Elegance, romance and a surprise ending on a trip to the opera and a vineyard. A visit to Fumane di Valpolicella, home of Allegrini.

TheGrapeWizard @ Allegrini
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Dramatic skies over Villa del Torre

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The (hazy ) view looking down onto Valpolicella country

So finally Summer is here and I am off on a long awaited trip to the open air opera festival in Verona. This was a trip that had been on the bucket list for quite some time, not just because of the world class opera but because Verona lies in the heart of the Valpolicella region, east of Lake Garda and west of Venice in Northern Italy. The hilly agricultural and marble-quarrying region north of the Adige is famous for wine production and is home to Italy’s, most famous, most celebrated, biggest and boldest wine – Amarone.

We chose to stay in a most welcoming Agroturismo, atop a hill just south of Verona. It was a well established place attracting both local and tourist custom. With its own organic winery and well run kitchens, breakfast and lunch under the shade of the vines was a most agreeable experience.

So after a couple of days squeezing in everything Verona had to offer; culture, opera, gelato, long evening strolls around town doing “La Passeggiata” moving gracefully as only a Brit resembling A Man from U.N.C.L.E. can do – the morning finally came when it was time to look beyond the city walls.

The countryside around Verona has some of Italys oldest wine production, established in the 16th century to quench the growing thirsts of the Italian Nobility. Words such as Negrar, Soave, Bardolino and towns that included the word “Valpolicella” litter the map. As a sight-seeing destination for wine buffs and amateurs alike, this region does not disappoint. Ancient terraces of vines, studded with cypresses and historic hilltop villages. Personally, I find this region rivals the more feted Tuscany in terms of prettiness.

Our destination was the picturesque village of Fumane di Valpolicella, home to a foremost Amarone producer the Allegrini Family who have been producing wine for over four hundred years. Its vineyards span 247 acres or 100 rugby pItches of vines. They produce their flagship wines of La Grola, Palazzo della Torre and La Poja from four Vineyards each showcasing different styles; .Corte Giara is their young, easy drinking wines, Poggio al Tesoro produces more restrained, elegant wines and San Polo the perfect terroir for Sangiovese grapes producing wines with great finesse of fragrances and elegant flavours. Allegrini also purchased the Villa Della Torre estate in the heart of Fumane di Valpolicella which now serves as the official Headquarters of its operations

The red wine known as Valpolicella is typically made from 4 grape varieties. Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more. These grapes produce a variety of wine styles including a Recioto dessert wine and Amarone, a strong wine made from dried grapes.

Corvina Veronese, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.

The most basic Valpolicella Classicos are light, fragrant table wines similar to Beaujolais nouveau and released only a few weeks after harvest and not for ageing. Valpolicella Superiore is aged at least one year with an alcohol content of 12 percent. Valpolicella Ripasso is a form of Valpolicella Superiore but made with partially dried grape skins left over from the fermentation of Amarone or Recioto.

Amarone della Valpolicella, usually known as Amarone, is a rich Italian dry red wine made from the partially dried grapes of the Corvina and other approved red grape varieties (up to 25%).

The afternoon of wine tasting at Villa Delle Torre kicked off with a tour of the house and gardens with a glass of the Estates cool, crisp Soave in hand before retiring to a barrel-vaulted wine tasting room for the main event – a tasting of five of their fantastic wines accompanied by hunks of salty aged Parmesan and fresh local bread.

GW Tasting Notes:

SOAVE 2017

Grapes : Garganega and Chardonnay
Straw yellow in colour and the nose reveals notes of white flowers followed by fresher jasmine flowers and a crisp and delicate citrus vein.

GW Score 4*

VALPOLICELLA 2010

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 70%, Rondinella 30%
Ruby red in colour, the nose shows notes of cherries, echoed by fresher hints of pepper and aromatic herbs. Whilst young it is lively and playful – delicate later on.

GW Score 4*

PALAZZO DELLA TORRE 2015

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 40%, Corvinone 30%, Rondinella 25%, Sangiovese 5%
This wine is elegant good aroma. Ruby red in colour with purple hues, it offers hints of raisins, vanilla, black pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Soft and velvety tannins with a long finish. The delightful aroma of raisined grapes is enhanced if the wine is served at 18° C in a large wine glass.

