Monthly Archives: March 2015

  • Tried & Tested: Baked Seabass with Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio

    For a light, refreshing wine like the Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio Classico Superiore, Casal di Serra 2013, I thought I'd try a classic baked sea bass dish.  Generally I tend to feel more comfortable with a simple fillet of fish, with no skin and other bits to deal with, but the selection of enticing flavours in this recipe persuaded me to try cooking the fish whole - mainly so that I actually had somewhere to stuff the stuffing.

    With the juicy plum tomatoes working unsurprisingly brilliantly with the garlic, onion and pine nuts, this soft and slightly dry white wine was a welcome refreshment and great pairing to the dish.  Its fruity aromas weren't overwhelmed by sweetness, making it a very easy drinking wine, and definitely one I can imagine enjoying on a restaurant terrace in a warm, coastal, and picturesque holiday destination... (preferably in Italy!)

    Baked Seabass with Umani Ronchi Verdicchio

    Ingredients (serves 2)


    1 small onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    Freshly ground black pepper
    100g pine nuts, crushed
    8 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish
    2 whole sea bass, each weighing approximately
    450g, gutted, scaled and cleaned

    1 tbsp olive oil
    2 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped

    The vinaigrette

    6 tbsp olive oil
    1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
    2 plum tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
    1 shallot, finely chopped









    - Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion, tomatoes and garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes or until soft. Season, then add the pine nuts and basil and cook for a further 2 minutes

    - Stuff both fish with the mixture, and place each fish on a separate piece of well-greased foil. Wrap into a tight parcel

    - Place on a baking tray in a preheated oven 190ºC, gas mark 5 for 25 minutes or until cooked

    - The vinaigrette: whisk together the olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Add the tomatoes and shallot, season and gently warm through

    - Check that the fish is cooked; the flesh should be firm and flake easily. Remove from the foil, transfer to an oval plate and spoon the dressing over the top. Garnish with chopped basil leaves

    - I serve mine on a bed of spiralised courgette, but you can serve it with roasted veg, rice, some boiled new potatoes, or anything else you fancy...

    By Olivia Moore

  • Wine Spectator – five of the finest

    Wines In The Press

    Italian wine buyer Sergio De Luca attended the prestigious OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers in Italy last week, returning with news that an amazing nine Great Western Wine producers made the grade. The tasting was organised by Wine Spectator; the wines hand-picked by the magazine to highlight the diversity of producers in Italy. See below for a selection of tasting notes from Wine Spectator’s event programme:

    Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva

    Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, 2007

    92 points

    “Rich and medium weight, with cherry, berry, leather and spice notes converging on the long, juicy finish. Balanced in a sleek, compact manner, ending with fresh touches of mineral. Best from 2016 through 2032.”

    Bruce Sanderson, Wine Spectator, OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers 2015

    Nino Negri 5 Stelle Sfursat 2010  92 points

    Nino Negri, Sfursat 5 Stelle

    “A graceful red, with polished tannins and delicately knit layers of ripe black cherry and damson plum fruit, cured tobacco and accents of ground anise and mocha. Light grip graces the aromatic finish. Drink now through 2029.”

    Alison Napjus, Wine Spectator, OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers 2015

    Castello di Fonterutoli, Rosso di Toscana, SiepiCastello di Fonterutoli, Rosso di Toscana, Siepi 2007*

    94 points

    “Soft and attractive, with notes of dried blueberry and toasty oak. Very floral. Full and velvety- textured, with a delicious finidh. An excellent red.”

    James Suckling, Wine Spectator, OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers 2015

    *Very limited stocks – 2007 not available online - please phone for details. 2010 available by the above link - and drinking very well...

    Jermann, Vintage Tunina IGTJermann, Vintage Tunina IGT 2012

    92 points

    “A lovely, creamy white, with vibrant acidity and a steak of smoky mineral driving the flavors of melon, Marcona almond, Meyer lemon, white peach and orchard blossom. Shows good definition and complexity, yet remains lithe and mouthwatering overall. Drink now through 2025.”

    Alison Napjus, Wine Spectator, OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers 2015.

