Lusenti’s Bianca Regina 2010

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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

Six Great Red Wines from the “Vin Passion” Tasting 2017

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While the entirety of my Facebook community was in the Loire Valley this past weekend for the annual circuit of Greniers Saint Jean, Pénitentes, Anonymes, La Levée and La Dive, I was at home, nursing my luckless puppy back to four paws.

I was, however, fortunate enough to hit up a small natural wine tasting called Vin Passion (formerly “Les Amis de la Cugnette”) near Lyon the week before.


Here are my six favourite red wines from the tasting:

TENUTA GRILLO (Piedmont) “Pecoranera” Monferrato DOC 2004 Freisa (75%) with Dolcetto, Barbera & Merlot (14.5%)

Freisa is one of the most underrated grapes from Piedmont. Tenuta Migliavacca make a delicious version which I’m familiar with, but to taste Tenuta Grillo’s Freisa from 2004 was very interesting. The aromas were obviously more evolved and but still showed plenty of delicious red fruit. On the palate, it’s a little rustic, but it’s very typical of this area. Lots of liquorice spice and jammy cassis fruit. The tannins from the dolcetto bring a persistent mouthfeel but it tastes remarkably fresh for its age. Would make a delicious pairing with mushroom risottos or lamb with wild herbs.

PITHON-PAILLÉ (Loire) “Dessus Narçay” Chinon 2015 Cabernet Franc

Vibrant, old-vine Cabernet Franc at its best. This wine balances effortlessly upon a tightrope of spice (cloves, mace), fruit (jammy and cooked) and savoury characters (game and bell pepper.) The delicious finish bears testimony to 2015 being such a good vintage in this part of the Loire.

2016, in contrast, was a disaster in Chinon. Jo’s vines suffered first a bout of ice and then drought. Sadly no Chinon will be produced.

WALTER MASSA (Piedmont) “Monleale” Colli Tortonesi DOC 2010 Barbera (14%) 

Walter is known for his white wines (made with the little-known grape “Timorasso”) but his reds are also noteworthy. This Barbera (bearing the same name as Walter’s village) maintains an incredible freshness. It has huge vivacity in the mouth with lively acidity – typical for Barbera. This only accentuates the red fruit characters (raspberry, red cherry) which dominate the palate. Complex.

FRANCK PEILLOT (Savoie) Bugey AOC 2015 Mondeuse

A surprisingly elegant and supple wine. An inviting violet colour, leads to dense fruit characters (black cherry and garrigue) and a mildly smoky nose. The palate is open and expressive. Medium-bodied. Smooth finish, rounded out by very delicate and integrated tannins.

CHRISTOPHE ABBET (Valais, Switzerland) Syrah 2014

Christophe Abbet’s juice was, for me, one of the most interesting discoveries at the Vin Passion wine fair. All beautifully-balanced, elegant wines, I chose to write about the syrah because it was so totally different from the wine I’d sipped the night before (see below!) This had a deep, dark colour; a midnight blue. The nose was medicinal (eucalyptus), fruity (cassis) and floral (violet) and totally surprising. Such an aromatic start turned into a delicate mouthfeel (think, blueberry yoghurt and crème de cassis.) Utterly delicious.

NOËL VERSET (Rhone) Cornas 1999 Syrah

It is wines like this that remind you why you work in the wine industry in the first place. This is one of the most aromatic wines I’ve had the chance to drink in a long time and it’s a textbook example of a perfectly mature syrah: tobacco box, leather, vanilla, tart blueberries… Despite 18 years of ageing, this Cornas still tasted amazingly fresh. The silky tannins melt away and are replaced by an acidity which deserves its own Ode to Joy. It’s my wildcard because, obviously it wasn’t one of the wines in the exhibition. (Noël Verset retired in 2000 and died in 2015.) I tasted it at the winemaker dinner on Saturday night. Thank you to Eric Texier for bringing his treasured bottle over to me!

Anna & André Durrmann Grand Cru Wiebelsberg 2012

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It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy a Snow Day. If you’re not familiar with the term, a Snow Day is when you’re able to call your boss and say “Can’t come into work today – I’m snowed in.”

The thing is, having been self-employed for just short of three years now, there is no boss to call and justify my absence.

vineyards in the snow

Walking through the snowy Soave vineyards with the puppy.

With this wintery weather, however, the road to Castelcerino was under considerable snow, making the decision to stay by the warm fire at The Boy’s house a very easy one.

While he went off to work (he, woe betide, couldn’t use the same excuse) and because his supply of teabags was already at a dangerously low level, I decided to do the responsible thing and open a bottle of wine instead!

It just so happened to be a wine from Alsace, in eastern France, and more specifically a Riesling from the Durrmann family’s Grand Cru Wiebelsberg.  Continue reading

Castagna Sparkling Genesis Shiraz 2008

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Like a pink glittery unicorn, it’s not supposed to exist.

When we think of sparkling wine, we tend to think of Champagne, Prosecco or Cava. If you’re hooked on the natural wine movement, you may well start fantasising about a pétillant naturel (pét nat, if you want to be down with the kids) or a metodo ancestrale.

For the most part, these wines tend to be white… even if they’re made from red-skinned grapes.

(Remember that “Blanc de Noirs” in French literally means “White from Blacks” and refers to a white Champagne made from the red-skinned Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.)

