And, before I upset anyone even more, the bellini is made from Bisol Prosecco and fresh peaches...
The lagoon surrounded city offers a host of eateries - more informal restaurants than Danieli's many offering damn decent Cichetti, the Italian equivalent of Spanish Tapas.
You could join the tourist throngs with their picture menus if you like, but that's not for me. I'd prefer a little local action even if this means an embarrassing struggle with the lingo, pointing and manic 'tourist abroad' smiling at the unusual shell-encased dishes behind the counter-glass or eccentric wine bottles on the shelves behind.
Local is good. More so when you realise that most of the other patrons are locals too.
I hear more than one visitor has suffered extreme disorientation trying to locate some of these little gems (or was it just the hotel, Douglas? excellent write-up though). A decent map or a guide might be useful - those Iphone-possessors should utilise a superb little English language app that I played with while in Venice (TapVenice).
From the S. Lucia railway station and Scalzi Church cross over the Grand Canal via the Scalzi Bridge, wander down to the left passing the church of S. Simeon Piccoto, turn left at the little bridge and walk down to Fondamenta Minotto and you are there! Yeh, you need a map! Ristorante Ribot (Santa Croce 158, Fondamenta Minotto, Rio del Gaffaro, 30124 Venice) has an attractive wine shop attached, a magnet in itself, but the relaxing, covered rose garden at the back is well worth trying to get a table in. If you know the right nod and can wink meaningfully you might be lucky in being given access to a 'secret wine list' - this includes a whole raft of older vintages of Sassicia for example and other very limited gems.
No producers obviously - the wines were picked from a chalked list on the side wall - but a nicely perfumed Gewurztraminer and a glass of Tocai Friulano were procured at Bacaro da Fiore. The latter wine all fruity-minerality and the better match to the freshest plate of prawns I've enjoyed since Madrid and to a fine plate of fried courgette flowers. At a corner table a huge bowl of tiny welk-like shellfish was devoured by two youngsters; they do a lot of odd shellfish do the Venetians apparently.
Bacaro de Fiore - described as a half-taven, half-bar - specialises in just the wines of the Triveneto (that's the land immediately behind Venice covering the Alto-Adige, Trentino, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and the Veneto itself). It's a tiny place down the narrow Calle de Le Botteghe, right opposite our hotel the Locanda Art Deco (and I do loves me a bit of Art Deco! and with rooms like these would you want to stay anywhere else?). I would have been happy to stay at Fiore all evening, sampling the rest of the wine list and those tempting cichetti... but no, onward...
More local, city-rustic character can be found in Trattoria Ca'D'Oro "Alla Vedova" (Cannaregi 3912). A few steps from the water taxi stop of Ca D'Doro. A great atmosphere, lovely, value-packed cicheto, a little warren of rooms packed full of food and wine related artefacts hanging from the ceiling and covering the shelves. The food and wine are the stars here the place being famous for their polpetti (meatballs). Perhaps here would be a good place to spend the evening...
A little challenge was set for me - given £30 of vouchers which Morrison wines would I buy?
It being summer and all the choice would be light, refreshing, easy drinking reds, decent crisp whites and obviously a rosé or two. This selection is of untried wines; I've no idea if they are good value for money, good drinking or otherwise.
Having had problems in trying to access the wine list on the Morrison's website ("Sorry the page you have requested does not seem to be available" - on ALL the wines pages??) I'm selecting these off a word document so pricing is a touch vague... but one soldiers on in the face of such adversity...
Firstly a red, something light that could be chilled? Possibly, with the Orsola Valpolicella (£3.98), but I'd rather sample a New Zealand Pinot Noir - so how about the Ara Pathway Pinot Noir? It comes in under a tenner...
No problems over here of being seen drinking a rosé. Slightly particular in which mind; it has to be dry for a start and while I'm not so fussy on where it comes from I been discovering some fine examples from Spain of late. So how about the Los Vividores Rosé with its "Vibrant colour, lots of lively aromas of tomato and asparagus" or the Penrosa Rosé from Castilla Leon "Strawberry pink wine with an aroma of ripe, soft, red & black fruit. Soft & full in the mouth". Perhaps the £30 budget limit could accommodate both?
And a white... a Sauvignon Blanc beckons and while the both the Seifried (£8.99) and the Sacred Hill (£6.98) Sauvingons are mightily attractive and having already picked a wine from New Zealand it could mean the Spier Sauvignon from South Africa would be plonked into the virtual basket.
