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Monthly Archives: April 2017

  • Vinitaly

    A flying visit around the World’s largest wine show

    By Edward Mercer

    Just before Easter I was very fortunate to be included in a trip to Italy for the largest wine show in the world. This annual event called ‘Vinitaly’ is held in the not very pretty part of the very pretty little city of Verona. During the show the population of Verona doubles to almost 400,000 as the wine world descends to talk and taste, but unlike most big wine shows this is not an international affair, unbelievably all wines are strictly Italian.

    The 16th century palazzos are nowhere to be seen as the party of ten of us walk through security and into the exhibition park of regionally themed pavilions. These massive spaces hold exhibitions stands for some of Italy’s largest wineries featuring tasting and meeting rooms, display spaces and in many cases roof top balconies and restaurant facilities. Alongside these huge and very flash stands are hundreds of smaller stands with vineyard proprietors proudly showing their wine flights. This should be a lot of fun...

    Day 1 of the show was a blur with visits to some of our key wineries.

    First off was Ruggeri for the best prosecco tasting you could ever hope for. Included in the lineup, and some nice nibbles to kick off, were the Giustino B which was voted the best sparkling wine in Italy last year by Gambero Rosso, and it’s also available in magnums, wow! The Extra Brut was also a highlight for me, a mineral-dry, vibrant prosecco which cries out for seafood.

    Cleto Chiarli was next. More delicious sliced meats and little blini style sandwiches. This was a revisit of some of my favourite wines; Pignoletto, Rosé, Lambrusco and red sparkling Pruno Nero. All going well so far and starting to forget the early flight out.

    An off-the-schedule visit to the Cenatiempo stand. These unusual and delicious wines are from the island of Ischia off the Naples coast. The star for me, and all the group, was undoubtedly the Kalimera Biancolella, fresh, limey and grapey white, really delicious.

    Sartori was next for one of the bit hitters, oh and lunch of fresh pasta and strawberry tart. This significant winery makes huge volume but their best and most famous wines are Regolo and Marani, named after the founder of the company and his wife. These are both excellent. One of my fellow travelers also called Ed commented that he thought the Marani Garganega white was one of the best hidden gems in our wine list, and I tend to agree.

    Nonino Grappa for a post prandial. The first offering was the Nonino Amaro poured liberally over ice in a massive glass, delicious. The 8 year old grappa is also very good, almost like a cross between a fine aged rum and cognac, very surprising. The use of glasses at this stand would leave a bartender fuming, as we must have used 100 glasses between the group and some poor person then had to clean them all. Anyway, onwards…

    The Umani Ronchi stand was enormous and we were ushered upstairs to the private roof tasting thingy. Getting a bit tired now, but this tasting was fantastic with a brand new Pecorino Centovie, the inexpensive San Lorenzo from the Conero hills and the wine of the show, 2003 Rosso Cumaro from double magnum all just singing from the rafters.

    Last visit today to the owners of the largest contiguous vineyards in Barolo, Fontanafredda. This tasting could have been most notable for the sparkling wine made with 1967 barolo dosage (no idea if we will get any but I’ll let you know if we do!), and also the barman who sounded just like Matt Damon. It was actually most notable for the shear quality of the mid-level wines; Gavi di Gavi, Barbera and Moscato were all outstanding, a really impressive tasting line up.

    Done for the day, off to the prettier bit for Aperol Spritz and a look at that Balcony.

    Day 2 at the show

    The first stop on day 2 of Vinitaly was with Sicily's Mandrarossa. After a latish night, the first wines were always going to be a challenge but again it was some of the less expensive wines of the show that were best, in this case Nero d’Avola and single vineyard Urra de Mare sauvignon blanc which showed really well, and as the island’s biggest exporter it was really great to see how good these wines are.

    Last producer to visit at the show was the mighty Planeta also from Sicily. On hand to guide us through was Alessio Planeta, founder and top man. Included in the very extensive tasting were some new crackers under the La Segreta range; Grillo and Nero d’Avola, also the brand new Mamertino from Capo Milazzo in the north east was outstanding, and a new super-premium chardonnay.

