All posts filed under: Wine+Food

Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria

Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé, Donnafugata at The Modern Pantry, London

Passito di Pantelleria Ben Ryé Grape: Zibbibo (Moscato di Alexandria)Region: Sicilia DOCYear: 2014Alcohol: 14.5%Price: £39 Supplier: Liberty Wines Why can’t we start dinners with the dessert course? Do it all in reverse. This greedy thought occurred to me as we finished the lunch with a glass of Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria at The Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell. Considered one of the “grandi vini” of Italy, Ben Ryé Passito di Pantelleria perfectly matched with a dessert of popcorn pannacotta with brown bread ice cream and a miso and orange caramel. Wonderfully done, I loved the touch of wild fennel in the flower arrangement, too – this is a herb found by the sides of the road in Sicily, so very happy to see it in London (having just been in Marsala a few weeks ago).  To get to the island of Pantelleria, it’s a small-plane flight from Palermo towards the coastline of Tunisia. It’s a windy spot in the Mediterranean, with volcanic soils, which is perfect for drying and concentrating grapes. A technique called passito.  …

A visit to Lina Stores in Soho

  Squid ink ravioli with brown crab meat for starters. Ace Fiano Greco blend from Basilicata – a fairly remote and volcanic area in Italy that is truly fascinating to me. It tastes like super fresh and cold pineapple while sitting in the sunshine beside a bright pool. Bright! Lina Stores in Soho London is like stepping into a grocery shop in Rome in the 1950s (as my older Italian friends tell me). It’s my favourite place to buy pasta in London and they have a small range of Italian wines with styles that can be often difficult to find anywhere else. Visit my instagram page for more wines and food matches.

How does classic white Bordeaux fit with my not-so-classic life? A week in photos

The case of Bordeaux blanc from the Bordeaux Council sat in the corner of my tiny London flat like an elaborate piece of 17th century furniture. The idea of drinking Bordeaux blanc everyday is very grand, but how does this classic style of wine fit in with my not-so-classic, real life? Instead of opening all the bottles at once, we opened up a bottle or two every night with dinner to see how it worked with food. Which it does. Spectacularly. But not with everything. Don’t believe the label if it ever says aperitif – you will be wasting half the experience. Most Bordeaux blanc is better with food. There are better aperitif wines out there but there are not as many complex food wines out there as Bordeaux blanc. I photographed my week of meals at home (and one special occasion meal on the weekend) pairing white Bordeaux with food. Here are the results. But first, some tips on buying white Bordeaux under £20.   What to look for in Bordeaux Blanc under £20 The last bottle of Bordeaux blanc I had was a bottle of 2011 Smith Haut-Lafitte – not an …

The Best Wine with Seafood

Thank god for social media because that’s how I recognised the Thomas “Braemore” Semillon on the menu at North Bondi Fish. This is the best wine with seafood I’ve had for a while. For people who know the usual drum beat of Australian wine, this particular Hunter Valley Semillon may be unrecognisable. The delicate and clean flavours can seem barely perceptible; but, this is what makes it work so well with the silky flesh of wood-fired Yamba prawns, creamy Moreton Bay bugs, fresh scallops or lobster linguine. The texture is a like for like. It’s as essential as a lemon cheek for seafood, and as decadent as stolen lunch hour at the beach. Taste it once and you want it again. In fact, we returned to the restaurant the next day to do just that. Brilliant. * Clever marketing can make you buy the first time but not the second time. Australian wine marketing has worked very well at the cheaper end of the wine market for a long time. Perhaps because it’s a land of long distances where messages …

Go tell the volcano

Just a little note from Sicily as I was determined to have a holiday – visit friends, eat and drink without analyzing, and climb Mount Etna. But as this meal was so brilliant, and simple, it is worth a little post. It also made me think about wines on holidays in general. Why does a wine often not taste as spectacular at home as it does on holidays?

Natural Wine Bars & Bistros in Paris

The Entrance for Artists. As readers of this blog may know, the last thing I enjoy with a glass of wine is a list of rules. I’d much rather join the circus. Arriving in Paris a couple of weekends ago to see a few natural wine bars, I stayed in the very un-chic 20th arrondissement. Groups of homeless men lay in sleeping bags huddled together beside concrete road blocks showing political signs from Mélenchon’s Communist Party. It was a very crisp, cold weekend. Pamphleteers handed out how to vote slips for Francoise Hollande.

