Ask anyone who has had their tongue pierced what it feels like and they always tend to shrug it off and say they didn’t feel a thing. I was thinking about this when asked what were my favourite wines of the year. What has marked my tongue so much this year that I can never forget it? Maybe not my actual tongue, but pierced my memory and overturned my senses. Some wines have seared my memory so much, they have changed the way I perceive wine permanently. Here’s just a small sample of my favourite wines – tongue jewellery – from 2010:
Red Wine of the Year – Antonio Ferrari Jonica Solaia 1959
Imagine it is 1959 in Italy and the hottest summer of the century. A winemaker from the north, Antonio Ferrari, drives down to Puglia in the south of Italy, sourcing the ripe Primitivo grapes from various vineyards. Because of the unbearable heat, he expects the ripe sugars in the fruit to turn into a fortified red at 22% alcohol, but once he ships them to his vineyard in the cool hills of Novara in Piedmont, the wine simply stops fermentating at 14%. Ferrari keeps the wine in oak barrels for 10 years then a further 35 years in cement tanks where the wine is bottled 45 years later…Is it a red wine? The closest thing I can describe it as is a digestive-port-sweet red wine. It is dark brown and has a bitter dark chocolate raisin taste, vibrantly fresh and almost buzzing, yet with a smooth texture that makes you want to loll it in your mouth for as long as possible. Which is hardly long at all considering it took nearly half a century to make.
White wine of the Year – Patrick Javillier, Meursault “Tete de Murger” 2006
Before I bought my new duvet, I had a hand-me-down, thin, beaten thing made of polyester cotton. Then one cold morning, I made a decision: I should grow up, fork out some money, and buy my own serious duvet. Rationalising that I spent nearly half my life asleep, I spent more than I thought was possible on goose feather from Siberia. But what a difference it made. The new duvet was like sleeping on clouds in comparison. That’s the problem with tasting Javillier’s Meursault – for a while, every other white Burgundy tastes thin and beaten after it. Unlike other winemakers of his calibre, Patrick Javillier does not have much grand land to work with – this is not a premier cru – but the way he works each barrel separately and artfully, means he produces a wine that makes a mockery of the cru system in this case. This is Meursault at its best: soft, creamy and voluptuous. Very few cases are made. I’m looking forward to tasting the 2009 at the Burgundy En Primeur tastings in January.
Dish of the Year – Homemade Gnocchi
“Why would anyone want to make gnocchi?” I thought, as I was peeling my 7th potato, “When you can buy a packet at the supermarket and it takes 1 minute to cook in a pot of boiling water?”
Over the Summer we had some friends from Rome stay with us, and under their “strict” supervision, we all mucked in like good soldiers. By the time it was lunch, we had flour everywhere and enough gnocchi to feed an army. According to Fabiola’s grandmother’s recipe, it all comes down to the texture of the cooked potato. Overcooked and it tastes like stale glue. Undercooked and it doesn’t stay together in the boiling water. Something so simple is not so easy to make! Although a Bordeaux Rosé is not the obvious choice for gnocchi, the magnum of Chateau Bauduc Rosé on the table is still talked about to this day.
Meal of the Year – Vongole & Frascati
As Virgil said, Bacchus loves hills. Poggio in Italian means hill, and this wine called Poggio Verde from Frascati is from the hills outside Rome which we had been driving through all morning before this meal. Frascati is a local white wine and the vongole were caught 10 metres away on the nearby beach in Freggene. Fresh pasta, fresh vongole in a white wine sauce. One of the those rare moments when everything aligns, sunlight makes the glasses shimmer and you think just for a moment life is not all that bad.
My food and wine resolutions for 2011…
It is 2011, time to support biodiversity. I am going to do it in the way I know best: in wine. Whenever I am in a bar or restaurant I feel I must buy the least known Italian variety on the menu. I just feel for the small variety in the big, bad city. This year I am going to choose the Grechetto over the Pinot Grigio, the Nero d’Avola over anything else, and definitely a Freisa d’Asti if I can find it. And with over 1000 Italian grape varieties, there’s an Aladdin’s Cave of new jewels for the tongue to taste in 2011.
First published on Bibendum Times