Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Barolo and Barbaresco Wine Tasting Dinner

Another fine wine dinner at Enoteca Turi. This time it was more like raiding Giuseppe's private cellar. These were some serious wines and not available in the shops. The prices quoted are for current vintages. Goodness know what these vintages would cost even if you could find them. So it was a privilege to get to taste these. As usual Giuseppe talked about the region and the food plus Tom Harrow from The Wine Guy as guest speaker gave us more insight into the wines and the growers.

It will spare you my detailed tasting notes as these wines are out of my palate's league. What I will say is:

  • of the first pair of Barbarescos, the second was twice as good as the first as reflected in the price
  • the pairing of the first Barolo with the ravioli was a match made in heaven. all around the table agreed.
  • of the two wines with the veal, I prefered the Barbaresco and Mary preferred the Barolo
  • I very much enjoyed the Langhe

Assaggi Piemontesi
Piedmontese antipasti
Prosecco di Valdobbiadene DOC Col Vetoraz
Millefoglie di funghi porcini con fonduta di robiola
Layers of porcini mushroom with filo pastry, robiola cheese sauce
Barbaresco Rabaja Riserva DOCG 2001 Produttori del Barbaresco (current vintage GBP 39)
Barbaresco Asili DOCG 2001 Bruno Giacosa (current vintage GBP 98.00)

Agnolotti del plin
Traditional roasted meat and spinach ravioli with butter and sage
Barolo Gran Bussia Riserva DOCG 1996 Aldo Conterno (current vintage GBP 127)
Filetto di vitello con gnocchetti piemontese, spinaci e salsa al tartufo
Fillet of veal with potato gnocchi, spinach and truffle sauce
Barbaresco Starderi DOCG 1996 La Spinetta (current vintage GBP 85)
Baralo Cascina Francia DOCG 1996 Giacomo Conterno (current vintage GBP 105)

Formaggi regionali
Regional cheeses: castelmagno, brunette and tom a piemontese
Gaja Sperss 1998 Langhe DOC (current vintage GBP 131)
Caffe con torta Gianduia
Tea or Coffee with Piedmont hazelnut and chocolate tart

Excellent food, wine and company as always.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Seven Flavours from Spain

Another fine tasting from the Charteris Wine Society. This time the presenter was Andrew Bird, a brand manager from M&S, and the wines he was presenting were all from their own label Spanish range. Not only did we learn about their wines but also got a fascinating insight into both the wine trade and Marks & Spencer's own culture.

It would appear that all their wines are own label and, unlike some supermarket chains who simply buy wines from the producers and relabel them, M&S employ their own winemakers to work with the producers on the assemblage. As a result what you are tasting is a wine unique to M&S.

It would appear that M&S (or their customers) are very Euro centric with the countries most heavily represented being France and Italy with Spain coming number three. Whereas most supermarkets tend to lead on the USA.

Charteris Wine Society

1. Vintage Rosado Cava, Pinot Noir, 2006. GBP 9.99
Dark pink with a fresh fruity nose with elements of green strawberry and red currants, brut on the palate. We then got an interesting history of Cava and its reliance on indigenous grape varieties.

Also interesting to note that the more conservative M&S customers drink proportionally less than do the customers of other supermarket chains. And in France overall they drink a far greater proportion of rosé than do the UK public.

2. Val do Salnes Albarino, Rias Baixas, 2007. GBP 9.99
Pale lemon colour and a green straw or grass, knows with a hint of grapes and melon. On the nose it seemed quite round and unctuous and sweet but I found it tad flabby.

3. Campo Aldea Rioja Riserva, Graciano, 2005. GBP 9.99
Cherry red with a dark wood, blackberry nose. Very soft and fruity. In my view one of the better Riojas, with a good length.

4. Marques de Grinon, Calzia, Syrah / Petit Verdot, 2006. GBP 8.99
Dark cherry colour with their distinct Murillo Cherry nose. palette blackberry jam with a hint of tang. We were regaled with tales of vine smuggling when the producer introduced French vines into Spain in contravention of their laws.

