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Mostly Food & Travel Journal

Champagne – a brief encounter

Domaine Papagiannakos Winery

Grapes & Wines

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles

Lambrusco - Another taste

Mele e Pere for Vermouth with a Master

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake

Remelluri Organic Winery

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries

The Sparkle of Vilmart & Cie

Wine & Spice Series 2015 at Cinnamon Club


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Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries

I was told to expect a book. I was told to expect a big book. I was told to expect a coffee-table book. What I got was a book the size of a coffee table but one which will hold my attention long after the furniture would have lost its purely functional appeal.

sake Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries (yes, the title fits the proportions of the book) is organic in its style and appropriate for the subject. The cover is fabric in a cool winter-sky blue with simple black text. Unfussy, crisp and displaying Japanese taste for minimalism.  One naturally opens the volume with respect.

This is a heavy tome but not heavy reading. It’s a sake story book that will be the volume of choice for any lover of sake or things Japanese with which to snuggle. It’s a picture book over which to pore. Images of craft and continuity are showcased to beautiful effect. Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries is encyclopaedia of some of the most significant breweries (including 10 shōchū distilleries and 5 Okinawan awamori distilleries), looking at sake and those Japanese spirits. It features 60 or so breweries, with each chapter focusing on the families who have, often for many generations, dedicated their lives to the production of Japan’s iconic beverage. The book displays the diversity of brewing methods that produce such changes in flavour around Japan.

The striking photography is by one of the world's most renowned travel photographers, Jason Lang. He transmits to us the spirit both of sake and of those who labour to make it. He shows the reality of the process, its beauty and charm. Steam, warm rice, brewers and landscape populate these pages. He captures the environment with shots of rugged faces and frosted fields. Vignettes of traditional brewery slippers, high technology and natural wood. Anyone who has visited a sake brewery will be convinced that they can actually smell fermenting mash between these pages.

 Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries will appeal to a wide audience. For the untutored, it will open a door to sake and introduce the characters who make that distinctive drink possible. For lovers of sake who want to learn more, there is a raft of information to study and muse upon. It’s a book about sake but equally about people and the relationship between the two.

Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan's Artisanal Breweries
Authors: Hayato Hishinuma, Elliot Faber
Published by: Gatehouse Publishing
Price: £75.00
ISBN-10: 9810795289
ISBN-13: 978-9810795283

food and travel reviews

Remelluri Organic Winery

The mountains have been here for 80 million years; humans have been using the mountains for a lot less time than that, but nevertheless for a long time, historically speaking. The Romans used one of the peaks as a military fort. Later, in the 14th century, a monastery was built that gave birth to this farm, producing cereal and wine for the monks - La Granja Nuestra Senora de Remelluri (Our Lady of Remelluri). In fact, the village of Remelluri dates from the 10th century, and was named after a Christian guerrilla fighter called Ramellis, who helped to push the Muslims south from the valley.

Remelluri In the 10th and 11th centuries the monks in the monasteries at nearby St Millan de Cogolla (now a UNESCO World Heritage site and well worth a visit) produced beautiful documents and drawings describing the picking and crushing of grapes.

The farm was abandoned in the 17th century and it had many different owners, until Jaime Rodriguez and his wife bought it in 1968 as a ruin. They started, little by little, to restore the walls and the house. At that time there was no electricity, no telephone, no roads. It was charming, beautiful, and this was one of the reasons that they bought it – as a romantic getaway for the summer break with the kids. They knew that they could make wine here, as fine wines were already being made in the village, long before the industrial ‘Rioja’ wines of modern times. The family made their first wine in 1971 – about 10,000 bottles – with the vines that were already here. Apart from the historic accident of the monks and the farm, it’s the geography, the nature, the place, the ‘terroir’, that makes Remelluri so interesting.

The traditional Rioja viticulture always took advantage of the bush-vine system (French ‘gobelet’ or Spanish ‘vaso’ – a small glass): there are three main stems trained above the trunk, which spread out making the perfect round shadow to counter the effect of heat and sun. The vines survive with no irrigation, as the owners are faithful to the traditional methods and are looking for quality rather than quantity. They maintain a density of 5000 plants per hectare, so that the roots have to compete with each other.

Geographically the vineyard is in the cooler, fresher part of Rioja, with a lot of influence from the Atlantic breezes. They have a north wind blowing all summer and autumn, bringing welcome rain and keeping the night-time temperature down below 20 degrees. This helps the vines to produce better because the leaves don’t close, so photosynthesis can continue. The contrast between the cool of the night and the heat of the day helps to develop complexity, acidity, and sugars so the wines become much more sophisticated. Some of these wines can age in the cellar for months, and in the bottle for decades.

