Thursday, 27 October 2011

Piedmont dinner at the Lido

We arrived at the Lido at around 7pm ostensibly to help get things ready but everything was under control. It was good to finally meet Birger who was there with the winemakers, Enrico Nada and Fabrizio Battaglino who were accompanied by Alberto Alessandria. This was very welcome as Alberto had sent me a box of his wines to try when the shipment arrived for tomorrow's dinner (I admitted to Enrico and Fabrizio that I thought Alberto's Barbera even better than theirs - but, then, it retails for over £20 so it should be!).

There were ten on our table so it was always going to be lively. Enrico and Fabrizio introduced the wines, bringing a touch of live theatre to the evening. Two whites to start, quite different but both very good. Which went better with the wild mushrooms on sourdough toast? Probably the Roero tonight but if they had been creamier, then I think the Langhe Bianco would have taken the prize. With the main course of osso buco with mashed potato and spinach, I was pleased to see Fabrizio's all too young Roero open up well and Enrico's Barbera gained in richness and complexity with the food too, in true Italian style. The cheese (Denhay Dorset Drum and Docellate Mountain Picante) was accompanied by Enrico's 2007 Barbaresco and, just before the almond zabbaglione with vanilla pears were served, Fabrizio's late-harvest Arneis came along to show that it also goes well with blue cheese.

All together, a good evening. My only gripe was that there were too few bottles to take home with me so I had to make do with an oddly perfumed (but quite interesting) Australian fortified Shiraz for a nightcap.

Last night at the IOD

I have never been tempted by offers of membership of the IOD (Institute of Directors) in the past (although, as a sole trader, this wouldn't apply to BRW) but on arrival there yesterday afternoon, I understood why some find it hard to resist. I saw only the restaurant area but it is a luxurious setting with paintings bigger than most houses' walls. We had been allocated a generous space for tasting wines and enjoying them with dinner afterwards. I don't think any of us realised, though, that 30 wines in an hour with a bit of socialising was never going to happen.

I started with good intentions. I began with the whites: first Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero Arneis then the equivalent wine from Filippo Gallino followed by Nada Giuseppe's Langhe Bianco. The first two were quite similar in style (as was to be expected): very precise and well-defined whereas the Nada has another layer thanks to the blend with Sauvignon and Favorita. Not necessarily any better but different. Enrico Nada had the only rosado so that came next. I have never been a great fan of pink wines (with the odd notable exception) but this was perfectly acceptable (you see, it didn't rock my boat).

I wanted to re-taste a couple of Fabrizio's reds - the straight Nebbiolo d'Alba and the "Colla" (which is entitled to Roero status but which Fabrizio bottles as Nebbiolo d'Alba). I still found the latter wine a little hard (it's a 2008, maybe that's why) but the more simple wine has lovely fruit. Give it another year or two though.

I had, also, to taste a couple of wines from Crissante Alessandria (an estate I have recently become familiar with): in particular the "Ruge" Barbera (stunning) and Barolo Galina (exquisite), both from the forward 2007 vintage. The 2006s are much more tannic so I had every intention of coming back to them before the dinner (optimism blinded me to the fact it was less than half an hour to dinner).

The rest of the tasting session was spent at the Filippo Gallino table (I was going to be sitting with Enrico so would have another opportunity to taste all his wines at dinner). I was immediately struck by the freshness of the fruit-driven Barbera. I worked through all the Barbera wines from this producer (and went back to taste Fabrizio's as well) and in some ways preferred this to the richer, necessarily more complete wines further on. I was rather taken by the 2007 Superiore, however, due its almost Port-like richness. Not sure I could drink much of it though.

The real interest, for me, on this table lay in the two sweet wines. The other dry reds were good, certainly, but not stylistically different from some others. The "Chinche", however, is a late harvest Arneis (like Fabrizio's "Bric Bastia") with some entriguing characters (I need to taste this again!) and the "Birbet" is a highly unusual (to me) low alcohol lightly sparkling red made from Brachetto (I think). Necessarily sweet but, rather than the sickly mess I had envisaged, I found myself liking it very much.

