Decanter’s Italian Fine Wine Encounter next weekend (May 10,2014)

May 01, 14 Decanter’s Italian Fine Wine Encounter next weekend (May 10,2014)

Posted by in All, Italy

Next weekend, May 10th, is Decanter’s Italian Fine Wine Encounter. I always enjoy going to these events because it’s the perfect opportunity to meet and taste some fabulous Italian wines. I love Italian wine but sadly, I never seem to have the time to really get to know them. Decanter’s tasting serves as a good reminder of all that Fine Italian wine has to offer. This year, the event is going to be held at the centrally located Lancaster Hotel, almost directly across from Marble Arch tube station. There are going to be more than 300 wines on offer in the Grand Tasting room including many iconic Italian wine producers. As well as the Grand Tasting, there are going to be  a number of Masterclasses – tutored tastings so that you can really get to grips with Italian wines. Looking at the list, I’m very interested in the Barolo masterclass, I always forget how fascinating those wines are. If masterclasses aren’t your thing, there will also be a series of informal tastings featuring 6 wines in the Discovery Theatre. The theatre is going to be run by my friends over at Vini Italiani so I know that they’ll not only be a lot of fun but also very informative. There will also be book signings by Monty Walden of the Chateau Monty TV series and Ian d’Agata author of Native Wine Grapes of Italy by the bookstand. I go to the tasting almost every year and it’s always good fun and serves as a reminder that I really do need to get cracking on my Italian wine knowledge. So many wine regions, so little time…. For more information on where to buy your tickets, visit the Decanter website.     Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Tozi, cicchetti in London

Jul 09, 13 Tozi, cicchetti in London

Posted by in Food and Wine, Italy

Prosecco may be very popular but as my Italian friend, Giordi, always tells me –  it’s too sweet here in England. So when we sat down at the new Italian restaurant Tozi and were presented with 2 glasses of prosecco, I wondered what she would say. After taking a sip,she pronounced it as it should be, dry and refreshing. I later found out that it was also served from a tap, as they do in Italy. It was the first of many pleasant surprises. Tozi features small dishes (cicchetti) which are meant to be shared amongst the table. The menu is divided into Wood Oven, Fritti, Counter & Salad, Pasta & Soup, Grill, Baked, Sides and Desserts. We tried as many as we could but the menu is extensive. The wine list is as expected, Italian but reasonably priced with some interesting choices. From the Wood Oven we had a spianata, aubergine, smoked pancetta and ricotta topped bread. It was very tasty and the bread was perfectly cooked and full of flavour. The wine list is all Italian and I asked the manager to pick a wine for us. He chose a Sardinian vermentino, Villa Solais Santadi 2011 which was full bodied with medium acidity and full of ripe peach and stone fruit notes. The fritto misto was not oily but crisp and juicy at the same time, eaten with a splash of fresh lemon juice – perfect. The aubergine parmigiana had just the right amount of passata and cheese to complement the aubergine. Giordi commented that often this dish gets drowned in tomato sauce but Tozi’s was perfectly balanced. We had another Sardinian wine, this time a red, Cannonau di Sardegna Riserva, Sella & Mosca 2006. Cannonau is the Italian version of grenache and was a good match to the aubergine dish with just the right amount of fruit and acidity but excellent tannin structure. The pastas were delicate and flavourful, the buffalo ricotta ravioli with black truffle was light and very tasty despite...

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Nino Franco Prosecco. Prosecco but not as you know it…

May 24, 13 Nino Franco Prosecco. Prosecco but not as you know it…

Posted by in All, Italy, Sparkling Wine

Cheap and cheerful. Big fat bubbles, sweet tasting. Famous for being the bubbly in a Bellini. All these things are commonly said about everyone’s favourite Italian sparkler, prosecco. But that’s not the only kind of prosecco being produced. I had lunch earlier this week at Locanda Locatelli with the owner of Nino Franco Prosecco, Primo Franco. Prosecco is traditionally made from the glera grape, goes through a secondary fermentation using the charmant method (in tank rather then bottle) and comes from the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano regions of Northeastern Italy. Franco make their proseccos this way but do much more. They are one of the few producers to make single vintage and single vineyard proseccos. For them, it’s very important to show the “terroir” of the region. It’s so important to them that they left the appellation in 2009 so that they could make their prosecco without having adhere to the rules and regulations put down by the Italian government. They want to differentiate themselves from the regular ‘prosecco’ made by their neighbours. Besides being single vineyard and single vintage, the wine is left on the lees and goes through battonage, none of which is allowed by the AOC, to give them complexity and body. They also wait 2 to 3 years before they release their proseccos to the market. The results are wines with complexity and depth. Another characteristic that I noticed straight off were the tiny bubbles – not something usually associated with prosecco. During lunch, I asked Primo if he would still call his wines ‘prosecco’ or would he prefer them to be called sparkling wine? This brought on a rather lively debate of what IS prosecco. We decided in the end that they were prosecco but …”not as we know it.” We tried Nino Franco’s Rustico prosecco, the 2009 Grave di Stecca, single vineyard and vintage, and the Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano, single vineyard. The Rustico was a delicious aperitif, dry but with balanced fruit on the nose and...

