left in our Iberian promotion, I thought it was about time I gave this classic Spanish recipe a go - and to my surprise I found the dish far lower maintenance, and significantly more flavoursome than a classic risotto can be.
Paired with Franck Massard's El Mago Organic Garnacha, this Jamie Oliver recipe, created a creamy but rich dish with the sweet & smoky paprika coming through in both colour and taste, matching the Garnacha perfectly. A particularly moreish match with the easy drinking, subtle berry fruitiness, and delicate spice of the this wine. When adding a squeeze of lemon to serve, remember not to be too generous - you don't want the acidity to contrast with the wine, although a little is a welcome to enhance the paella flavours.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
2 cloves of garlic
15g flat leaf parsley
2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
salt + pepper1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 red pepper
1 tablespoon tomato purée
1 cube chicken stock
300g paella rice
100g frozen peas
160g prawns (raw)
Finely slice the garlic and the parsley stalks and put to one side. Chop up the onion and carrot (these can be quite chunky). Chop the chorizo and chicken into small strips/chunks. Throw all of this into a large paella/frying pan with the paprika and some olive oil and begin to cook on a medium heat.
Whilst keeping an eye on the ingredients in the pan and stirring regularly, de-seed and chop the pepper into small strips/chunks, and add to the pan for a further 5 minutes.
Boil the kettle with 750ml water. Stir the tomato purée into the pan, and crumble the stock cube, stirring as you go. Pour the rice in and coat with the rest of the mixture, allowing it to soak up all of the concentrated flavour.
Pour the boiling water in with some salt & pepper to season, stir, then cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes. Continue to stir during this time, moving the mixture around the pan and adding extra water if necessary.
Stir in the prawns and peas, cooking for a further 5 mins, or until the prawns are pink all the way through.
To serve, add a chunk of lemon and chop the leftover parsley leaves to sprinkle on top.
If you're thinking of trying this out yourself, follow the link below for the wine match.
on offer until March 1st for just £9.24 per bottle with an extra 10% off 12+ bottles
By Olivia Moore
Posted on February 22, 2015
One of the questions that I get asked most frequently, is whether the type, size and style of glass that is used for wine, matters. The simple answer is - yes it does. Having said that, please don’t think you have to spend a fortune on very expensive wine glasses – save that for the wine. Here are a few simple suggestions, to ensure you enjoy your chosen wines, at their optimum.
The very best glasses to showcase wines are very simple and very plain; be they of a basic, supermarket origin or high-end and exquisitely hand-crafted. Avoid coloured, or cut crystal glasses, however sparklingly beautiful and beguiling they look, they will do the wine no favours and will simply detract from the star of the show; the contents of the glass. The best glass is the one that shows off and brings to life the liquid that is in it. You don’ t need to spend a fortune – yes, Riedel glasses are wonderful and a treat, but you can pick up perfect glasses anywhere as long as you follow these simple rules:
Plain glasses allow the wine to shine, however majestic or humble the chosen tipple – they will always bring out the best. Whether white, rose or red, the colour of the wine will glint and beckon, with the sheer texture of the plain glass reflecting the shimmering colours, depth and texture, whatever the style. The enchantress that is wine, reveals so much through colour alone, and that’s why clear glass is so important. The crystal-clear, light-reflecting brightness of young white wines; the viscous, glass coating, golden hues of dessert wines; the kaleidoscope of red wine tones, from limpid, ruby red, to the brooding depths of dense, opaque styles – are all reflected perfectly in these simple, plain, long-stemmed glasses.
Why is this important? If you are a wine enthusiast, your natural inquisitiveness will want to know more about the wine, and looking at it, is a good place to start. If you just enjoy a decent glass of wine, it will give you an additional perspective, and look more enticing. I can only liken this to comparing the beauty and irresistible charm of fresh fruit and vegetables in a French or Italian market with the equivalent produce in an UK supermarket; the former entice, and seduce with their colour, scents and evocative charm, the latter sit their in their pre-packaged state and are functional - there is simply no comparison. The wine is the star, the glass is the backdrop at whatever level – but it helps to get it right.
The best wine glasses curve in at the top, and are long-stemmed. Why? Firstly because long-stemmed glasses allow you to hold the glass lower down, on the stem, rather than having to hold the bowl of the glass. This means you’ll be less likely to heat up the wine - especially beneficial if it’s white. It also allows you to swirl the wine around the glass, which will help release the aromas. Why should the wine glass curve inwards? Rather than immediately release all the promise in a showy way, curved glasses nurture and gently release the seductive charms and scents of a top wine, but also showcase simple, great quality wines at their best, and allow them to star at whatever level.
As far as bubbles are concerned, the ideal glass is narrow, slim and tall. Please ignore the ‘Marie Antoinette’ champagne coupes at all costs. These should be strictly reserved for cocktails. A long, slim flute will showcase an elegant stream of tiny bubbles.
Never overfill glasses – there needs to be room to swirl the wine around and give space to the liquid to release its scents.
Finally a tip on cleaning wine glasses - whenever possible, hand wash and use the minimum of detergent. Of course, this depends on how precious, or expensive the glasses might be, but detergent can not only cloud glasses permanently, if over-used, it’s also kills bubbles in sparkling wine. The slightest hint of detergent in a glass will make fizz go flat. The best solution is to wash in hot water, dry with a clean cloth, and polish. It’s best not to leave glasses upturned to dry, they will become tainted with the air that is caught inside the bowl of the glass.
By Angela Mount