Monday, 15 September 2014

Wine in a can? Thanks, but no, thanks!

I was browsing on the web a few days ago, when I found this amusing spot taking the piss of all wine snobs.
I couldn't help but like it because I deeply hate wine snobs. You know what I'm talking about....that people (often too influenced by the label than by the liquid behind it) with an unbearable posh and pretentious attitude thinking they own a superior knowledge so that they are not interested in knowing your opinions because THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES able to understand wine! And, please do not confuse them with wine geeks, those are a totally different and much funnier category (of which I do, occasionally, feel part of).

Anyway, let's not go off topic..the video is actually advertising a company selling wine in a can...and as I got that, I grimaced...with a bit of a snob attitude. So, that really scared me: I don't want to become one of those wine snobs, so I have either to overcome my mental tabu that makes me feel sick at the idea of wine in a can or find a real reason for my skepticism.

Here is where the subject becomes difficult! The problem is that actually there is no scientific reason to believe that aluminum cans can affect wine in any way. Certainly cans are not the best package if your wine needs to age but young easy drinking wines aren't apparently influenced at all by aluminum cans. It's a bit like tetrapak, a more sustainable packaging that can actually make wineries save quite a bit of money.

Plus (someone may say) a few years ago we had similar doubts on the stelvin closures, that were considered outrageous; and it took a while to get them to be accepted by consumers and producers (and the debate is actually still quite open, to be honest). But in that specific case, the innovation was introduced as a solution to corked wines, a real problem affecting approximately 5% of the world wine production.

While, on the other hand, the use of cans to store and sell wine sounds much more like a commercial and marketing move. The idea is always the same: re-branding the wine drinking experience and make wine consumption 'pop' in the category of potential customers who prefers the convenience and speed of cans and ends up choosing beer above wine for this reason.

Nothing wrong about it: in a democratic wine world, anyone can drink whatever they want in any kind of package, but, I believe that a great wine is made of dreams and traditions: a big Barolo or a Bordeaux first growth cannot be put in a'd be a murder!

So it is clear that there is a quite important psychological factor that influence my approach to wine in a can, but it isn't a just a snob attitude. I see wine in its whole complexity: the land where it is coming from, the people who made it, its history and of course its aromas and flavors. I'm not saying I am investigating every bottle of wine I am drinking, or that I only drink top quality wines, but I enjoy drinking wine on its own or with a meal for its specificity and the pleasure it can offer me (even if it's the simplest wine produced by the local farmer) not as I could drink anything commercially standardized such as coke or any industrial beer!   

So I am afraid, my conclusion is that I am not ready yet for wine in a can.
Forgive me but, I'll stick to glass, at least for a while!


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Clos Montmartre, the oldest vineyard in Paris

When I moved to France a few months ago I knew my life would have been filled with wine, and it has been exactly like that: I am fully absorbed by French wine production and I am tasting and learning every day more.

But I was not expecting to find in a big modern metropolis such as Paris a beautiful and functioning vineyard.
Yes, a proper vineyard in the middle of the city and more precisely in one of the most touristy areas! 
To be honest, I also found out that there is actually more than one vineyard in Paris, but the oldest one (and the one I have randomly bumped into) is on the `Butte Montmartre`.

Here there's a long story: vines were present on this popular hill since the the X century. The monks of a Benedictine abbey were making wine at the time. When the abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution the vineyards continued to be used by the locals but they were later abandoned and completely disappeared in the XIX century when the wine trade in Paris was mainly dominated by the Loire and Burgundy wines and the urbanization expansion in Montmartre had invaded all the space.

A restoration project led by a group of independent artists has made the replanting possible in 1932. Now the vineyard is property of the city of Paris and it is taken care by the capable hands of the city gardeners.

It covers around 1500 square meters, producing around 500 liters of wine from  approximately 2000 plants of various grape varieties. The wine is labelled as Clos Montmartre and the labels are designed by local artists.

As I have never tasted it, I cannot express an opinion on the quality of this I am planning to attend the annual Fête des Vendanges, taking place from the 8th to the 14th of October this year...and will let you know!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Veronesi do it better!

Nobody knows precisely when and where the recipe originates but there is no doubts that when it comes to aperitifs and more specifically to Aperol Spritz, Verona is the place to be. It may just be the lively atmosphere of all those bars in front of the Arena or in Piazza Erbe, but this drink just taste perfect there!