Beautiful Gestures in Campania

After paying for a ticket to see the Palace in Caserta I asked, why is the main entrance in darkness? To give you an idea of the opulence and amount of marble of this entrance, this is the same place that is used as stand-in for the Vatican in films and also used as a set for Star Wars. Yet when we arrived, we had to climb the marble stairs in darkness, reducing the grandest staircase I have ever seen to a hollow echo-chamber. The fabulous silk curtains were almost threadbare and sun-damaged, the walls cracked and scuffed.   Despite this neglect, every room overwhelmed, as if outdoing the previous room in their lavish praise to gold. My calves ached from the amount of walking on marble; it must have been kilometres.   There is also something of this forgotten glamour and grandness to the wines here. I tasted some true greats in Campania. They are unquestionably brilliant but… it is like talking on a radio in a power cut. And just as frustrating. It’s …

For Super-Geeky & Friends: Enoteca Ferrara, Roma 00153

If you have friends who say Italian wine is confusing, then take them to this wine bar in Trastevere in Rome.   The wines on the blackboard called me in from the street with a listing as colourful and clear as notes on a children’s toy xylophone.   In principle, the best wine bars have a sense of non-fussiness. That is why Ferrara is an incredible feat: Italy is a country where nearly everybody is a fussy oenophile. Oh yes, everyone is an expert; but perhaps Italians truly need to be with 1000s of grape varieties and so many excellent regions to choose from. Regardless, this tiny wine bar was not a bad compromise between wines that are accessible and interesting.

Breakfast wine: Moscato d’Asti on Sundays

It is not often you find a wine with a sense of humour, but this lightly sparkling, lightly sweet wine is the vinous equivalent of being overpowered by tickling. Logic says, don’t give in, but the frizzante, well – it is hardly bubbles, and 5.5% alcohol is hardly wine, and it is as sweet and light as a hazelnut meringue or biting into a fresh mille–feuille pastry on a first time visit to Paris. Something monumental is born from the entirely fun and frivolous. Oscar Wilde once said, “Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast”, and most times I agree wholeheartedly with this statement, which is why Moscato d’Asti is the perfect antidote for lazy Sunday breakfasts.

Notes from Parma: What is quality Lambrusco?

Parma is VIOLETS. Aged hams, dark chocolate, profumo, the fizz of Lambrusco. Violets became popular under Maria-Luiga, the Duchess of Parma and second wife of Napoleon, whose presence can be felt everywhere walking along the prosciutto-coloured streets. The smell of violet has three distinct parts: candy-sweet, violet flower and violet leaf. In my opinion, this can be seen as the spectrum of quality of Lambrusco. The worst being confectionary and the best redolent of violet leaf. A good, refreshing Lambrusco has a violet leaf dryness with a violet fizz that immediately dissipates into an ecstasy of violet perfume. After my last post, I had some rather strong reactions to my assertion there could even be a possibility of quality Lambrusco. Think of it this way. Rose was also once considered a sweet and cheap drink. Look at it today. Over the past 10 years it has become one of the most versatile and food-friendly wines on the menu. What do you think? Can you recommend anything good? Or is Lambrusco a hopeless case?  

Notes from Parma

Emilia-Romagna is strange. The train departure board could be a poster announcing a stadium tour of gastronomic rockstars – Parma, Bologna, Modena – and yet… as far as wine goes, the region is mostly known for its sweet fizzy Lambrusco… click here for more on Vinissima.net

Giro d’Italia Wine Tour 2011 with Vinissima

Join me on my Wine Tour with the Giro D’Italia 2011 as the Tour races through the wine regions of Italy. At each stage, we will match the wines from the area the Tour is travelling through. There are maps, clips of the race, wine and food and more maps. Updated throughout the day. Drop in, anytime over the next 3 weeks. Finishes Sunday May 29. www.GiroWine.tumblr.com 2011 Giro d’Italia – List of Stages and Quick Links to Main Posts:

