Sordo Barolo, 2007

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

I’ve written many times of my quest to find the perfect wine to accompany beans on toast. But, what about that other saccharine Heinz staple, Tomato Soup?

Everybody tells me that Italian reds are powerful, tannic and rich – like sucking a teabag that has been left in the pot overnight. So that won’t work then, will it?

Sordo Barolo. And England beating Poland to qualify for the 2014 World Cup...for some reason

Well, yes actually. This wine is soft like a fresh raspberry teabag (should you wish to to commit brewed beverage bastardisation) with just a smoky hint of genuine tea (Earl Grey), and there is a slight sweetness that really brings out the flavour of the kids’ teatime favourite.

And as I write, England qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals! Great goal by Gerrard. Let’s hope we don’t face Italy first up in the competition. Like their wines, they are tough early on, and soften up over time.

Mine cost me £32 from the Sunday Times Wine Club and the 2007 is STILL AVAILABLE. But, not cheap, so maybe better to buy the 2008 and save it to drink when England win in Brazil?

Berardo Chianti Classico Riserva, Castello di Bossi 2007

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Spending a weekend in Brescia at the European Wine Bloggers Conference, seemed a pretty good way to try to fill in some of the blind spots in my wine knowledge, namely, pretty much all Italian wine.

But due to “real” work commitments I was unable to attend any of the post conference trips, the most appealing of which was Chianti.

I can stare longingly at a wine map, kindly donated by Steve De Long. I can laugh wryly at the treatment afforded to Jim Budd (a man so straight-talking his words are delivered on EU approved cucumbers) in his communications with a renowned Chianti producer. But right now, the closest I can get to saying I was there is by drinking a bottle that I procured from Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites), en primeur, for about £16.

Like many indicters, I might allege that Italian red wine is all too often over-tannic for my tastes and this one plays up to my prejudices. However, on the plus side, there are punnets of blackcurrants, baskets of cherries and bright acidity that lasts in the mouth like a 24h menthol mouthwash (in a good way!).

This wine is young, of course. But I think relations between Baron Ricasoli and J.Budd Esq. will have thawed long before this wine’s tannins are soft enough for me to really enjoy it.

If you are into this type of wine, surely it would be magnificent with a hunk of rare red meat and a big bowl of salty French fries.

Scalini Fedeli, Tribeca, New York

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Scalini Fedeli is such a high end Italian, it could be the Silvio Berlusconi of restaurants. As I walk in, I imagine Wall St bankers taking their prey to be softened up with an expensive Chianti before mugging them for an eye-watering commission.

I reckon the waiting staff are in on the act.  They look impressively like Spatz Domino’s henchmen. I wouldn’t dare send anything back. Having said that, ruthlessly efficient and courteous. One of the themes of NYC service that has changed since my last visit 18 months ago (and one small part of me regrets this) is the tolerance, politeness, and friendliness you can nowadays expect even in the diners and delis.  Is there an economic down cycle or something?


Graticciaia, 2001

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Even with one trouser leg rolled up, £32 is more than I usually spend on a bottle of wine.  About 4 times my average price – how outrageous!  What coaxed my bank manager to clear funds for this bottle from the Wine Society?

Maybe it was a tasting at the Freemason’s Hall in Manchester, where the signal to gain entry was not the usual hand contortions that portray a shadow shaped like an Esther Rantzen vegetable, but a mere Wine Society membership card.


The Smith, East Village, NYC

Monday, July 18th, 2011

I am liking some of the trends in New York dining.  The Smith is an exponent of many, including the provision of free and bottomless supplies of not just tap, but also sparkling water.  Eating irons wrapped in a proper cheesecloth napkin of tea towel proportions fulfils both form and function.


Spring in Amsterdam (The Restaurant)

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

Situated in a lovely part of Amsterdam with a village feel that reminds me of certain parts of New York and London (but with more canals and lower rise buildings), Fred had telephoned ahead to strong-arm them into giving us a good table (on account of it being my birthday).  They delivered on that front, with the best table in the house in the corner of the window.  But did the food and wine follow suit?


La Riva dei Frati Prosecco di Valdobbiadene

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

Lightly sparkling, fresh and with bright acidity, this is a veritable Bellini in a bottle even without the peach!

I first tasted this at a Wine Society tasting in sunny (ok it was a few weeks ago!) Manchester. I immediately placed a bulk order for, erm, quarter of a case.  As the dregs of the third bottle slip smoothly down my throat like a porn star’s underwear down her ample thighs, I now regret my meanness…..

prosecco - don't you love the Italian language?

La Riva dei Frati Prosecco di Valdobbiadene came from the Wine Society at £8.95.

Italian Freemasons nobble me in Manchester

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Italian wines are often accused of being over-tannic.  I guess that is a matter of opinion but I woke up with a headache this morning.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first Wine Society event, an informal tasting within the impressive architecture of the Freemason’s Hall on Bridge Street.  Such things clearly need a theme and this one was “Italy from top to toe”.  Given the country in question one might equally have dreamt up “heel to sole” or “thirst to last”.  But that’s enough cobblers.


Gourmet Dinner at Casa Mia Grande, Leeds

Friday, November 28th, 2008

In the classic comedy series, Fawlty Towers, Basil plans a gourmet night to attract a higher class of clientele to the infamous Torquay hotel.  Kurt, the excellent new chef who fancies Manuel the Spanish waiter played by Andrew Sachs, until recently one of Jonathan Ross’ closest acquaintances, manages to get totally pie-eyed and passes out just before the dinner is supposed to be cooked.  With guests already arriving, local restaurateur, André, comes to the rescue with a three choice menu of duck with orange, duck with cherry or duck surprise (duck with neither orange nor cherry), that never makes it to the table.  The culmination of this disaster scenario is Basil thrashing his Austin 1100 with a branch in one of the funniest, well known and most repeated scenes of the comedy solar system.

So when Alan and Heidi invited us to Casa Mia Grande, a well known Italian restaurant in Chapel Allerton, for a “gourmet evening”, I quivered, took the car for a service, wore my stain proof pants and a shirt that could tolerate red wine spills.


Caffé Torino, Stresa

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I’ve been pretty unkind to Stresa.  It is a fabulous location for a quiet holiday and I spent just a few Autumn days there.  Plenty of boating, walking, cycling, even snow skiing a brisk 4 hour walk uphill away.  But I ate out at a few places in the town and mostly found it poor reward for my day’s exercise.

One notable exception was Caffé Torino where a superb meal for two with a bottle of wine cost only £1,340,056, or €54.30 at today’s exchange rate.  The antipasto (below) at €8 is one of the best value plates I have ever seen.

The Italian menu said Tagliere di Salumei di Mottarone which I translated as Viande Sechée or Succulent wind dried mountain pork and cheese from a nearby ski resort.  However the local linguist settled for the dreadfully American Cold cuts which turns this simply beautiful display into a CSI murder victim found in the cellar of a lonely spinster.