Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Superb Lakeside Dinner at Carrig House


Superb Lakeside Restaurant at Carrig House

Amuse Bouche
 If, as is said, location is everything, the Lakeside Restaurant at Carrig House near Killorglin, has it made. But, in a restaurant, food is all important and here too Lakeside is in a good place. Add location and that good food (not forgetting the impeccable service) and what more does a diner need. Good wine? You can count on that too. All organised by Frank and Mary who have been owners of this 1850’s house since 1996.


So book early (the restaurant is open to residents and non residents) and get one of those window tables, though you will be able to see the lovely Caragh Lake (it has its bad moods too) from most tables. 

Other nearby rooms are in play too as you begin your trip to the table. If it is cold or even cold-ish, an open fire is blazing as you sip an aperitif and study the menu in one of the ante-rooms. Here too, you’ll enjoy an amuse bouche and soon you are relaxed, ready to take the few steps to the dining room.

The long list of starters will almost certainly include their famous chowder and their Glenbeigh Shellfish Tasting. On our first visit (May 2017), I picked that Shell Fish combo: Steamed Cromane mussels, sage, cider, clotted cream, cockles tempura, Napa cabbage kimchi; shucked oyster, Prosecco granita. Well that fresh and chilly oyster was the star of the plate, no doubt, but the other, more humble shellfish, went down very well too. 

Meanwhile, CL was being royally entertained by her duo of Prawns: Poached prawn, watermelon, avocado purée, lime sorbet; crispy potato wrapped tiger prawn, physalis, and chilli relish. That lime sorbet was a terrific accompaniment and the crispy potato wrap another highlight.

She loves her rabbit and so once the Rabbit Loin with smoked bacon popped up, it was a cert for her. And a winner too, served with wilted spinach, Puck Fair Ale infused pear pearls (try saying that in a hurry after a few bottles of the local brew!),  Jerusalem artichoke, and bee pollen.
Rabbit

And I rarely skip a chance to indulge myself in Skeaghanore duck and this was another beauty. The full description: Skeaghanore Duck Breast, juniper spiced, blood orange, baby carrot, carrot and orange purée, meringue, lovage jus. 

And the wine? They have  quite a choice. And that’s before dipping into the Reserved Selection. Frank was host, a superb one I will add, and he helped us pick the Esk Valley Pinot Noir from New Zealand, one of quite a few wines from both old and new world vineyards, and a good one too.

The piano player wasn't on that particular evening but no need for music to put us in the mood for dessert. I spotted warm roast figs in one description and surrendered to the Warm Creamy Rice Pudding, a delicious and rich delight topped by those figs and served with a Port reduction and kataifi crisps.

The other dessert at the table was the Rhubarb Crumble Tartlet, spiced rhubarb jam, and frozen yoghurt, quite a combination and one that kept CL happy.

And the evening ended with another bonus, there being no need to go out at all. Just a stroll to one of the nearby lounges and a seat in the heat. Very Highly Recommended overall, not just the lazy luxurious finalé.



Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Festival Cork’s inaugural Dessert Festival!

Week of events planned across Cork for Festival Cork’s inaugural Dessert Festival!

Following on from the success of hugely popular Burger Festival and more recently the Whiskey Festival the team at Festival Cork are delighted to announce their latest event
“ Cork Dessert Festival” running from June 26th to July 2nd - a festival showcasing the finest confections that Cork has to offer.

Ernest Cantillon and Eimear McCarthy festival organisers made the announcement this week:
 “We are very fortunate to have an abundance of quality producers and food outlets in Cork. Following the huge success of our previous festivals and the overwhelming support from businesses and visitors alike it was an easy decision for us to launch our newest event Cork’s very own Dessert Festival”

Across the week a number of well known venues including Electric, Sober Lane and Cafe Velo will pull out all the stops to deliver tastings, workshops and events allowing businesses & producers to promote their dessert offerings in a fun and innovative manner.

“The festival promises to appeal to everyone from the  sweet toothed dessert enthusiast to the master confectioner.” Ernest said, “We hope to showcase some of the finest desserts and allow for a few surprises along the way.”