5. Bellmunt Priorat 2006. GBP 12.99
An inky red colour with a nose both floral and cheesy at the same time. The tannins were much more marked than in previous wine and not merely as jammy a flavour. A mongrel blend of grape varieties: cabernet sauvignon merlot, garnacha negra, syrah and carignan. I learned that the garnacha is the world's most planted grape.

6 Pena del Infierno, Ribera del Duro 2006. GBP 19.00
Very inky with a hint of brown and definitely not as clear as the other wines. Jammy and alcoholic at 14.5 ABV with plenty of tannins. I have to say not for me I preferred number five there was something of the farmyard and metallic about it.

7. Lustau Palo Cortado Sherry. GBP 9.99
Light caramel in colour and on the palate also with a velvety toffee flavour. But drier to taste than the nose might have led one to believe.

An excellent and educational tasting.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Birthday Weekend 2009

My birthday was on Sunday but we spent the whole weekend eating and drinking to celebrate.

We started off on Friday evening when Mary took me to a local South African restaurant in Putney. We had seen it from the bus before and promised ourselves a meal there to remind us of our trips to SA. We even booked one time then completely forgot - I hate having been a 'no show'. This time we made it and had an excellent meal. I had very tasty ostrich and springbok for main course. Chakalaka, Putney

Saturday it was the turn of our old haunt Ringwood. We went down early to drop the car off for its MOT. Then round to Bob and Lynn for lunch before an afternoon wine tasting.

New Forest Wine tasting 19 September 2009 - Bob and Mary tasting wine
Bob and Mary tasting wine

Ringwood has a newish independant wine merchant who has done a number of tutored tastings in the shop. This was his first large scale walk around tasting in a church hall with his suppliers presenting their wares.

New Forest Wine tasting 19 September 2009 - Graham (New Forest Wines) and Nigel (Supplier)
Graham (New Forest Wines) and Nigel (Supplier)

After the tasting it was time for a short siesta before going out for a meal at another recent addition to the Ringwood gastro-scape, Seven Fish.

Sunday it was back, via mum and dad's for a cup of tea, to start preparing for meal number 3, the periodic sibling and partners' dinner party. Mary slaved for hours producing a multiple dish Thai meal which went down very well; Mary excelled herself. Sarah seems think it is some sort of competition but it is simply that Mary loves cooking.

And so to bed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The London Bop 2009

Wednesday was the annual gathering of Marc Bolan fans in Golders Green. This was the, I think, fourth one of these I have been to and one of the more enjoyable. Part of that I attribute to live music from Tyrannosaurus Jed and Remco.

Marc Bolan London Bop 2009 - 1
Tyrannosaurus Jed

Also the venue has changed. In previous years it was held in Klub Xtreme a somewhat pokey basement underneath The Rectory pub. This year it relocated to the White Swan in the main pub area. A great improvement as you could both see better what was going on and also hear yourself think which made talking to other Bolanites easier - which is part of the whole reason for going.

Marc Bolan London Bop 2009 - 2
Tyrannosaurus Jed

I hardly needed a disco as the songs are already grooved into my brain so it was very refreshing to hear alternative live interpretations especially from Tyrannosaurus Jed who played songs from the earlier era before Tyrannosaurus Rex became T.Rex.

Marc Bolan London Bop 2009 - 3
Remco - from Holland

For just one man with a guitar Remco produced an amazingly good sound. What you can't see in this photo is the huge crowd behind me. Standing immediately in front of me was a lady with a Marc Bolan tattoo on her shoulder done in some fine detail.

Marc Bolan London Bop 2009 - 5
Marc Bolan Shoulder Tattoo

I met up with a number of people I had met through Facebook and it was good to put faces to the names.

It is appropriate that I post this on my birthday as it was on this very day in 1977 that I first learnt of Marc's death - several days after the event. I was on holiday in Greece and out of touch with dear old Blighty. As it was my birthday I treated myself to a several-days-old Times and there was the small paragraph announcing his death in a road traffic accident.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fourth Annual Drink the Cellar BBQ

Saturday was our fourth annual "help us drink our excess wine cellar"; wine that is ready for drinking and we would hate for it to go over the hill. As usual our friends rallied round.

