Wine Pairings for Spring Flavours
Matching Californian wines with the Spring Table As sure as eggs is eggs, I’m once again putting them all in the wines-of-California basket, and placing that firmly by the season’s cornucopia, in which you’ll find: Meat: spring lamb, venison, pigeon Fish: cod, mussels, oysters, salmon, halibut Cheeses: Sainte Maure, Valençay, Selles Sur Cher, Brie de Meaux, Brie de Melun, mature (12 Month+) artisan cheddars Veg: Beetroot, leeks, Savoy cabbage, Jerusalem artichokes, broccoli, kale, parsnips, celeriac, cauliflower Wine line-up: 2016 Tatomer, Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner, Santa Barbara County 2015 Arnot-Roberts, Watson Ranch Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2016 Matthiasson, Linda Vista Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2015 Sandhi, Santa Barbara County Chardonnay 2015 Kutch, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2016 Broc Cellars, Vine Star Zinfandel, Sonoma County 2016 Vinca Minor, Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains 2014 Matthiasson, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Arnot-Roberts, Sonoma Syrah Here I’ve lined up some key Roberson Californian wines to go the distance, whose elegance and structure will invigorate. Starting with the whites, let’s hit the cheeseboard: Vanlençay/Selles Sur Cher/Sainte Maure are all Loire Valley goat’s cheeses and amongst several now in season. As their fresh, citric, salty and acidic natures will require something to meet on terms, we want something with a bit of steel, zip and backbone with minerally, citrus fruit. Step forward Graham Tatomer’s Meeresboden Gruner Veltliner and Steve Matthiasson’s Linda Vista Chardonnay: both with laser focus and precision (the latter toward the Chablisien); delicate, chiselled green, yellow and apple fruit with remarkable length. For the richer, weightier dairy options such as Brie de Meaux/de Melun and artisanal cheddars, we’ll want similarity in our whites, where Chardonnay springs easily to mind. Matthiasson’s Linda Vista still has the stuff to take on creamier fare and you can move seamlessly to Arnot-Roberts Watson Ranch as it offers a bit more texture and weight but still with the brisk and lively current of acidity to keep the palate in top shape. To progress the fruit and richness we move to Sandhi’s Santa Barbara Chardonnay, offering a bit more by the way of stone fruit and spice; the higher degree of malolactic takes up the brie in easy harmony. Equally easy are all four whites with the seasonal seafood and fish with the Tatomer and Matthiasson being to the shellfish what they are to the Loire cheeses: perfectly resonant. As cod and salmon are fleshier, best keep to the Sandhi but again, you can chop and change any combination and pretty much come out a winner. For meat it’s a no-brainer: lamb loves all red wine, though some more than others. To lamb’s inherent fattiness, our Californians offer that structural edge, both cleansing the palate and enhancing the flavours with clean, articulated fruit and heightened acidity. Jamie Kutch’s Sonoma Coast Pinot is first in line here with bright, savoury, spiced cherry fruit; freshness, precision and depth; the acidity cuts easily through fat and cleans up neatly. Perhaps a touch delicate for something like venison, red fruit like this does make a beautiful combination with squab, also in season. Reach for the Syrahs and Cab Sauvs, then, when confronting the deer, and our latest addition Vinca Minor of Santa Cruz Mountains offers all the classic notes of elegant Cab: black currant, mint, cedar, cigar box, with Steve Matthiasson’s Napa Valley expression an equally ideal option, offering slightly darker fruits and spice, but both with that briskness that keeps the appetite ticking over. Chris Brockway’s Vine Star Zinfandel weighs in somewhere between the Pinot and the Cabs, though given its floral, lifted sweet spice and red-fruit profile, it would ally better with the Kutch. ‘The pretty side of Zin’, as Chris puts it. Quite! All this leaves us with the crowning glory of Arnot-Roberts’ Sonoma Coast Syrah on the lamb. Here is fresh damson/plum fruit with the crucial attributes of olive tapenade, cured meat, wild herb and violet; firm tannins and that cool-climate structure, it can’t get much better. It also can’t get much easier to explore the affinity Roberson’s California offer has with Old World gastronomic regionality and in time for one of the calendar’s most festive – and digestive – seasons.
And the winner is...
Elegant wines, huge impact Not every wine has to have a big score from Robert Parker to have a significant effect on what we drink - a fact recognised this month by the James Beard Awards, at which both Cathy Corison and Steve Matthiasson were nominated in the category of Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional. The James Beard Awards are the food ‘Oscars’ of the USA. This annual event highlights the best, upcoming and historic chefs and restaurants that shape how the dining industry evolves. The Sprites Wine and Beer Professional is someone who has also impacted the way we dine by shaping what we drink. Steve and Cathy have never been the darlings of the Parker Point set, instead steadily carving out names for themselves in an almost understated way - by producing wines that are elegant, focused and yet still full of power and flavour. In my previous life as a sommelier these were the type of wines that I wanted/needed to have on my wine list: good on their own and yet even better with food. When the food and wine pairings come together in such a way that they are seamless, they complement each other in both texture and flavour, creating a dining experience that can be so memorable. These well-deserved nominations recognise the difference made by these winemakers and the influence they’ve had on sommeliers and, through their choices, consumers across the US.