    Planeta Eruzione 1614 CarricantePlaneta Eruzione 1614 Carricante, 2013

    88 points

    “There’s real zip to this light-bodied, minerally white, with tangy flavous of nectarine, fresh quince, ginger and verbena, underscored by subtle stone and smoke notes. Drink now through 2018.”

    Alison Napjus, Wine Spectator, OperaWine, Finest Italian Wines: 100 Great Producers 2015

    Other Great Western Wine producers selected for the list included Ferrari, Fontanafredda, Librandi, Umani Rochi.

  • Southern Italian Idyll - The Wonderful World of Mezzogiorno Pt.2

    This week I continue my journey through the beautiful countryside of Mezzogiorno - Southern Italy...

    Travelling west, and slightly north of Basilicata, we reach Campania, home of Italy’s capital of the south, Naples, and the world famous, and exquisitely beautiful, Amalfi coast. Famous also for being the home of Mount Vesuvius, and the ruined city of Pompeii, Campania has a far more developed tourist industry than its more southern neighbours, yet retains a simple charm, and unspoilt magic, in the countryside and less developed areas. Protected by the Apennine mountains, which rise to the east, it’s a great area for white wine production, with grapes grown on the unique ‘tufo’ soil, which is volcanic and chalky.

    Caggiano Fiano di Avellino 'Bechar'The region is now rapidly making its name on the quality wine map, through its classic grape varieties, which offer ripe peach, lemon peel, and citrus flavours, with a touch of sunshine. Try the Caggiano Fiano di Avellino 'Bechar' 2013, or the aptly named Greco di Tufo 'Devon' 2013 from the same producer (Greco is the grape, tufo is the soil it’s grown on). Falanghina is another white grape variety, growing in renown. The rich, wild cherry and herb-spiced Aglianico red wines are also worth a try, maturing gently and slowly in the carved out ‘tufo’ rock caves. Campania is the original home of pizza and spaghetti, and is also famous for its tomatoes, vegetables and dairy produce, including the unique buffalo mozzarella. With fish and seafood prevalent, the white wines are well suited to the regional cuisine.

    If you head directly south of Campania, clinging to the coastline, you’ll reach Italy’s most southerly, least populated, poorest, yet stunning province, Calabria. With over 700km of coastline, it reaches deep south to the Messina straits which separate the island of Sicily from the toe of Italy by a mere 3km. Famous for its wines during the Greek civilization, Calabria has struggled for years, but has recently had an influx of interest, investment and focus, both for its wines and for its agricultural potential – yet it still has a magical, unspoilt feel as the tourists who flood Campania have not yet discovered this hidden gem.

    Most of the wine is produced in the region of Ciro, near Reggio di Calabria and close to the Ionian coast. With summer temperatures rising to the high 40s, it was an area that struggled to produce wines of quality and freshness in the past . But in the last 60 years or so, the work of the pioneering Librandi family has transformed the vinous landscape, making quality wines at last a real proposition.

    Librandi Ciro BiancoNestled amongst the olive groves, and with copious lemon and orange trees adorning the gentle countryside, the winery is now producing some of the finest whites and rose wines in the south, as well as a spicy, fruity red from the Gaglioppo grape.  Try the Librandi Ciro Bianco, 2014, a glorious sunshine white, bursting with exotic, super-ripe citrus fruit and heavenly peach and wild herb scents, with an incredible freshness. You cannot visit Ciro without going to the Librandi family’s favourite restaurant, the tiny, simple, yet gem-like L’Aquila d’Oro in the village of Ciro. Don’t expect a menu, but the food is spectacular – from the poorest of cuisines, this family-owned restaurant delivers dish after dish of outstanding food, based on the simplest of vegetables, pasta and fish, with lots of fresh ricotta thrown in.

    Finally, we skip over the Messina Straits to the island of Sicily, a glittering gem lapped by an incandescent, azure sea, with its fine beaches, remarkable scenery, and magnificent architecture. Sicily is a fascinating mix of contrasts, from the bustling activity and incessant noise of sultry Palermo, to the dusty roads and quiet tranquillity of the flora-rich centre of the island, and the hazy, lazy, sun-basked villages of the southern coastal side. It’s a melting pot of cultures and styles, with the southern Italian food and lifestyle culture mingled with influences from its close neighbour, northern Africa, which lies within sight of Sicily’s south-west coast.

