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
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
the coming Saturdays to taste and discover these special wines
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
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