The Dessert Festival is the first of it’s kind in Cork and if the previous events hosted by Festival Cork are anything to go by it promises to be a real treat.

Stay connected with the festival through
Facebook @Festivalsincork,
Twitter: @Festival_Cork and

If you would like to get involved in the festival please email dessert@festivalcork.com  

Taste of the Week. Ballintubber Vodka and Blueberry Cheese From Cahill’s Farm

Taste of the Week
Ballintubber Vodka and Blueberry Cheese
From Cahill’s Farm


Cahill’s Farm are in County Limerick and they make a 100% pure and natural, full-flavoured cheese, handcrafted in the traditional Irish way, and made with only the freshest, wholesome, natural, ingredients. 

They are well known in the world of cheese and are regular award winners including at Blas, the British Cheese Awards and World Cheese Awards.


This particular cheese is basically their Cheddar, with the addition of Vodka and Blueberries. It is a marvellous combination of creaminess and flavour and our Taste of the Week.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Pinot Grigio, one of the most popular grapes

Pinot Gris, more widely known by its Italian name Pinot Grigio, is one of the most popular grapes around.
Giorgio (right) in Cork last year.
Quite often it doesn't have much flavour and is easy to drink and these wines are sometimes described as inoffensive, a kind of damning with faint praise. It's as if someone said your wife or husband is "an inoffensive little person, you'd hardly know he/she was there". Luckily, the two below have lots of character, character that you'll appreciate as you get to know them. You'll soon know you have a real wine in your glass. And nothing offensive about it at all.

* In a 2015 article in the Irish Times, their wine expert John Wilson said Pinot was the Genghis Khan of wine and went on to write about Pinot Grigio (one of its many offspring). Read the full article here.

Colutta Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali (DOC), 2015, 12.5%, €17.50 Wines Direct.

Colutta may well be a small operator but is present in Ireland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and, of course, United States and Italy. Giorgio Colutta took over the family vineyard in 1998 and The History of Modern Italian Wine credits him with being one of the influencers of the first decade of this century.

He is not organic; his emphasis, he told a group of us in Cork last year, is on being environmentally sustainable, it is easier to be organic in the south, he said. He uses mechanical control instead of herbicides, recycles rainwater and is self-sufficient with regard to energy consumption.

Modern Italian wine says “he used Pinot Grigio as his passe-partout to introduce the indigenous varieties”. These varieties include his amazing Schioppettino, which he showed in Cork.

Colour of the Pinot Grigio is straw yellow and there are fruit and floral elements in the bouquet. It is smooth and rich and full of flavour. Much more intense than your usual PG and no wonder Wines Direct regard it as “the best Pinot Grigio in Ireland”. A long finish adds to the pleasure. Very Highly Recommended.

The website tells us that the wine is left on lees until February to develop a better flavour and bouquet. It is not oaked and best served between 10 to 12 degrees.

Zenato Pinot Grigio della Venezia (IGT) 2015, 12.5%, €18.00 O’Donovan’s Off Licence

Zenato, well known for their reds, are on the fringes of Lake Garda and current wine-maker Alfredo Zenato heads the family’s drive to “produce affordable wines of exceptional quality”. And this is indeed an excellent expression of the grape, with more personality than most and a refreshing finish.

The colour is pale gold with green tints. A pleasant melange of citrus and peach in the aromas continues in the impressive palate, smooth and elegant right through to a persistent and grippy finish. A perfect wine for moules frites in the months ahead on the patio (finger crossed!). Highly Recommended.

Lovely as an aperitif and should go well with most of the lighter Italian and Italian style dishes. We tried it (didn't have that many options at the time) with salmon, risotto and pak choi and it worked very well.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Amuse Bouche

Old church in Dungloe turned into bakery/tearoom
Tootsie gave me a sympathetic smile. “Lieutenant Fitzgerald is a lively young man.”
“Lively,” our father said, “will not put food on a family's table either - and especially not when a great portion of whatever income he does receive goes to drink. His name - Fitzgerald - that’s Irish, you know. And I’ll suppose he's a Catholic. I’m a fair man, but there are good reasons those people have the reputations they do. Baby, you don't want to get ensnared here.”


from Z (A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald) by Therese Anne Fowler (2013)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Maestro in top form at the Radisson Blu!


