Saturday, 15 September 2012

I am still here....

I am coming back, no worries!!
The usual sequence of long holidays and busy times at work have taken me away from this space but as I missing my needless and objectless rant on wine...I will come back soon.
Don't stop drinking in the wait!!

Cheers

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Matches....

Football time with Euro 2012.
Not that I am not a real football fan, but when Italy is playing I can't avoid watching it.
Most of the time, in the most recent past, it has been quite painful and depressing but it is my team, I need to watch it. And since a tournament starts all I think is when is going to be next match? (if there is one!)...but also what am I going to drink while watching it?
It is in order to answer to this primary question that I have developed my (quite useless)  personal theory: wine does not match football.

It's easy: football is cheap and simple.It doesn't need to much effort to understand it and appreciate it. It is fun but can create quite a bit of stress and sweating if your team is not playing well. So you can't drink wine while watching football. Wine will overpower it. Or alternatively football will distract you from your glass.
Also wine is too alcoholic and will make you sweat even more.
Beer is the right one. Beer is the perfect match with football. A refreshing, plain, light drink lager. Or a tastier and more intense flavoured Ale.
This depending on the country you are and your personal preferences.

On the other hand, red wine is the perfect match with a good novel or a movie and white wine pairs perfectly a sunny day. That's it, it's easy. Who said that we always need food with wine?
Try it with a John Irving's novel or on a sunny terrace in a Mediterranean village and let me know what do you think!

Now that I have bored you with my theory, it's time to try it in practise.
Tonight.
Italy vs England, Peroni vs Ale. I (and I guess you too) already know my choice....

And while getting ready...I cheer my self up with some good memories...(I know tonight it's not going to be like this!!)...

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

From France with love (and wine)

What's best to avoid the Jubilee celebrations than a bucolic long bank holiday weekend in June exploring the French countryside?
I am not talking about the most touristy areas but those unspoilt regions where life is slow and all about nature, food and wine!
I found the right place in Dordogne, a small county on the South West side of France, just East of Bordeaux.



An area well known for castles, perfectly preserved medieval villages, vineyards, duck breeding and therefore a lot of duck based recipes. Every restaurant will have the confit the canard on their menu as well as a lot of foie gras.

I will leave all my ethical concerns on the foie gras on a side and will concentrate on the relaxing beauty of the Dordogne river valley and the friendly attitude of the local people. It is a place where you feel always welcome and where food and wine have a special place.

Driving in the countryside without direction is pure pleasure.
Stopping to have a walk in the silence of the medieval streets of one of those lovely villages like Montpazier, Tremolat, Cadouin or Limeuil is something really unforgettable.
And there is nothing better to finish the day than a nice dinner in a little bistrot with some rustic, genuinely tasty food.


I perfectly know that repeating your holidays experiences at home will never give you the same sensations and that whatever you drink and eat in a place during your trips will never taste the same when back home.
But this time I couldn't resist...I couldn't stop myself buying cheeses and some wine, so that my suitcase this time was not only full of memories!
Laguiole, Tomme de Savoie, Saint Nectaire, Langres, saucissons...et vin, Monbazillac and Pécharmant.

No real need to say anything about the first one. It speaks for itself, and if any of you doesn't know it, just try it. It is a great sweet wine. But the Pécharmant was instead a surprising find.

The 2004 vintage from Château Champarel that I bought, was still showing a dashing bouquet of fresh red fruit and a hint of undergrowth. A light texture, soft tannins and a medium subtle length. A wine that is ageing very well and still has some lifetime. An elegant wine, and a great value for money especially for Bordeaux blend enthusiasts.




PS: During my wandering around Dordogne I also 'met' Josephine Baker.....so I thought it would have been the best soundtrack for this post!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Sangiovese feast!

In my strongly opinionated wine world, to be honest, Sangiovese has never had a special place.
Nevertheless recently I have been tasting and appreciating a lot of Sangiovese wines and for the third time in a row I find myself writing about one of them!
This is probably because this grape can produce the most neutral and dull wines often characterized  by an excessive acidity (and you will find plenty of examples when looking at the cheap Chianti options on the supermarket shelves) but in the right place, with the right soil and micro-climate and, last but not least, in the right hands, its versatile character can give wonderful, unforgettable wines.

So when Francesco Gioffreda from Borgo Casa al Vento contacted me and asked me to taste his wines I was a bit skeptical at first, but then got curious as one of those (Foho 2008) had just been awarded with the 3 Gambero Rosso glasses, the most prestigious award for Italian wines.


