Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had one ingredient constantly by the side of the stove - a bottle of vin cotto. Literally it translates as 'cooked wine' but is in fact made from the cooked down must that’s left over from the winemaking process. In other parts of Italy it’s known as Saba.
I was reminded just how spectacularly, unexpectedly good southern Italian whites can be by a Slow Food wine dinner the other night at Flâneur to celebrate the publication of the English edition of their restaurant guide Osterie & Locande d’Italia. It was hosted by Feudi di San Gregorio, the iconic winery from Campania whose wines I haven’t tried for a while.
This coming weekend sees the 16th annual festival of the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) in San Francisco. I went one year and it was an absolute blast - two great sheds filled with hundreds of enthusiasts enjoying this great belter of a red.
The Bordeaux wine region produces a multitude of top class red wines that these days tend to be blends of four main grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Tomatoes are generally held to be a problem for wine but as Jane McQuitty robustly puts it in The Times today - nonsense!
It’s a lean weekend for menus to match in the national press so I’ve picked Thomasina Miers’ favourite childhood recipe - and one of mine - from the Times for my weekend pairing.
Last night we had a fun five course wine and food matching dinner at Rockfish Grill in Bristol which showed the range of wines you can match with fish. Here’s a few thoughts about how we approached it for those of you who are organising a similar event.
As you walk through the door of Al Pompiere in Verona you could easily be back in the '70s. A timbered ceiling, checked table cloths, walls lined with pictures of guests through the ages, it’s every inch the traditional trat. In one corner where hams line the shelves and hang from the ceiling an elderly chef in a toque is slicing ham and other salumi to order with a large, impressively flashy machine. If you think it’s old-fashioned though take a look at their website - the retro feel is deliberate but they’re linked to all the social media.
Food and wine writer Marc Millon recounts a memorable celebration of the new vintage last week with his Piemontese winemaker friends
No visit to Tuscany is complete without a glass of Vin Santo or ‘holy wine’, a (usually) sweet wine that is served at the end of the meal, almost always with hard little ‘cantucci’ biscuits.
Like other dishes the perfect wine match for risotto depends on the flavourings for the risotto rather than the rice itself - the lighter the dish, the fresher and crisper the wine. On the whole I prefer dry crisp white wines with seafood and spring vegetable risottos, but it’s more complicated than simply saying if it’s a fish or a vegetable risotto it’s a light dry white.
The book I’ve been looking forward to most so far this year has just started being serialised in the Guardian today. It’s by Yotam Ottolenghi who founded two exceptional London restaurants and is simply called Ottolenghi: the Cookbook. l love Ottolenghi's food - it’s so generous and big-flavoured, piled high on bright, colourful platters - you can't fail to be tempted by it. It also lends itself perfectly to entertaining for large numbers at home.
This past week has reminded me yet again what a great match Italian whites are for food. Their lack of obvious character means they tend not to stand out in a tasting but they explode into life with a dish.
A slightly unseasonal but absolutely delicious wine pairing from Bjorn van der Horst’s much anticipated new restaurant Eastside Inn. The talented Van der Horst used to cook at the Greenhouse and then for Gordon Ramsay at La Noisette and has now branched out on his own. I’ll be posting a full review in the next couple of days but this, for me, was the outstanding match of the meal, selected by sommelier Thierry Sauvanot, also ex-Ramsay.
It’s been so busy the last few weeks that good pairings have been coming thick and fast but this was a great match I enjoyed at an offbeat new occasional restaurant which was launched by food and wine writer Marc Millon in Topsham, Devon the other day. (He’s also contributed a couple of pieces to this site including this wonderful piece about Bagna Cauda)
It’s a mystery to me why we need a Chocolate Week. Surely no-one (except aberrants like myself who have an inexplicable preference for potatoes) needs encouraging to eat chocolate. But there we have it and you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy your favourite food in the country’s classiest chocolate shops over the next few days.
I went to a Piemontese wine dinner last week at a local Italian restaurant in Bristol, Prosecco about which I’ve written before. There were some very good matches - along with a couple of off-key ones, one of which involved a faulty bottle which the wine merchant introducing the event seemed determined to disregard despite grumblings from the floor.