Remelluri In spring the shoots of the vine are very fragile, and in those past days winters were long, with a lot of snow and ice, and autumn was very short. So the monks in the Middle Ages sited the farm in the best possible place to get the shelter from the surrounding hills, and terraced them to get the maximum sunshine. The vineyards here are at the highest elevation in the region.

In areas such as Xeres, the sherry-producing region of Spain, there were at one time up to 120 varieties of vine, and even here there were perhaps 60 varieties, but phylloxera destroyed most vines. When the disease decimated the French vineyards the owners came to Rioja and Navarra looking for clean plants, and started doing joint ventures with local merchants and aristocracy. That’s how the classic Rioja started. They built wineries in villages near railway stations, and sent wine in bulk to Bilbao harbour, to be bottled in London for sale to Europe. The business was dominated by the British and the French.

Remelluri only produce 6,000 bottles of white wine, and only have 4.5 hectares of vineyard dedicated to white grapes. In the east valley they have around 20 hectares of very old terraces used to make their most prestigious wines – a really sophisticated Granja Remelluri (10,000 bottles) that is aged for two years in the barrel followed by six years in the bottle. It’s a wine that will remain in good condition for half a century. The other notable red wine is Remelluri Reserva, which is the ‘house’ wine, aged 18 months, and they produce around 250,000 bottles.

Remelluri The owners consider that the biggest challenge is to set the best example, be the best model, for their wine-making neighbours. Remelluri represents almost 33% of the organic vineyard area in Rioja. Policies in Rioja have encouraged a massive increase in production, but have not favoured the traditional producers or protected the old terroirs. The authorities gave money to replace the old vines, and everything was bulldozed and destroyed, and there has been heavy criticism from international wine-writers and journalists. Remelluri, because the family liked the wines of Medoc, started using French oak barrels, as opposed to the American oak generally used throughout Rioja. This wood offers less vanilla aroma than the American, and they replace about 10% of their barrels each year.

Telmo, the son of the family, who now runs the winery with his sister Amaya, likes to work with bigger barrels for certain wine. Telmo Rodriguez has been described by Berry Brothers and Rudd as one of the greatest of Spanish winemakers. He uses 500-litre and 300-litre barrels as well as the more typical 225-litre. You can see from the names of the parcels of land chalked on the barrels that they ferment and age each plot’s grapes separately until the point of bottling the vintage. Some of the French barrels are made from Hungarian oak these days, because French oak is becoming harder to find and more expensive. As wines are oxygenated and aged they are racked and moved to cooler rooms. These wines are delicate, being alive with yeasts and natural bacteria, and would have a tendency to become vinegar if not expertly handled!

I am sure a vinegar vintage will never happen at Remelluri. This is wine made with passion, dedication and consideration. This family know what they like. They respect heritage and tradition but they also embrace practices that allow them to make the best of this land. It’s the delicious marriage of art and organic science.

To learn more visit Remelluri here

To arrange tours of Rioja and the rest of Spain visit Travels and Tapas here

food and travel reviews

Mele e Pere for Vermouth with a Master

mele vermouth Vermouth has been ubiquitous in and on cocktail bars since mixed drinks became popular more than a century ago, but many of us have no idea what it actually is, apart from being the bottle that stands at the back collecting dust. Now it’s enjoying something of a revival since the days of the ubiquitous Gin and It in London in the 1950s. The ‘It’ in this case was sweet Italian vermouth.

The modern versions of vermouths were first produced in the mid- to late-18th century in Turin, Italy. Vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, being flavoured with botanicals more associated with the apothecary’s cabinet. In the late 19th century it became popular as the indispensable ingredient in many celebrated cocktails such as the classic Martini (gin and dry vermouth), the Manhattan (bourbon, rye, or whiskey, with sweet vermouth), and the Negroni (Campari, gin, and sweet vermouth).

There are two main types of vermouth, sweet and dry, and then the spin-off styles of extra-dry white, sweet bianco and rosso, and rosé. Vermouth is produced from a base of a light wine with the addition of infused alcohol flavoured with aromatic herbs, roots, fruits, barks and spices. The resulting combination of wine and alcohol is sweetened with either cane sugar or caramelized sugar, depending on the style. This gives depth and richness to the final product.