    Whatever else you do, you must go to one of the local markets – these veer from the raucous, frenetic, exotic richness of Palermo market, so vibrant in the colour - not only of its fruit and vegetables, but also the character of the market sellers and visitors -  to the quiet, hidden village markets on the edge of the sea, which open early in the morning and host stalls of glistening fish and seafood, fresh out of the sea, together with the best of anchovies, capers, olives and simple vegetables. It’s an unforgettable experience. Cuisine varies from the simplest of pasta dishes with clams, squid and tiny chilli peppers, with lashings of local olive oil, to the richer, north African-inspired couscous dishes found near Trapani and Marsala.

    Planeta, Plumbago Nero d'AvolaSicily is Italy’s largest wine producing region, and, like its southern Italian counterparts, was responsible for making vast quantities of distinctly average wine, consumed locally, or shipped northwards. Now it’s a forward-thinking haven of quality and excitement. The pioneers of this change are the talented cousins of the Planeta family, who have driven this change from their winery in on the western side of the island, and have scooped up awards and plaudits all over the world. Set up 30 years ago, they hit the international scene by using the better known grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon; now they are focused on making stars of their own from the region's indigenous grape varieties – Greganico and Catarrato for the whites; Nero d’Avola and Frappato amongst the reds.

    Etna Bianco DOCG, PlanetaThe scented, soft, violet and damson perfumed Nero d’Avola grape is responsible for some of the greatest reds on the island, such as Planeta’s Plumbago Nero d'Avola 2013, with its gloriously ripe, voluptuous, spiced blackberry fruit. The Planeta family are constantly pushing boundaries; their latest acquisition and project is a new estate and winery on the slopes of Mount Etna, where the volcanic rock and high altitude is helping the production of some stunning wines, both red and white. One of my favourite Sicilian whites is the Etna Bianco DOCG, 2013, a sophisticated beauty, made from the Carricante grape, full of lively freshness, ripe peach and lemon peel fruit, and an elegance derived from its location. Planeta also happen to make some of the best olive oil on the island; if Sicily is your destination, then check out Planeta’s very helpful website, full of tips about the area, restaurants and wine tours; you can even book a room at their idyllic guest house on the estate.

    Writing this blog has rekindled my desire to explore this fascinating part of the world further. Steeped in history, rich and evocative in culture, heady and exotic, yet simple and sparse; at the heart of these regions, is their lifeblood – food and wine, in all their myriad guises. I urge you to step off the beaten track and investigate this most beautiful part of the world - you'll be seduced.

    By Angela Mount

  • Tom's Tasting Suggestions

    I’ve dug out of the cellar six vintages of one of my favourite Bordeaux estates – Château Picque Caillou – which presents a probably never-to-be-repeated opportunity for a vertical tasting.  For less than £5, you can compare three absolutely classic vintages, and see how the winemaker addressed the more challenging years in between. Picque Caillou is one of only four wine-producing châteaux still located within Bordeaux city proper, and is just 500m away from the historic and world-famous First Growth, Château Haut-Brion; much beloved by Thomas Jefferson.

    Also on taste is the closest thing we have right now to a fine white Bordeaux, the outstanding Morgenster Estate white.  At one quarter of the price of Domaine de Chevalier, it’s fabulous value for money.  Finally, we have a First Growth from Sauternes – Château Rayne Vigneau.  Following a period in the doldrums, this estate (whose vineyards reputedly yield not just grapes but also precious stones) has now rediscovered its mojo, with a stonking trio of recent vintages.

    Don’t miss this one!

