a community of wine lovers


September 2008

Harvest time!
It's that favourite time of year again, the harvest. I've just returned from Austria's Burgenland where the grape harvest has already begun - in fact, I even had the chance to sample my first northern hemisphere 2008 wine, a light, fresh white made from early ripening Bouvier grapes. More often, though, I was drinking mugs of Sturm - cloudy, frothy, yeasty, still fermenting grape juice. Like Mosto in Italy, Sturm is available only for a few weeks of the year and is definitely the taste of autumn (but be careful not to drink too much of it!).

In Piedmont, Mario has already begun to bring in the Dolcetto grapes and the new wine is working away in his wine cantina in Perno. The Barbera grapes will follow in a few weeks, and finally Nebbiolo, for the production of Mario's Nebbiolo delle Langhe, and finally his great Barolo and Barbaresco wines. 2008, Mario tells me, is likely to be a good vintage, possibly very good - but that all depends on the next month's weather.

Here at home, meanwhile, Geoff will begin the harvest of Rondo and Pinot Noir Early grapes this Sunday. In spite of the miserably wet summer, the welcome September sunshine has brought the grapes on well, and sugar levels are high. So it will be fascinating in a few months time to taste Geoff's first Pinot Noir wines, our own Topsham Burgundy?!

As usual, Geoff invites Club Vino and Friends of Pebblebed to help with the harvest. This is always a joyous occasion - whatever the weather - so if you fancy getting down and dirty, and helping to bring in the grapes, then email geoff@pebblebed.co.uk for the 2008 harvest dates.


Heurigen and Buschenshanken - Austrian tasting cellars - and Pebblebed
One of the most congenial things about being in the Austrian wine country is the chance to go to winegrower's gardens to sit out at trestle tables in vaulted cellars or under a canopy of vines and sample the new wines along with the simplest drinking snacks - a platter of Speck or Schinken from the local Mangalitza breed of pig; good rye breads spread with Schmalz or Liptauerkase; pickled vegetables; or a homemade wine grape strudel accompanied by an amber glass of Beerenauslese dessert wine. Such places are known as Heurigen and Buschenshanken and they are found throughout not only the Burgenland, but all of Austria's wine country. The word ‘heurig’ refers to ‘this year’s wine’, as technically such places should only serve the wine from the youngest vintage. The right for wine producers to offer their own wines together with simple drinking snacks is well enshrined, since 1784 when the Austrian Emperor Josef II issued a decree allowing this. Traditionally such places indicate that they are open by hanging out a fir branch. I love Heurigen and Buschenshanker as they provide some of the most authentic and congenial wine and food experiences you will encounter anywhere.

It occurs to me that the Pebblebed Tasting Cellar is actually our own Topsham Heurige, offering in a very similar style an equally authentic, simple and genuine wine and food experience: local wines - Geoff's own-produced Pebblebed - and almost local Italian wines - Mario is like family! - together with the simplest drinking snacks - Piper's Farm meats, amazing West Country cheeses, smoked fish and locally made paté, all within the congenial, cellar atmosphere of Topsham's underway.

The Pebblebed Tasting Cellar doesn't yet hang out a fir branch to
indicate it's open. No need: the hours are 5.30-8.30pm Mon-Fri and
12.30-8.30 at weekends and Bank Holidays.


Spritz - Venetian style
We're back to Venice again this week to continue our research into the best bacari - traditional wine bars found throughout that watery city. These sometimes hole-in-the-wall places are where you drop in for 'un ombra' - a small measure of local white or red, usually enjoyed standing up, together with any variety of cicheti - Venetian style drinking snacks or tapas - perhaps a morsel of squid or cuttlefish, a round of bread spread with baccalà mantecato (salt cod pounded to a creamy paste), a nugget of soppressata - the deliciously fatty salami of the Veneto. The best bacari serve a large selection of wines by the glass - not just the straightforward bianco or rosso, but good offering from throughout Italy, the better vintages offered in large goblets or Riedel stemware (size matters, it seems - the better the wine, the bigger the glass). We'll share our favourite bacari with you in a later Club Vino newsletter, but in the meantime, here's a recipe for the favourite Venetian tipple, Spritz (pronounced 'spriss').

Bacari are great places to drop in to before going out to eat, either at friends' houses or in restaurants, and Spritz is certainly the perfect pre-prandial aperitivo. When you order your Spritz at a bar, you should specify how you like it, either with Campari or with Aperol (non-alcoholic bitter), and with white wine or Prosecco.

To make, simply take a large wine glass or tumbler, add an ice cube or two. Add a measure of Campari (or Aperol if you must - but it's not as good), and an equal measure of white wine or Prosecco. Then top up with Seltzer water (sparkling mineral water will do, but Seltzer is fizzier and better). Finish with a twist of lemon.


Enjoy autumn, enjoy the harvest, and enjoy the fruits of the harvest: wine!

Best to all,

Marc and Kim


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

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