A popular ingredient is wormwood, which has long been believed to sooth stomach disorders. The name "vermouth" is the French pronunciation of the German word Wermut which we English pronounce as wormwood. By the mid-17th century the drink was being enjoyed in England, where we adopted the name "vermouth", and so it remains.

Mele e Pere, one of my favourite restaurants in Soho, has a bespoke Vermouth bar. Yes, every bar in the capital will have a bottle or two of this fortified wine but here it’s the main beverage. Vermouthier-in-chief Ed Scothern, who is also the enthusiastic and animated General Manager, conducts regular Vermouth masterclasses which are both popular and fun. He discusses the history and composition of this drink but he also shows how you could make Vermouth yourself. In fact that’s just what you will be doing at the end of the evening!

mele vermouth Ed takes you through the blending process and a tasting of a wide variety of styles, and will ply you with your favourite vermouth-based cocktails or perhaps introduce you to some new ones. You will see how Mele e Pere use different vermouths in both classic and signature house cocktails. You will be supplied with an array of small bottles of the aromatised alcohol and glasses of sweetened white wine and be given the chance to design your own unique and hopefully delicious Vermouth.

 Tickets for each evening cost £25 and include some of Mele e Pere’s most popular sharing plates such as spicy Ascolana olives (to which I am addicted), deep fried squid with smoked aioli, and San Daniele ham – and, trust me, they will tempt you to return to sample the rest of the menu.

Join Mele e Pere for Vermouth Mondays. They offer 2 for 1 on all Vermouths when you order any share dish, pasta or main course every Monday from 5pm!

You can build your own Negronis and Martinis by choosing from perhaps London's biggest selection of Vermouths and Mele e Pere’s diverse range of Gins and Vodkas produced by some of the UK's most individual micro-distilleries.

To book a place at one of their masterclasses e-mail info@meleepere.co.uk or call 020 7096 2096.

Mele e Pere
46 Brewer Street
Soho
London W1F 9TF

Email: info@meleepere.co.uk

Read more about Mele e Pere here.
food and travel reviews

Domaine Papagiannakos Winery

Domaine Papagiannakos Vineyard A few years ago one might scoff at the prospect of a visit to a Greek winery. The memory of old-school Retsina lingers on. That wine had more in common, to non-Greek taste buds at least, with that in which one might clean paint brushes. But those days are gone and now Greek wineries are taken seriously in the international arena and they are winning awards against more familiar wine-producing countries. Viticultural snobbery has been, in most circles, swept away and wine aficionados are now able to appreciate some very fine vintages.

Vassilis Papagiannakos is a leader in the reinvention of the Greek wine industry and after decades of hard work he is now enjoying recognition and international respect. He and his wife Antonia started building this new and technologically advanced winery in 2003 and it was opened in 2007. It is designed on bio-climatic principles: it saves 25% energy by using natural light and ventilation to control the temperature inside, making it cool in summer and warm in winter. It was the first energy-saving winery in Greece, and the design has received architectural awards.

We spoke to Vassilis in the state-of-the-art winery which ticks every box for technology, eco-friendliness, and architectural good taste. “It took me almost 2 years to find the architect. Most were saying that they wanted to visit wineries in France, Italy, California, Australia, New Zealand, to take photographs and I would choose what I liked. I did not like that approach, and when I told a friend of my concerns he recommended an architect who had worked in the UK on bioclimatic buildings. At last we had found someone with original ideas. The first vintage in the new building was in September 2007. Similarly with our label designer: she is English, married to a Greek and had designed for many international brands.

Domaine Papagiannakos Vineyard “The design of the winery puts everything underground. I wanted to incorporate the building into the surroundings, adapted to the environment. But when we dug the foundations over 5 metres down we discovered an ancient river, which we could not block. So we had to fill the bottom of the excavation with a metre of big stones, and build the winery on top of that!”

Vassilis explained the history and ethos of his building and production. “My ancestors were grape-growers, like all the villagers of this region for thousands of years. But my grandfather emigrated to the United States at the beginning of 1900. He stayed for ten years, and worked very hard. When he came back he married my grandmother, who owned some vineyards, and with the money that he had saved he bought more vineyards and built the first winery.

