Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Lazio Spring

This was our first al fresco lunch of the year outside at Checchino Dal 1887, a restaurant set into the amphora-made hillside of Testaccio in Rome. It was the old slaughterhouse district and the main gate was opposite us as we tucked into various carnivorous dishes.

Normally you would go for red with meat but although this wine is from a Roscetto grape which has a tint of pink when grown, it is a golden, straw colour in the March sunshine. 

It is a fabulous wine made outside Rome in Lazio. It is crisp and mineral but without the body of a burgundy or the sharpness of a Chablis. But with a much better finish than a Frascati, for example. It is difficult to get outside Italy, although it's not expensive.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Atlantic Civilisation

I'd been reading in Barry Cunliffe's sweeping history of the European Atlantic seaboard how the Loire is one of the great arteries of the continent along with the Rhone and Rhine. It shifted all those good things from the Med like olive oil out to the 'Celtic fringes'. In turn tin, furs and Vikings made their way from Brittany back towards civilisation. Around Nantes at the western mouth of the Loire is the Muscadet wine region.

There are many signs of a good wine, but one rather crude one is to leave it open in the fridge overnight. Muscadets are usually 'bone-dry' but this one emerged from its chilly 20 hours with a range of flavours. Mainly apple but also a whiff of grass and not at all sharp in the mouth. Amazing value at £7.50 from the Wine Society.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Under The Volcano

If we're talking 'terroir' than it doesn't come more distinctive than ash and tufa does it? In fact the vines of the Auvergne don't cascade down the sides of the region's extraordinary volcanoes like lava. Instead they are mainly in the fertile valleys. This rosé was the perfect dish to set us up for the steaks we cooked under the pine trees camping next to the volcanic Lac D'Aydat. It's a bit like a Bordeaux rosé, quite full-bodied and dry. It's produced by a co-operative in the shadow of the long extinct Puy De Dome that towers weirdly above the surrounding landscape. I think I can detect a hint of the old fires in that lovely colour.

In Sancerre

The Sel De Grenier is one of those rather frilly French restaurants which can put you on edge until you realise all the diners are much more relaxed than the staff. And what could be more unstressed than eating in the garden at the heart of the lovely historic quarter of Montlucon in the Bourbonnais. That's close enough to the Loire for me to order a Sancerre. Not the classic steely white of that region, however, but this lovely cherry red. It went beautifully with some classic French food avec une twiste:  beef carpaccio with a basil sorbet, par exemple.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Rustic Romeiko

If you can't be great, at least be local. I drink a fair amount of Greek wine and struggle to find anything particularly good or interesting. Well, this one isn't that good but it was interesting.
The Makrakis family who make it proudly inform us that Virgil (an Italian surely?) said that counting the number of wines was like counting grains of sand. Their particular grain, or rather grape, is Romeiko which packs a reasonable kick alcohol-wise but is a relatively subtle flavour. Even the red has a suggestion of sherry about it. Fruity but with a dry edge.
It went perfectly with the fresh wild greens, smoked pork, spinach pies and rabbit with thyme that formed our diet at Milia, the wonderful traditional holiday village in the midst of the western Cretan mountains, just 30 minutes drive from the idyllic lagoon beaches of Elafonisi.
It's a charming and comfortable rustic spot and like the rest of Crete totally uncrowded at this time of year (early April) before the charter flights start to arrive.
You can stroll around Minoan ruins covered in wonderful spring flowers and take your pick of the restaurant tables in charming ports like Chania. And it's still warm enough to swim.
I didn't want to leave Milia. Partly because of the wood fires, sunny balconies, lovely walks, good food and even this wine. But mainly because to get in and out you have to brave a dizzy-making two kilometres of unmade mountain roads. You will need a drink after that.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Changing Cairanne

Wine really does have a life of its own. Even in the bottle it changes over time. And once released it continues to develop new characteristics. Take this Cairanne.

I really like the various Cote Du Rhone villages. Each has its own personality and they can be better value and more interesting than many of the well-known Rhone appelations. But I have had problems with Cairanne before. To my palette it can be a bit leaden, almost steely combined with a rather jammy, full-blown fruitiness. One of the few times I have ever left a bottle undrunk (apart from it being off) was a Cairanne.

So it was when I first tasted this a couple of years ago. But when opened this week, it had taken on a more velvety, less full-blooded body. And when left open in the bottle and glass for an hour or two, it became a very civilised, quite rich wine. Even one mouthful seemed to have quite a different finish to the first impact on the nose.

I just don't know enough about wine [as you will have gathered from this blog] to work this out. But I am looking forward to opening another bottle of this in a couple of years to find out what happens next.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Better Than Coal

I confess my real wine cellar is nothing like the one in the background of this blog. It's actually a very narrow coal hole that runs under the hallway of our Victorian terrace house. It isn't ideal as the temperature is not constant and the underground tributaries of the Fleet River are just inches below in the London clay. But it holds my collection of wine bought en primeur over the last decade or so that we've lived here. This bottle is something I dragged out in the last week past the tool boxes and the ladder, up the four steps into daylight.

After a decade of rest it's a wonderfully fruity but full and quite subtle wine from that most mixed wine region of France, the south-west. It's a beautiful part of the country, where the hills start to rise away from the Med, heading off into deeper Languedoc.

I am delighted to say that this will happily rest a couple of more years in the coal cellar and, I think, improve. The 2005 and the 2007 also awaits.