Another choice of white could be the slightly odd-ball Repertoire White "The Gros Manseng grape gives tangy, apricot & peach flavours with a gloriously refreshing citrussy finish" or the Rully Blanc "Gorgeous pineapple & tropical fruit aromas lead in to opulent buttery flavours with a lemony finish". No producer mentioned though.
But after mulling and playing with the calculator the £30 is spent on the following:
Which comes in at a smidge over £30 but as Morrison's also run an offer in which, when you buy four bottles you will get 10% off, the final bill comes in at £27.87.
Each year the Bisol clan treats the locals to a little food and wine fair - Gustovino. A seemingly never ending pour from the full Bisol wine range (several not available in the UK) available to enjoy between the vineyards and an opportunity for me to, yet again, clamper ungracefully onto a horse.
Actually getting on was easier, the widespread titters and my flushed face emphasising the undignified disembarkation. Bloody gravity. Bloody stirrups. One numb bum and a hot trot through the vines gives one a thirst that only Prosecco can quench.
The last visit included a stay in the Bisol guest house. Reading back the posts from those early blogging days are rather embarrassing in the way they are incredibly brief and not really enthusing or explaining (or offering enough photographs) on how relaxing the guest house (Relais Duca di Dolle) is, how easily reachable from Venice, and how the region offers a host of excellent eateries - Gigettos for example or in Rolle, a pleasant winding walk from the guest house, is Andretta with its wonderful open terrace with views down the valley and Il Monestero, a more rustic experience with a chef who makes up a menu each day depending on his whim and the seasonal availability of produce.
This wine grid is split horizontally by price brand and vertically by colour and style. A £9-£12 sophisticated red? That'll be the Dominio Kasierpe Flor de Lasierpe Reserva 2000 from Navarra in Spain (£9.99). A £7-£9 filthy rich white? For you sir, that'll be the Last Stand Unoaked Chardonnay, 2008, from South Australia at £5.99. Click the small circle and up pops a larger display with wine details and price. Small tabs also link to 'customer reviews' and offer details. Runs beautifully smoothly on my Windows 7 system; but how would those on older machines with lesser graphic cards or those without flash fare I wonder?
The six price bands and eight style categories does limit the company to selling just 48 wines at a time. Since my first look however a new column has been added - 'Phenomenal Favourites' boosting the range to 54. This column add-on ruins the effect somewhat though in that you don't know if they are red/white/rosé or fizz. Limiting the range offered does allow a constantly changing range, small parcels and so on.
Despite the limitations I love the ease and graphical-ness of this page. This innovative approach doesn't extend to the fine wine section or the special offers page though - back to a 'traditional' list and drop down menu selections sadly. The fine wine section currently offers a good selection of Australian reds in the £30+ range (including a spread of older vintages of the D'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz) and various clarets from the 1980's.
"Everybody should enjoy drinking wine. Instead of worrying about countries or grapes you just have to choose which style of wine you want to drink and how much you want to spend. Then trust us to provide brilliant, delicious and interesting wines you may never have considered before."
There is a blog attached to the site - but MH you need an RSS feed my friend! Interestingly the latest post pays homage to the other innovative online wine merchant Naked Wines.
"A lot of people ask me where the idea for Find Wine came from. The answer, rather boringly, is that I don't really know. It came out a lot of conversation between me, John and plenty of other people, the most influential of which was Mike Awin from ABS Wine Agencies, who has always been a great believer in what we are trying to do with Find Wine.
However throughout all of our planning there was one case study that we kept coming back to as the best online wine merchant and that was Naked Wines....
Naked are most certainly doing a fantastic job of shaking up the wine trade and I will certainly be keeping an eye their success as it grows and grows. And trying to work out how I can even begin to compete!"
While the wine should be centre stage for any retailer it is often the little touches that attract to a website, nudge the bunches of grapes in the logo for example and refreshing to see Fine Wine acknowledging the competition via a blog, Innovation hasn't yet reached a conclusion - video clips are promised. There is room for more than one Naked Wines, Find Wine is off to a great beginning.
A sample of this new South African brandy came my way last week accompanied by a little cocktail recipe. Not expecting much I gave the cocktail a try out - wow! Combined with the glorious summer we are experiencing in the UK this can only be described as a thirst-quenching wonder. Some may say this is even more drinkable than the ubiquitous summer Pimms!
African Mishale is from the KWV operation in the Western Cape. Would your life be improved if you were enlightened that it is blended from double distilled pot still and column still brandies? Probably not. More interesting is the specific that the cocktail recipe, African Spice, was created by London Barman Gerry Calabrese of the Hoxton Pony, EC2.
Its highly drinkable, as the now empty bottle of Mishale indicates, and we did have to substitute the suggested Vanilla Sugar/Vanilla Syrup with plain old sugar syrup but this worked a treat.