“My father worked to improve the technology in the 50s and 60s with equipment from France. It was always a family business, as it is today, and we cultivated the main grape of the area, Savatiano.  This is mostly a limestone soil, and we have mild winters, and hot and dry summers. We have a minimum of 320 days of sunshine, and no rain from the middle of May until October, and low humidity. We are very lucky as we are close to the sea: we are surrounded by it, on the east coast of Attica, and we get the breeze from the Aegean, and there is a strong wind that blows in the afternoon, until sunset. This cools down the grapes. The advantage of this grape variety, Savatiano, is that it is very well adapted to this climate, and 95-97% of our vines are not irrigated. Because that grape has been grown here for thousands of years it is well established,and the roots go very deep – perhaps 20 to 25 metres – and the yield is very low.”

Domaine Papagiannakos Vineyard Why did Vassilis step away from traditional Retsina? “I saw that Savatiano was associated only with Retsina and my father and grandfather were producing mostly just that, because this was the market at that time. In the 70s and 80s we started making wine without resin, but it was simply called ‘aretsina’, without retsina! So I took the decision to cut back on making Retsina and focus on using Savatiano to produce a conventional white wine. I don’t advertise our Retsina, but most of it is exported, our best market being Paris! Our white wines can compete and be compared with other international grapes and wines from other countries, but Retsina is unique to Greece. “We have planted grapes from other regions of Greece, like Malagouzia, and international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which we support on wires, and we always irrigate those at least twice during the summer to avoid hydro-stressing the vines. We only give the vines a sulphur spray in May, and otherwise we do not need to spray, as we have no diseases in this area due to the hot, dry climate. We rarely suffer from mildew – just once in 48 years. We are naturally organic. Although we are not certified, laboratories here and in Germany and Canada acknowledge that our wines are organic.

“All our vineyards are maintained by hand. We have about 10 people regularly working for us in the fields, but that goes up to 50 at harvest time. That lasts 2 months, from the beginning of August until the 20th September. Malagouzia that I planted 15 years ago is always the earliest to ripen. Then Assyrtico, then the reds (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Agiorgitiko), then at the beginning of September, Savatiano, which is our main production. Mostly we use grapes from our own properties for our wines, but we do buy grapes from vineyards owned by members of our extended family and friends. Land prices are very high in this area, so it is not economic to extend our own vineyards. Because of the geography of Greece, the terroir, and the break-up of property by inheritance, production is very artisanal and we have very high costs. I think that the selling prices are still too low, but we don’t have the reputation of somewhere like Burgundy. We deserve it, but we will have to build up the awareness and reputation.

Domaine Papagiannakos Vineyard “Because of the many different terroirs, altitudes and climates on the mainland and on the islands, we have more than 400 varieties of grape in Greece, although only 15 to 20 are used for wines exported to international markets. Production is generally 70 to 75% white wine, due to the climatic conditions. We produce about 200,000 bottles per year. Our best market at the moment is Germany, (in part because there are more than 5000 Greek restaurants there!), then the United States, Canada, and Britain.

“Red production is 15 to 20 % of our total, mainly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon (5000 - 7000 bottles each) and some Agiorgitiko, and we keep it in the barriques (barrels) for 13 to 19 months, depending on the year. We always buy new barriques – we have experimented with various ones, and we have settled on wood from two forests in France, and focus on two particular suppliers.  We also produce a barrel-aged Savatiano white wine called Vareli (which is the Greek for ‘barrel’) – we keep that wine in new French oak barrels for 5 to 6 months. In early 2000 I planted Malagouzia, Assyrtiko, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. They take five years to produce grapes, but to come fully into production takes 7 to 8 years, as we need two years for experimentation.”

This beautifully presented winery is outstanding and can compete with wineries anywhere in the world. They have the best of wine-making facilities, and elegant social space in which to host group gatherings and receptions in striking fashion. The building has open vistas over fruit trees, figs, pistachios, herbs and of course vines. This noteworthy winery has inspired a lot of other winemakers from all over Greece and other countries. Students studying architecture use the building as a project because of the bioclimatic and energy-saving design. “Many want to copy our building,” says Vassilis, “I am very proud because this is the first one. We used the best materials, and it was a very big investment for us, and it was a very tiring time, but it was my dream – I would not settle for second-best.” And he hasn’t.

This man has charisma and charm. He is an international traveller and has a taste for curry when visiting London. Yes, he is a citizen of the world but his heart and passion are in Greece. He has struck the right balance between hard work and family life, with both his daughter and wife working by his side, and his undoubted success is well-deserved. I look forward to tasting more of his admirable wines in the future.