    Last conversation of the show was with Allessio Planeta agreeing the trip he will be making to Bath in the Autumn to give a customer dinner – more to follow as soon as we can on that!

    So Vinitaly had been very intense and also a lot of fun, and we were off to Bertani in Valpolicella and then to Ferrari in Trento for visits to these famous and hugely impressive estates (I’ll save this for the next blog). I could have been at Vinitaly for a month, if it was on that long, and probably not tasted half of the wines at the show, but as a wine experience this was very special. I look forward to introducing you to some of these wines in person.

  • Wine and Cheese

    A match made in heaven?

    Everyone loves wine and cheese don’t they? Does anyone really care about which wine with which cheese?  Think again – how many of you have had a glass of good red spoilt by the impact of drinking it with a smelly, well matured soft, or blue cheese?  I reckon a few of you. Cheese and wine can be a heavenly match, but only if you follow a few simple guidelines.

    Taste, smells and flavours are all about balance; it’s no different with wine. Over or under-season a dish, and it’s a pale reflection of the triumph that it could have been.  Sip a glass of delicious, crisp white wine, then have a bite of chocolate and go back to the wine – I can guarantee that it will now taste sour and acid; go on, try it to prove my point!

    With cheese, just like wine, there is a plethora of styles, but all with radically different flavours, from salty, tangy goats cheese, through nutty, creamy cheddar, to sweet yet salty blue.  On the basis of all of the above, it’s logical that you need different wines to suit different cheeses, without becoming too obsessive about the whole process.  I’ve always hated red wine with soft cheeses such as brie, as they give the wine a metallic taste – far better with a soft, creamy Chardonnay. But tradition has always put red wine with cheese. Throw tradition out of the window.

    I put this theory to the test in a recent wine and cheese pairing exercise. Bath wine merchant Great Western Wine have teamed up with local cheese supplier Pong Cheese to bring together this classic partnership, to the extent that, from next week, there will be a bespoke cheese fridge in their shop with a range of 8 cheeses supplied exclusively for them - weekend wine and cheese shopping sorted.

    My job was to match the cheese to the wine –tough job, I know. Here are my favourite matches, following a few simple rules:

    Goats Cheese

    Bosworth Leaf Goats cheese – the textbook match for goats cheese is Sauvignon blanc, both of which originated in the Loire valley and are natural partners. New Zealand Sauvignon blanc can be too aggressive, so I picked a vibrant, zesty, wild herb-dusted one from the south of Chile, Las Cenizas Laberinto Sauvignon blanc 2015 (£15.50), which picks up the tangy, salty, mouthwatering flavours in the cheese.

    Creamy brie-style – Perl Wen, an unctuous, gooey delight from Wales, worked magically well with Mas Sardana Cava Brut Nature NV (£13.50), bringing out the creamy, nutty character in both. Fizz and cheese? Why not. Another option would be classic Chablis.

    Washed rind cheeses - Lincolnshire Poacher – this is a nutty, fragrant, relatively mild cheese, not dissimilar to Comte – I loved this with the fresh, vibrant style of Souson Ailala 2015 (£13.95), a deliciously fresh, juicy red from Galicia in north west Spain, with no oak, just a riot of red fruit flavours – spot on.

    Cheddar

    Westcombe cheddar – avoid big, tannic reds with hard cheeses, and let softer, spicier reds coax out the very best of the flavours in both, in this case Domaine de la Janasse Cotes du Rhone 2015 (£12.50), a rich, silky red, full of blackberry fruit and oozing charm.

    Matching Pong Pecorino Toscana was a delectable discovery – for traditionalists, go with a classic, but lighter style, Tuscan red, such as Morellino di Scansano 2014 (£14.95); but, with the cheese’s granular texture, and powerful, salty, sweet character, we had a eureka moment and tried it with the dry, but delicately aromatic Patricius, Tokaji Dry Furmint 2015 (£12.75) — a flawless alliance.

    Blue Cheese

    Port is always a safe bet, but my tip would be to go for a honeyed dessert wine – sweet, complimentary, but lighter in style.  Sauternes is great, but it was the seductive Italian sweet range which took top billing.