African Mishale Brandy is available from the re-emerged Wine Racks 17-store chain. Normally retailing for £13.49 it is currently on offer until the 18th July 2010 at £9.49.
"Named after the word 'spear' in Swahili, Mishale is pronounced mi-sha-lay. Bright and golden it's a proud blend of brave African spirit and the fine tradition of brandy distilling."
African Spice Cocktail
Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Top up with a dash of Ginger Beer. Delicious.
The dorona vineyard is spread out from the restaurant to just beyond the abandoned chapel with tower. The strip of land running from the central pond to the lefter-most corner of Mazzorbo island, with the bridge to Burano, are now bursting with vegetables used by the islanders and of course the restaurant. Towards the jetty on he left are fruit trees used for the same purpose.
A gentle stroll from the hotel, through the vineyard, over the connecting bridge takes you to the island of Burano. Here the tight streets buzz during the day with tourists, but is so attractive and colourful (photos on Spittoon Extra) that it is well worth a wander.
On a hot summer's day there's nothing better than a refreshing beer to cool us down. But do you often find a trip down the pub with your friends leaves you sticking to the same tipple, purely because you have no idea what the difference is between an ale and a larger and don't want to risk a bad pint? Or maybe you dismiss it based on the myths around it being bad for your health? When in fact, when drunk in moderation there are several health benefits.
If so you might be one of the millions of Brits missing out on the truly phenomenal range of beers now on the market. So how do you open your mind and palate to what else is on offer?
Just like wine varieties, there's a staggering array of beer to match anyone's taste. And what about finding the perfect beer to match the perfect meal?
Well, if you want some help in your quest to find the perfect summer ale then log onto our live WebTV Show where beer expert Kamini Dickie and Dr George Philliskirk from the Beer Academy will let you into the secrets of the perfect pint with a live beer tasting class.
Kamini Dickie and Dr George Philliskirk are live online at http://studiotalk.tv/show/beer_appreciation_masterclass on Monday 21st June at 3pm to give you their top tips for finding the perfect beer.
Odd shaped 50cl bottles held what was described as Bisol's first grape squeeze from its resurrected Dorona vineyards, it turned out not to be so. I lent back into a more comfortable posture.
The wine was made from the vanishing Dorona variety but not by Bisol and not from the vineyard spread out in before us. And there was me thinking those few rows of vines were the last remaining plantings of this variety in the world. Bisol initiated the project in 2002 finally replanting the estate with this 15th century variety. (The best over-view image I could find online is this one, tiny but you can just make out the hotel/restaurant complex bottom right, the vineyard with chapel tower bottom centre and the island of Burano behind.)
High walls surround the Scarpa Volo vineyard, an attempt to keep the surrounding lagoon at bay, with Bisol giving over half the land to soft fruit trees, vegetable plots and seating areas. It dominates one end of the island of Mazzorbo. Escape the tourist throngs on Burano with a short walk over the bridge to the vineyard and settle yourself into the restaurant for a long lazy lunch. Ristorante Venissa, is run by famed Italian chef Paola Budel. (Not being up on famed Italian chefs Paola was trained by Michel Roux amongst others).
Did my Englishness display result in such a miniscule sample being dropped into my glass and a subsequent mess of our table not having the correct number of glasses? Pettiness is not a trait I like to honour but still it got a bit annoying...
The meal - pictures of which I'll post over on SpittoonExtra - was very fine, with the dessert 'Crostatina con crema Chantilly e ciliegine' perhaps my favourite dish despite being served with a "strawberry skid-mark" and being a touch too sweet to match with the superb Bisol Cartizze Prosecco.
But the La Dorona was what the fuss was all about; frankly it was a little disappointing. Remember though that this is not from Bisol or the Scarpa Volo vineyard so it will be interesting to see how skilfully they can extract something of interest from their young vines next year.
This sample came in at just 11% alcohol, slightly lacking in acidity but with a decent minerality and weight. Enjoyable, indeed I even leant forward in anticipation (especially under the smiling glare of the PR woman) for my initial sniff and sip. As the forthcoming releases of Bisol's Doroma are unlikely to be cheap and offered by allocation only that might have been my first and last taste of Doroma.
Perhaps the saltiness of the cheese was the main culprit or the raw red onion clashed with the slight tart finish to the wine. Or more likely I just wasn't paying attention; the summer sun and those sultry days of a few weeks back (remember them?) can do that.