Learn more about the Papagiannakos Winery here

food and travel reviews

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake

Founded around 1720 in Takayama Hida in Japan, Oita Shuzo brewery has been producing sake ever since. This is a beautiful region with several noteworthy breweries. It comes alive in winter, which is the sake-brewing season in Japan.
Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake
In the Edo era sweet sake was more highly esteemed than the dry version. Many dry sakes produced in Japan were sarcastically nicknamed ‘Oni Koroshi’.  Oni is the Japanese word for demon and koroshi is slayer or killer. Locals said that even those monsters would die if they drank such dry sake. Now drier sake is more popular and is my favourite style, being crisp, light and more easily paired with Western food. Try a chilled glass with your preferred evening snacks.

Oita Shuzo is now in its 15th generation of family owners and is under the watchful eye of Hideo Oita, although they have moved from their original site in Takayama. Such family business continuity is not so unusual in Japan. The company produces 400kL of sake and shochu each year. They respect traditional methods but are happy to incorporate new technology and practices where they improve the process.

Honjozo is sake that has a small amount of brewer's alcohol added to the fermenting sake mash after the yeast has completed converting the sugar in the rice. To be considered as a honjozo sake, the weight of the additional alcohol must be no more than 10% of the weight of the rice used.

This sake is available in convenient smaller-size bottles. Its reasonable price makes this a great entry-level sake.  Oita Shuzo of Hida produces this Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake with a slightly dry character, displaying an elegant smoothness and a hint of crispness, making this a versatile sake, and one that fits easily into a small sake carafe.

Onikoroshi Honjozo Sake is produced in 300 ml bottles
Alcohol Content: 15.5%.    
Rice polished to 68% (the % of rice remaining after the polishing process is complete)
The Japan Centre has an impressive selection of Sake. They are available online and from their shops.

Japan Centre Food Hall and Book Shop
19 Shaftesbury Avenue
London W1D 7ED

Visit Japan Centre here
Phone: 020 3405 1246
Email: foodshop@japancentre.com
Email: bookshop@japancentre.com

Read the blog at blog.japancentre.com

Join Japan Centre on Facebook here www.facebook.com/japancentre
Follow Japan Centre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/japancentre


food and travel reviews

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles - From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond

Oz Clarke is always entertaining in a roguish kind of way. He has graced our TV screens and our airways for several decades and his books are a paper representation of his wine adventures.

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles This is a man who has indeed enjoyed wine and that joie de vivre comes through in this book. Oz leads us on his personal odyssey through styles of wine, bottles of wine and memories of wine. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles - From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond is a collection of anecdotes with wine and its history at the core – and a fascinating story it is.

This is just the kind of book an enthusiastic wine lover would include on a wish-list for Christmas. It’s a tome with which to snuggle, perhaps in front of a yule-log fire. That aforementioned sipper will be charmed by Oz’s conversational style, but this man also educates in a most palatable fashion.

Wine snobbery has long been with us. It has served to alienate many of us who would like to know more. Granted, we might remember the name of a couple of favourite bottles but confront us with a stiff and starchy sommelier and the resolve to order with confidence evaporates like the angel’s share in a chilly cellar. This book might not direct you to a particular bottle, grape, or vintage but it will give reassurance and encourage a bit of conversation between you and the sommelier, whose mission should be to serve both you and the wine.

Oz has a broad love of all things viticultural and that includes such oddities as Retzina and wine boxes – they are mentioned under the date section 1965 in Oz’s chronological listings, to give historical context. Mateus is included, and dated 1942, although it was the wine of (very little) choice in the 1970s, being prized as much for its bottle shape as its contents.

Everything you ever wanted to know about wine labels, screw caps, prohibition, synthetic corks, marketing and bottling is all here. The History of Wine in 100 Bottles - From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond is my bedtime companion and will remain so till I reach the last delicious sip, the last jolly quip and the last grapey musing. It’s a winner.

The History of Wine in 100 Bottles - From Bacchus to Bordeaux and Beyond
Author: Oz Clarke
Published by: Pavilion Books
Price: £20
ISBN-10: 1909815497
ISBN-13: 978-1909815490


food and travel reviews

Grapes & Wines - A comprehensive guide to varieties and flavours

Grapes & Wines First published as Oz Clarke’s Encyclopaedia of Grapes, Oz Clarke’s new Grapes & Wines, with Margaret Rand, is revised and updated to present the wine lover with the best information on a comprehensive selection of grapes and the wines associated with them.

Oz Clarke has become a household name. He oft graces our TV screens and has written a shelf-load of books on wine. This particular volume might well act as an indispensable handbook for those of us who don’t know much about wine and don’t even know enough to ask about what we don’t know.

