“Would You Like To Try My 2014?”


I was chatting to Daniele Portinari in Paris last summer. He explained how many Italians reply “oh no, no, no” to the question “would you like to try my 2014?” It was a notoriously wet and cold year in northern Italy with sporadic hail for the especially unfortunate. Many locals would rather forget this annus horribilis.

Daniele was enjoying being amongst Parisians who either didn’t know or didn’t care. They simply heard “Would you like to try my wine?” and the instant reply was “Yes, sure!”


On Wednesday, I had a whole spread of 40 or 50 wines to taste – it was a good day! – but the Guiry 2014 (100%  Sangiovese) from Tenuta Mara in Emilia-Romagna particularly stood out.  Leonardo Pironi, their winemaker, explains that because it had been a wet and difficult year, they didn’t make their high-end wine “MaraMia” and instead those old-vine, usually superior grapes went into this one, the Guiry. They selected only the very healthiest grapes, which meant that yields were exceptionally low, and they did a relatively short skin contact maceration but the result is a wonderfully drinkable wine.


In this day and age, a good winemaker is able to make a good wine regardless of how bad a year it was. A less talented winemaker, or maybe one who likes experimenting too much, will end up with a faulty wine regardless of what the elements threw at him or her.

Obviously some years are less stressful for the vineyard team and easier in the cellar than others. It’s also completely normal for one vintage to taste different from the next. You might prefer the balance in 2013 or heat of 2015 but don’t write off 2014 because everyone said it was a bad year.

Side note: if you’re looking for important wines to lay down (Barolo, Brunello, Amarone etc) you would, 99% of the time, be better off going for a different vintage. But, if it’s an everyday drinking wine that you’re after, chances are you might end up with something better than you expect.

TENUTA TERRAVIVA (Abruzzo) “Lui” Montepulciano d’Abruzzo DOC 2014 Montepulciano (13.5%) 

Highly aromatic wine with tons of black fruit, morello cherries and spice. It’s meaty, earthy and almost smoky. Medium-bodied and continues with lashings of fruit – particularly blueberry and fresh blackcurrants – and super soft tannins. A crowd pleaser.

Incidentally, I also tried their 2015 which was just as exuberant – with just as much fruit – but at this particular time, it had a slight reduction and was a little more flabby.

IL GELSO MORO (Marche) Marche Rosso IGT 2014 Montepulciano 60%, Sangiovese 30%, Lacrima 10% (14.5%)

What style! From the dark-as-night colouring and the relatively high alcohol content, I was expecting a full bodied wine with potentially obtrusive tannins but I am stunned by its elegance. Fruit takes the leading role, with pepper and spice playing the supporting actor. Beautifully balanced and supremely elegant.

ROCCA RONDINARIA (Piedmont) “Spessiari” Dolcetto di Ovada DOC 2014 Dolcetto (12%)

I really like the wines from Rocca Rondinaria. They’re a small winery in this stupendous rocky cliff in Rocca Grimalda, in Monferrato, just north of Ovada and very near Gavi.

“Spessiari” means “pharmacist” in the local dialect and, incidentally, a pharmacist was exactly what I needed when I realised that my boyfriend had decided to pour this wine into my vinegar barrel “because there are too many bottles on your desk.”

I’d had a few sips before the bottle met its untimely end, but I prefer sitting with the wine in my glass for about 15-20 minutes before writing about it. In this case, I didn’t get that possibility.* What I remember is that this wine was more austere and a little more concentrated than its other vintages. This is surely the impact of this cold, wet vintage has had on the native characteristics of Dolcetto but it’s in no way a lesser wine.

* but I will get my own back in other ways….



Terre di Pietra’s “Stelar” Valpolicella Classico 2017


Last week was a busy week in Verona because the who’s who in the wine world came to Romeo and Juliet’s historic city for the Anteprima Amarone.

As you may have deduced, Anteprima is a sneak peak at the just-released vintage, which this year for Amarone is 2014. But…. and this is a big but…. 2014 was a disasterous year in this part of the world and many quality producers chose not to make an Amarone.

The brave souls who came from all four corners of the world were secretly asked “but you’re not really going to drink and actually rate that, are you?” by the local wine trade.

Despite there being a bad year here or there, Amarone doesn’t need any help to be sold. Exports to Germany (its biggest market) are up 30%, + 15% to China and Japan, + 10% to the USA. Nomisma Wine Monitor reckons that the total value of Amarone sales in 2017 was an eyewatering 355 million euros (as reported in the local newspaper, link here.) Today, I wanted to stay in the Valpolicella region but to talk about something a little different: the most recent vintage from Terre di Pietra.

