The Wine Show: Episode 3

Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys star in this series about the stories behind some of the world’s most fascinating wines. From their villa HQ in the Italian hills they head to Italy’s ancient capital where they find out why ancient Romans added cheese to their wine. Expert Joe Fattorini finds himself in a very tight spot in the Loire when he discovers how one winemaker helped the French Resistance during WW2. Chef José Pizarro tells us about his favourite grape and cooks a dish to complement it and Amelia Singer heads down under to explore one of wine’s best-kept secrets – The Mornington Peninsula.

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War and Winemaking on The Loire

Joe Fattorini

Are you claustrophobic? If you’re not, you should be. I wondered if I could be stuck in a small place for an extended period of time. “Of course, no problem,” I thought. I couldn’t be more wrong.

It was perhaps the context. Patrice Monmousseau is jovial, convivial and charming. But in the dark cellars of his Montrichard winery, he tells his father’s story with deadly seriousness. During WW2, Jean Monmousseau smuggled agents of The Resistance across the Nazi guards on the River Cher in his wine barrels. It’s an easier task here than in other parts of France. The Loire traditionally uses a 400 litre barrel, compared with barrels of 225 litres or so elsewhere. I mean I’m small. But not that small.

Monmousseau is famous for its sparkling Saumur. But this part of the Loire also makes still, oak-aged Chenin Blanc whites and vibrant, currant-scented reds. Nazi guards on the River Cher waved over Jean and his truck of barrels as he passed from Free France to Vichy France. They imagined they were full of Chinon red or Anjoy Blanc. Little did they know that inside were undercover agents; fearing for their lives.

I say ‘fearing’. I can’t imagine they were doing anything else. You have to crouch down to get in a barrel. Then stopper your ears with plugs and headphones; the clatter of coopers hammering on the barrel’s crown and hoops is deafening. Then everything is dark. Every movement is out of your control and unanticipated. Every sound outside a mystery. When you stop moving you wonder why. When you start you wish it would stop. And the fusty, muggy heat. Creeping up, like a human-powered mini sauna.

They left me in for 50 minutes. It felt like hours. And nobody was waiting to riddle my barrel with machine gun bullets. I’ve tasted bravery with a glass of wine in the past. I’ve never done it with the same appreciation of what it really means to be brave as that night in the Loire.

Monmousseau Brut Etoile Methode Traditionnelle Non-Vintage

Great bubbles don’t come better value than this. But also with a soft pear fruit and frothy fizz, many people actually prefer this to more expensive sparkling wine. Match it with salads and a touch of spice for a magical mix. Think more robust fish dishes and spiced chicken.

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Mornington Peninsula: Hospitable to people, if not to grapes…

Amelia Singer

I was prepared for anything. Dressed as Reese Witherspoon from Wild, it was time to meet Mornington Peninsula. A cool-climate wine region, its harsh environment for grape growing is notorious amongst wine makers.

Warwick Ross may be a well-known film producer, yet his bravery in winemaking is just as impressive. His winery, Portsea Estate, lies at the furthermost point of the Peninsula, exposed to the elements. Initially startled upon discovering the wind-whipped site in 2000, he now produces Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that critics compare to top Burgundian wines.

Paradoxically, this hostile terrain has created not only wonderful wine, but also an extremely hospitable ‘cellar door’ ethos. The concept is that visitors try the wines and also enjoy local cuisine. Dishes are prepared on-site and savoured whilst looking out over a stunning panorama.

Further down the road, Foxey’s Hangout takes the ‘cellar door’ experience one step further. Run by Tony and Michael, two brothers and former Melbournite pub owners, the Hangout features not only tastings, but you can make your own sparkling wine too! Partial to pink, I had great fun choosing how much Pinot Noir to add to my white wine base for extra fruity flavour and colour. The result was a beautiful, blushing sparkling rosé whose packaging I could also choose! Feasting on local produce and sipping the sparkling wine I myself created from grapes around me, I completely understood these Peninsula wine pioneers.

Ten Minutes by Tractor 2014 10X Pinot Noir

I’ve been in love with this estate ever since I dropped in for impromptu lunch 10 years ago. This Pinot Noir heaves with lush red fruit and a walk-in-the-woods earthiness. Grouse pie, roasted quail, rabbit stew – this is the wine to make these dishes sing. One of my favourite wines of the show.

Road Trip – Italian Style…

THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge THREE

Melanie Jappy

“All roads lead to Rome!” says Goodey when presented with this challenge by Joe Fattorini and for this trip he’s not wrong. The task is to find a wine that speaks to Italy’s long history, and with the Ancient Romans being known for enjoying a drop or two of wine, it seems like a logical decision to head to Italy’s modern day and ancient capital city.

Less clear is why they’re asked to greet their guide, Benedetta Bessi, with a kiss. The tradition of a husband greeting his wife with a kiss after a separation, was not just a display of affection among the ancients – this was the husband’s chance to get close enough to see if she’d been drinking. If she had, punishment would ensue. Mercifully, Ms Bessi had only drunk an espresso that morning.

Benedetta is very keen to introduce Matt and Matt to styles of wine the ancient Romans would have enjoyed. Spicing was an important element in the favoured wines of the day. Cinnamon, nutmeg and other spices were often added, creating something akin to the mulled wines we still enjoy today. Less pleasant are the salted wines of the time which ancient Romans believed had curative properties. And least favourite of all was the cheese wine. “Having been brought up on a farm,” exclaims Matthew Rhys, “this smell is very, very familiar!”.

The Wine Show map

But Benadetta is also keen to give Matthew and Matthew something more practical to take back to Joe. The wines of Campania – Lacryma Christi particularly – are thought to be as close to those drunk by the ancient Romans as any that exist today. Archaeologists have examined the residue on ancient casks to make this discovery. Grown on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, it is made from Piedirosso and Sciascinoso grapes. Matthew Rhys decides that this is the wine he will take back to Joe.

Matthew Goode goes in a different direction and chooses a Barolo Chinato. More of a liqueur than a wine, this wine has become especially popular with wine drinkers who enjoy chocolate, something that is notoriously difficult to match. It’s made in north-west Italy in Piedmont and is macerated with a number of herbs including quinine, which is from where its name derives.

What will Joe choose? Let’s wait and see…

Cocchi Barolo Chinato

Wine lovers should all try Barolo Chinato at least once, Barolo’s answer to Fernet Branca with a spiced, medicinal note. It’s believed to have almost miraculous restorative properties. It certainly puts hairs on your chest. Less a wine to match with food, than help it settle after too much!