A superb meal followed with superb wines from the Nada Giuseppe stable. I am familiar with all of these, of course, except that Enrico had sent over a sample of his 2007 Barbaresco Riserva. Quite simply, the star of the night.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wine Deal

The Deal Wine Tasting Society is less than ten years old but forty-odd members crowded into the Landmark Centre on Deal's High Street last night for a tasting of Rhone wines. Perhaps it was the sudden drop in temperature but, certainly, everyone was up for a bit of winter warming.

The evening got off to a start with club secretary John Howard introducing me and informing the group that BRW is ranked a five star merchant by wine-searcher (which is news to me, albeit good news, of course).

Two whites to start with: Domaine des Anges, Ventoux 2010 Blanc has a sweet attack but a crisp, dry finish, just what I want from a fruity Rhone white. I had to include at least one DDA wine because John's wife Barbara is the cousin of Janet Swan who, with her husband Malcolm, bought the estate in 1973 and still lives there now. Next was the fragrant Viognier-rich Domaine de Mourchon, CDR 2010 "La Source" with notes of tropical fruits, honey and peardrops. One to drink on its own, we all thought.

Domaine de Cristia's VDP 2010 Grenache (the organic one) is very accessible with its big, easy fruit whilst the more serious VDP 2009 Vieilles Vignes Grenache (in conversion) has sweet red fruit with some vanilla and liquorice. Any choice must be a matter of personal preference as the differences are stylistic only.

I decided to include an outsider: Domaine Treloar's 2008 "Three Peaks" from Roussillon shows the quality of this region when worked with passion. It also demonstrates that the rains that affected the Rhone in 2008 had no impact here. This is a very smooth, big, flavoursome wine with a good future. Then back to Domaine des Anges for the next wine: the 2007 Cotes du Ventoux "Archange" is a Syrah-rich wine with lashings of black fruit nicely supported by the oak (in contrast to Ciaran's first vintage when, perhaps, the balance between the fruit and the oak had not yet been perfected). One of my "at home" wines.

Domaine de Mourchon, again, this time the 2005 Grande Reserve which is, surely, the best that Seguret can offer (until, perhaps, 2007 is fully mature). This wine has been slow to develop but that is something to applaud when the result is this good. A rich, rounded, complex winter warmer of a wine. Very popular too although it was followed by the one dud of the evening: Xavier Vignon's "Debut" was not in a good place at first. However, with a few minutes aeration, it did begin to reveal its potential. I do wonder whether this wine is going through a transition at the moment.

To finish off, two fortified wines from Rasteau, each one quite different from the other. First, Domaine Bressy-Masson's Rasteau Rancio, a non-vintage, almost Madeira-like wine from some sort of solera system. Lovely aromatics (and flavours too). The the 2007 Rouge from Domaine des Coteaux des Travers which is developing extremely well into the southern Rhone's variation on the Port theme with raisin characters pushing through now. Having recently tried the Puig Parahy Rivesaltes Rancios, this is clearly good value for sharing.

After all this lot, I was very pleased that I was staying with an old college friend a mile and a half away, rather than going all the way back to Barton Mills!

Piedmont dinner at the Lido - the menu is revealed

I have been sent the menu for the dinner next Wednesday:

Starter: Wild Mushrooms on Sourdough Toast
Main: Osso Bucco with Mash Potato and Spinach (veg alternative - Homemade Leek and Denhay Cheddar Sausages)
Cheese: Cheese with Biscuits and Quince Jelly
Dessert: Almond Zabaglioni with Vanilla Pears

Now we just need to work out which wines to go with each course!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Time Out Food & Drink Awards for 2011

Winner in Time Out's Eat & Drinking Awards 2011
Congratulations to The Lido Cafe in London's Brockwell Park for scooping this award. A great ambience is well supported by superb food and, of course, a fabulous wine list.

I am looking forward to the Piedmont dinner there later this month with Enrico Nada (of Nada Giuseppe) and Fabrizio Battaglino and half a dozen of their excellent wines:

Fabrizio Battaglino, Roero Arneis 2010
Nada Giuseppe, Langhe Bianco 2010
Nada Giuseppe, Dolcetto 2010
Fabrizio Battaglino, Roero "Sergentin" 2009
Nada Giuseppe, Barbaresco 2007
Fabrizio Battaglino, "Bric Bastia"