a community of wine lovers


September 2007


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 in mid-October.

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).
Crab risotto
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.
Mushroom foam
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

Sweet pastry:
250g butter
40g icing sugar
1 egg (white and yolk)
About 500g plain flour
Make pastry in usual way - remember to chill pastry in case before baking blind.
Chocolate filling
350ml double cream
140ml milk
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 Barolo 2002!


Best to all,

Marc and Kim


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

Quay Press