GW Score 5*

AMARONE 2014

Grape varieties: Corvina Veronese 45%, Corvinone 45%, Rondinella 5%, Oseleta 5%
Vintage 2014 began with a mild winter. From April onwards, the weather started to get progressively worse, culminating in a surprisingly cold and wet summer. Meticulous trimming and selection was necessary at harvest time to select grapes of sufficient quality. Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella and Oseleta are left to air dry at least until December and are then checked daily to ensure perfectly healthy grapes. This wine has structure and depth and shows mature fruit and spices – good acidity and smooth tannins.

GW Score 5*

Give this region a try and find something “just off the beaten track” that you just wouldn’t normally experience. Who wouldn’t like a christmas pudding in a wine or cracked black pepper smattered all over a dark red ! Valpolicella is is now a top ten region for me.

Click on 4 grape varieties (below) to learn more 

Corvina Veronese, CorvinoneRondinella, and Molinara.

Music Pairing 

Herbie Hancock – Gershwin’s world

🍷 The Grape Wizard ratings 🍷

5* A must buy – don’t miss it.

4* Invest in this cheeky bottle for something different

3* ‘A middle of the road’ pleaser

2* Under average. Disappointing.

1* Do not go near this one – avoid at all costs.

Oatley Vineyard (UK)- A vineyard with a small footprint and a big heart

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Oatley Vineyard, Oatley Lane, Cannington, Bridgwater, Somerset TA5 2NL, UK,

wine@oatleyvineyard.co.uk

+44 (0)1278 671340

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Now there’s a famous saying that you shouldn’t mention politics and religion in the same sentence whilst in the presence of friends. Times have changed…. In the run up to the exit of Europe we should be discussing and lobbying the Government on this fragile but very successful industry. Not only do we had 397 vineyards ( 27 in Wales.) But we are not currently championing home grown talent. When was the last time you went into a pub and had the choice of ordering extensive UK wine. Where is the loyalty ! Who wouldn’t want to pay £14.99 (retail) for a UK produced wine. Just this weekend (28/10/18) i went into a farm shop and although they had some UK wine and spirits products IT was a poor advert for a great industry.

British sparkling wine , however, has seen a resurgence in recent years and has even taken on Champagne producers and sparkling wine estates with great effect. UK wines are on the cusp of becoming notably international. Always been the country that produced laughable wine. Now we are a force to be reckoned with. 2018 has seen a bumper harvest. (UK Report )

Oatley vineyard is one such place. Great vineyard producing fabulous wines

Jane and Ian(below)

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upsticked in 1985 from west London and moved to Somerset – Investing not only a new life but also £350 on a 1951 Ferguson T20 tractor.

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What a beauty ( not the exact one but you get the idea ! )

Having had a few facelifts in its long life they used the tractor to help sow the seeds          (sorry!) for the future. In the initial days both of them worked long hours and sacrificed blood ,sweat and tears.  Vines soon flourished and 3 years later (usually the time it take vines to produce fruit (grapes)), on the 5th November 1988, the vineyard came alive.

In the early days the reward for helping with the harvest was bread and cheese for the harvest workers, now its a 4 course meal with the estates wine. Just shows how far the vineyard has come !

The vineyard is situated in the SW on England , just south of Wales. It is only 1 Ha or 2.47 acres or 1x International sized rugby pitch

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(If you look at the top right of the photo you’ll see the vines)

The vineyard aims to use very little herbicides, using good husbandry to minimise the need for fungicides. To produce dry wines that reflect the vines, the place and the year both Jane and Ian

–  use minimum intervention winemaking and low levels of sulphur;
–  use lower weight bottles to keep our carbon footprint low;
–  use high quality traditional corks to help maintain the important mixed cork oak ecology in Portugal;
–  sell mainly directly within the southwest of England: low “wine miles’;
–  maintain our old vines in good health for as long as we can, keeping our traditional aromatic vine varieties;
–  promote biodiversity by letting our alleys come up to seed in May and June, letting our hedges grow and maintaining a wild area next to the vineyard
–  stay small and make only wines that we like to drink, from vines tended mainly by our own hands.

