Tag Archives: Italy

The World Cup (Part One)

Although my children are sleeping like angels, I seem to be getting very little blogging time. My evenings are filled with eating, drinking, washing up, tidying up, watching my wife wash up, and by the time I get upstairs and turn on the computer it’s time to go to bed. All of which is a long-winded way of saying that I’m about to write something that I should have written days ago.

The latest Bibendum bloggers’ evening last Thursday (last Thursday!), then. They’ve previously had us round to drink Italian wine, and Australian, and Champagnes. This, however, was the first round of their World Cup. A spurious concept, this, whereby they pick a few competing nations which make decent wine, pick a few of their wines, and then ask us to judge which is best.

Nothing that we decide should be taken at all seriously. Chile, for example, makes a lot of excellent wine, but we got served an unlovely chardonnay and a downright unpleasant Valdivieso cabernet franc with a combined value of under £19 (the Valdivieso, at £11.26, offers spectacularly bad value for money). It wouldn’t have taken much to beat that, but they happened to be up against an Italian chardonnay/pinot grigio – not mind-blowing, but interesting, integrated – and a mini super Tuscan, Ceppaiano “Violetta”, that was really good. Combined value: just under £29. An unfair fight, and Chile were dumped at the quarter-final stage.

Fighting the Ceppaiano for man-of-the-match awards was the Els Pyreneus, Les Hauts de l’Agly, Cotes du Roussillon Villages, which made up for the outrageous length of its name by being totally ace and, at £10, super duper value. As the Wine Gang said, a “stunning wine of impeccable balance”. With that on their side France could hardly lose, and the USA, with a Loredona pinot grigio proving profoundly, deeply average, had no chance despite a quite impressive Marmesa Syrah (the people whose pinot noir I liked at the Bibendum annual tasting).

In other results, South Africa beat Argentina and the game between Australia and Spain was so close by my scores that I can’t work out who won.

As a competition, Bibendum’s vinous World Cup is hopelessly flawed. As an artificial construct intended entirely to get people in a room together with some glasses and some wines, it was a scorcher.

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Les Cretes Fumin 2003

It’s, like, weeks since I last posted. This long lay-off coincided with my first ever bloggers’ event, at Bibendum. I had a very good time, tasted some interesting wines but I was, I think, slightly put off by the unwavering dedication to blogging exhibited by the capital’s top food and wine bloggers. They dedicate more time to their hobbies than I, a father of two little sleep-stealing time-eaters, can afford mine. Even though it only takes half an hour here and there, it’s either that or do a very small amount of genuine, computer-off relaxing. I did, though, take some very useful notes and didn’t throw them out so the good news is I’m still going to post!

In my time off I’ve still been drinking lots of wine. Highlights: Yali, Winemaker’s Selection Wetland Sauvignon Blanc 2008 Rapel Valley, a Chilean that was recommended by the venerable Jancis Robinson as her wine of the week, while Tesco’s had it in an opening offer at £3.99 a bottle (I didn’t like it quite so much as she did. I reckoned it was good value at that price but not amazing and, at its standard £5.99, probably pretty avoidable), and La Difference Carignan 2008, which I remembered enjoying last year and enjoyed again this – a superior, classy French vin de pays.

But it would take something special to force me to sit, on my own, in the living room after Rachel’s gone to bed, tip-tapping my way across the keyboard. And this is it: another Caves de Pyrene purchase and my first Fumin – not the most obscure Italian grape variety, certainly not if you drink lots of wine from the Valle d’Aosta, but I don’t and it’s obscure enough to impress me.

This could be my favourite Italian red – and I like Italian reds. It’s certainly up there. More approachable than their trademark top wines like Barolo and Brunello, and a much better partner for a full evening. It’s quite Syrah-like but it’s not as heavily oaked as they often are, and it’s a lot less fruity. It’s a very masculine wine. Tar, tobacco and leather. Tannins not overbearing. Alive, bright but serious. It’s really excellent. Note to self: keep an eye out for it in future.

EDIT: I found my receipt from Les Caves, and I’m going to tap it out here for future price-reference. For what it’s worth, this Fumin was an absolute steal.

Pis & Love 2003 – £7.82 / Pinocchio Saniovese 2003 8.70 / Pinot Noir Elio 2005 5.65 / Vaubois Pinot Noir 2005 3.91 / Viu 1 Viu Manent 2006 17.39 / Bartoli Sol e Vento 2007 6.52 / Close Du Tue Rouge La Guerrerie 2006 7.39 / Dom Alexandre Pouilly Fume 7.39 / Les Cretes Fumin 6.52 / Mount Maude Riesling 2004 3.48 / Viu Manent Malbec Blue Label 2007 3.91

Pis & Lov

Pis & LovThe first fruit from my trip to Les Caves du Pyrene is this pleasingly obscure Italian red, a Ravenna Rosso IGT. A cuvee of our best red grapes, they say. They don’t say what grapes they are, but they’ve got sangiovese, albana and trebbiano as well as cabernet sauvignon and syrah and some other ones I’ve never heard of (update: Les Caves suggest it’s made from longanesi, which is as far as I know a first for me, though disappointingly it appears this is a modern variety rather than an ancient Italian obscurity). Instead of a useful description of the wine or why it’s got such a gimicky name, the website asks: “Can a wine help us to remember the importance of a message and to practice what we preach?”

Well, I don’t know and I don’t care. As far as I’m concerned all that matters is what response the wine provokes in me and others like me, drinking innocently in our various corners of the world. What does this mean? What message? What do you preach? I am none the wiser, and a bit narked.

So what of the wine? It’s, well, intriguing. At 14.5%, it’s barely above average when it comes to alcohol, but it seems a little out of balance. The smell of it hits you, like if you’ve got any spare it might do a decent job of sterilising some surgical tools. The tannins are strong too. It’s not a simple sip, for sure. It tastes a bit primitive – which fits nicely with Les Caves’ reputation – and, though it takes a while to get used to, it’s certainly pleasant. I think you need to be quite inquisitive about wine to be into it, though, because it’s not just smooth and comfortable and easy, and is as interesting for its novelty as much as for whatever pleasure it brings. You’ve got to get kicks out of slightly awkward wine to love this one, but for all of that, I do like it. I don’t love it.

Update

It’s October 22nd, and over the last two nights we polished off our second and final bottle of Pis & Lov. On opening, it was really aggressive. I didn’t so much sip it as wrestle with it – and it fought back pretty hard. A day later, however, it had (despite using a VacuVin to theoretically leave the wine hermetically sealed and therefore totally unchanged) totally changed. Much more mellow, and much more pleasant. In fact, really good. I need a decanter, and I need to use it – that’s my lesson from the exercise.