The Maestro in top form at the Radisson Blu!
Dessert terrine
After having sampled lots of food goodies at the official celebration of the Radisson Blu revamp, I was keen to try it out in depth. And we took the opportunity last week on a magnificent sunny evening. Indeed, there were quite a few families out on the sheltered terrace celebrating the local confirmations.

This time, we started in the Banks Bar and were treated to a couple of cocktails. A Cosmo (Absolut Vodka, Cointreau, Cranberry juice, lime juice) and a Bramble (Hendricks Gin, lemon Juice, Sugar syrup, Crème de Mure) pour moi. Up and running!
Starter terrine
 We took some time to go through the menu. It is a large hotel so they cater for a wide variety of tastes, for adults and kids, so it is a large menu, with everything from small plates to sandwiches, to pizzas, to salads, to fish and steaks. Starters range from €5.50 to €13.95, mains from the mid teens to the high twenties (7-ounce fillet, for instance, is 29.95).


CL started with the Chicken, duck and smoked bacon terrine, with roast baby vegetable salad, orange and chocolate balsamic syrup. This was absolutely delicious, a great mix of textures and flavours but a surprisingly mega-plateful under the menu heading of “Something Small”. Meanwhile, I was eagerly tucking into my equally delicious Pan fried confit of lamb shoulder on a bed of braised Puy lentils, morel cream sauce. Hadn’t seen this as a starter before.
Confit of lamb
 I stayed with the meat for the mains and picked the Pan fried prime Irish 8-ounce rib-eye, with chunky skin-on fries, baked Portobello mushroom, slow roasted vine tomato, green beans and onion rings, and peppercorn sauce (from choice of three). It was quite the main event indeed, full of great flavour and I enjoyed every single element on the packed plate.


The other side of the table was also doing well, happy with her Pan fried salmon, chorizo and leek risotto, with lime and green tea dressing. All done to perfection and the risotto was highly impressive, really tasty.
Salmon
 Service was efficient and friendly from start to finish and a little tempting (along with recommendations) from that quarter saw us order dessert. Lemon Meringue Pie with Crème Anglaise was CL’s pick while my cool choice was the Raspberry and chocolate terrine, with lemon curd crème fraiche, and fresh berries. Happy campers after those two sweets!


Both wines came from Mendoza in Argentina. The white was Donna Paula Sauvignon Blanc, aromatic, crisp and lively and €6.95 per glass. Same price for the red, the Paula Malbec, a lovely supple wine, fruity and with a rich finish.
Main event!
 The significant refurbishment project, completed last month, incorporated The Great Island Ballroom, the chic hotel lobby, stylish Banks Bar and over 40 bedrooms, and culminated in the complete revamp of the hotel’s restaurant. Now sophisticatedly adorned with plush carpets, mahogany furniture and brown leather booths, the restaurant is the cherry on top of the hotel’s brand new look and has been renamed the Maestro. Well worth a try, for sure.


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Montepulciano and Montepulciano

Montepulciano and Montepulciano

I think we’ve all been confused at one time or another by Montepulciano on an Italian wine bottle. It is the name of a grape and of a town in Italy. According to Wine-Searcher.com the grape was named after the town and was once widely grown there.

Nowadays, the grape has found another home in Abruzzo, hence Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.  In the late 20th and early 21st century, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo earned a reputation as being one of the most widely exported DOC classed wine in Italy (Wikipedia). 

Abruzzo is a large area on the east coast. The local wine industry, according to Vino Italiano, is dominated by giant cooperatives of which Cantina Tollo (below) is one example.

Now let us return to the city of Montepulciano. This is in Tuscany, in the province of Sienna, and is one of the most attractive hill towns in the area.

The main grape grown here is Sangiovese (blood of Jove or blood of St Giovani or maybe something else entirely!). Only the very best grapes are used for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. The others are used for Rosso di Montepulciano. The Vino Nobile has the big reputation but the simpler Rosso is no mean wine either as our example indicates.