In Europe, we are quite used to seeing sparkling rosé wines too. In the UK at least, they are targeted towards the female demographic for 364 days of the year and towards porters of Y chromosomes specifically on Valentine’s Day.

This brings me to the elephant in the room: a sparkling red wine.

I’m not talking a deep pink colours, as you might get from a Gamay Teinturier grape in France or the Salamino grape used for Lambrusco in Italy; no, I mean as red as robin red breast or a papal gown. Continue reading

Domaine Milan’s MGO 3

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The Domaine Henri Milan comprises 16 hectares (40 acres) of biodynamic vineyards located due south of Avignon, in the idyllic Provence region of southern France.

In an area more commonly known for its insipid salmon-pink rosé, it’s a delight to find wines with character.

The MGO – standing for Milan Grand Ordinaire – is a blend of six different vintages and cuvées: Papillon Rouge 2014, Le Vallon 2009 / 2010 / 2011, Clos Milan 2006 and the MGO2. Continue reading

Discovering The Terroirs of The Loire: Cheverny AOC

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The Loire is one of France’s most diverse winemaking regions. The most well-known terroirs are the schist soils of Anjou (around the city of Angers), the chalk and marl of Sancerre (much further inland) and the south-facing slopes of Vouvray (Touraine.) However, to leave it at that is to ignore the many other jewels which are well worth discovering.

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The old town of Saumur, seen from across the river.

One of these is the Cheverny AOC. Cheverny consists of 574 hectares (roughly 1400 acres) which are home to approximately 40 producers. Half of the Cheverny production is white wine and the other half is made up of red and rosé wines.

Most of the Loire Valley white wines are mono-varietal (meaning that the growers work with just one particular grape variety) but a Cheverny Blanc can be made of three different grapes. These are: Sauvignon Blanc (as with many of the other whites in this area) but also Sauvignon Gris (yes, that exists) and Chardonnay (because it is so versatile and pleasing to work with.)  Continue reading

Old Vine Romorantin “Francois 1er” from the Domaine des Huards

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When you think of the wines from the Loire Valley, you probably think of Sauvignon Blanc. Well-established and highly prestigious appellations such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Quincy, Reuilly and Menetou-Salon may well come to mind.

Next, you’d probably think of crisp Muscadet wines, made along the Atlantic coast from the Melon de Bourgogne variety.

The third major white grape variety that you find in the Loire Valley is Chenin Blanc. Wines labelled “Anjou” or Vouvray tend to have a wonderful floral and honeyed character. I was down in this area just last week, visiting Savennières, the Coulée de Serrant, catching up with René Mosse (click here to read about last summer’s visit chez René) and attending a sequence of professional wine tastings.

Anyway, to go back to the point of this blog post, we have to head east. To Cheverny, to be precise. The name refers to the village, and the surrounding area, just south of Blois, within the area known as Touraine. It’s Sauvignon Blanc territory.

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We actually go to Cour-Cheverny, an even smaller area situated within Cheverny. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Cour-Cheverny before… there are only 58 hectares of vines within this AOC. Here, they grow the very rare grape Romorantin.

The story goes that King François 1er (1515-1547) introduced the Romorantin grape variety to the region in 1519. It was his royal decision to move vine stocks from Burgundy to his mother’s castle in the town of Romorantin. After being planted in several different wine-growing areas, the Romorantin grape thrived most notably around the village of Cour-Cheverny. It was actually so successful that now it is completely extinct in Burgundy but has become the exclusive grape variety for this appellation.

As you can imagine, it’s very hard to find the Romorantin grape outside France. Especially nowadays. In the past, it was more widely planted. Now it’s only in this handful of hectares that you find it. Romorantin shows some of the mineral elegance of Sauvignon Blanc, but without any of the elderflower or tropical fruit notes.

In my glass this evening, I have a wine from the Domaine des Huards. The estate was founded in the mid-1800s and nowadays, the 35 ha of vineyards are farmed according to biodynamic practices. They are part of Renaissance des Appellations and I had the pleasure of meeting Alexandre Gendrier, the 8th generation of the family, at the Greniers Saint Jean tasting in Angers.


DOMAINE DES HUARDS (Cour-Cheverny, Loire Valley) “Francois 1er Vielles Vignes” 2010 Romorantin (12.5%)

The aromas are not overly exuberant but it’s very pleasantly fresh, grassy and a little citrusy.

(Sidenote: I understand why winemakers make the most of the the winter and thus the downtime from the vineyards to do tastings but my very congested nose would be far more effective if we could just wait until spring…)

It’s on the palate that this wine wins me over. It is simply fantastic! I detect  notes of peaches in syrup, apricots and stewed apple. It boasts a wonderful creamy texture and a length that defies belief… It is totally idiosyncratic. En plus, it is absolutely bone dry and there is an acidity which pierces the sides of my tongue and has me salivating as if I’ve just bitten into a lemon. I love that balance.

It’s a very powerful wine and surprisingly fresh for a 2010. These 75 year old vines, clearly make a wine with wonderful potential for ageing. I’d think about pairing a scallop carpaccio or some other fresh shellfish with this wine. Romorantin is definitely an under-appreciated grape variety… try and get your hands on some!

Price: 

Rating: ****