I am sure, like us, you have been enjoying the amazing April weather.
How long will it last, that is the million dollar question. Certainly
through this weekend, we hope. The Exeter Festival of South West
Food and Drink, now in its 8th year, is taking place once more
in The Castle and Northernhay Gardens, starting this Friday through
Sunday. On the Friday and Saturday evenings, the After Dark Festival
will have live music as well as local food and drink. Geoff will
be in the midst of it all in Castle Courtyard with his Pebblebed
Devon Sparkling and Oyster Bar. And, as usual, there will be Tuscan
contingent coming over to join us once again: Andrea Falciani,
the brilliant pastamaker from near Pisa, as well as three young
Tuscan chefs who will be staying at The Globe (many thanks, Liz!)
and looked after by Bella. If you see them, either at the Festival
or in Topsham, please give them a warm welcome.
As for me, I've just returned from a trip to Piedmont with Donald
Sloan, Head of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure
Management, lecturer Matt Todd, and some 16 international hospitality
students. While there we met with Carlo Petrini, the dynamic founder
of the Slow Food movement, visited the University of Gastronomic
Sciences in Pollenzo, and had a wonderful visit and tasting with
Mario Fontana at Cascina Fontana, in the heart of the Barolo wine
country. Mario was inspirational to the students, teaching them
not just about how wine is made, but speaking to them too about
his philosophy and approach to life and living. Bravo, Mario! While
there, it was an opportunity, too, to make some plans for the forthcoming
Club Vino trip to the Barolo wine hills in early September and
to meet again with old friend Fulvio Siccardi, the briliant and
innovative one-star Michelin chef based in Roero, as well as with
Alberto and friends at Slurp! in Turin.
Our close links with Mario and Cascina Fontana grow ever deeper
and more profound as the years go by. We have known Mario since
he was a young man in his early 20s when he first drove over with
a van full of Barolo and Barbera to sell to Nello's Ristorante
way back in the early 90s. Over this period of nearly two decades,
we have seen Mario's family grow up as he has seen ours, and we
have shared many special moments together, always over a glass
of wine or two. It is not just us, either: so many Topsham and
Vino friends have come to know Mario and Luisa on their frequent
visits here over the many years that they have truly become friends
of our whole community.
I value this close relationship immensely and I am proud to be
able to bring Mario's genuine wines direct from his cellar to ours.
These are very special wines indeed, and not just because of such
long-standing links and connections. Mario makes wines completely
naturally, with only limited intervention in both the vineyard
and the cellar. This means, for example, that for fermentation
he utilises only natural yeasts present on the skins of the grapes
(most wineries today introduce yeasts cultured in a laboratory).
The wines are unfiltered and undergo stabilisation simply by being
transferred outside during the cold of winter. Racking is done
following the phases of the moon. In every aspect of growing grapes
and production, Mario's wines are made as naturally as possible.
As those of you who love these wines already know, the resulting
wines are very pure and direct expressions of the grape varieties
- Dolcetto, Barbera and Nebbiolo - and the terroir from which they
come, Le Langhe.
Having extolled the excellence of Mario's wines for so long and
flown the flag for them here in the UK, I'm delighted for Mario
that his wines are now receiving considerable national and international
attention and acclaim. I opened the in-flight magazine on a transatlantic
flight recently only to read a review of Mario's wines! Berry Bros
and Rudd, Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant, champions
of the greatest wines in the world, has discovered Mario and is
working closely with him as well as offering his wines for sale
(albeit at prices somewhat higher than ours!). And, on a recent
visit to Hong Kong, Mario's wines were a huge hit with a new generation
of Asian winedrinkers, notably the stunning Nebbiolo wines, Langhe
Nebbiolo and Barolo. As I have long maintained, these are truly
great wines and we are privileged to have them here in the Topsham
For those of you who have been waiting for a new shipment of Mario's
Barbera (horror of horrors, we have been, would you believe,
Barbera-less for the past month!), I am delighted and relieved
to report that we took delivery of a pallet wine last week, mainly
Barbera together with reinforcements of Gavi, Dolcetto, Langhe
Nebbiolo, Barolo and the delightful, summery 'Dorato' Moscato.
