The Wine Show: Episode 8
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 Bologna where they get a masterclass in making that city’s most famous dish… with mixed reviews from a scary Italian mama. Joe Fattorini fulfils a lifelong dream to bid on a barrel of wine at Burgundy’s famous Vente des Vins auction. Does he succeed, and just where will he keep all 288 bottles!? Spanish super chef Elena Arzak lets us into her London restaurant for a taste of her favourite wine and creates a perfect dish to accompany it. And wine expert Amelia Singer explores the German roots of one of Australia’s greatest wine regions, the Barossa Valley.
Going, going… gone.
Your palms are sweaty. You’re not sure which wine to choose. People are watching. You know they’re wondering how much you’re prepared to pay. But you’re not in a restaurant, moistly gripping a leather-bound wine list. You’re in a vast hall. Surrounded by hundreds of the world’s most influential and affluent wine buyers.
Buying a barrel of wine at the Vente des Vins in the ancient city of Beaune is one of life’s most thrilling wine experiences. It’s something keen wine lovers like you and me do every year. Maybe not buying a whole barrel. Each barrel contains 288 bottles. But every year groups of friends travel to the city, collaborate and split the 24 cases between themselves.
They do it because you don’t just buy delicious Burgundy at the Vente des Vins. You buy a bit of history. The annual auction is on behalf of the Hospices de Beaune. The Hospices was founded in the fifteenth century as an almshouse for the poor. The original, beautiful building is in the heart of the city and the auction takes place in the square outside. Today the Hospices cares for patients in modern hospital buildings outside Beaune. While over the centuries, local landowners have left plots of vineyards to the Hospices. So each November the Hospices raise money for their work with an auction. With Christie’s the auctioneers, they sell off barrels of freshly fermented wine from their patchwork of great vineyards.
Out in the square, there’s a vast marquee. Inside hundreds of chairs sit in front of a raised stage. The place fills with an international crowd of buyers. The stage is packed with the great and the good of Burgundy along with assorted French celebrities. Television cameras underline the sense that this is a French national event. The bidding is fast and bilingual, the men from Christie’s casually flipping from French to English. If you failed French O-Level like me, it’s hard to keep up. We tasted the wines earlier, which you’d think might help. But the wines have only just finished fermenting. They’re cloudy with pricking acidity and nothing like the mellow, complex wines you’ll hope to end up with in five or more years’ time. I go for a few lots and each disappears past my limit. We have a chat. Maybe we can bid just a bit more. I jump in again. Auxey-Duresses, Premier Cru Les Duresses, Cuvee Boillot. It’s always a good red wine. One of the more popular wines at the auction. €5000. €6000. There are just two of us left. Each calling ‘cinq cents’ – ‘Five hundred’ – at the auctioneer. I glance over. It’s Albert Bichot. Top winemaker. Negociant. Local grandee. And the biggest buyer of wine at the Hospice de Beaune auction…
Who wins? You’ll have to watch Episode 8 of The Wine Show to find out.
To take part in the Vente des Vins contact christies.com And happy bidding…
Louis Jadot Savigny-les-Beaune Rouge
“Nourrissants, théologiques et morbifuges’; Nourishing, theological and death-defying. That’s the description of the wines of Savigny-les-Beaunes at Chateau de Savigny. Today we tend to say lovely, mid-weight Burgundy scented with strawberry fruit. Especially from a softer year like this, ready to drink now with grilled tuna or grilled pork.
Meeting my wine pin-up and tasting Australia’s most iconic wine
I did not sleep the night before filming at the Henschke family home. Meeting Stephen Henschke, for a wine geek, is equivalent to thespians meeting Cate Blanchett. Both Australians are justifiably considered royalty in their specific fields. And yes, being introduced to Stephen, in his world famous vineyard, The Hill of Grace, was one of the most significant moments of my wine career – but not for the reasons I thought it would be.
I knew that this vineyard was over 150 years old, producing some of the most expensive wine in the world. These wines are not your stereotypical Aussie fruity, oaky, alcoholic fruit bombs; their exotic spice and concentrated flavours evoke the years of loving care this one family has given these grapes, over six generations. What I had not envisaged was how humble and genuine Stephen and all the Henschkes would be.
The tenacious Lutheran work ethic of the family’s immigrant ancestors is reflected in the winery ethos today. They view their job as earth’s caretakers, never producing more than they needed even when faced with commercial opportunities, and everyone works together as a supportive unit. That’s not to say that Stephen shies away from modernity, judging from the cutting-edge machinery and his dog’s own Twitter account. The Henschkes may make stunning wine but they do not take themselves too seriously – as the annual Kegel competition attests!
Henschke Hill of Grace
It’s hard to know where to begin. ‘Profoundly powerful’ say the Henschke family. And it is. Like many great wines, it’s not just the astonishing depth, complexity and quality. This wine oozes history. A single vineyard, named after a region in Silesia and shared with a Luthern Church. Making fruit so exceptional it defies description, but is packed with cherry, currant, black pepper, plum, cedar, liquorice, sage… This vintage is among the most highly rated wines in the world by experts today. If you get the chance to try it, you should.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge EIGHT
“Find me a wine to match with pasta…” asks Joe. A fairly fatuous request if truth be told, as there are as many pasta dishes as there are Italian grandmothers. From the Roman Carbonara to the Calabrese Strozapretti with hot pepper; to find one wine to match all successfully is an impossible task. But Matt and Matt had the parameter of Bologna and for two boys raised in the UK in the 1980s, this could only mean one dish – the standby of mums jazzing up their mince everywhere – Spaghetti Bolognese.
Bologna is a food lover’s paradise. And it’s not just famous for Bolognese sauce (or ragù as it is known locally). The city lays claim to being home to tortellini, mortadella and tagliatelle. Unsurprisingly, at its heart lies a great market. The Quadrilatero has occupied the same cobbled streets since Roman times. At its height in the middle ages, it became home to the headquarters of many traders in textiles, metals and spices, cementing Bologna’s importance as a centre for commerce in Europe.
Matthew and Matthew meet their guides and cooking teachers for the task in the Quadrilatero. Barbara and Valeria own and run a cooking school called Il Salotto di Penelope, and have strict views on what does and doesn’t constitute a ragù Bolognese. But Matthew Goode is not to be thwarted. He’s brought an Oxo cube, is buying ketchup and he’s not afraid to use them. Mr Rhys plays it safe and mercifully decides to follow the prescribed recipe, which has been officially sanctioned by the city of Bologna as being the only true ragù that can bear the name ‘Bolognese’. For a start it’s never served with spaghetti – always tagliatelle.
Valeria’s mother is the judge of both their efforts and is suitably diplomatic about Mr Goode’s “dolce” or “sweet” version. “It was probably the Italian ketchup”. Yes, Matthew that was it.
But she only brings one wine for the Matthews to choose, and it’s something quite surprising: a Lambrusco. But not the sweet, overly gassy cheap wine made infamous in the 80’s; this is a great, dry sparkling wine, perfect to cut through the rich meaty sauce.
Lambrusco in hand, they head home to the villa and Joe Fattorini’s verdict on their efforts… if they’ve learnt one lesson, it’s not to argue with an Italian mother.
Chiarli Lambrusco Sorbara Premium
If you watch Episode Eight and do not try Lambrusco you are brain-dead with ghastliness. I spurn you with my toe. This is vivacious, eager and irrepressibly fruity. Absolutely… it’s a bit sweet and fizzy, that’s the point. But you must trust the people of Emilia-Romagna, who’ve spent centuries matching this to tortellini, pasta, salami, cheeses and antipasti. It’s gorgeous.