Orto is part of a small (but growing) movement to bring winemaking back to the Venetian archipelago. It’s a blend of Vermentino, Fiano and Malvasia grown on the island of Sant’Erasmo and the producers are experimenting with ageing bottles under the lagoon to create complexity without nuttiness. Fresh, aromatic and slightly savoury, it’s perfect with shellfish dishes.
Vintage sparkling wines are less a reflection of the house style than the vintage. 2007 wouldn’t strike you as an auspicious year – floods in June and July led to one of the biggest rescue efforts in peacetime Britain. But by October the fruit was ripe enough to make this delicious apple and brioche scented wine. It’s evolving into a complex and multi-layered treat now. Enjoy with fine fish and even white meat dishes, like a sparkling white Burgundy. You won’t regret it.
I have to say, I do love this wine. It’s brave and confident and doesn’t try to mimic pink wines from elsewhere. Instead this is a rose-scented pink wine with a heart of ripe strawberry fruit. It has the mouth-filling perfume of a great fizz, but doesn’t expect you to go looking for aromas and flavours. It delivers them to you. Delicious.
Pinot Noir isn’t known as the ‘heartbreak grape’ for nothing. It breaks even the best winemakers as they try to find a site with the soil, climate and consistency to make it work. But it’s found a home in Tasmania where wines like this emerge, suffused with cherry and raspberry and spice. This is best with duck or lamb, and don’t be afraid of giving it plenty of flavour to match its fruit either.
Many years ago I discussed climate change with Robert Hill-Smith at Yalumba in the Barossa and he talked about the importance of Tasmania in finding a cool site. And this is it. Making elegant, cool, linear chardonnay with citrus aromas, refined acidity and a lingering minerality on the palate. Match with food like a Chablis or Macon.
Hush Heath definitely contends as England’s finest rose fizz producer and for much of its life, that was all they did. The rich aromas of strawberries and currants are complemented by wild flowers and spice. The character of Pinot Noir shines through, from one of Kent’s most famous vineyards. I love this with food. I even had it once (deliciously) with a traditional pork pie.
Take two parts Prosecco, one part St Germain and one part sparkling water, add some lightly bruised mint leaves. This is the ‘Hugo’, possibly one of the most refreshing, herbal and summery cocktails ever invented. It’s also impossibly easy to make. One minor note, this was invented in the Tyrolean mountains in Italy, so it’s properly pronounced ‘Ugo’.
Take two parts Prosecco and one part white peach pure. Some time (it’s disputed) in the 1930s or 1940s, Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, invented the Bellini. He named it the Bellini because its pink color reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini (one of three Bellini artists).
Take one part gin, one part Antica vermouth, and one part Campari and garnis with orange peel. The Negroni lends itself to tweaks and variations, especially with the vermouth at the heart of the cocktail. More or less ‘amaro’ or bitter, the choice is ours. The drink gets its name from Count Camillo Negroni who asked his bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano, by adding gin rather than the normal soda water.
Take three parts Prosecco, one part Aperol and a dash of soda water and you have Italy’s most popular aperitif drink. It’s more than just an orangey mixer, as the characteristically Italian bitter orange and orange peel notes give the drink a real lift.
High in the hills above Venice is a line of vineyards that make Prosecco. At their heart is the fabled ridge of Cartizze. The Bisol family are the biggest owners (it’s one of the most expensive vineyards in the world) making Prosecco like you’ve never tried before. The characteristic pear and peach soft fruit, but here with complex wild flowers and sweet almond spice. Truly one of the world’s greatest aperitif wine.
There’s a wonderful combination of the traditional and modern at Hattingley. It is the UK’s first winery to use solar power, and yet sits in quintessentially English countryside. But you can taste the innovation; here they use some oak barrels (like mighty Krug and Bollinger) to give the wine a softer, complex mouthfeel and structure. Truly delicious fizz.
Jenkyn Place is one of the newer estates in England, made in Hampshire where there are some of the country’s finest soils and climates for wine production. It has a slightly exotic touch to the aromas, particularly of quince and a hint of tropical fruit, whilst the palate is focussed on being silky and refined rather than rich and heady. By a couple of bottles and lay one down to see how it ages for the next 3-5 years.
Nyetimber is one of the most highly regarded names in English sparkling wine and the Classic Cuvee is the heart of the range. Delicate, refined and blending the lift of citrus fruit with the richness of almond, honey and toast from its ageing. It’s perhaps best as an aperitif wine although lighter dishes are a great match too. Taste the future of globally-important sparkling wine.
English wine is a not a new thing, and Bolney was established in 1972 and looks to New Zealand for inspiration, as an estate that specialises in reds. This is the estate’s divine pink fizz suffused with strawberry fruit and a mouth-coating yeasty richness. That fruit gives it the weight to match with food. For a particularly delicious and interesting combination try it with really good Chinese food.
There’s a special place reserved in the future histories of English Sparkling wine for Bob Lindo and multi-award winning Camel Valley. Cornwall’s largest winery makes exquisite, refined and delicious sparkling wines, and this is the classic. It’s led the way for others, but few match this delicious fizz, and now Champagne producers will be looking to him and son Sam for tips.
Moschofilero is sometimes called Greece’s answer to Gewurztraminer – it’s floral and scented, with aromas of roses and sweet, muscat grapes. Like the best aromatic wines it keeps that sweet fruit in check with a refreshing palate, so that it smells sweet and tastes dry. It’s the perfect wine to have with salads and lighter dishes.
I ADORE this wine. It’s mad. Imagine a Chablis that’s been to the gym and then gone hiking in the woods. A Bear Grylls of a wine. The steely, citrus tang of Assyrtiko has an added savoury complexity and depth. It’s still got that focus and clarity of the grape, but with more complexity. Perfect with grilled shellfish, baked whole fish or Pacific Rim dishes.
Let’s get the pronunciation things over with first. ‘ay-or-YIH-tiko’ is the ‘St George’ grape and makes dense, dark, bramble and black-fruity wines, lifted by brighter red fruit aromas and a herbal, savoury edge. It’s a fine, elegant wine too, and one of the great wines of the Med. I have enjoyed this with steaks and grills and mushroom dishes.
Anyone who enjoys white Bordeaux will (a) love this wine and (b) be utterly astonished by this wine. It shares the same production idea and half the same grapes, but with the eye-opening refreshment of Assyrtiko. Look for a peach and mineral fruit with lovely vanilla spice. Richly flavoured fish dishes and creamy sauces are perfect matches.