    - Tom

    Tom's Tasting Suggestions


    2005 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan      

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    2006 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan   

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    2007 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan   

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    2009 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan  

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    2010 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan  

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    2011 Château Picque Caillou, Pessac Léognan  

    £22.00          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample


    2013 Estate White, Morgenster

    £21.50          per 75cl bottle

    £0.80            per 25ml sample

    £1.30            per 25ml sample


    2011 Château de Rayne Vigneau, Sauternes  

    £19.50          per 37.5cl bottle

    £1.30            per 25ml sample

  • Italian fizz to put a spring in your step

    Italian fizz promotion

    With the days getting longer and the weather getting warmer, it’s the ideal time to explore the world of Italian fizz. The quality and diversity of Italian bubbles makes it easy to discover a whole new spectrum of flavours, textures and aromas.

    Not only that, these are wines that can be matched with all kinds of foods, and drunk at all kinds of occasions. With Easter just ‘round the corner it would be crazy not to try these wines with the season’s canapés, starters, fruit puddings, chocolate and even cake – the list is almost endless!

    Prosecco Extra Dry, FIOL


    The discerning gentleman can impress his guests this Easter by choosing a smartly packed fizz like Fiol Prosecco Extra Dry NV. With its cool, shimmering black bottle, this Prosecco is a step up in the fashion stakes. But most of all its ripe pear and apple flavours pair well with a vast range of foods, from spicy snacks and nuts to soft fruit crumbles and cakes.

    Prosecco, Ruggeri, Vecchie Viti DOCG


    Ruggeri take Prosecco to an even higher level with their Vecchie Viti Prosecco Superiore 2013. This ‘old vine’ vintage Prosecco is seen as one of the region’s benchmark wines and, according to Richard Baudains in his recent Decanter article, the ‘Superiore’ name does indeed offer “a genuine step up” in quality and character. He went on to award the wine 93 points, remarking on its “biscuit crust and mineral nose, delicate herby nuances” and “slightly spicy, aromatic note.”

    If your tastes are for a more Champagne-like experience, then look no further than Ferrari’s Perle Nero. This is the Blanc de Noirs version of the award winning Chardonnay-based Ferrari Perlé - a wine which recently won the title "World Champion Sparkling Wine”, seeing off competition from 650 labels and 16 countries. Blanc de Noirs is a rare sparkling wine made with just red grapes - in this case 100% Pinot Noir. The golden bubbles give way to a rich, sumptuous palate that is akin to Bollinger’s famous Grande Année, but is half the price!

    The best wines to go with food are sometimes those that have been unfairly left on shelf in favour of others that can be drunk on their own. Two cracking examples are top quality Lambrusco or a light and frothy Moscato d'Asti from one of the best Barolo producers in Piemonte.

    Cantina Cleto Chiarli, Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara PremiumCleto Chiarli’s  Vecchia Modena Lambrusco di Sorbara Premium NV is a wine made to pair with the local foods of Bologna – balsamic, parmesan and salami. But don’t just take our word for it: The Telegraph’s Suzy Atkins was singing its praises at the end of last summer, so why not get in their early to start the trend this year?

    “The wines of Cleto Chiarli (available from Great Western Wine) are the ones to try and include my current favourite lambrusco. Bright ruby-pink, with lively red cherry fruit, tangy and properly dry on the finish. A softly sparkling wine that’s great with charcuterie.”  Suzy Atkins, The Telegraph


    Fontanafredda are one of Barolo’s best producers, receiving 92 points for their Barolo di Serralunga d'Alba DOCG 2010 in this month’s Barolo tasting in Decanter magazine. It might come as a surprise then that they make a Moscato d'Asti, a style often derided for its light, spritzy mouthfeel and grapey, peachy fruits. However Decanter themselves applauded Fontanafredda’s Moscato d'Asti 'Moncuccoin their 100 Great Wines Under £20, writing, “this has pure, zingy, grapey aromas followed up by notes of peach and elderflower in the mouth. Delectable and long – what’s not to like?”

    This is the perfect wine with fruit tarts and other puddings, and at under 6% alcohol it is simply moreish.  It will also go down a treat as a spring spritzer with a dash of soda and ice – a refreshing, low alcohol aperitif to accompany your nibbles.

     By Chris Penwarden


  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Ruggeri, Prosecco Brut Quartese DOCG NV



    A bubbly to toast the last week of our Italian promotion, and just in time for the tasting Saturday this weekend too! Take a look at the press reviews below to see why this fizz is definitely worth a try.