I have to say that once again during my personal Sangiovese feast I was not disappointed.

The Chianti Classico Aria 2009 shows a good intensity of forest fruits and cherries, a vibrant acidity and soft ripe tannins. Ready to drink, fresh and extremely pleasant: an everyday wine.

The Foho, Chianti Classico Riserva  2007 has a deeper complexity: energetic red fruit, especially dark cherries and mulberries, seductive heartiness and developing notes of sweet spices coming from the oak aging. There is a good concentration of tannins showing their velvety ripeness. A well balanced acidity and a long satisfying finish. It is warm and rounded. A wine for food...maybe game or as well an aged Tuscan pecorino...to me, another surprising Sangiovese!!

Borgo Casa al Vento is not only a winery but a complete organic farm with hospitality structure set among the beautiful hills of Chianti, a very good spot for some wine tourism.




Vineyard picture is courtesy of Casa al Vento

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Wine based beauty treatments....

"Wine gives you beautiful legs".
This is how Francesca Colombini Cinelli titles her autobiography.
Francesca is a lady of Brunello, born in a wealthy family of Montalcino close to Siena at the beginning of the last century.

Her book of memories gives beautiful portraits of what life was in a small town of Italy in the 40's. She describes the countryside activities and habits, the celebrations, the hunting and the times of the WWII .She draws characteristic Tuscan personalities in a sort of Montalcino Anthology.

And in all these stories there is always wine.
And food. Intensely genuine food.
And I am finding quite funny that normal farmer meals during busy times of work like threshing were made of cheese, charcuterie, homemade bread, game roasts and of course a lot of good wine, things that we now consider gourmet food.


While reading and (only!) in order to test this beauty treatment, I have opened a bottle of Brunello.
A Fossacolle 2006.
A special wine.Especially for my poor budget (although not expensive as may other Brunellos).
And definitely worth the economic effort. The nose has a complex variety of intense dark cherries aromas, vegetal notes and a hint of delicate sweet spices. In the mouth it is deep and warm. Tannins are rounded and velvety but quite exuberant, probably they will need a bit more time to mature. Rich texture and a concentrated medium long finish. The oak is perfectly integrated and the wine shows the best features of a well handled Sangiovese. Distinctive and intense.

I am not really sure about the positive effect on my legs , but I can tell you that my palate was fully satisfied and on my face has appeared a big relaxed smile!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Last Sunday an Osteria saved my life...


From where my family is now living (in a small village in the Lazio's side of Maremma) Southern Tuscany is one of the best destinations for a day trip on a Sunday.
The area is still quite unspoilt and has a great rustic charm with its Medieval countryside towns perched on tufaceous rocks. Driving there is quite a peaceful experience among green hills of olive trees and vineyards and it can also be quite interesting if you would like to visit Etruscan ruins.
Here Sangiovese shows its potential in one of the its best expressions, the Morellino di Scansano.

These have always been the best ingredients for a perfect day out to me, so decision taken: Scansano was our destination, although the weather looked unusually miserable especially for the beginning of May (grey sky, fog and all day long rain) and a walk in the vineyards was not really appealing! The other option was to take a walk in the city centre, maybe visit the History of Wine Museum and finally sit down for a nice meal. Once there obviously the museum was closed for a long lunch break! So no more choice. We had to find a restaurant and cheer ourselves up with some Tuscan food and wine!

And this is how Osteria Rifrullo saved our day....
A cosy and warm  place nicely decorated with ancient instruments hanging from the ceilings and coloured frescoes on the walls. But as I am not that interested in interior design...what I was looking looking for was to taste their cuisine! Starting with a glorious polenta tart with cep mushrooms,
carrying on with a scrumptious plate of bichi (a particular homemade type of pasta similar to spaghetti in its shape) alla norcina (with a sauce made of sausage, chilli and cream) and finally having a satisfying sweet end with cantucci and Vin Santo.




How does it sound? Well, trust me, it tasted better than it sounds.Beautiful, filling, palate flattering, genuine food and that's it. On the other side the house wine is not worth a mention.Normally the Morellino is a medium structured wine with a good intensity of dark berries and even if possibly not the most prestigious Tuscan red it is certainly a very enjoyable wine, but the one we had for lunch was certainly lacking of  backbone and its acidity was overwhelming the whole palate sensations. But luckily I bought a good example of it at the enoteca of the main square. Celestina Fe' is an elegant wine with a good texture, soft, rounded tannins and pronounced aromas of black cherries.
100% of Sangiovese and no oak. A wine with a sophisticated character.