Other grapes grown here, according to Vino Italiano, are Canaiolo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Alicante (Grenache). No mention of the Montepulciano on that list, so you are highly unlikely to see a Montepulciano di Montepulciano. Let me know if you do!

Cantina Tollo Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (DOP) Bio 2015, 13%, €14.45 Le Caveau


This organic wine has quite a few admirers and I'm among them. Pascal Rossignol of Le Caveau, the importers: “The Bio wines are a great find. The wines are literally singing in the glass with their exuberant fruit and juicy flavours”. The winery itself says they are bursting with primary red fruit.

The fruit is hand-harvested and the wine is neither “fined nor filtered”. Colour is an attractive ruby. Aromas are mainly of red berried fruits. It is fruity and juicy and easy drinking. Lots of lovely fruit flavours, nothing extreme, mild tannins, well balanced and with good acidity. Class finish too, long and dry. Very Highly Recommended.

Innocenti Rosso di Montepulciano (DOC) 2012, 14%, €17.45 Le Caveau

The Innocenti estate lies between Montefollonico, a walled city in Tuscany, and Montepulciano, just a short drive between them. This is a blend of Sangiovese (mainly), Canaiolo Nero and Mammolo and has spent six months in oak.


Colour is bright, and light, ruby. Generous aromas of stewed plums and a touch of heavier gamey notes. It is medium to full-bodied; that warm fruit is there, some spice too, really well balanced. Fine tannins noticeable on a long and dry finish. Very Highly Recommended.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Taste of the Week. Double Delight from Iago

Taste of the Week

Double Delight from Iago
Doubly Delicious

Taste of the Week is another double, this time from Iago in Cork.

I was in there to get some of their renowned fresh pasta and, while waiting, had a look at the well stocked cheese counter. The Durrus caught my eye and, on the counter top, they had various suggested accompaniments for cheese including a Fig and Almond Slice.

I bought some of each and it was a match, a heavenly one, even if introduced in Princes Street, Cork, just across the way from the English Market.

The rich creaminess of the famous cheese from West Cork, made there by Jeffa Gill since 1979, is a well-appreciated delight, as is the salty tang at the finish, but the soft-grain sweetness of the figs and the crumbly crunch of the nuts enhances the experience no end. And, by the way, they have many other excellent products in Iago’s.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Top Olive Oils at Bradley’s


Top Olive Oils at Bradley’s
Three very young oils

Bradley’s of North Main Street, Cork, are well known for their selection of fine wines. And, where there’s wine, there’s olive oil. Indeed, quite a few of the oils available here are made by top wine-makers including a few from Tuscany and Spain’s Torres.

Speaking of Tuscany, a wine and olive oil producer there once told me that the best way to make olive oil is to immediately cold press the just picked grapes. In his place, it was done in the cool of the night as the Olive Press was too hot during the day, which it was. I tried it and you could hardly stand there for a minute.

He was scathing about the big companies who dragged in olives from all over the Med and were still able to claim that the oil was on a par with his. The longer the olives are hanging around (or in transport) the more the acid is a factor. Some big producers filter out the acid but also much of the goodness.




Tuscany is more or less on the northern edge of the kind of climate in which the olive tree grows and so is very susceptible to changes in the weather, especially the frost which has been known to more or less wipe out the olive rows. 

The one in 1985 was a disaster. The trees had be severely pruned to ground level and it took all of ten years to get a good crop again. So the arrival of the new season’s oils in Tuscany is a big event. It is like a fete and the restaurants mark it by putting on special menus. It is very important for Tuscan cuisine and they always cook with good oil. 

Fontodi Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a richly coloured oil from Tuscany, very delicately balanced. Fine aromas of artichoke leaf and an elegant peppery flavour come together in a fragrant lingering finish. The organically raised olives are picked by hand and carefully pressed the same day in order
to keep the fragrance. Read more here.  


