a community of wine lovers


November 2012


New vintages from Cascina Fontana just in!

For me, this is a really exciting moment of the year: the annual arrival of new vintages from Mario Fontana's Cascina Fontana estate in the Barolo wine hills. At around this time every year, we receive a shipment of the just released vintages, wines that I have usually tasted over the past year in the cellars with Mario, either direct from the casks or from the bottle but before they have been deemed ready for release. Now is the moment when they are ready: to drink, to enjoy, to sell.
The new vintages that have just arrived are Gavi 2011 (this well-structured, minerally white is always from the preceding harvest - that said, it is a white wine that gains in complexity and structure with further ageing in the bottle); Dolcetto d'Alba 2011 (the earliest release and youngest of Mario's reds); Barbera d'Alba 2010 (a more structured wine, this has a further year of ageing than Dolcetto with time spent in a mix of new and used French oak barrels); Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 (like Barbera, Langhe Nebbiolo spends time in French oak barrels before release to add complexity and structure as well a subtle touch of the smooth, soft vanilla tones from the oak); and finally, Barolo 2008 (always a wine of the greatest concentration and complexity and which requires considerable time first in large Slavonian oak barrels, then stainless steel tank and finally ageing in the bottle before it is ready to be released).

It has to be said that the vast majority of inexpensive wines that the world drinks are, sadly, produced industrially on a large scale. They are brands with one main aim of the winemaker being to manufacture as consistent a product as possible, year in and year out. The wines often arrive in this country in immense bladders within containers, stabilised with a cocktail of chemicals, in some cases flash pasteurised, to be bottled in vast plants here in Britain, rather than directly on the estate on which the grapes have been grown and the wines made. They are ready to be drunk immediately because for all intents and purposes they are dead, no longer a living product.

Mario's wines, like hand-crafted artisan wines from throughout the quality wine world, are quite the opposite. The wines are living, developing, changing, evolving - not only in the bottle but even in your glass as you drink them. For winemakers like Mario the variations that naturally occur from one year to the next are positively to be embraced. "My wines are like my children," he says. "Each is always different, but I love them all the same."

This to me is the beauty of wine; this is why this annual moment of the year - the moment to taste the newly released vintages - remains so special.

I invite you to join me in the Pebblebed cellar on the coming Saturdays to taste and discover these special wines with me.


Mature vintages

While the new vintages are indeed very special, their arrival also allows us to re-evaluate the older vintages of the same wine that remain in our cellar. Youth most certainly has its attraction, not the least that its very precocity can serve as a foil to highlight the more mature charm and character of older examples. For example, the newly arrived Dolcetto d'Alba 2011 is bursting with vivid colour, scent and primary fruit - it is refreshing and gorgeous and gulpable. Older vintages of the same way, from 2010, 2009, 2008 and even further back gradually replace the more straightforward if punchy qualities with a deeper complexity as the bouquet and flavour evolves with bottle age. Such an evolution is even more pronounced with wines such as Barbera d'Alba, Langhe Nebbiolo and Barolo, a wine capable of ageing for decades, and which positively requires time and patience before it fully reveals itself.

For lovers of mature wines, we do keep stocks of older vintages, something not normally available elsewhere. This means that it is possible to taste wines 'vertically' - that is, sample the same wine but from different vintages. Over the coming Saturdays, I will be opening some older bottles to demonstrate this.


Vino Kitchen Italian Table and Festive Italian Table - November and December dates

Our Vino Kitchen Italian Table on November 21st is now fully booked and we have a waiting list.

Spaces are still available for the Festive Vino Kitchen Italian Table on December 21st. This end-of-year feast is always popular and great fun - cost is £25 per person for a 4-course meal or £20 for current Club Vino members. Email me as soon as possible to secure your place.


Devon Wine School @ Darts Farm

Our good friends Alastair and Carol Peebles have now transferred the Devon Wine School from Cheriton Fitzpaine to a new home at Darts Farm. Alastair, one of the few select Masters of Wine - there are only 297 in the world - is a not only hugely knowledgable but also a gifted wine communicator while Carol is a talented professional chef who creates delicious foods to accompany wines. Working at Darts Farm, they are putting together a range of different events, including tutored wine tastings, themed wine dinners, and wine tasting courses that will appeal to all abilities, tastes and interests. The first event on Tuesday November 20th is a Discover Wine Tasting that explores some of the classic grapes of the world.

Find out more here


Recipe - La porchetta

At our October Vino Kitchen Italian Table, we served la porchetta, one of my favourite foods. Porchetta is found throughout central Italy, often sold from roadside stalls, an entire roasted pig stuffed with a pungent mix of herbs, garlic, salt and chilli. For me, the best porchetta comes from the Colli Albani wine hills just outside of Rome, carved off in thick slices, packed into crusty rolls, to enjoy in simple drinking dens not unlike Pebblebed Cellar washed down with carafes of golden Frascati or Marino wine. This recipe replicates those tastes as closely as possible.

Serves about 8

2kg shoulder or spare rib of pork roasting joint
Large bunch of rosemary, stripped from the stem and finely chopped
A head of garlic, peeled, crushed and finely chopped
3 tablespoons coarse sea salt
3 tablespoons fennel seeds
2 tablespoons coarse chilli flakes (or to taste)
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to rub on the crackling
Half a bottle of dry white Italian wine

Pre-heat oven to 220 degrees C.

Make a paste from the crushed garlic, rosemary, coarse sea salt, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and black pepper, moistened with a good glug or two of extra virgin olive oil. Snip the string around the pork joint, lay it out and spread with this mixture. Roll the joint back up and re-tie with string. Rub the scored skin with extra virgin olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt. Place in a roasting tin, add a glass or two of dry white wine and a glass or two of water or stock. Place in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until the crackling pops, then turn the oven down to 95 degrees C. Cook for about 10 hours, adding more wine, water or stock if you need to, and testing from time to time with a meat thermometer until the internal temperature reaches 80 degrees C at its thickest point. At this point, you can turn your oven down even lower to hold until ready to serve. Rest the joint for about 20 minutes, remove the crackling and cut into pieces, then carve the porchetta in thick slices. De-fat the cooking juices to serve poured over as a jus. Enjoy with rosemary roasted potatoes and with cavolo nero.

Suggested wine: Both Mario's white Cascina Fontana Gavi as well as Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d'Alba go very well with this classic.


We look forward to seeing you soon and to raising a warming glass of wine or two with you..

Un saluto e a presto,

Marc and Kim




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