Seventeen classic grape varieties are covered in depth, with another fifteen major grapes also discussed in some detail. Oz touches upon more than three hundred grape varieties in total, categorized from Abouriou to Zinfandel.

This is a book that will help to demystify wine. Each section is a one-stop-shop for information on the specifics of each grape variety.  The chapters on the classic grape varieties are outstanding, with pages of historical context, terroir, taste profiles, countries growing particular grapes, and also notes on the most celebrated producers, as well as how to enjoy each wine at its best.

Grapes & Wines - A Comprehensive Guide to Varieties and Flavours is a book to give confidence to the beginner or non-professional wine enthusiast. It will be a must-have for anyone lucky enough to go on a wine tour, and gives the home wine buyer a few ideas for wines that will fit their personal taste. It’s great value for money and is bound to become a best-seller. It’s beautifully presented with illustrations, photographs, maps and diagrams, making this book truly gift-quality.

Book review:
Title: Grapes & Wines
Authors: Oz Clarke and Margaret Rand
Published by: Pavilion Books
Price: £25.00
ISBN-10: 190910862
ISBN-13: 978-1909108622


food and travel reviews

Lambrusco - Another taste

Lambrusco - Another taste If you are of a certain age then even the name ‘Lambrusco’ will likely raise a smirk. Once the smirker’s composure has been restored then he/she will probably deny ever having tasted the stuff. One has one’s oenological credibility to consider, after all! Wouldn’t be seen quaffing anything so viticulturally base!

Where exactly is Lambrusco, my dear geographically-challenged reader might ask. It’s not a place but just a wine. Emilia Romagna and Mantova are often referred to as being in the ‘Lambrusco region’ but that just describes the wine typical of the area. Lambrusco is the name of both a red wine grape and an Italian wine made principally from the grape. They originate from around Emilia-Romagna and the central provinces of Modena, Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Mantua.

The grape isn’t a new variety but in fact has a long history, with archaeological findings showing that the Etruscans cultivated these same grapes. The Romans enjoyed Lambrusco and prized it for the high grape yield of its vines.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s that infamous sweet Lambrusco was one of biggest selling wines in the US and UK, and it was offered in both white and red. Both made with the same grapes but the must, or grape juice, for the white wine stayed in contact with the grape skins for less time than for the red.

It’s mostly sparkling wine but not usually made using the ‘Champagne method’ (metodo classico). It is typically made using the Charmat process (like prosecco) where a second fermentation is undertaken in a pressurized tank rather than in the bottle.

Lambrusco - Another taste Most Lambruscos are made from more than one Lambrusco variety and often mixed with a number of approved blending grapes. The grape itself is not particularly sweet but many of the commercial Lambrusco wines are sweetened by either partial fermentation or with the addition of concentrated grape must. There are different levels of dryness or sweetness; the wine is noted for high acidity and flavours of blackberries, strawberries and cherries.

Reggiano is the largest Lambrusco-producing region and the origin of the majority of the exports of that DOC-designated wine. The four Lambrusco grapes that can be used are Maestri, Marani, Montericco, and Salamino. Up to 15% of added Ancellotta grapes are allowed for this DOC, too.

It’s hardly surprising that these better quality Lambrusco wines differ from the cheap supermarket bottles with which we were afflicted a few decades ago. They’re more potent, having an alcoholic content of between 11 and 12 per cent, as opposed to four per cent for those over-sweet and half-hearted wines that gave Lambrusco such a bad name.

Lambrusco - Another taste These days Lambrusco is much drier, with a touch of tannin, and well balanced, being rich and juicy as well as displaying freshness and fruitiness. It still has that deep crimson colour that looked so delicious all those years ago, but now that expectation is more often realised. It’s still sparkling and offering those same pink bubbles when poured, but it’s often the best Lambrusco that’s now exported and enjoyed by people outside Italy.

Lambrusco is attractive, refreshing and goes well with so many foods. It’s best served chilled with canapés, light summer salads and even cheese. It’s well worth another look; but beware - there are still bottles out there that too closely fit the profile of those previous horrors! It’s not always a matter of ‘you get what you pay for’ so it’s perhaps worth going to a reputable wine merchant and even asking for a taste if you intend to buy a case or two.

‘A case or two?’ I can hear you cry with loud incredulity. Well, yes. A good Lambrusco is hard to beat when the sun shines, so set aside wine snobbery, buy some bottles and boast that you have discovered the next big wine trend.

Learn more about Reggio Emilia here

food and travel reviews

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