The River Cafe I Canonici 2016 EVOO: also from Tuscany, this is an almost luminous green in its youth (as many of them are!); this bright oil is fragrant and very spicy with lovely fresh grass and green olive characters. Clean and bright it has tremendous depth of flavour right through to the long peppery finish.


Capazzana 2016: Organic and another Tuscan. Quite a bright green in colour, soft and fruity with a light spice and great delicacy, perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and using in dressing for salads.




Alpha Zeta 2015 EVOO: Golden-green in colour with a light delicate perfume of fresh grass and ripe olives. Light and delicate on the palate with a fresh grassy taste, medium body and a smooth ripe finish. Excellent for drizzling over more delicate dishes. This comes from the hills outside Verona where cool breezes come down from the Dolomites.

Torres Silencio: Sourced from the estate of Los Desterrados in Lleida, Catalonia, from centuries-old Arbequina olive trees. The olives are harvested and cold-pressed on the same day, and only the oil from the first pressing is used. The resulting extra virgin olive oil is rounded and well balanced with aromas of artichoke, unripened almonds and fresh-cut grass. And Miguel A. Torres Senior requests it at every meal when travelling (where available). 

West Cork Olives: Bradley’s also carry oils marketed by West Cork Olives and imported from Spain and Greece. I haven’t had a chance to sample these yet.


Suggestions On Olive Oil In Cooking

1 - How about delicious Pumpkin and Farro Soup with a topping of Parmesan and a good oil?

2 - A lovely plateful of local scallops with lemon, chilli, coriander and oil. Needless to say, plenty of bread (with oil on it) with these two dishes. 

3 - Slow Cooked (15 hours) shin of beef with red wine (Italian or Spanish!), thyme, garlic and black pepper, served with braised winter greens and an olive oil potato mash.  

If you prefer fish why not try this Fenn’s Quay dish that I came across a few years back: Grilled plaice, with braised leeks, olive oil crushed potatoes and onion puree. The first three dishes were served at an olive oil tasting in Ballymaloe.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Le Caveau Portfolio Tasting Cork, featuring The Natural Kingdom of Ganevat

Le Caveau Portfolio Tasting

The Natural Kingdom of Ganevat
Pascal with Michael Creedon (right) of Bradley's Off Licence
Nicolas Donne of
Guy Allion
“This is what Le Caveau is about,” said Pascal Rossignol as he surveyed the scene in St Peter’s Church in the early stages of the Cork tasting of his 2017 portfolio last Thursday. And he had much to be pleased about as the visiting growers and Pascal’s staff displayed some 145 wines, all sustainable low intervention, many fully organic and some natural, for the tasting.

And if the tasting in general spoke of Le Caveau, then one wine in particular hinted at where M. Rossignol might be taking us in the future. And that was the Anne and J.F. Ganevat Vin de France Rouge called Madelon. 

Pascal was enthusiastic about this amazing blend. And no wonder! The mix of 50% Gamay from Morgon and 50% of Ganevat’s own field grapes (ancient varieties here are lost in one another) is amazing, yet so focussed, with a dry finish. This superb wine, which has spent ten months in foudre (large wooden vat) is produced outside the appellation rules, hence the Vin de France on the label and hence no vintage mentioned (not allowed!).

Formidable!
While the Madelon is made with his sister Anne, the other wine on show, Cotes du Jura blanc “Sous La Roche”, is produced by Jean-Francois himself. All his wines are made in very limited quantities, so are hard to get and so full praise to Le Caveau for giving us the opportunity to taste this gem with a finish that rolls on and on.

Great to have the chance too to chat to Bertrand Ambroise and his delicious Burgundy wines. We started with a Chardonnay, named after his grand-daughter, the Côteaux Bourguignons ‘Lettre D’Eloise’. This is a really round wine with balancing acidity. The Hautes Cotes de Nuits 2013 was another splendid Chardonnay (one of nine that they produce), apricot to the fore with no shortage of minerality.