Rudolf Trossen - Natural Legend
Man of Mystery The legend of Rudolf Trossen is a treasure chest of mystery. One minute I’m listening to an hour long SoundCloud recording of his fermenting Riesling, the next I’m reading about his formative years as a young punk in the Mosel being almost driven out of Kinheim for blasting AC/DC too loud in the winery. He’s a character who everyone has an anecdote about, so finally getting the chance to spend some time with him quickly became the date in our diary everyone was talking about. The enormity of his visit was nicely summed up by Sandia Chang, owner of Bubbledogs, who said over our lunch with Rudolf ‘I’ve been waiting 10 years to meet you, it’s a dream come true’. Sandia first discovered Rudolf’s wines when she was working at the world-renowned Noma Restaurant in Copenhagen in 2008. His wines were the first natural wines to make their way onto this coveted wine list and remain there to this day. He became a staunch believer in Biodynamics after reading the works of Rudolf Steiner as a young winemaker. He quickly transformed his family’s domain into farming organically and employing all of Steiner’s principles; think dung in the cow horn, harvesting when the moon is in a certain place and only working on fruit days as determined by the biodynamic calendar. But for Rudolf, it’s so much more than just these practices. It’s a way of life. It’s your mood when you wake up. It’s when you get inspired by a piece of music. It’s sharing the fruit of hard labour with your friends at the end of the vintage. All these things help to build a culture in which the best natural wines are made. His outlook on wine is so simple: to make wine just from grapes. Many in the industry call this the natural wine movement. But Rudolf questions the entire concept of natural wines: “nature does not harvest any grapes - it’s always human beings who are at work.” At Kiln restaurant in Soho, he made it clear that he believes wine is just part of life. Some choose to obliterate it with chemicals to stabilise the wine, others choose to listen to the natural cycles of Mother Earth and produce wine with minimal intervention. What I took away from my time with Rudolf was far more than just his superb expressions of German Riesling. It was his simple, down to earth outlook on life. And wine just happens to make planet earth a much better place.
Vegetarian Food and Wine Matching
Roberson staff share their favourite vegetarian recipes and wine matches Easy Lentil Stew By: Tayla Roberson I’ve been a vegetarian since 1980. That was a pre-foodyism age when quiche, potato skins and omelette were the on-trend options. Being meat free is much more interesting these days, but vegetarian food and wine pairing hasn’t got much easier; if you want a lovely glass of Bordeaux, Tofu doesn’t taste any better with it than scrabbled egg did. So, go old-school French to make a simple dish with flavour and character to meet the wine half way. It’s dark, delicious and almost meaty. The Ingredients: 200g Puy lentils 1 onion A couple of carrots A couple of sticks of celery A handful of cherry tomatoes A couple of small mushrooms A couple of bay leaves The Method: Take a large open bottom, shallow pan. Cut the onion into 8 and fry until soft in a splash of olive oil. Add the lentils. Cover with water. Add the remaining vegetables and a few bay leaves. Simmer gently for about half an hour. Top up with a splash of whichever wine you are drinking. It’ll be ready to eat when the lentils are al dente and the stock is reduced to a stew like consistency. The Wine Match: Perfect with a traditional Bordeaux like Château Franc-Cardinal, or a robust and slightly rustic southern French red, like L'Esprit de la Fontaine. --- Onion and Feta Pie By: Ben Greene This is a modified version of the Provence pizza - pissaladière - which normally features anchovies in place of the Feta below. The key is not to rush the onions. The Ingredients: 1kg onions Olive oil A sheet of all-butter puff pastry Black olives Feta The Method: Peel and slice the onions, then cook them in olive oil over a very low heat for two hours. They should collapse down without catching. Spread them on the puff pastry leaving a bit of a border, and brush that with olive oil. Scatter the black olives and Feta over the top. Bake in a medium oven for 30 minutes or so. The Wine Match: Match with a high-quality Provence rosé like Minuty's Rose et Or, or try a Greek white to match the Feta and olives, like Argyros' native Santorini grape Aidani. --- Vegetarian Chilli By: Simon Huntington When I was considerably younger and fitter, a friend talked me into taking part in a weekend ‘adventure race’. This was a cross-country running and cycling event, which involved the extra challenge of having to navigate using map and compass to specific points along the course. At the end of the race, there were huge portions of vegetarian chilli served up to all the competitors – and I quickly realised that I could cut out the middle-man and enjoy the best part of the race experience without the muddy and exhausting preamble. The Ingredients: 1 large onion 250g mushrooms 6 sticks of celery 2 chilli peppers, deseeded 2 sweet red peppers 1 tin chopped tomatoes 1 carton black beans 500ml vegetable stock 20g 90% cocoa dark chocolate ½ teaspoon oregano ½ teaspoon chipotle-smoked chilli flakes ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (adjust for taste) The Method: Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry until translucent in a large cast-iron cooking pot, over a medium-high heat. Chop the celery, sweet peppers and deseeded chillies and add. Slice the mushrooms and add after a further 2 minutes. Once all the vegetables are softened, add the oregano, cayenne pepper and smoked chilli flakes and continue frying for 1 minute to release the flavours. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes and the vegetable stock and, once back up to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer slowly and reduce for around 30 minutes. After 30 minutes (or whenever the chilli has thickened), grate the dark chocolate into the mix, add the drained black beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Serve with brown rice or a baked potato. If the chilli is too hot for your taste, add Greek yoghurt to reduce the heat. The Wine Match: I would generally serve this with a red, but the spices will clash with anything that's too tannic, so you're best off with a ripe, silky red such as the Jackhammer Pinot Noir. If you'd prefer a white, try Semeli's succulent, floral Thea Mantinia Moschofilero. Got your own tried and tested vegetarian recipe? We'd love to hear from you and might feature your recipe in a future post - just get in touch.