    First up Perl Las Blue, a mild, creamy welsh blue which snuggled up cosily to the honeyed, dried apricot-stashed, Anselmi I Capitelli 2015 (37.5cl £18.50) from northern Italy, whilst the powerful, yet meltingly tender, sweet, creamy Mountain Gorgonzola, formed a blissful marriage with its Italian compatriot Fattoria dei Barbi Vin Santo 2009 (37.5cl £17.95), the most classic of all Italian dessert wines.

    And finally, onto Cropwell Bishop stilton - melt-in-the-mouth, and remarkably delicate with a tangy bite – another blue cheese charmed by the irresistible attraction of a luscious Italian, this time a sweet red, Bertani Recioto Valpolicella 2012 (50cl £23), a mellifluous nectar, of dried raisins, cherries, dark chocolate, candied lemons and spice, at a temperate 13% alcohol, which coaxed out every inch of character from this Nottinghamshire delight whilst parading its own glories simultaneously.

    Wine and cheese matching – join the adventure.

    By Angela Mount

  • Stylus Vinyl

    April: What's in the box...

    Our friends at Stylus Vinyl, who send out monthly subscription boxes of classic albums on vinyl paired with a great bottle of wine chosen by us, have nailed it once again.

    April sees Stylus’ first live album and champions everything that is great about the rawness of live music. Johnny Cash’s Live at Folsom Prison is the perfect example of that rawness. Cash brought the joy of music to the downtrodden, the unwanted of society and turned it into a number one hit.

    To pair with Cash’s slow and deeply melodic voice we have the Trapiche Estacion Bonarda | £11.95. Crushed blueberries and violets take the lead whilst soft vanilla spice, bitter chocolate and sweet liquorice dance in the background. There is depth, complexity and structure to this wine, with soft, supporting tannins, which provide a bold yet velvety structure.

    Both wine and voice have a crooning quality to them, an effortless rhythm that lingers with you long after they are finished. There is a seductive, calming tone to both music and wine, despite the key messages in both.

  • The Team's Tasting Selections

    The latest flight of 8 wines has been launched today – and what's more its now completetly FREE! Come on by the Great Western Wine shop in Bath to sample our American Aces - all available to purchase in our Up to 25% off wines of USA promo >

    Col Solare, Col Solare 2012

    Producer: Chateau Ste Michelle, USA

    was £60.00 | now £50.00

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Indian Wells Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

    Producer: Chateau Ste Michelle, USA

    was £19.50 | now £17.50

    Sample price: FREE

    Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

    Producer: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, USA

    was £42.50 | now £37.50

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Omero Pinot Noir Ribbon Ridge 2012

    Producer: Omero, USA

    was £34.50 | now £29.95

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Canoe Ridge Chardonnay 2014

    Producer: Chateau Ste Michelle, USA

    was £22.00 | now £19.50

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Karia Chardonnay 2015

    Producer: Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, USA

    was £32.50 | now £27.00

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Eroica Riesling 2014

    Producer: Chateau Ste Michelle, USA

    was £23.50 | now £19.95

    Sample price: FREE

     

    Man O' War Ironclad 2010

    Producer: Man O' War, NZ

    was £29.50 | now £24.50

    Sample price: FREE

  • World Malbec Day

    Why is Malbec World Day celebrated on 17th April?

    The origin of Malbec can be found in the southwest of France. Here they’ve been cultivating the grape and making wines with the appellation of Cahors since the days of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages, this wine grew in popularity, and this has only increased in modern times.

    Malbec arrived in Argentina in 1853 in the hands of Michel Aimé Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by Domingo Faustino Sarmiento to carry out the management of the Agricultural Quinta de Mendoza.

    Modelled on France, the initiative proposed adding new grape varieties as a means to enhancing the national wine industry. On 17th April, 1853, with the support of the governor of Mendoza, a project was presented to the Provincial Legislature, with a view to establishing a Quinta Normal and Agricultural School. This project was approved by the House of Representatives on 6th September that year.