    "Hands down, this is one of the top 5 Prosecco producers. Bright and bubbly, fresh and creamy yet balanced, this smorgasbord of white flowers and peach explains why."

    Decanter Magazine, July 2013

    “The Ruggeri prosecco wines – part of the Bisol company in Valdobbiadene – are complex creatures, each distinct, all delicious. The Brut Quartese is a rounded concentration of apple and sherbet aromas and crisp fruit laced with flavours of mandarin and subtle spice. With intense, dense bubbles and a classic intensity typical of the wines of the region, this is top quality prosecco. No, it’s not cheap, but in this case it’s worth every penny.”

    Italia! Magazine, December 2014

    "...My best discovery of the whole trip, however, was Ruggeri, which is run by a branch of the Bisol family and which makes some lovely wines that may well make you think about prosecco in a different way. Start with the surprisingly intense Quartese, then progress to the elegant Giustino B."

    Fiona Beckett - The Guardian


    Ruggeri, Prosecco Brut Quartese DOCG NV

    Was £14.95  Now £13.16

    Prices above are valid until 31.03.15

    Free delivery over £100  |   5% off 6 bottles   |   10% off 12 bottles

  • Mediterranean Lamb and a nice little Chianti

    Mediterranean lamb and Chianti Classico

    Lamb – you don’t get much more ‘Easter’ than that, do you? But rather than serve with the traditional Sunday roast accompaniments, I find that an old fashioned ratatouille is the perfect match at this time of year. In fact, you can quite happily serve this all through summer – just butterfly a whole leg of lamb and throw it on the barbeque – it’s amazing.

    The Mediterranean flavours of rosemary/garlic-infused lamb work brilliantly with the robust flavours of the chargrilled vegetables, (more) garlic, and fragrant thyme of the ratatouille. The tomatoes are a lovely foil for the rich flavours of the meat, providing an uplifting freshness and zing to the dish.

    What’s great about this is that the roast new potatoes take the same amount of time as the ratatouille, and don’t even need a par-boil, so it really is a no-brainer.

    Wine match

    Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti ClassicoI chose a Chianti Classico, Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico 2012 for this dish and it really worked. The juicy acidity, dark and red fruit flavours and smooth tannins created a match made in heaven. Wine Spectator describes the wine as "harmonious and approachable" with a “silky texture" and "fine length” - I'd have to agree.

    Lamb is quite a fatty meat and needs some acidity to cut through, and this really did the job. The herb and spice layers of this Chianti brought out the rosemary, thyme and bay in the dishes, while hints of orange, rhubarb and plum in this red worked well with the fruitiness of the Mediterranean vegetables.


    What you’ll need:

    Bottle of Castello di Fonterutoli, Chianti Classico 2012 and a nice glass

    Lamb - Joint of your choice

    Tip - I cooked a 750g boned leg for around 55mins and then let it rest for around 20mins - this achieved a medium rare joint. As it was quite small (enough for 3 to 4) I’d advise using a thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook the lamb – the BBC cooking guide is quite handy too.

    The best results will always be with a larger bone-in joint, especially for a family-sized group. Plus the bone can be used for stock afterwards, making a great curry (recipe to come!).


    - garlic and rosemary
    - glass of white wine / same of water
    - salt and pepper

    Potatoes & ratatouille


    For the Ratatouille – makes enough for 4

    This is based on Nigel Slater’s recipe, except I chargrilled / griddled the veggies (again, ideal for a summer BBQ)

    - 1 onion, sliced
    - 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
    - 1 aubergine, thickly sliced
    - 1 courgette, thickly sliced
    - 1 red pepper, de-seeded and quartered
    - 3 plum tomatoes, sliced
    - 2 sprigs thyme
    - 1 handful basil leaves


    - new potatoes
    - garlic – 1 garlic per person, unpeeled
    - fresh bay leaf
    - sprigs rosemary


    Put the oven on, pre-heating to 180°C


    Take a sharp knife and make a few incisions into the lamb

    Take a few sprigs of rosemary and a sliced garlic and push these into the holes. Season the lamb all over with plenty of salt and pepper and give it a rub of olive oil.