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Negozio Classica, boutique Italian wine (and food)

May 15, 13 Negozio Classica, boutique Italian wine (and food)

Posted by in All, Food and Wine, Italy, restaurants, wine bars

Walking along Regent’s Park Road near Chalk Farm, with it’s myriad of cute little shops, there sits a charming Italian enoteca, Negozio Classica. A North London outpost of it’s Notting Hill namesake, Negozio is owned by the Italian winery Avignonesi and specializes in not only importing their wines but also wines from other boutique producers. As a matter of fact, they boast a wine list from which fully 60% of all the wines are only available by them here in the UK. I was invited by Negozio to not only try the wines but also the food to go along with it. Entering the place, the walls are lined with bottles, all of which you are offered at retail prices to take home. For a corkage fee of £8.50, you also have the option of having the wine there at one of the tables near the windows or at the short bar that leads into small back dining room in the back of the restaurant. There is also a larger dining room upstairs. The restaurant specializes in Italian cuisine, naturally, with a selection of Italian bistro fair (antipasti, salads, meats) as well as traditional Tuscan pasta specialities. The evening I went,  I had a few dishes paired with the house wines. As they have Enomatic machines, the wines are always fresh and always available. A starter of mozzarella, avocado, tomato salad was deliciously fresh- the tomatoes juicy and tasty and the  mozzarella, creamy with just the right denseness to it. And, the avocado was perfectly ripe! Often times, I find when I order this salad the avocado is disappointingly hard and watery. A peachy, fleshy, fruity vermentino (2012) produced by Fattoria Sardi (Toscana) was a good choice for this light salad. One of my favourite dishes was the smoked swordfish carpaccio – intensely smoky, delicately fishy (in a good way) paired with an Etna Rosso, the Masseria Ceteporte 2010, was 100% Nerello Mascalese and reflected its volcanic roots with a smoke tinged, red cherry...

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A flying visit to the Sicilian winery Donnafugata

Nov 21, 12 A flying visit to the Sicilian winery Donnafugata

Posted by in Italy, Travel

Donnafugata literally means “woman in flight” and it is inspired by the flight of Queen Maria Carolina, who fled Naples ahead of Napolean’s troops in the early 1800’s. She sought refuge in Sicily where Donnafugata’s vineyards now sit, and that is how the image of a woman with windblown hair became their logo and the winery got it’s name. The same description could be used to describe José (with a hard J) Rallo, daughter of the founders Gabriella and Giacomo Rallo, she is a whirlwind around the winery. Together with her brother Antonio, they are steering the winery into the future with many new initiatives and programs. There is a lot more to Donnafugata then just wine, although they have become quickly recognized for the high quality of their wines over the past 30 years, they also have a thriving vineyard visitors program, a partnership with a local restaurant  that specializes in using local produce and support a pannetone baking operation in a Paduan prison. They certainly don’t stop. They have 2 separate vineyard sites and the main winery in Marsala. One vineyard, is on the island of Pantelleria where they have an ungrafted vineyard of Zibibbo which is over a hundred years old. It’s from this island that they make their sweet wines. The pannetone made by the prisoners of Padua is made with their Kabir Moscato di Pantelleria DOP. The chef of the prison bakery gave us a talk on the production of the pannetone and how much support Donnafugata has given them over the years. The bakery started out making a few hundred pannetone and now produce over 60,000 a year, all handmade, each batch taking over 70 hours to make. After the talk we got to try the various pannetone including the Kabir laced one. They were the best pannetone I’ve ever had, soft, moist and fluffy – not like the usual dry as sawdust pannetone you get here in London. The Kabir itself was fresh and full of honey,...

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