    In the late nineteenth century, with the help of Italian and French immigrants, the wine industry grew exponentially and with it, Malbec, which quickly adapted to the various terroirs, and developed with even better results than in its region of origin. Over time, and with a lot of hard work, Malbec emerged as the flagship grape of Argentina.

    For Wines of Argentina, 17th April was not only a symbol of the transformation of Argentina's wine industry, but also the starting point for the development of this grape, an emblem the country worldwide.

    According to Wines of Argentine, “Malbec is not just a wine. It is a fruit that generates work, individuality, culture and development. Each bottle is a declaration of what sets Argentina apart. Each bottle speaks of the hands, the dexterity and the soul of our men. This varietal expresses a way of doing things, a way of life; it involves technique, originality and passion. The deepest wines are born of the deepest longings of their peoples, those who reside in the heart. Malbec is the heart of our industry and continues to be our global ambassador.”

    It’s common knowledge that a glass of Malbec is perfectly accompanied by a hearty steak, but did you know the versatilty of this soulful wine extends far beyond red meat. To celebrate Malbec World Day, we bring you two surprising recipes to pair with Malbec... 

    Veggies + Malbec

     

    Porcini Mushroom Pasta

    1 cup dried porcini mushrooms soaked in 1 ½ cups of hot water for 1 hour
    400 gr pappardelle or fettucini (the egg-based varieties are best)
    2 garlic clove
    1 tbsp butter
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 cup heavy cream
    1/2 cup red wine
    2 tbsp grated Parmesan
    3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
    salt and pepper to taste

    Bring some water to the boil and then pour it over your dried porcini mushrooms. This will make them nice and tender and bring out the full flavour of the mushrooms. Let them sit for at least an hour.

    Time cooking your pasta to be ready at the same time the sauce is – you’ll add it to the pan that you're making the sauce to saute together when it's ready. Put the water on to boil for the pasta, then get started on the sauce.

    Once the porcini mushrooms have soaked, drain them and save the water. In a deep sauce pan drizzle some olive oil and heat on medium. Crush the garlic and sauté with the butter and olive oil until fragrant. Add the red wine and let the liquid absorb. Then add the porcini mushroom water and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Now you can add the pasta to boiling water.

    Once the pasta is in the water, stir the cream into the porcini mushroom sauce and add your salt and pepper. Let it simmer and thicken until the pasta is cooked. Drain the pasta and rinse delicately in cold water to stop the cooking process. Now add the pasta to the sauce and toss or fold the pasta into the porcini mushroom sauce.

    Sprinkle with the Italian parsley and freshly grated Parmesan to serve.

    Chocolate + Malbec

     

    Dark Chocolate and Malbec Ice Cream

    160g dark chocolate (90% cocoa solids)
    300ml double cream
    1/2 can condensed milk (approx~198ml)
    400ml of Malbec

    In a saucepan reduce the 400ml of Malbec on a medium heat until there's approximately 6-8 tbsps left, then set it aside to cool down.

    Break the dark chocolate up and melt it until it's runny and smooth. You can do this however you want, in a glass bowl over a saucepan of boiling water or in the microwave.

    In a large bowl, whisk together the double cream and condensed milk until you reach stiff peaks. Then fold in the chocolate and the reduced Malbec until it's all mixed in.

    Pour the mixture into a 500ml freezable container, you can buy disposable pots online, use a tupperware box or just pour it into a cake tin a la moi. Make sure you cover the ice cream with a lid or tightly wrap it in clingfilm, then put it in the freezer for 6 hours.

    Before you serve the ice cream take it out of the freezer for about 15 minutes to loosen up.

