a community of wine lovers


September 2006

[Club Vino News] Our Tuscany wine weekend; a visit to the Prosecco wine country with the Bisol family; a Venetian palace with a garden; the taste of Tuscany


September sees the start of autumn, my favourite season. No need to bemoan the passing of summer for we are often blessed here with a warm, dry, sunny indian summer, perfect for ripening Geoff's grapes at the Pebblebed Vineyard in Ebford. September may be a back to work, back to school month, but it is also a time of harvest and plenty, a month to savour and enjoy before the onset of the short days and long nights. It's a time, too, to return to the enjoyment of warming red wines. See, the end of summer does have its compensations...


Club Vino goes to Tuscany!
Yes, it's definitely happening. Following last week's email, the date of the Club Vino trip to visit the Fattoria del Colle in Trequanda, Tuscany is set for the weekend of Fri 13 October through Sun 15th October. I have now emailed all who have indicated that they would like to join us on this exciting visit to Donatella's wine estate and agriturismo complex so I'll await your confirmation. If you haven't heard from me but are interested in joining us, please contact me as soon as possible.

Prosecco sparkling wine; A Venetian palace with a garden
Last week Kim and I visited the wine hills about 50 kilometres north of Venice to learn about (and enjoy!) Prosecco di Valdobbiadene-Conegliano DOC at the source. Prosecco is the delightful sparkling wine that is one of Italy's best kept secrets. Of course, there is Prosecco and there is Prosecco: though Prosecco grapes are now grown widely throughout northern Italy, the real thing, and the best wines come only from this small select wine zone just north of Treviso between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Here the grapes grow on steeply terraced vineyards that must be worked entirely by hand,incredibly labour intensive, but such effort is rewarded in the quality of the wine.

We were guests of the Bisol family who make one of the very best Proseccos we've ever tasted - very fine, persistent bubbles and a softly delicate green apple and floral character that makes it quite simply a wonderful drink any time of day or night. Cartizze is the top wine, from a select hilltop vineyard with remarkable exposure: it warrants its own special DOC - as well as a price tag at least double that of Prosecco. I will be writing about these wonderful wines and our visit in a later post, as well as about the Bisol's welcoming farmhouse complex amidst the wine hills where Club Vino members will be very welcome to visit. More information at www.bisol.it

For now, I'd also like to share with you another real find in Venice itself. The Palazzo Abadessa is a small private hotel in a lovingly restored 16th century Venetian palace just off the Grand Canal near Ca d'Oro. We arrived by water taxi direct to the entranceway on the smaller Rio Priuli and immediately stepped into another world. The palace is furnished with period antique furniture, beautiful paintings, grand Murano glass chandeliers, silk damask wall coverings and restored frescoes on many of the bedroom cielings.

Unusually for such a location, the palace has a large grassy garden that is a real oasis from the bustle of Venice, the place to just relax and read, or to enjoy, what else, a glass or two of that wonderful Prosecco.

Kim and I have been visiting Venice for nearly 30 years and we consider the Palazzo Abadessa to be a real find that we will certainly return to again and again. It's family run and there are only 12 rooms. Prices start from about 170 euros for a small double (more for the palatial rooms and suites) with an excellent buffet breakfast. For its historic majesty, location, and the friendliness of its owner Maria Luisa, who runs it more as a private home than a hotel, it is definitely something of a real bargain, especially out of high season. We'll be putting some photographs up on the Vino web site in due course, but in the meantime if you are interested in treating yourself to a short break in Venice (always good for the soul), then check out the Palazzo Abadessa web site: http://www.abadessa.com/en/

A taste of Tuscany: Costellete di maiale al finocchio e Chianti
Since we have just finalised the details for our visit to Tuscany, it's made me hungry to taste some simple Tuscan flavours. Tuscan food is really not at all sophisticated (unlike the magnificent food of Piedmont and especially the Langhe, where we visited last year with Mario and Luisa at Cascina Fontana - remember that amazing meal at Da Cesare?!). Yet there can be real pleasure in such Tuscan simplicity. Meals often comprise crostini di fegatini or fettunta - toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with Tuscan olive oil; a selection of Tuscan cured meats and salumi; pici (homemade noodles) with ragu or wild boar sauce or fresh funghi porcini; simple grilled meats or sometimes the famous bistecca alla fiorentina; and sweets made from chestnut flour and nuts.

Here's a very simple recipe from our book 'The Wine and Food of Europe' that is typical of Tuscan foods: pork chops cooked in Chianti wine. The fennel seeds, with their delicate anise flavour, definitely transport me back to fond memories of our time there (Guy was only two years old when we first visited and met Donatella Cinelli Colombini and discovered her amazing wines in Montalcino).

Costellete di maiale al finocchio e Chianti - pork chops in Chianti with

4 large pork loin chops
1 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 small fennel bulb, cut into strips
About half a bottle of good Chianti

Trim some of the fat from the pork chops (not all of it!) and lightly score across each side. Sprinkle with the fennel seeds, a little salt and freshly ground pepper, and pour a little olive over each. Leave to marinade for about an hour.

Heat remaining olive oil in a large frying pan. Brown the pork chops over a high heat on both sides, then reduce the heat and add the chopped garlic and the strips of fennel. Saute gently for a few minutes, then add the Chianti. Bring to the boil briefly, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for about 30 minutes.

When ready, remove the chops to a serving dish and keep warm. Turn up the heat and reduce the remaining wine and cooking liquid to a thick sauce consistency. Adjust the seasoning and pour over the chops. Serve with potatoes roasted in Tuscan olive oil with rosemary.

Suggested wine: Donatella Cinelli Colombini Chianti Superiore 2003
Suggested olive oil: Fattoria del Colle olio extra vergine d'oliva (both
products come from the farm we will be staying on)

Here's to autumn, and to a fruitful grape harvest for all our winemaking
friends, wherever they are.

Marc and Kim


Copyright Marc Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved
Images copyright Kim Millon 2005-2009 All rights reserved

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