Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Vinoteca Restaurant in Farringdon has been my go to spot for a fair few months now. I've spent so many hours here over the past 3-4 months and tweeted my experiences so often that it's kinda bonkers that this is the first mention on the Wine90 blog.
Vinoteca is one of those wine bars that, due to the sheer variety of wines on offer, makes it a perfect stop for your lunch hour or for a mid afternoon wine by the glass option or even for a pre-dinner sherry. Yet, it's taken me a full year back in my hometown of London, to get my glad rags on and eat here.
It's confession time. I don't often write restaurant reviews. I find myself crippled with the same affliction which hit my dining partner that evening, I'm going to call it the palate collywobbles. Whilst she became obviously nervous at the pre-dinner wine flights fearing I would subject her every comment to full on scrutiny, I, by the same token, can start to doubt my own palate and description thereof, when it comes to food.
This may shock some readers, but I've been eating food since I was a toddler, that I should question my ability to taste food, I reassured my friend, is exactly as ridiculous as her fear that she might taste the wines incorrectly. As long as you have four of your five senses working for you on any given day, you can taste wine. Even I draw the line at listening to the wine, but if you do hear a whistle or a slight popping to your wine, then you're probably a little under the weather and should consult your GP.
So the scene is set, Vinoteca, wine flights, full meal, wine tasting virgin as dining companion, OK we're good so far? Great.
For any self confessed wine novice Vinoteca makes your life pretty easy. Food and wine matching can be a fun game to play but if you get it wrong, and you're stumping up plenty 'o pounds for your food, it can also be a perilous game. Fear not. At Vinoteca they have paired all the meals on the menu with a carefully thought out by the glass suggestion. However, I like to play fast and wild and Vinoteca's 280 strong by the bottle selection was too tempting so I opted for the very fairly priced 01 Borgogno Barolo Riserva. Not at all predictable behaviour on my part. As this is no Tarantino movie, let's review the wines and the food in chronological order.
Pre Dinner Wine Selection
You can view all of Vinoteca's wines by the glass here. I chose;
Schloss Vollrads Erstes Gewachs Riesling 2004
A vibrant golden colour in the glass. Fast and fruity on the nose with acres of melon, honeysuckle and peach on the initial sniff with a lasting honey aroma towards the end. On the palate the wine is rich, juicy and more tropical than expected. Starts out quite fat with the acid rushing forth just before a fair finish that continues in that tropical theme. Rhinegau texture but colour and palate?! Not typical perhaps but enjoyable. 87 Points
Monte Bernardi Chianti Classico 2005
A deep ruby red to the rim. Simple profile to the nose with straight and expected cherry and vanilla though also a little dusty with hints of chocolate and coffee or to be fanciful, a cherry Bakewell tart with cappuccino sprinkles. Same focused approach to the palate, definite Chianti though not complex, high acid, firm tannins, mid bodied with a balanced finish. 88 Points
La Guita Manzanilla
A light golden green colour but getting a touch of those "past it's primes" you can get when your Sherry is just that month too long in the tooth. Still retained great salt and nut flavours on the palate. On the nose detectable cantaloupe, hints of grass and lemon. Focus has diminished a touch perhaps due to being a month too old or a.n.other fault? As such can't rate the wine fairly.
I like to think of myself as fairly unpretentious at least in the world of wine. In the food world however I know well enough what I want and that is..
A generous portion
Tastes and textures that compliment one another
Lastly, I hate, with a passion detest, food that is overly dry or ... too moist.
I have to hand it to Vinoteca, there are so many restaurants trying to double as wine bars, and, wine bars trying to double as restaurants that fall so far short it's red cheeked embarrassing, but not here. The food outshone the wine. The food outshone the Barolo. The Italian Wine Blogger says the Food@Vinoteca outshone a Barolo. That's huge news.
To Begin: Selection of Spanish cured meats, almonds & olives - £7.25
Full size plate covered in typical Spanish meats which paired up really well with the sherry. These were not overly fatty cuts that you can find in many London restaurants, well presented. Main Course: Gressingham duck breast, chanterelles & trompettes, farro, cimi di rape - £16
Succulent duck breast with the most mop-up-able jus I've had for a long while and once again generous portions and well presented. There was no room for dessert. I don't think I've ever said or written those words before. Weird. Borgogno Barolo Riserva 2001
A classic ruby red fading tawny to the rim. A sweet violet nose with touches of marzipan, tar and wild strawberries even. Still a little young, the palate is still a touch tannic and bitter but loosening up over time. A good freshness here though and a balance of force and elegance that showed toward the latter as the evening wore on. Didn't blow me away but still a solid 90 points for my palate. Leave a Comment
Where is your current go to restaurant or wine bar? Any city.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Don't get it twisted though, Gruner Veltliner is a serious grape and Prager a top producer that deserve to be enjoyed alongside light meats/white fish. However, if you hate food and wine matching and just want an easygoing, delicious and fruity white then Gruner is your buddy. GV is the most versatile wine in the land for food and wine matching.
