Call me Britney, because I did it again. After vowing to never drink more than I should, to always have a glass of water between drinks, because I never wanted to feel ‘like this again’ history repeated itself on Thursday.
Like a fish to water, all memories of deathly hangovers left me as I tucked into a bellini in the best place for a bellini, The George in Stamford. I followed this up with two glasses of Merlot with a pizza at Pizza Express and then I sort of hazarded my way through various wines at The Wine Bar.
I woke up puzzled and depressed, couldn’t even stomach toast and by around 10am it was clear water was no longer getting past the bouncers. My mum was off on a safari in Africa so I put on my best ‘I’ve got this’ face as I started mucking out the seven horses I’m looking after while she’s away. But what a bloody struggle of a first day, I’ve never cried so much while pushing a wheelbarrow along, I was a washed-out state.
So as you can imagine I was really excited about the wine tasting I’d booked on a non-hungover day, looming over me like a great macerated liver, only 14hrs away from the hellish hangover.Thankfully, after a venison sensation cooked by Dad the night before, I woke up with my tummy back in the game, my heart was still a bit irregular but I just put that down to excitement.
Arriving at Hambleton to the charming porch full of Le Chameau wellies felt simply wonderful. They welcome you in, the Hall gives you this sort of ‘welcome back you rascal’ hug and each time I see those dramatic scenes covering the walls I have to hold back tears. I’ve spoken about the history of Hambleton before on here, you can read it again if you’re interested but it encompasses something that’s very close to my heart, fox hunting.
Hunting aside, I was shown to the very cosy front room where friends who are more prompt than I sat waiting, none of us were really sure what to expect. After going to several wine tastings before, I can’t say I really knew what Dominique had in store for us either. My favourite wine tastings have always been with John Hoskins MW at his hotel in Huntingdon and I was wondering whether they would follow a similar plot.
Whether by popularity or purpose, Sommelier Dominique Baduel had created a much more intimate wine tasting. Around 16 of us sat around a table in a private room while Dominique took us on a journey through the Montalcino region. What always astounds me about wine is how very different each bottle is. We sat before eight glasses of, at first glance, indistinguishable Brunello wines. Brunello, translates to brown in Italian and the wines reminded me of Damson gin in more ways than just their slight brown tinge.
Dominique’s delivery was perfect, he was informative and playful with no hint of being patronising, he almost acted as if he was discovering these wonderful wines with us. It only made the experience more intimate, we started with four wines that were a little cheaper, the £11 – £30 bracket. Now then, here I would just like to remind myself and inform you of the Brunello di Montalcino appellation I keep banging on about.
Montalcino is a town in Tuscany, it is famous for Brunello (brown) di Montalcino. Rosso (red) di Montalcino is also made from 100% Brunello grapes but only needs to be aged for one year rather than four. The wines are produced using the Sangiovese grapes (this confused me but to be Brunello the grapes CANNOT be imported and there was a huge scandal this one time) but they are all aged quite differently.
I have confused myself further after falling down an arid Montalcino hole but Walter Speller writes extraordinarily well about the topic on Jancis Robinson’s website. What I should mention is that Brunello di Montalcino is a wine made with 100% Sangiovese grapes with Italy’s highest DOCG classification. This is the Sangiovese that most wine critics cite to be the best in all of Italy, Dominique certainly gave it very high regard.
So, this dark little grape has certainly caused some drama in its time, here’s what we tried:
2015 Rosso di Montalcino, Collemattoni
This was the very first bottle, it was light in colour, very dry but with a refreshing acidity.
2015 Rosso di Montalcino, San Polo
After the first wine this was totally different, smoother, that nice oak aged vanilla touch on the palate. It had balanced tannins with an aromatic finish.
2014 Rosso di Montalcino <<Vermiglio>> Conti Costanti
This was very acidic on the nose, notes of anise, savoury earthy and spicy. Wasn’t my favourite to taste either, on the whole, not the most palpable of wines. Unless…you like the liquorice, spice heavy wines, then maybe this is for you.
2012 Rosso di Montalcino La Chuise
Delicious scent of fig to this wine, much dryer and more complex. Lasting notes on the palate, makes you think. This is from the North Eastern part of Montalcino where the roots grow deep and get all of those precious minerals.
2011 Brunello di Montalcino La Ragnaie Veece Vigni
This was the first of the bigger wines and it was totally different. Much sweeter, heady, full, ripe, sumptuous with fruit. More tannin and this is shown through the price as well as the appearance and taste.
2011 Brunello di Montalcino Ucceliera
A slightly darker brown, this wine tasted of fermented strawberries on the palate and forest floor. Dense flavours, mushroomy.
2012 Brunello di Montalcino Fuligny
A Christmassy number, dry but with a lovely finish. Humble notes of vanilla. Dominque explained that out of all the wines this is probably grown in the best soil. There was certainly a lot more going on, a lot of intensity in this wine.
2012 Brunello di Montalcino Il Maronetto Tuscany
This wine smells of a sexy Italian, it’s creamy, smooth, you can tell it’s a good wine for keeping. Dominque said it isn’t on the Hambleton menu yet, by far my favourite.
And that was that! We all sat outside in the November sunshine for a few moments before regrouping for a delicious lunch of lamb. Although, it was so melt-in-the-mouth it made my brain think I was eating liver or kidney and I can’t stand either. I could appreciate that it was a fantastic dish though. There’s something about the chef at Hambleton, he absolutely loves the hint of that sort of anise, sambucca, horse lick flavour, it works though so I’ll let him off.
We made our way to the bar and carried things on with Grey Goose and Rhubard Champagne cocktails until we forgot who we were and made the scenic drive home. #jokes