Thursday, 18 February 2010

The London Vintage Festival Part II of III

As advised in Part I, the next London Vintage Festival looms large on the viniferous horizon. Friday and Saturday, April 16th and 17th 2010.

If, as I always do, you plan to spend the morning sampling the best fizz, white wine (and rosé?) that the festival's winemakers have to offer, then the afternoon provides a chance to hunker down with some of the world's greatest expressions of red wine.

Before then, it's worth enjoying a gastronomic interlude and what better place to spend it than Italy? 

Italian wines are historically and traditionally solely created to partner with food. In Italy, if you're drinking you must be eating and vice versa. So now is the time to have a glass of something distinctive and deliciously Italian with your lunch. 

Pinot Grigio is all the rage, so for that reason alone it's probably best avoided. Like over-oaked and blowsy Aussie Chardonnay was wine's big hair of the eighties, Pinot Grigio may end up crossing the noughties credibility line like the waistband of Simon Cowell's designer slacks.

Italy has such an extensive range of regional grape varieties it would be a shame not to sample some. 

It's difficult to predict which of a fabulous selection of alternatives you might find, but if you're finishing off your tour of the world of whites why not try to hunt down something a bit different? Beware though, as the names of Italian grapes can be as confusing as those of the pasta. Pecorino or Passerina - which is the long thin one, which is short but fat? 

You may like a Greco di Tufo from Campania, maybe with a few years on it, or enjoy a popular favourite such as Gavi from Piedmont or San Gimignano's Vernaccia.

Of course, if your choice of lunchtime repast requires something more robust - and I do recommend the pies - now may well be the moment to make your switch to red. 

What about one of the really big hitters? The three Big Bs? Brunello di Montalcino, Barbaresco and Barolo, the supposed Wine of Kings and King of Wines? Depends if you prefer Sangiovese or Nebbiolo. Or a blend?

My personal favourite is Amarone. I adore the big spicy chunky meaty powerful weighty flavours derived from that unique mix of semi-dried grapes, perfect with a hunk of rich game pie. 

Otherwise, you can always play it safe. Very few Italian wines are as expressive of the nation as Chianti. Don't worry about it being a cliché either - a cliché is a cliché precisely because it's understood by everybody. Remember you're supposed to be having a break from 'proper' drinking and filling up on food in preparation for an afternoon sampling the world's great red wines, so make sure you eat properly while you enjoy your Chianti, to stave off later intoxication and consequent embarrassment. 

That way you'll avoid replicating my friend's faux pas, who had to repeat her question of an Italian master winemaker who didn't understand what she meant when she asked if he had some 'fava beans to go with a nice Chianti'. So un-Italian. So uncool.

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