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February 2007

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Valentine's Day: Say it with Vino!

Valentine's Day is traditionally the day when lovers express their love for each other, whether anonymously or in other more direct ways(!). The Festa di San Valentino is a hugely popular celebration in Italy. It commemorates the martyred Valentinus (beheaded by the mad Emperor Claudius II) who, just before dying, sent a note to his lover signed 'from your Valentine'. Maybe it's just the time of year, for equivalent romantic festivities apparently take place throughout the world on or around mid-February. Are they linked to pagan fertility rites? Who knows, perhaps out of the depths of winter, the first signs of sap are beginning to rise and so thoughts turn to love and romance?

What better way to celebrate San Valentino than with vino (well, you would expect me to suggest that, wouldn't you?)? But not just any old vino, of course. If it were me, I'd like nothing better from my secret Valentine - yes, that unknown mystery person who has been sending me a blank card annually for the past 25 years, no kidding (well, at least Kim knows it's no one too young) - than a bottle of Cascina Fontana Barolo, one of my alltime favourite wines. The 2002 is really upfront and drinking beautifully now so it would be perfect for that intimate diner a deux of your dreams. Special Club Vino offer price £16.56 (usual CV bottle price £18.40)

On the other hand, it's hard to beat Champagne, undoubtedly the sexiest wine in the world. Our Champagnes come from the small house of Rene Geoffroy in Cumieres, near Epernay. Rene and his son Jean-Baptiste are true artists who handcraft their wines following the old traditional champenois methods, including fermentation in wood. Cuvee Volupte is the Geoffroy's top deluxe cuvee wine, produced from a blend of their own premier cru grapes, 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, fermented in large oak barrels before undergoing the laborious method of secondary fermentation in the bottle. The Champagne that results has an incredible biscuity richness and depth of flavour, combined with fine bubbles, elegance and finesse, the hallmarks of great Champagne. This is a really stunning wine and a Valentine's bargain at £5 off the normal Club Vino price £19.90 (usual CV bottle price £24.90).

Other suggested wines for San Valentino? Prosecco Bisol Jeio, Champagne Rene Geoffroy rosé (only a few bottles left), Arneis Blange 2005 (see below), Donatella Cinelli Colombini Brunello di Montalcino 1998...

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Club Vino 2007 events

We are just putting in place our provisional schedule for Club Vino events for 2007. If you are interested in joining us, please watch for further details, or email me to reserve a place.

An introduction to wine tasting – March

Pebblebed pruning and planting in Pebblebed vineyard, Ebford – weekend of 17-18 March

A journey through Italy in a bottle - May

Nebbiolo masterclass and wine dinner – late June

The last of the summer wines – Sea Dream boat trip to Turf for bbq accompanied by Vino wines – late Aug/early Sept

Club Vino trip to Italy – mid-October

Club Vino Christmas tasting and party – early Dec

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Arneis and Vernaccia, exciting new white wines coming to a Wine Cellar near you...

What interests us most about Italian wines is the continuing fascination of discovering great wines made from indigenous Italian grape varieties that are cultivated virtually no where else on earth. We've been looking to find some more great white wines to add to the Vino list, and I'm delighted that we can now offer a couple of real stunners.

Arneis Blange is from the famous Ceretto wine estate, produced from characterful Arneis grapes grown in the Roero hills of the Langhe in Piedmont (not far from Mario's Barolo wine hills). Arneis may not be well known here, but it's become hugely fashionable in Italy. This stunning example demonstrates why. CV bottle price £11.50

Vernaccia di San Gimignano, by contrast, comes from vineyards that surround Tuscany's most famous medieval town. Michaelangelo, no less, claimed that Vernaccia is a wine 'that kisses, licks, bites, tickles and stings'. While I won't necessarily claim that our example, from the outstanding family wine estate of Montenidoli, will do quite all of that, nonetheless, this is a classic traditional Vernaccia fermented (like red wine) on the skins to result in a full bodied wine with character and personality that goes outstandingly well with full-flavoured foods. CV bottle price £10.35

We'll be introducing both of these wines over the coming weeks, so do drop in to the Wine Cellar and try them for yourself.

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Zabaglione al Moscato

When we visited the famous Cesare in his hilltop restaurant in the Langhe hills during our Club Vino visit to Mario and Luisa Fontana's Cascina Fontana, we enjoyed the most incredible, lengthy meal that finished with a beautifully light and frothy zabaglione, made not with the traditional Marsala but with local Moscato wine. I can picture Cesare now, in his kitchen with the open fire where he cooked the spit-roasted goat for us, swaying to a musical, syncopated beat as, with big balloon whisk, he beat that frothy mixture of egg and sugar and delicately sweet Moscato wine into the lightest and most delicious concoction. Is this the perfect dessert for a special San Valentino dinner? It's hard elbow work, undoubtedly, and it takes time, for sure: but your efforts will be well rewarded I'm certain. Email me afterwards and let me know!

4 egg yolks
4 tbsp sugar
About half a bottle of Cascina Fontana Moscato del Piemonte
Biscotti and fresh fruit

You'll need a double boiler for this. Improvise with a copper basin over a just simmering pan of hot (not boiling) water.

First, in your copper basin or other pan, beat the egg yolks and sugar together with a balloon whisk until they are really creamy. Place the basin over the just simmering pan of hot water (do not let the water touch the bottom of the pan or boil or else it will curdle the eggs). Gradually add the Moscato wine to the egg and sugar mixture, beating constantly. As the mixture gets amalgamated, add a bit more wine, beating all the while. Once all the wine has been incorporated, continue to beat until the mixture has increased in volume and is lightly frothy and the consistency of a light custard (cooking longer will thicken the mixture if you prefer it that way). The whole process is fairly easy to do but labour intensive, which is part of the appeal of making zabaglione for someone! When ready, ladle into warmed glasses and serve with biscotti and fresh fruit.

Suggested wine: Cascina Fontana Moscato del Piemonte

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Happy San Valentino to all (and may your secret Valentine finally come out of the closet -who knows, perhaps he or she is reading this?).

Best wishes 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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