Their philosophy is to manage the vines meticulously so as to minimise disease through vine management and minimise artificial controls. They use no herbicides and promote biodiversity and try to have a low carbon footprint (see points above)

click to see more about carbon footprint and to see what yours is

Most years they produce two dry white wines from their two grape varieties. Kernling and Madelaine Angevine

Kernling is a white grape variety, which originated from mutation from the grape variety Kerner. Whilst Madeleine Angevine is a white wine grape from the loire valley in France. It is also popular in Germany, Kyrgyzstan and Washington State,USA. Madeleine Angevine is a fruity wine with a flowery nose similar to an Alsatian Pinot Blanc. It is crisp, acid and dry and pairs particularly well with seafoods such as crab and oyster

Oatley Vineyard’ Range  – Leonora’s and Jane’s.

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“Leonora’s” wines are dry and elegant, similar to a dry Riesling in style. They can be drunk young but develop in the bottle, showing complex honey

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overtones when approaching four years old or more. made from Kernling grapes, a first cross from Riesling that ripens to pink – it is the pink clone of the better-known Kerner grape.

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“Jane’s” wines, from golden Madeleine Angevine grapes are light and crisp with a flower-scented nose

and citrus notes, sometimes with a hint of elderflower and on the finish, gooseberry. Delightful as an aperitif,  for a party, in a summer garden or just for a refreshing glass at home. Best drunk young and fresh, within 2-3 years. Often likened to a restrained Sauvignon Blanc in style.

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Every now and then they produce a blend of the two varietals, named “Elizabeth’s” after their daughter. These wines, when available, make good wines to pair with food with the structure of the Kernling coupled with upfront fruit from the Madeleine,

Oatley has one French oak barrel, hand-coopered by Master Cooper Alastair Sims. It is light-toasted and fine-grained – from the Tronçais forest – for subtlety.

A small amount of wine was used to make barrel matured wine between 2010-2015. From 2016 onwards a new barrel was used , a barrique from Seguin Moreau of Cognac, known as a “Fraicheur”, made especially for light varietals, with fine grained French oak staves, very light toast and heads made from acacia rather than oak, to add a little brightness to the flavour. In 2016 they won a trophy for their endeavours (see link below)

Oatley even picked up a trophy at a recent competition. Please click to see more !

Their winemaker is Steve Brooksbank, at Bagborough, near Shepton Mallet where he destems, crushes and presses the grapes for Oatley.  Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. Which lessens the influence of oak – so wine is clean and fresh. They also use lighter weight, (400g) bottles to keep our wines’ carbon footprint down. Everything that they do at Oatley is for the sustainability and the lesser impact on the environment

A very noble thing to do.

The Grape Wizard Geeky stuff

In 2011 EU wine legislation went through a few changes and there are now 4 distinct categories of wine that all vineyards have to adhere to if they want to put certain descriptions on the label          Click here for more info !

PDO

PGI

NON PDO/PGI still wines (Varietal )

NON PDO/PGI Sparkling wines (WINES)

Oatley vineyard has the honour of having all its wines at PDO level. English Wine PDO is the highest quality standard for English wines. English Regional Wine PGI is of similar technical standard but can include wine from hybrid vines and wines with no, or little, added sulphites.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) denotes

• Quality and characteristics that are essentially or exclusively attributable to the geographical environment in which it is produced

• The grapes have been grown exclusively in the defined region (ie England/Wales) and are only of the Vitis Vinifera genus

• The production of the wine takes place in the defined region (England/Wales)

Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Quality Wine.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) denotes

• Wines produced under this scheme must possess a specific quality, reputation or other characteristics attributable to the geographical origin

• At least 85% of grapes used for its production have been grown in the defined region (ie England/Wales), with the rest from the UK, and are of the Vitis Vinifera genus or a cross of Vitis Vinifera and another genus of Vitis (therefore allowing hybrid varieties such as Seyval Blanc)

• The production of the wine takes place in the named area (England/Wales)

Wines will be labelled English (or Welsh) Regional Wine

NON PDO/PGI still/ sparkling wines (Varietal )

This category sits above basic uncertified wine. Successful application for this status allows the wine producer to state the cultivar and vintage on their label e.g. ‘Bacchus 2015’.
Where 85% or more of the grapes used in the wine are of a single variety then it is permissible to show just that variety. If more than one variety is stated then all varieties included must be shown in descending order of percentage. In either case at least 85% of the grapes must come from the stated vintage.Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’is NOT permitted on labels.There is no testing requirement for this status.