Now if you feel enough inspired to explore the area, I am sure you will find many more interesting places and wines...so good luck and enjoy!!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

A well deserved bottle.....

Sometimes that's how things go...I start writing a post and something or someone distracts me, so the post lays there for weeks. Then I find it again and I remember that I decided to write it because the wine I wanted to talk about was really worth, so I look up for my notes and I carry on........

Few weeks ago I was forced in bed due to a really nasty bike accident. Outside the weather was fabulous; a very promising beginning of English spring. And I was feeling miserable for the pain and because I couldn't move. I behaved for almost 10 days and tried to be very healthy....so I think no one can blame me if at the end all I wanted was a big and good bottle of wine.

I went to my cellar (a couple of shelves in a corner of my humble little house) and found what I was looking for: a good and not pretentious white Burgundy.
It is weird how, even though I generally don't like Chardonnay, especially when  it is oaked, I always allow the Burgundy exception to this statement.

The wine was (yes, the bottle is empty now!) a JC Boisset Cote de Nuit Villages Le Creux de Sabron 2006 (such a long name!). I remember buying it on a staff sale thinking it would have been red....but luckily the surprise was not disappointing.


It delights you with exotic notes of pineapple and mango, mixed with ripe apple and a delicate hint of pear. The oak is elegantly integrated. At the palate the acidity is extremely energetic. The fruit is coming back. The apple is rich and juicy and the pineapple leaves you with a lingering finish. And all is harmoniously balanced with a medium texture, a sort of delicate creaminess.


A very well deserved bottle!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Look what happens when you study too much....

I am just over a very busy three months period of my life....Christmas time, some very important tastings at work and finally the second exam of my diploma course: fortified wines.

I struggled from the beginning. I missed a couple of classes and was feeling really not confident at all as I am not (oh well, I should now say I was not) a big fortified wines drinker. Especially I (used to) hate sherry.
So I tried hard, went to a couple of Spanish places (charming little places that I would definitely suggest if you like Spanish food - Jose' and Pizarro), attended a Decanter Great Spanish Fine Wine Encounter...and did my best to taste as many sherries as I could.

Finally I spent a couple of days of full immersion into the geography, soil, viticulture, vinification and maturation of Port, Sherry and Madeira and then went for my exam.
The exam actually covered a much wider program including fortified wines from all over the world, such as Vin doux naturels, Muscat Rutherglen, Commandaria and much more, but my lack of preparation was pardoned by Lady Luck and the questions I had to reply were easy and quite generic and (even though I am still not sure I passed) I managed to write down something!

All this luck deserved a celebration so I bought a bottle of lovely...Manzanilla sherry for £8.99.


I really couldn't wait to properly enjoy a glass of this bone dry sherry coming from Sanlucar de Barrameda where the sea breeze gives it those particular savoury notes and a light saltiness.
The particular location on the coast and microclimate (cooler and with higher humidity than in the area where Fino is produced - Jerez and Puerto Santa Maria) makes the Flor living longer and this creates a lighter wine with more delicate flavours. The wine has a pale colour, aromas of almonds and subtle notes of chamomile flowers and a soft bitter finish.
It literally takes your mind away making you feel like being in a bar on the beach, your skin slightly burning from the sun and the salt. Everything going slowly. Just there waiting for dinner time and enjoying the sunset and the fresh air of the late afternoon.


Easy saying that it is just perfect with salted almonds and olives.

So this is what happens when you study too much....you can suddenly fall in love for a something you would have never thought!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

3 girls and a Vouvray Sec

Once upon a time an Italian sommelier, a Brazilian chef and an American (with Portuguese origins) working in PR, met in an old and sometimes creepy (fun-)house in Maida Vale, London.
Since then, they have shared their common passion for good food and good wine as well as a lot of good and bad moments of their lives in the last 4 years or so. They eventually divided, moving out the house one by one to other parts of London for different reasons. They still meet whenever they can somewhere in the middle.

I am of course one of those girls and yesterday was one of those days when we managed to meet, but I won't bother you with all the superficial gossips and the deeper conversations about life, work and relationships of the day as this is not a Sex and the City episode.