This might be a rather strange thing to say out loud but I prefer tasting entry level wines. A winery’s entry level gives me a better idea of the personality and the spirit of its other wines. High-end wines tend to be rather monotonous – mostly fruit forward, barrel aged, full bodied – but a base wine is more revealing and more telling. Also, if you are capable of making a good base wine, now we’re talking!

TERRE DE PIETRA “Stelar” Valpolicella Classico barrel sample 2017 (Corvina 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 20%, Molinara 10%)

Terre di Pietra is a relatively recent winery, based in the eastern section of the Valpolicella region. It started off in 2005 when a talented, passionate woman, Laura Albertini, just 25 years old, was given a bit of garage space at her father-in-law’s house in which she could make wine. Her own father had pushed her into a degree in chartered accounting and wanted her to lead a ‘conventional’ life. She, however, had her own mind.

It took 5 years to convince her father but finally, in 2010, construction started on a fully equipped winery. The first vintage at this new magnificent winery in Marcellise was in 2011. She was widely touted as one of Valpolicella’s upcoming winemakers to watch.

This story has a tragic twist because Laura died suddenly in March 2017. In the past year, her widow, Cristiano Saletti, has had to wrangle with the loss of his wife whilst also making important decisions about the future of the winery.


I managed to get my hand on a couple of barrel samples from 2017. This, therefore, is the first vintage of Cristiano calling all the shots. but it should be said that he was given a helping hand by reputed oenologue, Franco Giacosa. I wanted to get a taste of the direction that the winery was heading.

Initially, the most striking thing is its colour: a beautiful dark pink, reminiscent of wild raspberries or the ideal tint for a trusty, go-to lipstick. Aromas are vinous, spicy and inviting. Lots of morello cherry.

One sip becomes two and two sips become three. I catch myself reaching for the bottle and refilling my glass. Of the barrel samples that I tried (and there were several) this is my favourite. There’s nothing pretentious or out of place about it: very light, bone dry, easy-drinking, and despite having been such a hot, parshed year, it retains an amazing amount of freshness and minerality.

It is so light that it would probably be overwhelmed by most food pairings but it will excel on a hot day on its own or with a a slice of salami or a bit of cheese (like the local cheese Monte Veronese.)

Based on the previous vintages, I get the feeling that Cristiano will be continuing along the natural path that Laura started and maybe taking it even further. Time will tell.

I imagine the wine will be released for sale in the springtime. It’s wonderfully juicy and definitely up there on the drinkability level with the Poulsard that I wrote about last week.  Served slightly chilled, it would make for perfect summertime drinking. Retails for around 10-14 euros.

Tasted 7th February 2018.

Terre di Pietra official website and Facebook

Two Wines from Domaine de la Renardière (Jura, France)


I’ve written about it already (here) but the Jura is a region which continues to entice me. It has its own very distinct culinary traditions (vin jaune, comté cheese and poulet de Bresse), some of the friendliest people and it makes damn great wine.

Last week, at home, I tasted a couple of bottles from Domaine de la Renardière. The winery is located in Pupillin, towards the northern end of the Jurassic stretch, in the highly reputed Arbois appellation. The bottles had already been open for four days before I started writing these tasting notes.

DOMAINE DE LA RENARDIÈRE (Arbois Pupillin) “Jurassique” 2016 Chardonnay (13%) 

At first glance, there’s nothing unusual about this wine: it’s clear (most likely filtered) with a pale gold colour. Despite the fact that these bottles had been open for a few days, there were no tell-tale signs to suggest that they had in any way suffered. The nose is discreet but enticing – white flowers, honey and medicinal plants. No oxydation.

But stop just there. The mouth is off the charts! There’s lots of fresh juicy fruit (apricots and mango) but the beauty of this wine lies in its minerality. It has such zip and zing and that’s why my love affair with the Jura has endured so well. I hope you haven’t been led down the wrong path by my talk of honey and apricots because it’s bone dry, with a mouth-smacking acidity and a tablespoon of salt!