Monday, December 14, 2009
G'wan then, what is your wine of the year?
Sunday, December 13, 2009
The world of Californian Wines is large, varied and daunting and even with my Official AVA maps and guides I still find myself lost in a sea of Valleys, Coasts and Creeks. There are a handful of wine bloggers out there who really do know their Oakville from their Oak Knoll and High Valley from their Hames Valley and all this week they've been offering guidance to the Italian Wine Blogger in return for tips on my equally confusing but endlessly rewarding chosen subject for 10; Italian vino.
So it was with great pleasure that I accepted an invitation to go along to the official Wine Institute of California's first Social Media event in Hoxton on Thursday to get a taste of the different varieties coming out of California that are available in the UK. Speaking with the organisers it seems there are real problems getting the Brits to drink mid range Californian wine but no problem at all enticing them with 3 for 10 Blossom Hill/Gallo wines.
It's frankly impossible to generalise when it comes to Californian wines. The area is huge and 4th only to Italy, France and Spain in terms of growing area, has a massively changeable climate north to south, coast to mountains also making vintage generalisations nigh on impossible and the grapes grown change like the dickens! There is half as much Chenin coming out of California as there was five years ago and Pinot Grigio vines have sprung up 480% in the same time. Pinot Noir and Syrah are being newly planted and traditional Zinfandel vines are being torn up. However the stalwarts we come to associate with California continue to prosper and, even with this small 12 wine sample from Thursday night we can see that wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc continue to flourish and real quality can be found in the mid priced range.
If you like tasting notes... you're gonna love this! *flexes fingers* - Here we go! Remember folks, like always, if I am passing a wine it is only because I personally wouldn't buy it again for my own personal consumption, a party or a friend, it doesn't mean you will not like it. If you like, sweet apple notes and nettle finishes then you'll love the first wine. The Beringer burning banana plantation Chardonnay I gave just 84 points to yet I requested a bottle to take home because I knew my flatmate would love it. Always read the tasting notes. If your palate is actually identical to mine then... kudos!
Loredona Monterey County Pinot Grigio 2007 - PASS - £9
Sits straw yellow. A fresh, clean, crisp wine with a sweet green apple nose. On the palate good acidity with a distinctive nettle like bitter finish but refreshing. 86 Points
Dancing Bull Sauvignon Blanc 2006 - PASS - £9
A straw yellow colour and aromatic from 12 inches! Exaggerated notes of pineapple, fig and melon, very tropical and "starburst-esque". A mid bodied wine with a fruit forward flavour profile that left my tongue tingling on the finish, not in an acid way, in a sharp pointy needles way. Basic fruit explosion but good fun. 86 Points
Beringer Vineyards Founder's Estate Chardonnay 2007 - BORDERLINE - £9
vibrant mid straw yellow and a nose of a burning banana plantation makes this wine distinctive for $11. Luscious mouth feel and solid fruit on the palate with apricots and papaya in play. An extreme wine both on the nose and in the mouth, a case of knowing when you've been tango'd. 84 Points
Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2007 - BUY - £10
Mid straw yellow. A really intriguing wine on the nose producing notes that make for a strange mix. Peach and lime intermingle along a tropical sugary theme with the lime flavours coming to the fore on the palate, strong finish, strong acidity making this wine a real QPR doozy. 89 Points
A deep dark ruby red and thick in the glass. Aromatically obvious Cabernet Sauvignon with blackberries, a touch of graphite and a little smoky. Velvet texture and solid tannincs, fine balance, well done. 88 Points. Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 - BUY - £15
Light ruby red with orange hues. Notes of bacon and cherry unfold quickly and on the palate the wine has a good balance with fine tannins. Good actually. 86 Points And the Star of the Show... amazingly a wine I have written about already on the Wine90 blog. Only 3 Californian wines have ever shown up here and low and behold, my favourite mid priced, UK available, Californian Red was sat on the table. The EOS Petite-Sirah. EOS Paso Robles Petite Sirah 2005 - BUY - £10
Deep purple in the glass and right off the bat you are hit with a blockbuster nose of cherries, spices and pepper. On the palate the wine is thick and jammy with a lustrous mouthfeel, flavourful and smooth with acres of blackcurrant in the mid palate. 14% alcohol held with absolute style, nothing harsh or hot in the finish which goes on and on with notes of chocolate. Not really complex just simply delicious. 90 Points Leave a Comment
Why is it that mid range Californian wines haven't really made it over the Atlantic? Or do you think they have? Also, please leave any tips for great Californian wines for me to check out to help expand my knowledge? Or, that are simply dee-lische?
