One of the most interesting things that’s happening in wine at the moment is how big producers are pursuing new areas and old grape varieties and Planeta is no exception
It now has vineyards all over Sicily including the on-trend slopes of Mount Etna.
This deliciously crisp aromatic white however is not allowed to use the E-word (as at 870m the vines are grown higher than the 700m limit permitted by the DOC) but both the name and erupting volcano on the label clearly indicate its origin. It’s made mainly from the local (to Etna) carricante though there's also a 5% dash of riesling. The ABV is 13.5%
I drank it yesterday at Wright Bros Soho with Alaskan King crab but it would be good with any kind of raw or lightly cooked shellfish or with raw vegetable dishes. (Planeta, whose food pairing recommendations are unusually inspiring, also recommends fish soup, fish cooked in salt, marinated swordfish and pasta with cuttlefish and peas.)
You can find it online for £17.14 from a rather splendid-looking site called Made in Sicily which also sells all kinds of Sicilian food products though the minimum order is six bottles. Great Western Wine of Bath has the 2013 vintage for £18.50* and Chester Beer and Wine for £19.25. Planeta puts the ageing potential at 7-10 years though I think I'd prefer to drink it young and fresh.
Oh, and if you're wondering about the 1614 date on the label, it was the beginning of the longest continuous Etna eruption which lasted 10 years. Given the amount of investment in vineyards in the area let's hope there's not a repeat ...
* Less 5% if you buy 6 bottles or 10% if you buy a case.
I lunched at Wright Bros as a guest of Planeta.
A departure this week - a cider not a wine - and an American cider at that. I tasted it in Oddbins at the end of a wine tasting and was really blown away by it
It comes from Cincinnati Ohio, its called Angry Orchard and proudly trumpets that it’s gluten free (isn’t all cider?).
It’s not like a traditional English cider - I’m pretty sure it’s not made from cider apples but it has a really deep appley flavour. 'Crisp apple' describes it perfectly but don’t think Granny Smith.
Hard cider doesn't mean that it's solid - it's simply what they call cider in the US.
Angry Orchard also has a great website with some nice cocktail and cider pairing suggestions (they match it with cider-braised clams but I think it would be really great with Genevieve Taylor's overnight pulled pork recipe I’ve just posted).
Oddbins is selling it at £2.25 a bottle or 3 for £6. Perfect for this lovely summer weather.
Sometimes when I go to a Wine Society tasting I find myself wondering why on earth anyone would buy their wine anywhere else.
Their buyers, most of whom have been with them for years, are hugely experienced, their prices - thanks to their status as a co-operative - hugely competitive and their range (of 1500 wines) impressively eclectic. The only downside is that unless you live within spitting distance of their headquarters in Stevenage (and why would you if you can possibly help it?*) you can’t try before you buy, though they hold a number of regional tastings.
One of the things they do particularly well is their own-label Exhibition range which is a selection of top-end wines chosen by and often blended with the help of their buyers.
This Chianti Classico which is made by Poggiopiano is a perfect example - selected by their Italian wine buyer Sebastian Payne who joined the society in 1973 (which means, for the mathematically challenged, he’s worked for them for 42 years.) It’s beautifully balanced - full, rich and smooth but with a nice touch of freshness that offsets its 14% abv.
You could drink it - as many would - with typically Tuscan dishes such as roast lamb with garlic and rosemary but it would also elevate a homely lasagne into a midweek treat
I honestly don’t think you’ll find a chianti of this quality - in the UK at least - at a better price (£11.95 a bottle). Poggipiano’s own Chianti Classico, for example, also stocked by the Society, is £16 and their top end wine £24,
If I’m looking for something to criticise - which I desperately am so that this post doesn’t sound too gushing - the Wine Soc's labels are a bit dull. But I suspect that their members like them like that.
* in case you think I’m being Stevenage-ist I used to live fairly nearby in St Albans. Let’s just say Hertfordshire isn’t the most exciting county in the UK . . .
Those of you who read my Guardian column may have spotted that last week’s was devoted to winemakers who tackle an established grape variety or wine style on their own doorstep
One omission was Garry Crittenden of Crittenden Estate on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula, who with his son Rollo has been pushing the envelope by making Spanish style reds and whites and, most interesting of all, a savagnin called Cri de Coeur which is aged, like vin jaune under a layer of yeast.
It’s not widely available, even in Australia - the Crittendens make very little - but they were good enough to send me a bottle to try. And it was really delicious - perhaps more like a fino sherry than a Jura wine but a real curiosity that it would be fun to serve to wine geek friends or drink with Comté cheese or tapas.
The two Spanish-style wines are the Los Hermanos Homenaje 2013 (14.2%), an exuberant, juicy blend of Tempranillo Mataro and Garnacha that would make perfect barbecue drinking and the Los Hermanos Saludo al Txacoli 2012 (11.5%) which, like the Basque original, tastes like a sharp squeeze of fresh lemon.
In the UK Christopher Keiller has the Homenaje by the case for £141.75 ex VAT or, if you live in Oz, you can order the two Los Hermanos wines direct from the estate. The Savagnin costs AUD 70 from the Crittendens' cellar door.
Who could resist a wine with a label like this at this time of year yet I ordered it before I’d even seen it.
It seemed like the perfect spring-like partner for the very light elegant food we were eating at Antidote restaurant in London where it was available by the glass: a crab and cucumber salad in my friend The Food Judge's case, asparagus with apple and avocado cream in mine.
I was sure it was a typically Alsacien combination of grape varieties maybe with a touch of riesling or muscat but surprisingly it turned out it was pinot blanc though I can't find out much more than that. Josmeyer's website is only giving background on the 2012 vintage. Anyway was just delightful: pretty, floral, gracefully aromatic - as the name suggests, the essence of spring.
The 2014 doesn’t seem to be widely available yet in the UK or the US - the only stockist I can find through wine-searcher.com is Decorum Vintners but it’s not actually listed on their site. I would call them - they say they’re ‘real people’ which is encouraging. I've also heard that Dynamic Vines stocks it at their Spa Terminus shop on Saturday mornings and Ministry of Drinks seem to have it - along with the 2013 vintage - too. But I'd go for the '14.