a community of wine lovers


October 2008

New wines from Mario Fontana

We are delighted to have recently received a new shipment of fantastic wines from Mario Fontana and invite you to drop by the Vino cellar tomorrow to sample some of them. Over the next month we will be doing more comprehensive tastings of Cascina Fontana wines in the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar and in The Globe. Mario's wines are so genuine, well made, and full of character, and come to us direct from his cellars in the wine hills of Barolo. Later this month, a small group of Club Vino members will be visiting Mario to sample the new 2008 vintages from the cask, following a trip to the Slow Food Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre. This direct and personal connection is what Vino is all about. It is a connection I hope you experience and enjoy, too, whenever you taste these wonderful and genuine wines, and with us on future visits to the Barolo wine zone, or when Mario and Luisa are next over in Topsham.


Club Vino Gourmet India Wine Dinner at Denleys Essence of India - Monday December 1st - SAVE THE DATE

During the Topsham Food Festival (doesn't that seem a long time ago?!), Denley's Essence of India's new 5-star chef, Dharmendra Gour Singh, gave a fantastic talk and hands-on demonstration of the preparation of northern Indian foods. Dharmendra is himself from Rajastan and comes to Topsham after working in top restaurants in Chelsea and around the world. It's fantastic to have him here, and we are delighted that he is going to prepare a very special gourmet Indian meal for us that will include exclusive and creative dishes that simply are not available anywhere else. These special foods will demonstrate Dharmendra's skill at the highest level, and they will be matched with some equally special Vino wines. We hope the whole experience will be amazing. Our Gourmet India wine dinner will be at the start of December and so this will be great way to kick off the holiday season. We'll be tasting some of Dharmendra's dishes and matching wines over the next week or so, so more details will follow soon. In the meantime, please save the date in your diary (price is likely to be around £45 per person for a deliciously exotic 5-course meal matched by equally stunning wines) - if you'd like to reserve your place email me or call Jamil on 01392 875675 (mention Club Vino Gourmet India wine dinner).


Harvest time

In early September I was in Austria's Burgenland and the harvest was already in full swing. On the hot Pannonia plain that separates Austria from Hungary, the grapes ripen early in a steamy, hothouse atmosphere to produce a range of intensely coloured and flavoured red wines as well as amazing, lusciously sweet dessert wines from grapes effected by noble rot. A few weeks ago we were in the Prosecco wine hills, north of Venice, tasting grapes off the vine on the famous Cartizze hill above Valdobiaddene, and watching tractors trundle down the roads, laden with small crates of grapes. Everywhere, the smell of fermenting grape juice was in the air. This is always a heady and intoxicating time of year!

Mario reports from Barolo that the Dolcetto grapes, from which he makes his youngest, punchiest, and fruitiest wine, are now safely harvested and fermenting in stainless steel vats. The harvest of Barbera grapes begins next week. And in a few weeks from now, it will be time to bring in the Nebbiolo grapes, always among the latest to ripen in all of Italy - the name Nebbiolo comes from 'nebbia' or fog because traditionally the Nebbiolo grapes are harvested in mid to late October (sometimes even in to November), the season of mists.

We hear news, too, from Giudita Politi's Castelli di Jesi vineyards in Le Marche, planted with Verdicchio grapes that result in our luscious and favourite white wine, Loretello. Writes Giuditta, "Harvesting is going on...working and working every day also on Sunday....and I'm getting very tired. But it is a real pleasure to work so hard when grapes are so good as this year. Temperature outside is low so that we don't have to worry about fermentation starting too early. We had a very nice and sunny August and beginning of September, then it started raining. However, the grape sugar content is fine because we pruned the plants back at the beginning of August to limit the yield. I think I'll end up having a very good Loretello in 2008....we'll see." And you will taste in about a year's time (we are only now awaiting the first shipment of Loretello 2007 - it's a white wine that always needs some time in the bottle beore release).

Meanwhile, here in Devon, Geoff has already harvested his black Rondo and Pinot Noir Early grapes, as well as the Madeleine Angevine white grapes that add the lovely fruit and charm to Pebblebed white. The remaining grapes, mainly Seyval, will stay on the vine for a few weeks longer to ripen further and get as sweet and as good as possible. The quantities are down again this year, but Geoff hopes that quality will be high. Final harvest is provisionally set for Sunday October 26th and this is always a great occasion, so please do come out and give Geoff a hand - but do check with him closer to the date to ensure that this has not changed - email geoff@pebblebed.co.uk.


Venice: a loft with a view; Alex Kai, Venice's only female gondolier

Last month we were in Venice twice, once for pleasure, once for work (well, it was hardly onerous - we were researching and photographing a story on bars). We have been travelling fairly regularly to Venice for more than 30 years now and have stayed in any variety of places, from the grandest 5-star hotels (when the magazines are picking up the bill) to no-star dives that frankly we'd rather forget. On our last visit we stayed in the Residenza Art Deco. It is worth recommending as the place is not only lovely and in a good location (near Accademia), but also (very rare in Venice) available at a reasonable price.

Staying at the Residenza Art Deco, or at its small sister hotels (also recommended), provides a unique opportunity to have a gondola tour with Alex Kai, Venice's only female gondolier.Alex's story is an amazing one, how she fell in love with both Venice and the gondola, and trained for many years to learn this difficult skill, which requires not only learning how to propel and manoeuvre a nearly 11 metre long boat with a single oar, but also how to negotiate around the crowded and narrow canals of this watery city. An equal challenge for Alex was to learn how as to negotiate the arcane, deep-seated and equally confused and muddy prejudices and protected interests that she found here.

Find out more here.


Best to all,

Marc and Kim


Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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