Also got to taste three of his thirteen Pinot Noir, starting with the 2013 Côteaux Bourguignons ‘Lettre D’Eloise’. This has been aged in old barrels - he didn't want oak influence here. A gorgeous well-priced wine.
Bertrand Ambroise (left) with Colm McCan of Le Caveau
Then I enjoyed a sip of the Cotes de Nuits Villages. “Very interesting to drink now but it will last fifteen years,” said Bertrand. “It is 40% new oak, no fining, no filter and we are using less and less sulphides.” Organic farming is a way of life for the Ambroise family. The final treat at this table was the Nuits St Georges ‘Les Haut Pruliers’. This is faultless with an astounding finalé.

Guy Allion (Loire Valley) was represented by Nicolas Donne and I enjoyed their Touraine Sauvignon Blanc ‘Haut Perron’, very expressive and very fresh (the harvest is “early nighttime” to enhance those very qualities). 

Nicolas also had an unlisted addition, the 100% Sauvignon Chenonceau 2015. It can be made only in the valley of the Cher, a new appellation since 2011. Aromatic and elegant, it comes in its own unique bottle (made in Italy) and “can age for ten years”.

Chaume-Arnaud are pretty well known for their lovely Rhone reds but it was a white that caught my tastebuds: the 2015 blend Côtes du Rhône, very complex with excellent mouthfeel and excellent acidity as well. Thibaud Chaume explained that 2015 was “a bit hot..but this fruit is grown on top of a hill where it is fresh, also cool at night” and these factors all helped.

And he also had another off catalogue wine, “perfect for barbecue”, the 2015 Marselan, “well structured and great with food”.

Tour des Gendres are well represented on the Le Caveau catalogue and, once Guillaume de Conti began to speak, I could see why. You might think the basic entry wine might not get that much attention but Guillaume said that is the one that gets full attention. “It bears the family name, so it gets great care so that each vintage is of a high level.” And this certainly is, six months on lees also helps. A very reasonably priced wine too.
Lovely to meet up again with Elena Pantaleoni of La Stoppa (left). Her orange wine, the fantastic Ageno, has just been named as the number one natural wine in the world in the May issue of Decanter. 
Another Italian wine-maker that caught my attention was Ampeleia. Giulia Zanellati showed me three very interesting reds indeed, including the Un Litro Di Ampeleia, a blend of four varieties. It comes in a one litre bottle that is proving very popular in Italian restaurants. Giulia made me rather jealous as she described their vineyards which are near the sea. “It is a beautiful place to work, all the different levels where the views, the trees, the animals, all change as you go up or down. 
The 2016 Alicante Nero, Costa Toscana IGT, is 100 per cent from a single vineyard, at 400 metres with clay and rock dominating, another delicious fresh wine. And freshness too in the 2013 flagship, the Ampelia Costa Toscana IGT, a blend of Cabernet Franc (80%) and Sangiovese. The Cabernet Franc - they use it a fair bit - is noted as adding freshness and obviously enjoys the terroir here.


Le Caveau were also showing a large range of house wines, very acceptable house wines I hasten to add. One that I really like is the Petit Verdot, Haut Medians, Robert Vic and also the Madrigale in both red and white. And Charles Rossignol introduced me to more excellent house whites in St Peter’s (pictured right) . Perhaps the one I liked best was the Ciello Bianco Catarratto (Terre Siciliane IGT). This is certified organic and unfiltered and is refreshing and grippy, great with food I'd say.



All in all, quite a tasting. I didn’t get to taste all 145 but the name that stood out was that of Ganevat. The maestro from the Jura has three pages to himself in the 2017 Le Caveau catalogue but beware that quantities available “are very small and can only be managed via allocation”. He is, after all, one of the royalty of natural wine!


.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

SuperValu's Italians. 
On Offer For Next Two Weeks


SuperValu's Italians
On Offer For Next Two Weeks

SuperValu are in the mood to celebrate all things Italian and their wine expert Kevin O’Callaghan is joining in the fun by putting the focus on their range of Specially Sourced Italian Wines which will be on offer for two weeks from Thursday May 11th. 

We’ve enjoyed the five below over the past few days. From the "fashionable" Aglianico to the more traditional appassimento, they are all good (good value too) with the Ammasso just about about shading it  (I might need a re-run!) as our number one of the bunch. 