    Place the lamb into the preheated oven in a high sided roasting tray with a small glass of white wine and a small glass of water poured around the meat. This can be topped up with water from time to time and will form a light jus/gravy at the end.

    When roasted to perfection (see above for cooking times and weights), take out of the oven and allow to rest wrapped in foil on a warmed plate for 20 mins.

    The juices from the pan can be reduced down for a powerful jus/gravy to pour over the meat just before serving.


    While the lamb is in the oven, or just before, sweat the onions in 1 tbsp of olive oil until they are soft, add sliced garlic cloves and, once soft, add to a deep baking dish.

    Griddle the other veg (except tomatoes) until they have grill lines on each side, and layer in the baking dish. Top with the sliced plum tomatoes and season with salt, black pepper and thyme.

    Bake at 180°C for about 45 minutes until soft and tender. Stir gently with a handful of torn basil leaves before serving.


    You can always do traditional roasties, but as it's spring it’s nice to use some seasonal produce, so I used new potatoes. New potatoes do not need par-boiling so you can throw them into a pan with a tablespoon of hot olive oil whenever you’re ready – just pop them in the oven for 45 mins at 180°C at the same time as the ratatouille. When cooked, squeeze out the cooked garlic from its skin and mix in with the potatoes.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Hot off the press - Southern Italy

    Wines In The Press

    Papale Oro Primitivo di Manduria, VarvaglioneThe March issue of Italia! magazine included two Great Western Wine reds from southern Italy’s Puglia region. Their “Discovery of the month” was Papale Oro Primitivo di Manduria, Varvaglione 2012:

    “When choosing our selection of wines from Puglia for this issue, we attempted to pick wines that wouldn’t be too hard on the wallet. Most are around the £10 mark. But if you can afford to spend more then wines from the region can be absolutely stunning, such as this one from GWW. Loaded with dark, crunchy fruit, spiced to perfection, this is a monster of a wine – you could spend three times as much in Chianti or Piedmont. Delightful!”

    Salice Salentino Riserva, Francesco CandidoTheir second recommendation was a classically styled red from Candido, Salice Salentino Riserva, Francesco Candido 2010, full of red cherry and spice:

    “Harking from the southern tip of Puglia, this is a delightful, easy-drinking red that possesses ripe berry fruit aromas and a distinctive, seductive smokiness. It screams dried fruit to the taste, and remains powerful and robust throughout the chocolatey finish. Very much a food wine, it is made using Francesco Candido’s renowned Negroamaro grape vines and shows just what can be achieved with this Puglian favourite without having to empty the coffers!”

    Planeta Eruzione 1614 CarricanteDecanter’s Top 10 buys from the slopes of Etna included Great Western Wine’s Planeta, Eruzione 1614, Carricante, Castiglione di Sicilia 2013, awarding it 92 points:

    “The addition of a small amount of Riesling seems to lift the aromatics in this superbly focused, pin-sharp Carricante from a large but quality-focused producer. The fruit is generous, the finish long and mineral.” Simon Woolf,, 2015

    American website Drink Me has now extended its reach to the UK, with a monthly round up of what us Brits should be drinking right now. Their article Top 5 White Wines in the United Kingdom featured our very own Planeta, Cometa 2013

    Planeta, Cometa“This is Fiano of the absolute highest quality that is interesting enough to drink all day! Most Fiano hails from Campania but Planeta of Sicily make this example, which is revered across all of Italy and further afield. It exudes ripeness with nectarines/tangerines and red grapes all laced together perfectly with a generous streak of minerality. There’s a bit of honeysuckle filling out the flavours and bringing some weight to the party. Strikes a good balance by combining a dry style with natural sweet flavours from the early-season (August) ripe pickings.” Drink Me

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Chocolate and Wine – The Ultimate Indulgence

    Can wine go with chocolate? Can two indulgent, much-loved products marry? Or is this the marriage made in hell?

    Chocolate and wine – probably two of the items hitting the top of the list of indulgent everyday treats. But can they go together? Get it wrong, and it’s a teeth-screaming disaster on a major scale, jarring every tingling nerve. Get it right, and the world will be a sweeter and better place… a fusion of perfection, indulgence, decadence, and downright lusciousness.  If the match is right, it’s pure hedonistic, abandoned delight.