The BBQ went well. 41 peeps and 36 bottles. As expected we over catered so it is lamb burgers for a month for us. And while clearing up we discovered 24 lost sweetcorn under the sink. Succotash anyone?

Starters included Italian meats we brought back from Italy last weekend:
  • capocollo
  • bresaola
  • salami piccante
  • lonzino
And Mary's excellent Smoked Mackerel Pate with Cucumber Relish

Mains were lamb burgers, some spicy Mexican sausages and chicken thighs marinaded in Japanese soy sauce, ginger and honey. The magic ingredient was employing my nephew Tom as burger flipper. He did an excellent job which meant that Mary and I could mingle with our guests without worrying about carbonised food.

Desserts I spent the evenings of the week before preparing - giving the ice cream maker a severe hammering. All made from a base of proper cream and egg yolk hand-made custard with fresh fruit:
  • raspberry
  • blueberry ripple
  • pineapple and stem ginger
  • honey & hazelnut
  • strawberry sorbet
Previous attempts to clear the cellar:
Not sure what happened to 2008 but I suspect overshadowed by posts about the London to Paris Bike Ride training

PS. 15-Sep-09.
This is what the cellar looked like 2½ years ago and, in fact, it is much fuller now because we brought a load of wine back from the wine merchants and had to put in a more racks to accomodate them:

wine cellar

Smoked Mackerel Pate with Cucumber Relish

This recipe Mary acquired at a Saturday cookery school some years ago. It never fails to be a crowd pleaser and so easy-peasy to prepare. Certainly there was none left after Saturday's BBQ.


8 oz smoked mackerel fillets
pinch ground mace or nutmeg
1 oz butter (melted)
8 oz curd cheese
pepper to taste
few drops lemon juice
Tabasco or little cayenne pepper

Remove skin and bones from fish, pound to a smooth paste with the mace, work in remaining ingredients


1 cucumber (sliced)
2 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard
6 tbsp salad oil
3 dsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp chopped fresh mixed herbs (parsley, chives, mint)
salt and black pepper

Combine dressing ingredients, spoon over cucumber, chill well before serving

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Yet another holiday in Puglia

This time we had a slightly different vacation, we took a holiday within a holiday: we took a couple of days out to go up to the Gargano, a national park at the top end of Puglia.

We flew EasyJet. British Airways were too expensive and we don't like RyanAir. Normally we would fly Alitalia but this time we thought we would give EasyJet try. The flights were fine but it was the four-hour stopover at Rome airport that was a bit of a drag. Next time it will be back to Alitalia.

Sunday we went to meet up with our neighbours Chris and John for live opera in Cisternino piazza then round to their place for lunch. Afterwards we were joined by Donato the builder to discuss paving our back patio.

Monday we spent down the beach, we tried out a new stretch of the coast at Torre Gauceto. Lovely sandy beaches unlike the rocky coast directly down the hill from us.

Tuesday morning we drove up the coast to meet up with Chris and John for lunch at Mattinato. In the afternoon we drove up to Vieste and back across the mountains over some of the twistiest hairpin bends I have the dubious pleasure of driving.

That evening we stayed in Monte San Angelo and went out for a meal in one of the two Michelin Guide recommended restaurants. The next day was more driving over the hills to Vico through the forest with a short forest walk in the middle.

These are ancient beech forests and just magical to walk through.

Wednesday evening was a repeat of Tuesday evening at the other recommended restaurant.

Thursday we drove over to San Giovanni to see the church built to accommodate the Pope's visit following the beatification of local boy makes saint (Padre Pio).

Friday was a quiet day at home pottering about and a second visit from Donato to discuss the exact line of the paving slabs. We were joined by a very friendly cat, so friendly it fell over in its enthusiasm to rub against my feet. We were afraid it might be another stray but it turned out to belong to a farmer who takes his cat to work with him unlike most of the other farmers who take a dog!

That evening we went back into Cisternino for a pizza followed by an evening of free jazz in the same piazza:

Then Saturday it was home via a shopping opportunity in Rome airport arriving home eventually after midnight.