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
2006 was a superb year for Chianti and Tuscany in general. For once, Tuscany could revel in it's 55 Tre Bicchiere awards while the usually undisputed King of Italian wine making regions, Piedmont, had to settle for a paltry 52. Within Italy sales of Chianti are on the rise and internationally there is growing demand for Chianti Classico which is now world renowned for offering fantastic QPR and has shed it's straw covered/tourist image. It's hard to generalise a vintage across an area as wide as Chianti but these wines are of high alcohol, good acidity and with a fine tannic structure so should age beautifully.
2006 is thought to be the second best Chianti Classico vintage in the last 15 years, coming two years after the best vintage, 2004. As is often the case when you have a great vintage, the second brilliant vintage in quick succession can offer great opportunities for those looking to invest in wine. It is often forgotten that the mighty Sangiovese, even outside of Brunello di Montalcino is capable of ageing and any one of the four wines in this review will be drinking beautifully in 2016 and some even possibly up to 2030.
Reliable and Excellent Producers of Chianti Classico
There are some producers who can be relied upon year in year out with their Chianti Classico wines being among the best of the vintage, however, I can't guarantee any of these wines will be excellent in any given vintage, I'm not Matt Skinner. These are four of my favourites from 2006 that you should be able to easily locate.
- Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia £20-25
- Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio - £15-20
- Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo - £25-35
- Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva - £12-16
You may notice a glaring omission from this list, Castello di Ama. While there is no denying that both the Bellavista and Casuccia bottlings are extraordinary I can't recommend these wines as great value both retailing around the £100 mark.
Fattoria di Felsina Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 2006 - BUY - £25
A deep brooding ruby red the wine takes a while to express itself on the nose however when it does the bouquet has sumptuous notes, spice and earthy with blackberries and cherries mingling with floral tones too. This is a full bodied Chianti that is fresh with strong acidity, drying tannins and a great structure for ageing potential. Powerful and vibrant give this wine some respect and another five years at least. 94 Points
Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Castello di Brolio 2006 - BUY - £15
Almost purple in colour this wine is stunningly aromatic and typically Chianti Classico. Dried fruits, spices, cherries and chocolate on the nose. The wine is mid-full bodied, tannic and with a bitter finish. This wine won the best Italian wine of the year with Wine Spectator magazine and so the price has gone up since my video review you can see here. 89 Points
Fontodi Chianti Classico Riserva Vigna del Sorbo 2006 - BUY - £30
A deep purple wine and full bodied, this Chianti Classico takes hours and hours to open up and really should be cellared for a further 10 years to get close to its best expression. However, today the wine is bringing a sour cherry, tobacco and chocolate nose if decanted for several hours. On the palate the wine is high on both tannins and acidity and the structure and power here is immense. Some red fruits on the palate but mostly earth and just dense. One of those wines where drinking today is pleasurable but not a patch on having a little patience, it's gonna be a monster! 94 Points
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 - BUY - £14
The lightest of the four, a medium ruby red and also the least dense this Chianti Classico is made in a smooth style and is medium bodied. On the nose the wine has classic sour cherry, some vanilla but also a heap of earth too. The wine can be drunk today but will improve, is smooth in style with the typical high acidity and great fruits on the palate. A touch watery and clipped on the finish. 89 Points
Where can I buy this wine? (the lowest price available - just click the link on the country)
Felsina - USA - EUROPE - UK
Barone Ricasoli - USA - EUROPE - UK
Fontodi - USA - EUROPE - UK
Castello di Volpaia - USA - EUROPE - UK
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Chianti Classico recommendations, stories, tales of woe, all things Chianti Classico! Where did you have your first Chianti? Food match-ups?