We met on the Strand and went for this little hidden gem on a corner of Bedford Street. The place is called Bedford & Strand. I guess that it used to be a pub and it has now been converted in this lovely wine bar with marble tables and old wooden chairs in  Parisian  Bistro style and a very traditional English bar, with dark wood cupboards behind the counter.

It has a charming atmosphere that makes you feel a bit lost in time and space somewhere between France and England.



Incredibly, even being in such a busy part of London and so close to Covent Garden it doesn't feel as a touristic place at all. But consider that, even if we knew where we were going, we passed it by without seeing the entrance!! Plus the room is on the basement floor, so it doesn't catch the attention that much.
It was Saturday evening so normally busy but  not overcrowded. The perfect place for a chat in front of a glass of wine.


The wine list starts with selections of  'Reliable', 'Decent', 'Honest' and 'Good' wines followed by some staff picks, all by the glass or caraffe plus a full list of a page each for whites and reds, and extras....(bubbles, fortified and sweet). Not an extensive choice but well constructed with a couple of very good options.

We had a bottle of Vouvray Sec Bourillon d'Orleans.
And we enjoyed it a lot.
With its stone fruit aromas, white flowers and a hint of dried figs.
A vibrant acidity to balance its richness.
It was round, mouth enveloping.Complex and beautiful.



We had some nibbles, some duck pate' (perfect with the Vouvray!), smoked sprats and a rillette.....All very well made, except the aioli for the sprats that was too liquid and lacking of garlic.





....And after 4 hours (and another bottle) we finally left. But to be honest I am sure we'll be back soon!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Inspired by a Beef Bourguignon

Has it ever happened to you to watch a movie and feel the urge to follow its stream?
I am not talking about any serial killer movie....of course but, you know, like watching 'Into the wild' and feeling that you want to leave everything (job, car, house mortgage...) and travel the world on your own and live in contact with nature.... Or like watching 'Sideways' and finally decide that what you really want is to take a wine course and follow your passion.

Of course the movie that really influenced me was not 'Into the wild', although I have to say I definitely enjoyed it and it was kind of inspiring. But what really gave a boost to my 'wine' life is Sideways. I have to admit that it can sound a bit stupid, but it definitely did. Sure I was already into wine and already had thoughts about taking that course but that movie helped me so much in taking my final decision that now I don't want to watch it again anymore not to ruin the memories of the importance it had to me, in a way.
It is fantastic when something (a song, a movie...or even a conversation with someone just met) in a quite random way has such an effect on you. Sideways is a nice movie and nothing else, certainly not a masterpiece, but as I said it inspired me and if I am where I am (ops...right...where am I?!) and if I decided to follow my passion and change my life for it that's part thanks to that film.

And I have to say that this suddenly came back to my mind as I was watching this lovely little movie titled 'Julie & Julia'. Again not something that will stay forever in the history of cinema, but a simple, romantic movie on the joy of food and cooking.
Now if you're wondering...No, I am not going to take a Cordon Bleu course and I am not going to tell you the all plot summary either, but I will tell you what impressed me.
First it reminded me why I was writing a blog and made me think that it was a shame that I abandoned it for so long.
Second (and at the moment most important) it gave me the urge to cook a proper Beef Bourguignon.


It is difficult to suggest a wine to match with it as I haven't tried the recipe yet.
Theoretically I would say a nice Bordeaux or something from Northern Rhone such as a Saint Joseph or Cornas would work perfectly and if you can afford to use them as well for cooking it, then great.

So enjoy it and .....Bon appetit!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Places and things that never change

I could say that Rome is the most beautiful city that I've ever seen in my life but my statement would be affected by the love for my birth place that it's also the place where I have been living for 32 years.
Beautiful, rustic and genuine; this city is also contradictory, chaotic and anarchic.
And it is a place where some things tend not to change....

The bus drivers that will never never learn to speak English, even though they are running a central line bus and dealing with tourists every day.

Roscioli: The Bakery. The place to go for a 'builder style snack' with pizza (bianca with mortadella as a first choice) around 11 am.

The Jewish quarter, where you can walk in quiet and silence and still feel, in 2012, the ancient real atmosphere of Rome.

Trimani wine bar, a great, simple place with a fantastic wine list fairly priced. (they also have a wine shop next door)

La sorchetta. To finish your day. There is no way to translate and explain it. You must have it or at least see it in a picture.

Much more could be said and written about Rome, but this post doesn't mean to be a guide.
These are just the memories of a day as an expat.
A full immersion day of an expat wondering around a place that, even continuously moving and evolving, will never change...hopefully.