Tombacco Aglianico dei Beneventano (IGT) 2013, 14%, €10.00 (down from 12.99).

Aglianico, a variety with Greek connections, is prominent in the vineyards of Campania and Basilicata. Haven’t heard of it? Don’t worry. The Italian vineyards are among the most diverse in the world and hundreds of varieties have been “authorised” for planting and selling as wine, according to Vino Italiano.

Aglianico is the dominant red wine grape in the IGT of Beneventano which itself is a thriving IGT in Campania. In Grapes and Wines, it is described as “suddenly one of the most fashionable grapes of a newly fashionable region”.

There are aromas of vanilla, red fruits too, from this deep ruby coloured wine. It is soft on the palate, cherry and plum, a little spice too, plus a decent finish. Elegant and warm and Highly Recommended. Pair with “all red meats and aged cheeses”.


Il Capolavoro Vino Rosso Appassimento, Puglia (IGT) 2015, 14.5%, €10.00 (down from 14.99).

Some of you may have seen Gonzalo Gerardo Higuaín score the goals that gave Juventus a vital away win over Monaco in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final. His contribution was described as “il capolavoro”, the Italian for masterpiece. Might try a bottle of this next time that Higuaín is on telly.

The vinous Il Capolavoro has been produced by using the traditional “appassimento” method, whereby the grapes are partially dried to increase colour and concentration. It has worked well for the Italians over the decades and works rather well here too.

The colour is a rich ruby and you’ll notice the legs are slow to clear. There are intense aromas of dark fruits, chocolate notes too. On the palate, that sought after concentration is pleasantly evident; it is full of flavour with a touch of smooth spice, a hint of sweetness and it is juicy too. Easy drinking and Highly Recommended.

Pairings recommended are: veal, chicken, and pork and any pasta or pizza that comes with a tomato sauce.


Burdizzo Vermentino Toscana (IGT) 2015, 12%, €10.00 (down from 12.99)

Vermentino, a favourite of  mine, may be found “the length of Italy” according to Grapes and Wines but the “best wines come from Tuscany, Sardinia ad Liguria.” Outside of Italy you’ll find some pretty good examples in the Languedoc where it is also known as Rolle.

Vino Italiano considers it “one of Italy’s most distinctive whites” and also highlights the same three regions. Wine writer Fiona Beckett says that many tip Vermentino to challenge the dominance of Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris.

Vermentino production in Tuscany, an area where red varieties account for almost 90% of the total vineyard area, has rocketed in the last 10 years, according to Decanter: “…. 2010 found 653 hectares planted to Vermentino. By 2015, the regional government was reporting 1,192 hectares….”.

Our Burdizzo has the colour of light straw. Aromas are of white fruit, with floral and herbal notes, a pleasant mix. Palate is crisp and fresh, no shortage of that white fruit with peach and green-melon flavours to the fore all the way to a long finalé. Highly Recommended.

Barone Montalto Ammasso 2013 Rosso Terre Siciliane (IGT), 14.5%, €15.00 (down from €18.99)

This too uses partially dried grapes, the method known in Sicily as Ammasso. The varieties blended in this gorgeous and complex wine are Nero d’Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. A serious work of wine is the result and it is Very Highly Recommended.

Medium ruby red is the colour and the aromas, of dark fruit, are pretty intense. There is a luscious concentrated fruit, hints of sweetness, light spice too; overall, a rather plush wine, tannins just about in play, and the finish is long.

Castellani Arbos Sangiovese, Tuscany (IGT) 2013, 13.5%, €10.00 (down from 12.99) 

Vanilla is prominent in the aromas of this Highly Recommended medium red; darker fruits there too. On the palate, it is smooth and fruity (cherries and plums), drifts of spice too, plus that quintessential acidity (almost an ever-present in Italian wines), and fine sweet tannins make it a pleasure in the mouth and the finish ain't bad either. Great value.

The producer’s aim has been to use the best Sangiovese grapes “to produce a Tuscan red dominated by fruity and spice notes, typical of the grape”. This worthy effort may be enjoyed with red meats and pasta dishes.