The Wine Show: Episode 4
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 the Vatican to meet a priest who needs a new communion wine. Expert Joe Fattorini flys to South Africa where he heads out on baboon patrol at a vineyard inside a game reserve. Chef Francesco Mazzei takes us to his home in Calabria to tell us about his favourite grape and cooks a dish to complement it. And Amelia Singer joins Joe on skis when they go tête-à-tête over French Alpine wines and share their secret vin chaud recipes.
Graham Beck and Biodiversity
Biodiversity is a handful of dried poo. Mossie Basson is the Director of Conservation at Graham Beck and he’s handing me different droppings. From Kudu and Eland to various Boks. Each dropping tells a story. About how far the animal grazes, what it eats and what eats it. Mossie loves it. This is his “office”. A vast area of unspoiled hillsides with hidden valleys and thriving wildlife. An area packed with rare and sometimes unique species. Including Esterhuysenia Grahambeckii, a pointy leafed succulent, named in honour of the man who set all this up.
Mossie explains all about the balance of nature. And the particular challenge of maintaining that balance next to a vineyard. Graham Beck is in the Cape Floral Kingdom, including the Succulent Karoo Biome. It’s an area rich in plant and geological diversity. But vineyards are monocultures. A single species – vines – grows in rows to the exclusion of everything else. So Graham Beck maintains this complex nature reserve to preserve the karoo whilst making wine next door.
It doesn’t make life easy for winemakers. It means Graham Beck has its own Baboon Patroller. Yep, you read that right. From dawn to dusk, Gerswin van Rooy cycles the perimeter of Graham Beck vineyards carrying a white flag, flapping a warning at hungry baboons to steer clear. Gerswin plays a vital part maintaining the delicate relationship between nature and winemaking. Baboons can strip tonnes of grapes from vineyards in minutes. Yet, Graham Beck encourage the baboons. And zebra, honey badgers, even leopards to live and thrive in the game reserve next to the vineyards. So each morning Gerswin hops on his bike and sets off on a 40km bike ride in the sun. Mostly the baboons stay out of his way. ‘But there is one called Jackson’, Gerswin says with a smile; ‘he is a clever, old male, who lives on his own. He tries to think what I am going to do next – to beat me’. And with that Gerswin is back on his bike and off into the distance. Pitting his wits against a wily old baboon and playing a unique role in balancing wine production with nature.
Graham Beck Brut Rosé Non Vintage
For years this has been quietly recommended for those with a Champagne taste but a beer budget. Drink in the exquisite colour, elegant crushed-berry fruit and then the lingering perfume in the mouth that comes with traditional bottle ageing. Drink on the veranda, over dinner or just sitting in the bath.
Mountain Wine – it’s not just Vin Chaud
When The Wine Show listed the exclusive ski resort, Mègeve, as one of our wine destinations, I must admit, I struggled to think what might be offered besides Vin Chaud or spiked Chocolat Chaud. How much I learned!
Grapes growing on steep, sunny mountainside exposures make wines that range from the extremely fruity, the beguilingly aromatic to the downright savoury. They are perfect companions to the hearty, alpine fare of raclette and fondue, and much better value for money in a ski resort restaurant than buying from other French regions.
The white wines of this region are particularly impressive. If you love your white fresh and fruity, the Jacquère grape is for you. If you prefer the more aromatic and minerally then plump for a Rousette made from the local Altesse grape. My favourite was the Chignin-Bergeron that is made from the fuller-bodied Roussanne grape. It smells and tastes of peaches and quince and is often underlined by an intriguing savoury nuttiness.
Although it’s as much of a challenge to find these wines off the slopes as to ski after drinking them, when you do, they are often great value for money as they are so underrated. What better excuse to relive the ski holiday at home with some reblochon and a glass of exhilarating mountain wine!
Domaine Saint Germain Mondeuse ‘Pied de Barme’ Rouge 2013
How many wines come from Winter Olympic cities? It’s a select club but includes this red from near Albertville, host of the 1992 Winter Games. Mondeuse may look dense and black but it’s less forbidding than it looks. Fruity and supple, there’s a delicious spice and warmth, and is great with cheese and lighter dishes.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge FOUR
It turns out that Jesus was the perfect wedding guest. History does not record whether he brought a gift, but he did turn water when taking part in the Marriage at Cana. Or so the Bible says. But long before that event, wine had been central to Judeo-Christian religion. And it was with this in mind that Joe set this week’s Wine Show Case challenge. Matt and Matt are tasked with finding a wine that reflects Italy’s long relationship with the Catholic church.
It’s back to Rome to start this journey, where they meet Father Brian Reedy, a Jesuit priest who hails from the USA. After meeting at the Vatican, they head to a shop for all things liturgical where Father Brian is intending to select a new communion wine for his community of priests. Having tasted three, it’s decided that none are quite right to take back to Joe. A new plan is needed.
So it’s off into the Tuscan countryside to visit Monte Olivetto – a Benedictine monastery about two hours north – or at least it would be if there wasn’t a bomb alert on the main road north on the day we are filming. But eventually the intrepid threesome arrive and are welcomed to the Monastery by Brother Antonio. There has been an abbey on this site since the 13th Century. At its centre is a cloister, open to the sky, symbolising the monks desire to be close to God. The refectory walls are adorned with murals showing that not only is wine central to the community, it’s mandatory to drink it with meals.
At the tasting in the cellar, Brother Antonio has chosen two wines for us to try; a red – Grance Senesi – and a white – Vermentino. Interestingly it is the white that is used for communion here at the Abbey – much easier to get out of the white vestments!
Before leaving, there is a final tasting of a wine that is traditionally used for communion here in Italy – the Vin Santo. Literally translated, this is ‘holy wine’. These wines are made by placing the harvested grapes on straw mats and drying them to concentrate the sugars. They are then pressed to make a golden-coloured, sweet wine. But this is definitely not to Matt Rhys’s taste as he chooses the red Grance Senesi and Matthew Goode selects the Vermentino.
But which will Joe take for the Wine Show Case? Let’s see…
Grance Senesi Rosso 2013
I like to serve this as a ‘House Wine Plus’, a ‘Vino della Casa’. It’s a juicy, bouncy, fruity mid-week gem with lots of cheery and cherry fruit and a light hint of herbs and no oak. Great with pasta dishes, complementing rather than competing for flavour. Crack it open for a mid-week dinner with friends.