The Wine Show: Episode 2 Series 2
In the second show in the new series of The Wine Show, Matthew Goode and James Purefoy are in search of a wine to match the starter in their epic six-course lunch. They get an early morning call in the Ardeche before heading up the river in a kayak and caving their way to a very unusual wine cellar. Back at the villa, Jancis Robinson chooses her favourite wine of the two they bring back. Meanwhile, Joe Fattorini has been in Argentina to find out about a very successful immigrant and heads to Japan with top London brewer Jaega Wise to find out about sake. Back in London, Matthew Rhys is at Berry Brothers & Rudd in London’s St James’s looking at historic and modern gadgets.
Where does Malbec come from? To a wine fan it’s easy. It’s a dark, inky red grape variety from South West France. Or at least it is if you pronounce it MAL-bec. But what if you pronounce it Mal-BEC? Like they do in Argentina. Where this migrant grape has made a new home.
Malbec has made its home in Argentina along with thousands of other migrants. Article 25 of Argentina’s Constitution reads “The Federal Government will encourage European immigration, and it will not restrict, limit or burden with any taxes the entrance into Argentine territory of foreigners who come with the goal of working the land.”
Among these “foreigners” were European settlers who arrived in Mendoza to grow grapes and make wine. Like the ancestors of Susana Balbo and Laura Catena. Today they make some of the world’s greatest Malbec (Mal-BEC). And Susana and Laura feel Malbec has become something different. Something distinctly Argentine.
The pioneering spirit of their ancestors lives on today. We visit Laura’s famous Adrianna Vineyard, high in the foothills of the Andes. People long believed it was impossible to ripen grapes here. But Laura’s father Nicolas trudged through winter snow and unpaved, dusty summer roads to establish the vineyard. Today Laura has developed it into one of the most prized sites in Argentine winemaking. And one of the most celebrated places in the world for the Malbec. It’s no longer just one grape among a range of more familiar variety names they offer. Malbec has become synonymous with Argentina and what makes Argentine wine distinctive. And its fortunes are intertwined with the fortunes of the people who grow it, and make it into wine.
In mile-high vineyards under the Andes we discover how grapes, and people, have migrated to make modern Argentina. And Argentine wine.
Susana Balbo Nosotros Malbec
A strong contender for the “wine of the series”. This is where Malbec becomes voluptuous, rich, full-bodied and luxurious. It’s unashamedly the finest of Susana’s work – the “selection of selections” and deserves the finest meats, cooked immaculately or simply done, beautiful rich vegetable flavours. Toast, liquorice, Crème de Mure, currants and plum with a seam of graphite running through it like a pencil.
I couldn’t help but pinch myself on the way to Japan. It’s a place so astronomically rich in culture, it’s a wonder how anything gets done. I would stop and stare at what I’m sure was most ordinary. With Shinto shrines every few shops, Geiko’s going about their daily business, Kyoto truly is a wonder.
Now, sake is a drink I’ve studied. With its similarities to beer; barley being beer’s grain of choice, and rice sake’s, I was full of all sorts of notions. Rice doesn’t have the best reputation in the beer world. It’s often used as a source of sugar in mass produced lagers. It’s cheap, and its bland. Visiting Hidehiko Matsumoto’s brewery in Kyoto cemented what I had suspected, the two could not be further poles apart. The brewery’s sakes were full of flavour, from subtle peaches, to full-bodied delights. Hidehiko invests time in his sake, having complete control over the whole process from grain to glass. He’s right in saying sake is neither beer nor wine. It is truly in a class of its own.
There’s something wonderfully Japanese about this wine’s purity. Koshu has a citrus clarity that’s as intense and direct as it is simple and pure. It’s a rare style – made in the Champagne method – but perhaps better suited to a treat sushi and sashimi dinner than a party celebration. This is no ingénue to wine either. Tokugi Furiya founded this winery in the 19th century and they’re regular award winners today.
Japan – Familiarly Different
Japan is different. Isn’t it? Centuries of isolation mean it developed separately from the rest of the world. Different religions. Different culture. Even different drinks. With no grapes, the wine here is made of rice.
Until suddenly it doesn’t feel quite so different after all. Jaega is on a brewer’s journey. I’m here on a more religious and cultural journey. I’m a typical cradle Catholic. Familiar with the rituals of a Christian mass from birth. So arriving at a Shinto shrine everything feels different. But then at the same time familiar. At the heart of a Shinto ceremony the priest offers me a sacred wine. Only this time, made from rice, not grapes. And outside the temple, sake complements meals. People use it to celebrate. Others use it to relax after work. For villages in the countryside, a source of local pride. Just like wine in the west made from grapes. And suddenly everything feels very familiar, whilst also very different.
THE WINE SHOW CASE – Challenge Two
In this episode Joe Fattorini’s challenge to Matthew and Stephane’s next dish for the wine-matching challenge is one that is particularly close to his heart: a Crique – a mix of grated potatoes, egg, onions and chives. It’s a dish local to the Ardèche, a largely rural region in south-west France, which also happens to be Stephane’s home region. Topped with a tangle of green leaves with a classic French dressing, this deceptively simple dish was a favourite of Stephane’s grandmother. Its simple yet rustic flavours could definitely handle a number of different wine matches.
Matthew and James decided there would be no better place to look for some ideas, than the Ardèche. After a 2km paddle by canoe up the Ardèche river, they were met by Romain Pommier at the mouth of the Grotte de Saint Marcel. This enormous cave system is used by winemaker Romain as an experimental wine cellar. It’s his belief that not only is the cave the perfect place to enjoy the wines, the calcium carbonate created in the cave ages the wine in a different way to a ‘normal’ cellar. A fact borne out by Jancis, who when she tasted Matthew’s choice, the Vinolithic, noted it as having a ‘cavey’ taste.
James Purefoy chose the Vin de Petanque. Made by Helene Thibon on the western side of the Rhône river, at the very end of the gorge of the Ardèche. Mas de Libian has belonged to the Thibon family since 1670. A family winery handed down from generation to generation, their 25 hectares have always been worked organically and are certified biodynamic; no pesticides or weed-killers are used. The vineyards are ploughed by horse. Helene also keeps some of her wine to age in the caves as part of the experiment.
Notre Dame de Cousignac Vinolithic Cotes du Rhone Villages – Winner
Jancis Robinson’s Verdict
“Both have great qualities. Which wine would I choose? I’m going to choose the wine with brut in the middle. I’m going to go for Matthew with the Vinolithic. But I did like both of the wines.”