The recipe is easy to repeat at home but what's really necessary to enjoy it is...lots of ice, some olives and crisps, a sunny terrace, a thirsty throat and a stomach not ready for a big meal yet!

This bright orangey drink is the perfect spring/summer aperitif, with its low alcohol and its refreshing character coming form the infused herbs and roots, and it has become so fashionable in London in the last few years that even the Guardian  has written about it.

You may wonder if this post is a promotional ad....I can assure you it is is is just the enthusiastic result of a series of aperitifs in Verona!!


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Curiosity killed the cat but....

When I discover a wine or a grape that is new to me, I always turn into an amazed baby with a new toy. I  want to sniff it, taste it and know more about it...
I may have already said this, but one of the things I find more exciting about wine, is its diversity and the connection with the place it is coming from and this is why I am so much into indigenous varieties and traditional wines.

You can consequently imagine my joy in finding, on the wine list of a little French bistro,a totally unknown (to me) Apremont from Savoie. I couldn't help myself from ordering that bottle.

So, here I am then with my mixed plate of charcuterie, a raclette (a kind of cheese fondue from Switzerland) and my pichet (that's how the Frenchies call the wine by the carafe) of Apremont.

Surprisingly thirst-quenching with a fresh minerality and a generous bouquet of fresh fruit and white flowers. Not much complexity or depth to expect but lively and dry. A wine to be served well chilled and perfect to enjoy on a sunny terrace.

 A bit of research on the web fed my wine geek curiosity. The main grape is called jacquère;
it is indigenous and grown exclusively in the region.
The distinctive terroir of limestone and marl and the continental climate reflects in a wine that has a mineral character and a beautiful aromatic freshness.

This is a wine that can often show some petillance and should be drunk young. possibly with some local food.

Unfortunately this is the kind of wine that doesn't make it over the borders of France so it isn't anything you could find on any UK supermarket.

Don't forget: curiosity may have killed the cat but it can also bring in your glass some little unusual gems.


Saturday, 1 March 2014

A wine a day

For an event lady like me, life is often  long days at work, always on the run and under pressure.
And in these hectic situations, my `spoonful of sugar` is, of course, wine!

Luckily enough I am working in the wine business and I normally have a quite good range of choices on my busiest days. This is why a 4 days roadshow is the perfect excuse to find a favourite per day, because, as an old Italian motto says, 'a glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away' (....or was it apples?! )

First day of the tour was in Bristol, the lovely ancient port of England where the goods from West Indies used to arrive. This spicy town inspired me to a kiwi wine, the Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravel Syrah, characterised by intense ripeness of red fruit, savoury spices and a touch of earthiness. In the mouth the wine is round and big but extremely harmonious with its velvety tannins and a long finish. So good I forgot to take a snapshot of the bottle!

Second stop of the roadshow was possibly in the most elegant and beautiful city of all UK: Edinburgh. Such a classy and historic city deserves a 'royal' wine: Barolo, a wine for kings, a king of wines. I have chosen to taste the Poderi Aldo Conterno vintage 2009 because it had been a while since I had the chance to taste a wine from this iconic winery. Nebbiolo as its best, showing aromas of roses, leather and red fruit. Tannins are as powerful as you would expect from a relatively young Barolo, but ripe and velvety. It is muscular yet charming ad elegant. A wine that deserves time for its own; a meditation wine.

On the third day we moved overseas in Ireland. The land of Guinness diverted my wine raid into beer. Not a dark one, but gold and honey. The colourof the Hiver beer is spectacularly gold and the nose is intensely honeyed. In the mouth the beer has a certain sweetness that is balanced by a nice freshness and some final citrusy notes.

Last day in Manchester; a day of celebrations for the end of this long and tiring roadshow. What's better than bubbles then? English bubbles! The Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvee is just as delicious as I was expecting it, with fine perlage, flavours of citrusy fresh fruit, grapefruit but also apples and pears.
The acidity is vibrant and the wine finishes with a refined aftertaste.


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Sunday freshly made pancakes (because is not all about wine)

Best ingredients for a perfect Sunday morning are (not necessarily in this order):

- a bit of milk, flour, baking powder sugar and eggs
- Bob Dylan on vinyl
- a pan
- a good pancake recipe (here from Nigella - but you can remove the butter, it's really not needed and can replace the milk with the soya substitute if you prefer a lighter version)

- a whisk

- Canadian maple syrup

and a good appetite!!