Salice Salentino Riserva 2005

Last night I tasted the Salice Salentino 2005 Riserva by the Candido family in Puglia. Salice Salentino is the name of a style of wine made from the Italian grape, Negroamaro, found on the Salentino plain located in Puglia, the heel of the “boot” of Italy. As Nabokov puts it, “This is the whole of the story and we might have left it at that had there not been profit and pleasure in the telling…” Salice Salentino by Candido has an acidity like a table made only of neon light: the edges are the fluorescent bright taste of redcurrant and bilberry. The acidity frames a space filled with a perfume of prune, mushrooms and dry raspberry (must remember, real raspberries taste dry). It is a brick red with orange glints. But this is where the limit of description ends and where the music begins. Alongside the wine we enjoyed the local cheese from Puglia, scamorza (a smoky, hard mozzarella). The smokiness of the cheese became the bottom note completing the earth-fruit in the wine, pulling together …

the blue wines of Tuscany

At first everything seemed fine, more than fine: from left to right, older terracotta-coloured wines from Chianti to the latest bright purple wines from the Tuscan coast of Maremma. The new 2006 Coevo sat in the middle: a perfectly balanced blend of two distinct regions, Chianti and Maremma. But then out came the Michelin-star Chef, Massimo Bottura, to introduce the food. Initially, I thought it was simply a good idea to have food with a Tuscan wine tasting, for Tuscan Sangiovese wines are often completed on the palate by food. But Massimo Bottura, from Osteria Francescana in Modena, a 2-Michelin star restaurant (Bottura himself is ranked number 6 in the world), was not here just to cook, he was here to interpret the ideas behind2006 Coevo wine through his food. Suddenly, the tasting shifted to a whole new level… Bottura’s ideas flew as thick as aged Balsamic yet as fast as a Ferrari (both also at home in Modena where Osteria Francescana is based). Bottura insisted, the modern chef needs to have their feet on earth and mind …

Dinner with Francesca Planeta

At a press dinner with Francesca Planeta, it did not surprise me when she said her wine had run out at Milan Fashion Week. These wines are seriously loved by the fashion industry. What does come as a surprise is to learn Planeta has only been making wines in Sicily since 1985. Think Italy and wine: what comes to mind is old estates with centuries of history. Then there’s Sicily… dormant for the past 4000 years, it has recently become a hotbed of wine innovation. The world’s love affair with Planeta started with their Chardonnay. We tasted the 2000 vintage and I was instantly back in the 1990s: poured from a double magnum, it’s a full-bodied Chardonnay with prominent oak, a style which has now fallen out of fashion somewhat. But this is Chardonnay: there is no other grape that is dictated so much by fashion.  Contrast the latest 2009 Cometa Fiano. It’s Sicilian style, full of fabulous pure fruit expression that had a consultant exclaim on first tasting, “When a wine comes out like this, it’s indigenous in …

Lunch with Randall Grahm: Imagining Change

Imagine we live on a planet. Not our cozy, taken-for-granted earth, but a planet, a real one, with darkpoles and belching volcanoes and a heaving, corrosive sea, raked by winds, strafed by storms, scorched by heat. An inhospitable place. It’s a different place. A different planet. It needs a new name. Eaarth.” Environmentalist, Bill McKibben     To be honest, it took me a while to sit down and write this post after lunch with Randall Grahm from Bonny Doon vineyards. Why? Firstly, my notes from the conversation at lunch sitting next to him read like a Steiner school brain map: Volcanoes, White Grovonia, Root depth, new clones, aesthetics, saline water, Acacia barrels, the lime taste in Australian Riesling “what is it?” RG asks…. Secondly, there has been a lot already said about Randall and it’s easy to get caught up in the “Californication” of him. He does look particularly exotic from a European perspective. The gonzo Ralph Steadman drawings on the labels (artist of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing), the long hair, the …

the blue wines of Tuscany

At first everything seemed fine, more than fine: from left to right, older terracotta-coloured wines from Chianti to the latest bright purple wines from the Tuscan coast of Maremma. The new 2006 Coevo sat in the middle: a perfectly balanced blend of two distinct regions, Chianti and Maremma. But then out came the Michelin-star Chef, Massimo Bottura, to introduce the food.   Initially, I thought it was simply a good idea to have food with a Tuscan wine tasting, for Tuscan Sangiovese wines are often completed on the palate by food. But Massimo Bottura, from Osteria Francescana in Modena, a 2-Michelin star restaurant (Bottura himself is ranked number 6 in the world*), was not here just to cook, he was here to interpret the ideas behind 2006 Coevo wine through his food. Suddenly, the tasting shifted to a whole new level… Bottura’s ideas flew as thick as aged Balsamic yet as fast as a Ferrari (both also at home in Modena where Osteria Francescana is based). Bottura insisted, the modern chef needs to have their …