Now Rkatsiteli as a grape I am familiar with (much planted in Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and of course the Ukraine) but Mtsvane? According to the Georgian Wine Society, who supplied this wine, Mtsvane means "new, young, green" (referring to the unusual colour of the fruit when ripe), is often blended with Rkatsiteli adding a fruity, aromatic balance. Here the Mtsvane dominates, comprising 85% of the blend. (Either way its another addition to the Wine Century Club list of tasted varieties)
The wines of Alsace are a particular speciality of mine, they are oft mentioned as the perfect accompniment to the mix of spicy, salty, sweet and sour flavours found in Asian dishes. Beer is the first on the list of drinks people reach for - especially those Friday night curry nights with the lads. If people do think of buying a wine to drink with it, the idea that a wine can compliment a spice seems rather odd, but far from it. In fact the right grape variety can add to a home delivered (or home cooked!) Asian meal.
TV chef Ching He Huang and leading wine journalist and food and wine matching expert Joanna Simon are linking up for a live webchat, where they'll be offering guidance on which wines bring out the best in each Asian dish; from the fruity, floral tastes of the more elegant Alsace wines such as Riesling through to luscious or spicy whites like Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer.
Ching He Huang and Joanna Simon will be on StudioTalk on Friday 18th June at 13.00 to demonstrate how Alsace wines can compliment Asian food. You can post a question in advance via the same link.
Since 2008, the champagne house has organised a series of gastronomic dinners to "celebrate the beauty of the world", basically a "once in the lifetime gastronomic experience orchestrated by a Michelin star Chef" all as part of a true and authentic expedition alongside a real adventurer.
The first expedition in July 2008, was to Greenland and an iceberg drifting in the middle of Sermilik Fjord. This featured a gourmet meal orchestrated by two-star Michelin Chef Sylvestre Wahid. The second journey went to Antarctica to the very same spot where Commander Charcot spent the winter in 1904, alongside three-star Michelin Gérard Boyer, while the last visited the Great Barrier Reef where Mauro Colagreco Chef prepared a gastronomic lunch on a pristine sandbank.
Where will the fourth MUMM EXPLORER EXPERIENCE be next? To get a chance to discover it and win a place to this unique expedition, G.H. MUMM is appealing consumer's creativity and photography skills.
To participate, simply log onto www.mumm-the-game.com. Take the best snapshot of what you think is the best set of a "stunning dinner to celebrate the world's beauty", and upload your picture on to the site. To increase your chances of winning, you can even ask your friends to vote for your picture.
The deadline is 7th July. While the image doesn't have to include a bottle of Mumm Champagne is does need to feature a dinner setting; so I am wondering if the image here is too subtle? Either way you can vote for it on the site (when it appears).
The 10 submitted pictures with the highest number of votes will be reviewed by a G.H. MUMM jury panel and Mike Horn. The lucky winners of the competition will be announced on 14 July together with the revealing of the MUMM Explorer Experience destination. Thee eight runners up will be delivered with a bottle of MUMM Cordon Rouge champagne.
That's in my world of course, the reality being a little more humble. The vodka was real enough mind. The chat was with Mr Bob Bob Ricard himself, Leonid Shutov, a most generous and genial host. He, I am assured, is not a member of the Russian mafia, might well be an oligarch, but is certainly a Russian.
It's not often a jaded and life-worn old soul like myself gets a revelatory moment; the vodka and food tasting session was one such incident. We were instructed not to treat the vodka as a wine. No pre-sniff, no little sips, no rolling around the palate but to engage in a shoot and eat. The palate was singularly purified and enlightened.
These ultra vodkas are distilled and filtered to the nth degree. Purity is the key. In comparison a Stolichnaya seemed oily, heavy and disjointed. With the palate enlivened and cleansed by the ice-cold vodka shot the food, little Russian-inspired tapas style bites, took on a level of intensity and purity that was sensational. 'Quite Nice' is my stock in trade saying for a highly enjoyable experience; these were bloody amazing.
Marinaded cucumbers (£2.50) heavy with dill were superbly clean cut and intense, the Beluga Caviar topped belinis were revelatory and the tongue in aspic simply delicious.
There was a different vodka with each dish. The Jellied Ox tongue (£7.50) was served with Kauffman Collection Vintage 2006 (yep, a vintage vodka, distilled 12 times and several different filtrations), the Caviar with Kauffman Luxury Vintage 2003 and some home cured herring (£3.50) an Imperial Vodka (filtered four times, distilled 8 times). And it was insisted that the vodka was chilled down to -18 degrees.
These are standard dishes/vodkas on the Bob Bob Ricard menu. A 25ml shot works out at £4.75 for the Imperia, £7.50 for the Kauffman Collection 2006, and £11.50 for the Kauffman 2003. I won't mention the price of the Beluga Caviar...