Please email me if you would like to stock up - free deliveries
in Topsham and surrounds!
To mark the auspicious return of Mario's Barbera, which is our
our best-selling wine, there will be an:
Informal Barbera tasting (various vintages)
in the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar Saturday May 7th from 11.30 to
1.30. Please come along to
taste, understand what Mario brings to his wines, reacquaint
yourselves with this longstanding favourite, and purchase by
the bottle or case.
Vino Kitchen Dates - May and June
Our monthly 'pop-up' in the Pebblebed Cellar seems to be as a popular
as ever. Here are the next dates:
Wed May 18th Italian Table
Wed June 15th Topsham Table - our annual summer West Country meal
email email@example.com now to book your places
Club Vino trip to Barolo
As previously discussed, we will be making a Club Vino trip to
Barolo in early September to see Mario and to help him to inaugurate
his new Barolo wine cellar. The visit will be organised for 3
or possibly 4 nights, though of course anyone can stay out longer
if you so wish. The programme is not yet finalised but, having
just returned from the region last week, I can assure you that
it will be very good! How much will this trip cost? I can only
say that it will cost what it will cost - that is, we will help
to organise the trip together with Mario, and all of the costs
will be shared precisely between those taking part. Our plan
will be to stay in either simple agriturismo (farmhouse accommodation)
or small hotels, share transport with a mini-bus or bus (depending
on numbers) and enjoy a selection of meals that will range from
rustic picnics to full feasts that demonstrate the glory and
grandeur of the cucina of Le Langhe (in my opinion probably Italy's
greatest food region). Naturally there will be some epic wine
tastings along the way. For those who have already indicated
that you would like to join us, can you please re-confirm your
interest to me by email as soon as possible firstname.lastname@example.org.
For anyone else who is interested, please let me know as soon
as possible and if there is sufficient space then we would love
to have you join us.
Bunet di Luisa
Bunet is a traditional dessert of Le Langhe, a sort of chocolate
crème caramel. Here is how Luisa, Mario's wife, makes
it. Buon appetito!
7 tablespoons of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons of sweetened cocoa
1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon of flour
1/2 litre of milk
12 small amaretti biscuits
3 tablespoons of rum and/or espresso coffee
Bunet is traditionally made in a circular ring
mould. If you don't have one, then use a large heatproof dish
or cake tin (a rectangular pâté terrine could be
used). Place 3 tablespoons of sugar in the mould or tin and heat
directly over the hob to melt and carmelise. As it melts, let
it spread around the base to cover uniformly.
In a mixing bowl, add 4 tablespoons of sugar and 4 whole eggs.
Beat well with a wooden spoon until well blended. Add the sweetened
and unsweetened cocoa powder and the flour to make a mound. Add
the milk, a little at a time, blending into the cocoa and flour.
Smash the amaretti biscotti into small pieces. Add these to the
mixture together with the rum and/or espresso. Transfer the mixture
into the prepared, caramelised mould or cake tin.
Place the bunet mould in a roasting tin, and add boiling water
3/4 to the top of the mould to make a bain marie. Place in a pre-heated
160 degree C oven for about 20 minutes. To test if done, insert
a wooden skewer to see if it comes out clean. If not, then return
to the oven for a few minutes more.
When cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature
for at least a couple of hours. When ready to serve, run a knife
around the edge of the bunet, then place a plate over the top of
the mould and turn over with a forceful shake. Hopefully the bunet
should emerge on the plate intact! Cut into slices and serve.
Suggested wine: Cascina Fontana Moscato 'Dorato'
Here's to the sunshine, to summer in Devon, and to sharing a glass
with you soon: of Pebblebed Sparkling at the Exeter Festival of
South West Food and Drink, or a glass or bottle of Mario's Dolcetto,
Barbera or Barolo.
Thank you again for your continued support. We look forward to
seeing you at a Pebblebed or Vino event soon.
Very best wishes,
Marc and Kim