    Receive up to 20% off all Malbec in celebration of Malbec World Day | ends midnight Monday 17th April >

  • The Team's Tasting Selections

    The latest flight of 8 wines has been launched today – and what's more its now completetly FREE! Come on by the Great Western Wine shop in Bath to sample these beauties from Southern Italy and Islands.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ken Forrester                       Planeta                                   Planeta Eruzione
    Dirty Little Secret                 Cometa 2015                           1614 Carricante
    £59.50                                   was £25.00 | now £20.50            was £19.95 | now £18.50

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Planeta Eruzione 1614          Planeta                                 Taurasi Vigna
    Nerello Mascalese                Burdese                                Macchia dei Goti
    was £21.50 | now £19.00         was £23.50 | now £21.00          was £32.00 | now £28.00

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Santadi,                                 Papale Oro
    Terre Brune 2012                   Varvaglione 2013
    was £38.00 | now £35.00          was £19.95 | now £18.50

  • When wine meets chocolate

    "Its a tough job, but someones got to do it" is the phrase that sprung to mind when I set off on a quest to find out whether wine and chocolate could live together. Easter is looming and that means chocolate, and lots of it, so it seemed the right time to put this to the test.

    Can the two co-exist? I'm delighted to say that the answer is yes, but choose with care. Just like wine there is great chocolate, but there is pretty horrible, gloopy muck, full of greasy cocoa butter, and not much else too - if that's what rocks your boat, I'd stick with a cup of tea to accompany it.

    There is a world of exciting, artisan-crafted chocolate out there - from all over the world. I recently co-hosted a wine and chocolate pairing evening, with Spencer Hyman, who is as passionate about chocolate as I am about wine, and has set up an online subscription business for true choc lovers called Cocoa Runners. He and his team whizz around the world sniffing out the best bean producers and also the best chocolate-makers; his range is vast, encompassing chocolate bars from Brooklyn to Budapest, Cleethorpes to Saigon.

    For wine, it's all about the grape, the soil, and how you make it; with chocolate it's pretty much the same, which is why Great Western Wine have teamed up with Cocoa Runners to stock a wide range of chocolates, matched with specific wines. The chocolate range is broad, ranging from the darkest, most intense and highest cocoa content bars, to fudgy, creamy and unctuous milk varieties.

    So what works? The old adage is that you need to drink something sweeter than the chocolate itself - easily done, but a bit predictable. After an exhaustive and extensive afternoon of wine and chocolate-matching (I did say it was a tough job), here are my recommendations for you to enjoy the ultimate in indulgences - and yes, red wine can work with chocolate, and does so rather nicely, if you pick the right one. So throw your preconceptions aside and try a few of these with your Easter chocolate fest...

    Dark Chocolate

    This has over 70% cocoa solids, with depth and intensity, it's sweet yet has a balancing bitter note - think oozingly rich chocolate fondant. Rich, spicy red wines can work well here, as the balance between the sweetness and the bitter edge in dark chocolate marries well with an intense, voluptuous drink. Chilean Carmenere can be great, Viña Falernia Carmenere Syrah, 2014 (£13.75) was spot on. In this wine, one third of the grapes are left to dry out to a raisin-like state, which means the wine is richer and takes on an 'amarone' type of intensity, with truffly, mocha notes, powerful enough to balance the brooding intensity of dark chocolate.

     

    Milk Chocolate

    The world's favourite style; here, the milk content adds to the sweetness and luxuriously creamy texture. Australian-style Muscats generally work well, but can overpower with their exuberant personalities, but my two favourites in this category are lesser well-known sweeties. First up, a glorious sweet red, somewhere between a dessert wine and port. Bertani Recioto 2012, 50cl (£23.00) from Italy is my go-to choice. Its mix of cinnamon, spice, and candied peel, is silky, sumptuous and utterly indulgent. My other top choice was PX Belle Luna (£8.95) - almost syrupy in texture, sensuous and swooningly enchanting, with its decadent raisin, dried fig and toffee character.

     

    White Chocolate

    People either love or hate white chocolate. Its a mix of mainly cocoa butter, milk and sugar, often flavoured with vanilla. This is where traditional dessert wines work well, with their gentle, honey and caramel edges. Patricius Late Harvest Tokaji 2015, 37.5cl (13.95) from the majestic Tokay region of Hungary is the style to fit the bill here, with its notes of acacia honey, honeysuckle and dried, candied oranges.

    To sum up, wine + chocolate = happiness!

     

     

    By Angela Mount - Bath Life Magazine

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