There was more to the meal after the excellence of the vodka; (the excellence of the 'Beef Wellington, 28 Day Aged Fillet of Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef
With Truffle Gravy' (£34) has to be experienced!) more Bob Bob Ricard pictures on SpittoonExtra. I have to admit the experience at Bob Bob Ricard was really quite nice indeed.
But this is a red wine, another dividing food stuff though in being made from Pinotage, but a different style of Pinotage, the original 'coffee and chocolate' pinotage. An experiment which began 9 years ago to discover a style of Pinotage that would appeal to younger drinkers has created a unique style, the launch of which each year involves a vineyard party. Gone are the rustic edges, the off-putting rusty/rubber dimension (not that all Pinotage arrives with these characteristics of course) and in comes a toasted coffee and chocolate led palate, all down to toasting the oak in which the wine is aged apparently. There is a ripeness, a soft drinkability, a depth of sumptuousness that doesn't really overpower the pinotage-ness of it all.
I can't say I really picked up on any overly powerful coffee-style flavours being more entranced by the smokey, dark fruits and pepper notes. It's young so expect more pruney edges to develop with age. It also went superbly with my liver dish!
Last year, while in South Africa, I was lucky enough to pick up a recipe collection by famed South African chef Reuben Riffel (Reuben Cooks, which I don't think is available outside South Africa). Each dish comes with a wine recommendation and it just so happens the Pan-Fried Liver with Colcannon and Brown-Onion and Marsala Gravy was paired with Diemersfontein Pinotage! Result!
For those no-liver indulgers (bet you hate Marmite too!) the wine would be equally good with steak, game, and as Fiona Beckett suggests Moroccan spiced quail. For me though its the liver...
ARSE of course stands for Andrew's Really Secret Event, a tight gathering of wine and food bloggers and tweeters, rolling into a tapas bar near Kings Cross before heading off on the Piccadilly Line to Green Park.
The tasting venue itself was the Naval Club in Mayfair. I should take a moment to thank the Club hugely for letting us utilise their grandiose bar on a Sunday afternoon.
We were most fortunate to have Riccardo Tomadin in town to showcase a 'new to the UK' range of Prosecco's. The easy drinking Riccardo Prosecco Brut, the finely bubbled, creamy Riccardo Prosecco Extra Dry and the superb Riccardo Prosecco Cartizze. The latters 28g of sugar appearing little sweeter than the Extra Dry's 18g (per litre) making for a fine rendition of the pinnacle of Prosecco production.
When you ask a disparate group to bring along a bottle of something interesting you can be sure of an equally diverse and unique offering. This motley bunch didn't disappoint. We kicked off with a strident Vin Jaune, dividing all into a large 'dislike' group and a few brave-palated 'likers'. A crisp, lip-tingling Manzanilla sherry, limited production, hardly seen, followed before we slid into the white wines. A Croatian Chardonnay anyone? Distinctive, lightly oaked, delicious. A South African Sauvignon Blanc offering its own take on pungency, un-ripened strawberries and gooseberries all with a refreshing zing. And then quickly into the reds...
Those kind fellows at Bibendum had sent over two reds for us to sample - a full bodied Mexican wine, a first encounter for many at the tasting of Mexican vino and a Cotes du Roussillon Villages. The slightly baked, gravelly tannins of the Mexican, complete with vibrant, delicious fruit is a surprise on so many levels not least is the medley of grapes: Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvingon, Barbera and Zinfandel. The Roussillon was equally praised for its balance and ripe flavoursm and dark, brooding fruit. Both highly recommended.
A third red, from Ribera del Duero, more than managed to compete with these two blockbusters with its Spanish credentials rising to the fore. A superb Tempranillo with hints of sweet spice and deep black fruits. A excellant addition to the tasting!
To conclude something 'really interesting'. A red dessert wine from Italy, unavailable in the UK. More rosé in colour and with a lightness of sweetness that had us thinking of dark chocolate or a bowl of raspberries as an accompaniment.
Perhaps those acronym nay-sayers were miffed because they weren't invited? Those that did make it had a ball. How could they not with such a superb, interesting, range of wines!?
A full list of the wines is below complete with links were available. The photo above shows the participants. From left to right we have Riccardo Tomadin, Tara O'Leary [whose report on the tasting is on her Wine Passionista blog), Niamh, Jeanne, Douglas Blyde, Sara Belizaire-Butler, Rupert Taylor and Louis Villard. Thanks all for making the day such fun and playing along with my ARSE.