Minerality is one of those terms that’s very hard to define and I hesitate every time I need to use it. Angiolino Maule and I have had many conversations recently on what it is, how to tease it out, why some wines do and some just don’t. We still haven’t reached a consensus but I like to think of it in the following way: similarly to how oranges have Vitamin C, grapes have certain metallic compounds and minerals which come from the soil. These don’t have a particular flavour but they do generate a sensation in the wine – that desirable, highly addictive mouthfeel.

I really enjoyed this wine. There’s nothing that would offend those used to conventional wines, but there’s low enough sulphur and more than enough character to appeal to natural wine buffs too.

Tasted: 19th January 2018

Price: unknown

Rating: ****

I have to confess that I didn’t know much about this winery. It was not one that I had time to fit in during my trip in June 2017 but, as chance would have it, I got to meet and chat with Jean-Michel Petit, the owner and winemaker, at the VinNatur wine tasting in Genova last weekend.


Jean-Michel Petit at VinNatur Genova 2018

DOMAINE DE LA RENARDIÈRE (Arbois Pupillin) Ploussard 2016 Poulsard (12.5%)

In a tussle between light-bodied red grape varieties, Poulsard beats Gamay hands down every time, in my opinion. Actually, it is definitely up there with the final contenders for being my favourite grape variety. Lightly-coloured, its tendency to go into reduction gives it a rather bad boy character.

Poulsard, or Ploussard as it is also known locally, is so delicately light that it certainly won’t stand a chance against any New World full-bodied reds. It’s also a style of wine that should be proffered with a certain amount of caution at the dinner table – food pairings are not its strong point. Instead, think of it as an alternative for rosé: a wine for long, sunny afternoons with folk who rejected uptight Côtes de Provence long ago. If L’Anglore’s Tavel isn’t anywhere to be had, reach for this instead.

Love it or hate it, semicarbonic maceration accounts for the first part of this Ploussard’s vinification. In the glass, there are lashings of red fruit characters – particularly raspberry, and morello cherry. It’s just juice. The tannins are grippy and refreshing even if they are few. This wine has the same exquisite drinkability as the Jurassique Chardonnay. Glou glou glou!

Tasted: 19th January 2018

Price: unknown

Rating: **** (but only in the right company)

Domaine de la Renardière doesn’t have a website but there is no better resource for wines from the Jura than Wink Lorch. This is her blog entry.

La Vigne du Perron – KATAPNHA 2009


Once upon a time, for a fortunately very brief moment, the wine world that I was surrounded by was full of English men in red trousers (tendentially) boasting about the old vintages that they’d recently (or not so recently) tasted.

The conversation would go something like:

> “Oh, don’t you remember how wonderful the Chateau So-and-So 1986 was…”

> “No, no, old boy, the 1982 vintage was far superior…”

It was a side of the wine industry that I didn’t like – firstly because I hadn’t even been born when these wines were bottled and by the time I knew how to work a corkscrew, they had become as rare as a pink unicorn.

The atmosphere was so ridiculously pompous and self-absorbed that I wanted none of it.

The thing is, in many markets, wine is seen as a luxury product. It is a status symbol and thereby, a subject about which many people aspire to be seen as knowledgeable.

Nowadays, the sector of the wine industry that I have chosen to immerse myself in (natural wine) seems to focus less on back vintages and more on figureheads. Instead of showing off which historic vintages you’ve tried, it’s a roll call of producers who have succeeded in developing a cult-like following.

I remember a card game called Top Trumps that my little sister liked to play in the playground at school. The behaviour of natural wine fans is remarkably similar: when you share a photo online (Instagram or Facebook are the main playing fields) you get 20 points for a Puzelat label, 50 points for Ganevat and Sélosse… but Overnoy trumps anything else that’s been played before.

I rejected the self-important bluster of nineteen hundred and something and I also reject this unfounded frenzy around certain names. I prefer to take my own way, discovering new producers, little-known regions and under-valued grape varieties.

LA VIGNE DU PERRON (Vin de France – situated in Villebois 01150) Katapnha / Katarina 2009 Chardonnay (13.5%) 

That said, there is something very special about old vintages. The way wine evolves over time is one of the main aspects that fascinates me.

On the odd occasion that I have something remarkable, I save it for a special occasion – birthday or anniversary – and only in deserving company.

However, today, Sunday lunch, for no particular reason, the boy pulls out a bottle from 2009. It’s written Katapnha but I’m pretty sure it’s pronounced Katarina. With no other information, we pop the cork and pour a glass. Just from the nose alone, it is quite evidently chardonnay.