Can be labelled as ‘varietal wine’.

NON PDO/PGI Sparkling/still wines  (WINES)

This wine has not passed through one of the above categories in the UK Quality Wine Schemes and does not have to have been tested.

Labels should be kept plain and refer to the product simply as ‘white wine’ for example. Use of the protected term ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘English Regional’ or ‘Welsh Regional’ is NOT permitted on labels. Statements of vine variety and vintage are NOT permitted on labels. There is no testing requirement for this status.

Only Wines and Quality Sparkling Wines that have passed through the appropriate wine scheme are permitted to indicate vineyard name.

In order to gain PDO and PGI status wines are required to pass independent assessments after the wine has been bottled.   Applications will be swiftly processed, enabling producers to market and sell their wines efficiently.  All successful wines will be listed on the UKVA website, enabling trade and consumer customers to verify the wines they buy. Consumers and trade buyers are therefore assured that there is a system in place to ensure quality standards are met every step of the way.

Producers that opt out of putting their wines through the scheme may use the term ‘English (or Welsh) Wine’ on the label but other information is restricted; for example vineyard location cannot be included.  The term ‘Table wine’ has now disappeared.

TheGrapewizard Vintage Notes for Oatley Vineyard

2014 was a top year  Lots of grapes and fruit ripened sufficiently . Almost no pests and an early harvest. Some would say it was a stress free year !  Jane’s 2014 was awarded a Silver Medal in the Summer 2015 UKVA competition.

2015 Colder than 2014 ,  difficult year to ripen grapes  The grape sugars were ok but failed to colour up and the acidity was high.  Madeleine was good but the Kernling lacked intensity in the mid-palate. Decision was taken to blend the two varietal wines and producer 2015 “Elizabeth’s”.

2016 was a dream year for vine growers with rain and sun in all; the right places.  “Jane’s 2016” was very popular

2017 Spring frosts with warm dry summer let to lower than expected volumesThe Jane’s 2017 will be released in early summer 2018. The Leonora’s 2017 will be cellared for a year or two.

So Jane and Ian have kept what they believe to be true. To keep their integrity and to showcase their wines in the environment that they are grown in . Wines are sold locally, farming practices are always in the continuing improvement of the estate and only make wines when they believe that  any of their 3 wines are at their best. Using their two major varietals to make a third wine when they can’t  or don’t want to use Madelaine or Kernling is a good marketing tool. Although small they seem to be vert adept at getting the most out of the environment. Its testament to their ideals and beliefs.

I think if they made a sparkling wine they would do rather well at it.  I hope with the bumper harvest of 2018 great things will come from the estate.

GW

all photos with kind permission from Oatley vineyard

Chilled to perfection…?

 June has seen scorching hot weather, some of the hottest days on record.  The last time the mercury edged this high was in the 1970’s and no fashionable summer dinner party was complete until someone had opened a bottle of one of Portugal’s most famous exports Mateus Rose to accompany their Parma ham and melon balls!  One of the things I love about wine is that just like food there is always a new taste to discover so let me introduce you to one I’ve discovered recently.

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Chilled red.  Yes I’ve discovered recently that there are many reds which are perfectly suited for chilling.  Lighter bodied reds such as Beaujolais, Barolos and even Pinot Noir can be delicious when served a few degrees lower than “celler temperature”.  Because of their low tannin content, they don’t see the negative impact that low temperatures can bring to heavier reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and many countries and cultures have a wine drinking tradition based around light, airy, bright and zippy red wines, served nicely chilled.

On a hot summer’s day, along with some charcuterie (maybe even Parma ham and melon balls) or similar, I can think of few things finer than a pleasantly cold (not fridge cold) glass of Pinot Noir.

Try these two from Berry Bros.

2015 Reuilly Rouge, Les Pierres Plates, Denis Jamain 14.95 Berry Bros
2013 Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir Sandford & Benedict, Santa Ynez Valley 44.50 Berry Bros

And if you’re sipping your Pinot in the Caymen Islands 🇰🇾 this summer, tell ’em “the Grape Wizard” sent you because this beauty Furst Spatburgunder , Pinot Noir Kyd 44 is Fab. Jacque Scott

Traditionally, red wines are served between 62-68 oF (15-20oC) and whites  between 49-55 F (9-13 C). Try one of the reds at the white wine temperature.