    A simple rule; you need to balance the sweetness levels. The sweetness of the wine should always match, or be sweeter than, the type of chocolate dessert. And with chocolate, that’s not always easy.

    As if levels of sweetness weren’t enough, it’s all about the type of chocolate, or chocolate dessert. I took this task very seriously, of course; to bring you my best recommendations I had to go through the pain of research, for the greater glory of perfecting the art of matching chocolate and wine. Several gooey desserts, and many Leonidas chocolates later, I’ve got my favourites, and some well-learnt new ideas.

    At a very basic level, Chocolate can kill many of the more delicate, sweet white wines, from German Riesling, to lively Muscats, simply because it will overpower and dominate. Save these glorious wines for fruit-based desserts.

    Chocolate, quite frankly, is an irresistible, sensuous, gorgeous brute – full on, unashamed, dominant and potentially overpowering.  At the risk of venturing into Fifty Shades territory, it veers from the flirty, playful temptress, which is white chocolate, to the Alpha male; the dark, brooding Montezuma-style chocolate which will beguile your senses, and take control, leaving you irresistible to its charms, albeit in different guises. Add the right wine to this, and it’s an ecstatic ascent to heavenly satisfaction.

    Fontanafredda, Moscato d'Asti 'Moncucco' DOCG

    White chocolate

    So it’s all about which chocolate, or which chocolate dessert… let’s start gently, with white chocolate, which is a relatively easy match, as it contains no cocoa solids; it’s the creamy, rich texture that you need to match.  The frothily light, sweetly grapey, and downright refreshing Fontanafredda Moscato d’Asti Moncucco, is a perfect, romantic, seductive match with strawberries dipped in white chocolate, or will also manage to stand up to the lightest of white chocolate and raspberry-rippled mousse or parfait.


    The Stump Jump Sticky Chardonnay, d'Arenberg

    Milk chocolate

    Riesling, and the more citrusy styles of sweet wine, are amongst my favourites, but are easily overpowered by chocolate. However, stick to the less intense milk chocolate, or balance with a fruit flavour, and they will work harmoniously. The soft, fluffy, textured layers of a milk chocolate mousse, cake, or Easter egg would work well with the rich, bold, dried apricot and citrus style of The Stump Jump Sticky 2010, which is made predominantly from Chardonnay.


    Peller Icewine Vidal


    Orange and chocolate are delightful partners, and this is where the tangerine and candied peel character, and mouthwatering, yet sweet, freshness of Peller Vidal Ice Wine 2013 comes into its own. Made in miniscule quantities from the luscious nectar of frozen grapes, the citrus flavours in both wine and chocolate will lift the entire experience. Sweet Rieslings from Australia would also work here.


    Bertani, Recioto Valpolicella DOC


    Red fruits, especially raspberries are simply glorious with chocolate, and here I like to ring the changes, and bring in the opulent, plummy, berry fruit flavours of sweet red and amber wines.  Try Bertani Recioto Valpolicella 2011, made from the concentrated juice of semi-dried red grapes, which balanced delightfully with both chocolate and raspberry torte, and, even a more unusual, beetroot and chocolate cake.


    Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat

    Dark chocolate

    If your chocolate of choice is darker and richer in cocoa solids, or if you bring honey, caramel or nuts into the equation, the journey of choice would lead to richer, Muscat-style ‘sticky’ wines. Chocolate soufflé with salted caramel was a sublime match made even beyond celestial skies, with the unctuous, brooding, mellifluous gorgeousness of Skillogalee Liqueur Muscat, with its brown sugar, toffee, and candied hazelnut tones. This is also a great bet with oozingly rich, decadent chocolate fondants.