Chardonnay has this fantastic quality – oxidation. Young, it is like going for a walk along a Scottish beach in January. Bracing winds, with your coat zipped up as far as your ears.

But by the time the wine has evolved (8-10 years will do the trick) it is as enveloping and intoxicating as dusk on a summer’s day. Aromatic, leafy, as you bask in the last of the sun’s rays. Rich, generous, bordering on opulent. There’s that tell-tale acidity but it is cooling, refreshing, and indulgantly pleasant. It is, quite simply, stupendous.

And on that note, I must away. Grapes need to be picked.

A Happy Find – Clos du Tue-Boeuf’s La Guerrerie 2009


I should start this post by explaining that my wine collection is not vast. As you would expect if you have even the slightest idea of who I am and what I do, the provenance of these wines is mainly French and Italian. Curiously, as a whole, it is weighted more towards red wines than to whites or sparkling. I have about 30 bottles laid out on a wine rack and the others are still in their boxes. Despite all my best attempts to catalogue the bottles, every so often, I find something unexpected.

Gallo’s 2006 Merlot is one of them. Thierry Puzelat’s 2009 La Guerrerie is another.

Clos du Tue-Boeuf (Touraine AOC, Loire) La Guerrerie 2009 66% Côt, 33% Gamay (12.5%

If you are in any way familiar with the natural wine scene, Thierry Puzelat should need no introduction.

However, you may be unfamiliar with the grape variety Côt; it is essentially another name for Malbec. In France, Malbec is most notably found in the Cahors region in the south-west, where it can go by the name “Auxerrois,” and in Bordeaux where it is minor variety, predominantly used for blending. It has also made a name for itself in Argentina where it seems perfectly at home at high-altitudes of Mendoza. 

Anyway, to get back to the point of this post, we need to look more closely at the Loire Valley.

Whilst Côt has a couple of more famous neighbours, it has its own, distinctly original form of expression.

Unlike Cabernet Franc, it does not have the black pepper, green capiscum and cassis aromatics that you find in Chinon and Bourgueil.

Unlike Grolleau, it’s a heavyweight wine, which is sturdy and sure of itself.

It’s obviously not Pinot Noir (that you find in Sancerre and a little further in Burgundy.)

It is instead spicy and warming. It has a heavily tinted, deep, mulberry colour and a very pleasing aromatic profile. 

Upon first opening, the initial impression is the unmistakable sign of its vinification in wooden barrels. However, for a 2009, it still smells remarkably youthful. There is no sign of oxidation.

Now almost 8 years old, this wine is at its peak. It harmoniously blends fruit (ripe red fruit – think raspberries, sloe berries and redcurrant jelly) with spice (hearty, cajun spice. Incidentally, it made a wonderful accompaniment to our BBQ-ed jerk chicken.) There’s still enough acidity to keep it lively and enough mellow tannins to be pleasing on the palate. A great find!

Tasted: 23rd August 2017

Price: unknown

Rating: ****

Clos de Tue-Boeuf website

A Rebuttal of “Pink” Rosé Wine


Watch the video above. Admittedly, it’s two minutes and four seconds of your life you’ll never get back… but it’s a sneak-peak into an aspect of the wine business that I don’t experience very often.

As a winemaker now, people tend to look to me to taste for the table, which used to be an incredibly intimidating process. But one way that you can always look professional… is SST: swirl, smell, taste,” explains actress-and-winemaker Drew Barrymore.

We’re off to a pretty good start. The awkwardness of ordering wine in a restaurant is a situation that nearly every one of us has been in at some point. (Yes, even wine industry folk occasionally find themselves outside their comfort zone.) (P.S. Wait until you get to the end of this post for some real straight-talking.) 

Her “SST” method (especially when you watch the video) doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence (doesn’t she know that you really ought to stick your nose into the glass…?) but it’s good advice. It is essentially another way of describing the WSET’s Systematic Approach to Tasting.

Rosé is when you peel the skin off the grape earlier. It’s a cold fermentation.

Oh dear. I really dislike when women don’t know what they’re talking about. It perpetuates the common expectation that we’re just the pretty face accompanying a man who knows everything. However, in this case, it seems to be true.

The other half of this winemaking team is Kris Kato and he eloquently explains: “For our Rosé we pick the grapes a little early, using a soft press process and separate the juice from the skins. It’s much like making the white wine. It’s really about minimizing the color, which is why we get beautiful hue. Cold slow fermentation all in stainless steel to preserve the aromatics and the freshness.” (source)

Moving on…

If it’s too dark, I know it’s gonna be, just not my style.