Or try this : Pour a glass of red at room temperature.  Chill the rest of the half bottle and try a little.  Notice how temperature affects the experience and character of the wine. But as always what you like is more important to me than doing whats right or what’s fashionable.

While some wines, like Lambrusco and Beaujolais, are traditionally consumed chilled, experiment with Merlot, or a young Spanish Rioja or Chilean carmenere
You can’t guarantee fab results but it’s fun trying.  There are no rules!

So at your next Summer Soiree try sharing your experience

” Hmmmm  I don’t think this Cab Sav is ideally suited to be paired with lobster. “.

” I’d say this Chardonnay has a little too much oak to be paired with a Phaal “

Although these statements sound pretentious, just go with your instincts!  One day you’ll get it right!

Now back to chilled reds…..try some of these:

1. Lambrusco
Lambruscos are light-bodied sparkling wines made in NE Italy. Wine results when yeast eats grape juice; if a winemaker stops fermentation before the yeast has passed, there will be sugar left in the wine.

Some Lambruscos are therefore sweet (sugar left in the wine), some are medium-dry (small amount of sugar in the wine) and some are dry (little to no sugar left in the wine itself). You can try all three but for the purposes of this article I would just ask your nearest wine merchant for a dry Lambrusco and serve it chilled

Heres a recommendation for you  

Cavicchioli, Lambrusco di Sorbara, Vigna del Cristo, 2014  £12.29 Tannico

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2. Beaujolais

Beaujolais is the wine that comes from the Burgundy region of France. It’s made out of the Gamay grape, which produces some of the lightest-bodied reds out there. There is a relationship between how big a wine’s body is and how long it needs to be aged in bottle before release. It’s Gamay’s petit personality that enables some Beaujolais to be released as quickly as possible after a harvest as “Beaujolais Nouveau.”

Patrick Chodot Brouilly 75cl £9 Tesco by the case

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Even try your hand a Beaujolais Nouveau.  Louis Jadot Chateau des Jacques Morgon 2009, is complex and fruity, and lovely chilled.

3. Pinot Noir
Though some people first heard about it in the movie “Sideways”, Pinot Noir is one of the world’s most revered wine grapes. It’s the basis of the red wines of Burgundy — one of France’s most iconic regions — and it’s planted lots of other places, including New Zealand, California, and Oregon. It’s lighter bodied and produces famously complex and delicious wines.

2013 BOURGOGNE Pinot Noir Domaine François Raquillet £17.75 Lea & Sandeman2013-BOURGOGNE-Pinot-Noir-Domaine-Francois-Raquillet.240x700.17515

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Cristom Vineyards Mt. Jefferson Cuvée Pinot Noir £32.50 Honest Grapes

One of the problems with Pinot Noir wines is they’re labor-intensive to produce and therefore it’s hard to get good ones on the cheap.

4. Barbera d’Asti
Also in NE Italy, the Barbera D’Asti region relies upon the Barbera grape, which is the third-most planted grape in Italy. Barbera D’Asti wines have relatively high acid, aren’t tremendously complicated and aren’t usually aged for a long time, which is all good news for chilled drinking.

Araldica Barbera D’asti Superiore £8.99shopping-1

Araldica Barbera D’Asti Superiore, Italian, Red Wine £8.99 Waitrose

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Barbera d’Asti Superiore Trinchero DOCG Organic £17.90  Vorrei

5. Zinfandel
Zinfandel is arguably the flagship red grape of California — for a long time, in fact, people even thought it was native there. (Since genetic testing came about, it’s been discovered it’s the same as a red grape from Italy called Primitivo.) The biggest bodied of the wines on this list by a long shot, Zinfandels are not often consumed cold, but they can be.

As with the Pinot Noirs, you can break the bank with Zinfandel — but there’s no need to for these purposes. You want something inexpensive, bright, and jammy. Sonoma’s Dry Creek Valley is a great place to source from.

So chill out and try something new!

So for those of you sipping your chilled red in the Caymen Islands or even the rest of us on our sun lounger in the back garden, remember wherever you are, you are in a pretty place indeed. Its summer, sit back, enjoy the sunshine and suck (or sip) the marrow out of life!

Enjoy this moment. It is a moment of reflection and relaxation.

And as such you need some music. So here it is this weeks music pairing

Pair wine with.

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