    PX, Bella Luna, Jerez

    Port, especially Tawny is always great with intense, pure chocolate truffles.  However, I must share with you one of the most heaven-sent matches of them all, which may just surprise you.  It takes a bold wine to stand up to the sheer intensity and irrestistible, beckoning power of dense, dark chocolate, be it in the form of a truffle, a chocolate nemesis, or a dense gooey, dark chocolate torte – step up the equally dark, brooding and droolingly-glorious La Luna Pedro Ximinez, with its thick, dark, treacly colour, and  luscious, viscous, toffee,  muscovado, mocha and dried apricot fruit richness. Yes, it is a Sherry. And it is about as perfect as you can get with the very best and darkest of chocolate. I need say no more. Try it. Be seduced.

    By Angela Mount

  • The Ides of Marche

    The Marche is a region of central Italy that was previously ignored in favour of neighbouring Abruzzo. The red Montepulciano of the aforementioned Abruzzo has long been the staple house wine of many a trattoria, and a great all-rounder it is too. Fruity, medium bodied and fresh, it has enough concentration to match with the heartiest of Italian dishes, plus it’s a bargain to boot.

    However, some forward thinking producers, like Umani Ronchi, have been making waves with the region’s long-forgotten white varieties, and some vibrant, intriguing reds.

    Umani Ronchi 

    Owned by the Bianchi-Bernetti family for well over 50 years, Umani Ronchi has become one of Italy’s most respected producers thanks to its championing of local wines such as Verdicchio Classico and Rosso Conero. As one of the third generation of Umani Ronchi, Michele Bernetti took the reins in the late 1980s, developing a family business with terroir as its cornerstone.


    Umani Ronchi, Verdicchio Classico Superiore, Casal di SerraFor Michele, the finest grape of Marche, and the wine that defines Umani Ronchi, is the indigenous Verdicchio.  He produces wine in the Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC, an area with the perfect climate for top quality Verdicchio, being just 20 miles from the Adriatic. Umani Ronchi have transformed the style and image of this wine, using lower yields in order to produce concentrated fruit flavours and a rounded palate.

    On the 30th anniversary of Umani Ronchi’s Verdicchio Classico Superiore, Casal di Serra 2013 last year, Daily Mail wine critic Matthew Jukes wrote:

    “ favourite Verdicchio – the brilliant, single vineyard Casal di Serra. Tasting like a classy Italian ‘Chablis-style’ white I have followed this great value wine for 28 of its years and every single one has been a stunner.”

    Michele says that the family’s Verdicchio can be seen as two wines in one:

    “... our Verdicchio not only has an easy drinking characteristic in youth (thanks to acidity and freshness) but also a more surprising capacity to age that will bring them to be great wines even after over 10 years!”

    Montepulciano...but not as we know it

    Umani Ronchi, Cumaro, Rosso Conero RiservaRosso Conero is made with the Montepulciano grape, together with a maximum of 15% Sangiovese; the finest examples, however, use a minimal amount of Sangiovese. In fact, Umani Ronchi’s version, Cumaro, Rosso Conero Riserva 2010, doesn’t use a drop – it is a 100% Montepulciano. The wine takes its name from Mount Conero, a mountain which towers over Ancona in the south, and it is certainly a wine that stands head and shoulders above all other reds of the region.

    This flagship red uses the very best hand-selected grapes from the family’s 'San Lorenzo' vineyard in Sbrozzola, Osimo - the wine’s hints of wild cherry and fruits of the forest are complemented by the 16 months of barrel ageing and 7 months resting in the bottle.

    Also try...

    As well as these modern classics, Umani Ronchi produces a couple of other fabulous whites and reds that are definitely worth seeking out.

    Umani Ronchi, Pecorino Golden FleeceThe Pecorino Golden Fleece 2013 is a fragrant, minerally wine that makes a refreshing aperitif or a lovely match with seafood or simply grilled fish. On the nose there are hints of peach, mango and candied rose petals that open up to a long, full, mineral-rich palate. The wine is also brilliantly packaged, with a fresh, modern, inviting label.

    Wine buyer Sergio de Luca reported back from his Made in Italy tasting weekend in Bath recently, saying that the Umani Ronchi Lacrima di Morro d'Alba 2013 was one of the surprise customer favourites. Again, the wine is beautifully labelled, full of vibrant aromas of rose and violet and crushed blackberry. The palate has a firm structure that would suggest a food match with rich meats like venison or even a roast Easter lamb.

    By Chris Penwarden

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