Pebblebed harvest dates
Yes, it's that time of year again already. All over Europe, winegrowers
are readying to gather in the annual fruits of their labours. In
the Barolo wine hills, Mario is already in the midst of harvesting
his Dolcetto grapes, always the earliest ripening. After that,
Barbera will follow and finally the precious Nebbiolo, sometime
Meanwhile, here in Topsham, Geoff's
harvest begins tomorrow! As many know already, this has been an
extremely difficult year for Devon winegrowers. Nonetheless there
is good prospects that the grapes that have set and ripened will
yield good quality fruit, even if in relatively small quantity.
Do come out to the Pebbebed Ebford vineyard and lend a hand in
bringing in the grapes. Families are always welcome and your efforts
are appreciated even if you only come around for a hour or so.
Picking grapes is an annual opportunity to get in touch directly
with the land, and to participate in the best moment of the vineyard
calendar. Afterwards, when the Pebblebed wines will be bottled
and released in Spring 2008, they will taste all the better in
the knowledge that you helped in their production!
Please check the Pebblebed
web site in coming
weeks as due to weather conditions, these dates may change. Or
email Geoff to confirm
dates and times.
Spotlight on the Serego Alighieri Estate
This week's tasting includes wines from the Serego Alighieri famous
estate in the steep balcony of dry-stone terraced hills in the
heart of the Valpolicella. Founded by the son of the poet Dante,
and in the family's ownership since the 14th century, the wines
today are made by our good friend Conte Pieralvise Serego Alighieri
with the technical and marketing assistance of Dr Sandro Boscaini
of Masi. Serego Alighieri wines are produced entirely from grapes
cultivated on the historic estate, and, in the case of red wines,
aged in cherry wood barrels from the wood of cherry trees also
grown on the estate (cherries from Valpolicella are almost as
famous as wine). Is it coincidence that the Serego Alighieri
red wines have a bright, vivid hint of black cherries on both
nose and palate?
I love these wines, and I love the estate. In fact,
our original plan for this year's Club Vino trip was to visit and
stay in La Foresteria, the Count's beautifully restored farmhouse
inn. But unfortunately it is fully booked through November, so
the plan now is to arrange a visit there for sometime 2008. If
you're interested in joining us, please let us know as we already
have a waiting list for Club Vino trips.
Possessioni Bianco and Rosso are both outstanding
wines, as you will taste if you drop in. They are bright, vivid,
modern wines from an ancient and historic property that is part
of Italy's culture and patrimony.
The estate's vinous pinnacle is Vaio Armaron, what
is generally acknowledged to be the original Amarone wine, a rare
wine produced here in limited quantity for literally centuries.
This is a unique and marvellous wine
indeed, made not from fresh grapes but from selected bunches that
have been laid out on cane mats to dry in airy attics high up in
the well-ventilated hills of the Valpolicella. When the air is
dry, blowing down from the Dolomites, the windows of the attics
are opened up to allow a gentle breeze to waft through; but when
it's humid or wet, they are tightly closed as moisture and humidity
would allow rot to set in. The grapes thus air-dry slowly to a
shrivelled, almost raisin-like state over a period of some three
to four months. The raisined (passito) grapes are then pressed
and the sugar-rich must is fermented to dryness, resulting in an
immense and powerful wine that has a haunting aroma and flavour
that comes from the dried fruit. I have only a tiny allocation
of this rare and unusual wine and I'm afraid it's quite expensive,
so I can't open it for my Saturday tastings. But I will be doing
so probably for the Vino Christmas tasting, definitely something
to look forward to.
Nebbiolo Masterclass and Wine Dinner Club Vino @ The Globe
This evening tasting and wine dinner, I'm delighted to report,
was a resounding success. It was fascinating and instructive
to have the opportunity to taste a range of vintages of Mario's
Nebbiolo delle Langhe 'vigna il Castello' wines (2004, 2001,
1999 and 1997) as well as two vintages of his flagship Barolo
(2002, 2001). Mario's wines are truly unique and of the highest
quality, and this exercise allowed us to taste the difference
in varying vintage years as well as to chart how these great
wines evolve and develop with bottle age. Mario sent over some
of the older wines which are not generally available for sale.