Now that’s fair enough. Each to their own. Also, the more insipid Cotes de Provence you drink, the more of the good stuff there’ll be left for me!! I like dark-hued rosé wines because they tend to have personality, they’re more versatile and food-friendly and, most importantly, they don’t make you feel that someone might have swapped your grape juice for paint stripper.

I think a rose should have that inherently Pavlovian to women, peachy-pink quality, that just draws us in. Somehow, I don’t know what it is about us girls, but we love pink.

I’m torn. Seriously torn. Do I address the horribly stereotypical and out-dated idea that all girls must love pink or do I admit that I have no clue what she means by “inherently Pavlovian quality”……

I do like a light, easy-drinking wine. Also wines which feel very clean, um, and actually make your whole body feel good, after numerous glasses, is a really tell-tale sign for me, and the absence of that coined sugar and sweetness, really contributes to that really beautiful clean ability to enjoy it without feeling heavy.

In contrast, I’m going to be short and simple. I want my grapes to be pressed, not peeled. I don’t want a wine that has been stripped of all its character. If I wanted something so healthy and virtuous, I would pour myself a glass of water or almond milk or whatever it is Californians are drinking these days. 

Am I alone in wanting my wine to taste of grapes?

On a serious note, I feel that what Drew Barrymore is actually trying to convey is her opinion that somehow pale rosé is healthier, tastier and better for you.

Maybe in the US market, this is true. In Europe, it’s certainly not.

I don’t want – and won’t drink – a wine which has been forced to within an inch of its life and then been resuscitated with sulphur and tartaric acid.

This brings me onto the type of rosé that I want to drink.

Cantina Margò (winemaker Carlo Tabarrini)’s Fiero Rosato 2015.

Having been open in my fridge for a couple of days already, it’s lost some of the more subtle aromatics that it had at the beginning. Nevertheless, it has the colour of a blood orange. The nose is an explosion of redcurrants and wild strawberries. Beautifully soft and integrated acidity, it finishes on a slightly salty note which makes it wonderful for pairing with food. It’s a natural wine. It’s vibrant and has tons of character, not a gram of “coined sugar” and gosh, I would happily drink this every day.

Price: €€

Rating: ****

I promised you something good at the end of this blog post. Here is Michael McIntyre explaining some real home truths about ordering wine at a restaurant.

Lusenti’s Bianca Regina 2010


I went to Venice yesterday. Had a delicious lunch at Estro (highly recommended, by the way!) and then decided to see if I could retrace my steps to a cute, little wine bar that I stumbled across in December.

Fortunately, my trusty nose / ability to find wine / sense of direction is pretty good and, even though I didn’t remember the name or address, I was able to find my way back to the Cantina Arnaldi (also totally worth the visit.)

Andrea at Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

Andrea of the Cantina Arnaldi, Venezia

I actually had a secret agenda – I wanted to bring a bottle of something a little different back for my boyfriend, “A”. I asked Andrea at Arnaldi (pictured above) for a suggestion… and it turns out to have been spot on. It’s one of the most interesting wines I’ve drunk recently.

LUSENTI (Colli Piacentini DOC, Emilia) Bianca Regina 2010 Malvasia di Candia Aromatica (13.5%)

Lusenti is an organic winery and part of the VinNatur association but one that I didn’t know of before. They’re located near Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna, set in a unique micro-climate between the Po river and the Apennine mountains.

Once harvested, the grapes are left for three or four days for a skin-contact maceration at controlled temperatures.

I’m actually a pretty mean girlfriend because, once I got home, I put some aluminium foil around the bottle and poured a glass for “A” to taste blind.

On first impressions, it smells sweet: lots of ripe apricot, honey, quince and fresh nutmeg. “A” got it straight away, “Malvasia!”

With a traffic-light amber colour, the wine’s vintage was harder to guess. It’s clearly relatively mature because the juice is completely in place but there’s no hint of oxidation. Timeless.

What I found particularly enjoyable about this wine is the gustatory sensations. Despite the sweet nose, the wine is almost completely bone dry. It seduces you in phases: starting with fleshy fruits and almonds, moving through tannins, acidity and mentholated freshness and finishing on a slight bitterness, very typical of skin-contact wines. Lipsmackingly moreish!

Tasted: 13th March 2017

Price: €€

Rating: ****

Lusenti website and Facebook