Have a good Sunday!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Who did invent Friday drinks?

This morning I came up with this question. Who was the genius introducing Friday drinks at work?! I did a bit of research online but, disappointingly it could not find anything on the subject.

You may wonder what is all this about, today? Don't take me wrong, I'm not waking up thinking about my afternoon drinks, but it's nice to have something to look forward to.....

And let me say that maybe not all companies take Friday drinks that seriously but the one I'm working for certainly does and that's why they may become the main reason to force yourself out of bed on a grey and wet Friday after a long week of late hours in the office and possibly even with an incoming flu, instead of working from home.

And this week I have been rewarded with a couple of interesting wines....

Surprise, surprise  (for anyone who knows my taste) I decided to go for the white, a single vineyard Pinot Grigi. Lively, fresh and with a reviving acidity. Quite citrusy and with a medium structure. Surely an unusual a captivating example of good quality (and not dull) Pinot Grigio.

Another week has gone...SALUTE!!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Malbec vs Malbec

If Malbec was an human being, it would probably be considered as a bipolar personality. Otherwise, how else would you describe a grape that has different characters depending on the continent it's growing in?

Argentine Malbec reached the public's radar in the 80's-90's thanks to its charming character, juicy fruit and its plush, velvety texture. A type of wine difficult to dislike. It easily became fashionable, making Mendoza's fortune as a wine region.  And since then anyone been asked about Malbec would think about Argentina probably also because 70% of it is cultivated there.

But the truth is that the grape is actually originating from France, more precisely from the South West of the country and was introduced in Argentina only in the XIX century. Cahors, its home town, is a beautiful medieval city in the Lot region surrounded by vineyards but what is really interesting is that the wines produced here are quite different and much less fashionable from the South American ones, so well known by most consumers.

Much sturdier than its Argentinian brother, the 'black wine' of Cahors has generally a more difficult character, a rustic feel, less generous fruitiness, spiciness and harsher tannins that need a bit of ageing.

Not a great variety of Cahors Malbec make it to international market so, during my 2 weeks tour of South of France, I made a bit of research on my own. I was not looking  for any specific winery nor I was prepared for a very professional assessment. I just chose quite randomly from the supermarkets' shelves inspired by the label or by the price.

All the wines I have tasted were of surprisingly good quality and extremely fairly priced. I didn't find them that austere but they certainly had exuberant tannins and needed a bit of food (which of course was not missing) to express at their best.

I can reconfirm that these wines were extremely different in style from the Argentine Malbec (one of my favourites) I had when I came back home .
What I found interesting (and the reason that inspired me in writing this post) is the individual characters this grape can show and how the combination of soil, climate, human techniques (i.e. irrigation or not) and local traditions can produce such unusual wines from it.

I'd like to finish saying that I don't think there is a style that is better than the other, it is just a matter of taste. Always drink whatever you like!


Sunday, 5 January 2014


During the early stages of my 'wine life' the only wine I had available at home was that produced by my grandfather in Alto Lazio, the area where my family comes from, just at the border with Tuscany. With all respect to my grandfather (that has left us too early to see me working in the wine business - thing that, I am sure, would have made him very proud), his wine was really not memorable. Nor were those made by any of the local producers.

Even later, when my wine experiences had developed a bit, I still was having difficulties to find a remarkable wine from my region. I have to admit that being born in Lazio, a region of Italy where wine production has never reached extraordinary standards of quality and prestige, I was sure this was connected to the specific location. So I convinced myself that the soil and microclimate must have been not suitable for viticulture. 

A wine proved me wrong. And the wine I am talking about is the Falesco Montiano.

The very first time I had the chance to bump into it, it was at a vertical tasting I was attending as part of my sommelier course. It was almost a shock! I couldn't believe that a wine with this depth could be produced in Montefiascone, a town that I only knew for its white Est! Est!! Est!!!

The wine is a 100% Merlot and even if I am normally a supporter of indigenous varieties (check this link on the subject) I must say that the wine is so good I could easily get over the grape subject.

I have tasted various vintages since that first time and never been disappointed. The wine has plenty of ripe dark fruit and a gentle touch of sweet spices.

In the mouth it is round and strong with good tannins, much more that you could expect from a Merlot. It has both complexity and length. It is a very good wine.

It may not be the only good wine from Lazio but so far it's one of the few ones that makes me proud enough of my region's wines!