However, I've asked him to check whether tiny quantities might
be available exclusively for Club Vino members who have asked
to purchase them. Hopefully we can include these with our next
shipment due in coming weeks, and which will have the new vintages
for Dolcetto, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Barolo as well as Gavi and
Moscato. If you are interested in purchasing older mature vintages
of Mario's wines, please let me know as soon as possible.
For our Nebbiolo Masterclass, Liz and her team at
The Globe devised a fantastic and original menu to accompany the
wines. The crab risotto with wild mushroom foam was an inspired
dish to pair with Barolo 2002, the deeper flavours that came from
the rich crab bisque and dark crab meat combining with the wild
mushrooms to lend richly profound flavours that were well matched
by the young Barolo. The South Devon fillet steaks were beautifully
cooked, full flavoured and tender, an excellent match with the
outstanding Barolo 2001, while the Montgomery extra mature cheddar
had a depth of nutty flavour and texture that went beautifully
with the velvety rich and complex Nebbiolo 1997. And, believe it
or not, the rich and delicious dark chocolate tart really did go
with Barolo, an amazing match! Thanks again, Liz, and thanks to
James and Julien in the kitchen and Kate and Emily who looked after
us. It was a truly splendid and memorable evening.
For those who couldn't make the evening but would
like to try some of the food and wine matches, Liz has shared a
couple of recipes.
The Globe's crab risotto with wild mushroom foam
For the crab bisque:
1kg crab shells (use crab meat for the risotto not the bisque)
1 tube of tomato paste
250g rice (any, as for a thickening agent)
1 onion roughly chopped
2 carrots roughly chopped
Sweat all the ingredients above in a pan for 15/20 minutes. Add
water to cover and cook 30 minutes. Sieve liquid into another pan.
Put the liquid back onto the heat until it has been reduced to
half the quantity. Adjust seasoning (but don't overseason).
Cook enough arborio rice for your party in the usual way: first
fry a little onion or shallot, then seal the rice, add a glass
of dry white wine, let the liquid absorb, then gradually, ladle
by ladle add the crab bisque. Cook until al dente, then stir in
a good spoonful or two of brown crab meat mixed with a little mascarpone
cheese. Cook for a further couple of minutes, adding more crab
bisque to thin, if necessary. Finally, when fully cooked and just
before serving, stir in some white crab meat. Adjust seasoning.
Make a mushroom stock in advance by simmering for about an hour
lots of sliced field mushrooms and dried porcini mushrooms in water,
with a little garlic and seasoning. Gently panfry a handful
of wild mushrooms in olive oil and chopped garlic. To finish the
mushroom foam, strain the mushroom stock, add cream, heat to nearly
boiling, then froth to get a cappuccino effect, using either a
hand-blender or a balloon whisk.
When you are ready to serve the risotto, use a ring to shape the
risotto on the plate, place some sautéed wild
mushrooms around the plate and spoon the foam on top of the
mushrooms and risotto. This is a recipe that doesn't need too much
additional seasoning as you have maximized the natural flavours
of the ingredients.
Suggested wine: Cascina Fontana Barolo 2002 (no other will do!)
James' dark chocolate Tart
40g icing sugar
1 egg (white and yolk)
About 500g plain flour
Make pastry in usual way - remember to chill pastry in case before
350ml double cream
400g dark chocolate (best you can get)
3 medium sized eggs
Heat cream and milk until "trembling" (the milk not you!!!)
don't let it boil. Take off the heat. Stir in melted chocolate
to the cream. Add beaten eggs to the mix and mix well. Pour into
pre-baked pastry base (make sure there are no holes or cracks in
the base first). Bake for approx 1 hour at 130 C. It is done when
it is "wobbled" and looks set
but not too firm (like a crème brulée).
Serve with beautiful clotted cream or lovely vanilla ice cream.
Suggested wine: Yes, believe it or not, Cascina Fontana
Best to all,
Marc and Kim