News from the Barolo wine hills
2007 is turning out to be an exceptional year in
vineyards throughout the world, but it is too early to say whether
the unusual climatic conditions will necessarily result in exceptional
wines. Geoff's Pebblebed vineyards in Ebford suffered from the
incredibly rainy May and June (not to mention July and August)
and as a result, the harvest will be considerably reduced this
year, simply because the fruit was unable to set during flowering.
However, with warm autumn weather, there is still a good chance
that the grapes that are on the vines will ripen sufficiently to
make excellent quality wines, albeit in vastly diminished quantity.
In Italy, there are reports that this year will see
one of the earliest harvests in recent memory, possibly even the
earliest for some decades if not centuries! Grape picking has already
begun in some areas.
Mario Fontana has just emailed me to share with us
his firsthand report on conditions in the Barolo wine hills:
"Here, after a week of cooler temperatures
(20-25 degrees C), summer has returned, with temperatures now
in excess of 30 degrees C. In the vineyards we are now undertaking
the second 'diradamento' - the thinning out and the cleaning
of the grape bunches [this involves cutting away bunches that have
not fully formed or which are unlikely to ripen sufficiently, and
even removing excess foliage to enable to grapes to receive the
sun more directly]. We will finish this work tomorrow.
"2007 has been a very precocious year.
In comparison to normal years, we are at least three weeks ahead
and I believe that we will begin our harvest of Dolcetto grape
as early as the very beginning of September!
"The other main feature of 2007 has been
its remarkable dryness. We had very little snow during the winter
[skiiers will recall that the Italian Alps had very little snow
all last year], then only a little rain during the spring,
and no heavy rains at all during the summer. For the moment, it
seems that the vines have not suffered unduly due to the lack of
water, perhaps because we have also had nights that have been cooler
than normal all summer long, so the vines have not become overly
"However, it is too early to say how these
conditions will effect the finished wines, and especially the
future development of the wines during vinification and afterwards
ageing in barrel and bottle."
Interestingly, in the same email, Mario has written
to explain to me conditions during previous years especially in
relation to the Nebbiolo wines that we will be tasting for the
Nebbiolo Masterclass on September 7th at The Globe. The 1997 and
1999 vintages that he will be sending over specially for the tasting
should be fascinating, demonstrating not just how different annual
climatic conditions result in very different wines, but also showing
how Nebbiolo wines have a remarkable capacity evolve, develop and
gain in complexity from ageing in the bottle.
Please email as soon as possible if you would like
to join us for the wine tasting and wine dinner.
Wines for summer - the Tomaresca estate, Puglia
O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!
John Keats "Ode to a Nightingale"
The Tormaresca estate is located in Puglia, the heel
of the Italian boot, way down in Italy's Deep South. This fertile,
sunbaked region was long the source of vast oceans of wines that
often found their way north to be surreptiously blended with more
insipid vintages in Italy as well as France. Today modern technology
and practises both in the vineyard and in the cantina are resulting
in vivid and exciting wines that are truly what the
poet Keats yearned for: "O for a beaker
full of the warm South!"
Tormaresca Charonnay is an unoaked modern Chardonnay
that is beautifully rich in flavour. Early picking, and care during
the vinification at low temperature ensures that an underlying
acidity keeps it fresh and vivid. Tormaresca NePriCa is a
fascinating blend of Negroamaro and Primitivo (Puglia's two mainstay
black grapes) together with Cabernet Sauvignon. Richly spicy and
warm, it's a great wine to enjoy with barbequed meats.
I think these wines are both ideal for summer drinking,
the sort to enjoy with foods cooked and eaten outdoors. But they
are also full-flavoured enough to enjoy in the depths of winter,
too - yes, I'm already anticipating those ridiculously short days
that will too soon be upon us, the times when we too will yearn
for '...a draught of vintage that hath been
cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth...'
The perfect steak
I'm not an avowed carnivore exclusively, but there are times when
only steak will do. Cooking the perfect steak, of course, is always
the equally perfect excuse to enjoy a good or better still a
great bottle of red wine. Here's how I do it.
1 sirloin steak from Arthur's (while of course I
am a champion of local farms and produce - as we all must be! -
nonetheless Arthur's Scotch beef, always hung properly for 3-4
weeks, is simply sensational and hard to beat)
Black peppercorns, coarsely crushed
Malden sea salt
1 glass of good red wine (the same that you will be drinking -
this is an excuse to open 2 bottles - as if one were needed...)
Knob of butter
Trim the steak of excessive fat (but leave some!).
Rub with olive oil and press down some coarsely crushed black peppercorns
on both sides. Leave for at least 1/2 hour.
Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over a brisk flame
or heat. Add a little olive oil to the pan, then cook the steak
as you like it (depending on the thickness around 2 minutes a side
max for rare). Remove to a board, crumble over a little Malden
salt, and leave to rest.
Meanwhile, add the shallots to the pan and sautée
briefly until soft and golden (but not brown or burnt). Deglaze
the pan with the red wine, scraping the meaty bits from the bottom.
Allow the wine to bubble up, then reduce to a thickish syrup, taste
and adjust the seasoning, and just before serving, swirl in a nob
Wine suggestion: Try this with the Tormaresca NePriCa!
Next week: Champagne and Prosecco time!
Next week's August Bank Holiday weekend really does signify the
summer for most of us, notwithstanding that September often enjoys
better weather than August. Well, so what, this is the time to
party, so we'll have a special offer on all our Champagne and Prosecco
Marc and Kim