Remembering Bruno Giacosa
Off-Trade Sales Manager Jack Green reflects on the life and influence of Bruno Giacosa, who passed away this week. How Bruno Giacosa quietly revolutionised Piedmont Giacosa… this name will make the hairs on the back of any Italian wine lover’s neck stand up. It’s a name that stands tall, proud and as a beacon for all winemakers dealing with Nebbiolo around the world today. I was saddened to hear of Bruno Giacosa’s passing this week. Quite simply one of the greatest winemakers in Italy, let alone Piedmont. Over my seven years at Roberson, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to taste his wines on a few occasions. Most memorably, his daughter Bruna visited our old shop on Kensington High Street, importer in tow, to show her father’s latest offerings. That was the one shift everyone wanted to work. He had been making wine since the 60’s, buying fruit and bottling his own wines until one day in 1982, he was able to purchase his own vineyard and take his winemaking to the next level. This indeed catapulted him into winemaking stardom, his small Falletto vineyard in Serralunga d’Alba (pictured above) becoming one of the most famed vineyards in the Langhe and one where you’ll always find a troop of tourists taking pictures, rain or shine. Bruno suffered a stroke in 2006, which made him reluctant to release the wines from that vintage since he felt unable to properly judge the wines and did not want mediocre wines being released. This showed just how high his standards remained, even through difficult times. Today, his two daughters Bruna and Marina are running the estate, aided by oenologist Giorgio Lavagna. Hopefully one day soon I’ll get to taste his spellbinding wines again and, when I do, I shall raise a glass to the great Bruno Giacosa.
Burgundy 2016 Vintage Review
Private Client Sales Manager Paul Williamson weighs up the quality of the 2016 vintage in Burgundy, which is now available to purchase en primeur. Burgundy 2016 - The Verdict January is always an interesting time in the wine trade. Every year the hard-working Burgundian winemakers scrub themselves up and showcase their latest vintage at importer tastings in lavish old halls across London. It’s all handshakes and smiles as the winemakers and importers big up the vintage. Those tasting the wines in turn make sounds of satisfaction while swirling the young juice in their mouths and giving the thumbs up to the pourers, no matter the actual opinion. With the 2016 vintage however, most of those gestures of affirmation are genuine. Once all the pleasantries are done, the scramble for the finest and rarest bottles commences. In a vintage like 2016 it makes the game even harder, with frost and hail during the growing season indiscriminately knocking out yields across the Cote d’Or. Even the mighty Grand Cru vineyards didn’t hold impunity from Mother Nature’s wrath with many suffering significant yield loss. The damage across the Cote was uneven, but in general 2016 is characterised by less wine. The end of the summer fortunately brought ideal ripening weather and the winemakers were very happy with the berries they were actually able to bring back from the vineyards. I took the picture above whilst picking in Savigny-Les-Beaune during the 2016 harvest and while the bunches were sparse, the fruit we put in the baskets was in beautiful shape. The reds in general are characterised by ripe, but not overly ripe, juicy fruits with soft tannins and good acidity. If chosen wisely you will find classic and classy quality. The whites generally are pure and zingy, perhaps more suited to earlier drinking, but isn’t that what wine is all about. At Roberson we import directly the seriously good value wines of Domaine Pierre Guillemot and Domaine Chavy-Chouet. Two producers whose wines won’t break the bank but will provide you with fantastic drinking. We do also scour the market for wines from some of the top names which we will be offering over the coming weeks. If you would like to receive these offers, please do drop me an email and I would be delighted to discuss what we can offer. firstname.lastname@example.org
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