Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Wine and good health

A BBC news article tells the story of the decline in French wine drinking habits. Lots of worrying observations for all wine lovers but perhaps of most concern is this comment by RVF editor, Denis Saverot:

"In the 1960s, we were drinking 160 litres each a year and weren't taking any pills. Today we consume 80 million packets of anti-depressants, and wine sales are collapsing. Wine is the subtlest, most civilised, most noble of anti-depressants. But look at our villages. The village bar has gone, replaced by a pharmacy."

See here for the full article.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Mirella Manzone comes to La Trompette

Lunch today at La Trompette in Chiswick is always going to be excellent but when the owner decides to join the party, you can be sure it's going to be rather special. Giovanni Manzone's daughter Mirella was coming to town so it seemed a good opportunity to get a few people together and taste through eight wines with a superbly selected menu. An opportunity to see just how good the wines really are and one passed with distinction.

Before we sat down, sommelier Matthieu Longuere suggested a glass of something that came from the region but not one of the Manzone wines. Fabrizio Battaglino's Roero Arneis is an excellent aperitif wine - also good for fish/seafood, chicken etc.

After waiting for stragglers, we eventually sat down well after 1 o'clock to the first starter, a risotto of squid ink with confit cod, mylor prawns, Tuscan oil and lemon, served with Manzone's Langhe Bianco "Rosserto" 2010. The richness of the wine went magnificently with the exquisite food. Most had not heard of the Rossesse grape before and those that had knew only the red version found in Liguria. Mirella explained that, in the Langhe, only a small handful of producers grew the variety and that only the Manzone family produced it as a mono-varietal wine. So, fascinating and unique.

The second starter was probably my favourite course: a raviolo of suckling pig with grilled turnip tops, pickled walnuts and bacon foam! This was one large raviolo (the singular form of ravioli, presumably) with the melt-in-your-mouth meat inside and the most delicious sauce. Everyone demanded more bread to mop up the sauce. The wines were the Dolcetto d'Alba "Le Ciliegie" 2010 and a decanted Nebbiolo d'Alba "Il Crutin" 2009. All the Nebbiolo wines had been decanted around 11.30am so had been in the jug for a couple of hours at least by the time we started on them. The Dolcetto seemed a little tannic at first but the fruit sang in harmony with the food. The Nebbiolo, on the other hand, was magnificent, the two hours taming to perfection whatever tannins are there, rendering the wine a true mini-Barolo. I thought the intensity of the food slightly overwhelmed the subtleties of the wine but it was unanimous that this was a great wine at a ridiculously low price.

Three 2007 Baroli with the main course of slow roast short rib and ribeye of beef, smoked marrow, scorched onions and field mushrooms: Castellotto had the most exquisitely ethereal nose, with hints of the barrel combining so well with the cherry and truffle of the wine. Gramolere was better structured, one to hold on to a while. However, it was the Bricat which shone. Initially the nose seemed a little animal but it developed well in the glass with all the characteristics of a youthful Barolo that wants to show off now but knows it really has to wait its turn. The wine was complete, with superb texture and weight, the tannins still very much a force to be reckoned with but mellowed enough to not interfere with the enjoyment of the wine. Of course, Bricat is a particular parcel in the Gramolere vineyard so this should be the best wine but it's early days for this one. The breathing clearly helped here.

As there are no sweet wines made at the Manzone estate, we finished off with a Robiola di Langhe, a medium-soft cheese made from cow's, goat's and sheep's milk. Served with a home-made pear chutney, it was delicious and not too salty to go with the two 2006 Barolo wines. Both were extremely promising: as 2006s, both were too young, of course, but showed better than ever before after, I suppose, three hours in their decanters. Again, it was the Bricat that nudged ahead today.

What impressed me most about this lunch was the harmony between the wines and the food. That both were superb was no surprise but the inspirational pairing of each course with the wines, which were unknown to Matthieu before today, shows the skill of an expert sommelier. I would certainly recommend the food at La Trompette and, frankly, would suggest you don't both looking at the wine list; rather, ask Matthieu what he thinks you should have. And, of course, I would not hesitate to recommend any of the Manzone wines.

Thanks to Matthieu and the team at La Trompette, to Mirella for joining us and explaining the wines and to our good friend, Birger, for organising the whole thing.

More information about the wines here.