Italian Wine Tasting

When Rob from Jackson & Seddon got in touch to tell me he was in the local area we suddenly thought, hang on, this is the perfect opportunity for a wine tasting in Rutland! With just three weeks to sell tickets and get organised, I am eternally grateful to Rob for his patience with my last-minute decisions and also Sandra from The Northwick Arms for hosting us.

The theme was of course Rob’s wine; Italian ‘Artisan’ “I always feel like a prick saying Artisan,” Rob’s words, organic wines. They’re from small producers in Italy, and Rob has met them all, heard their stories and joined in as they pursue their labour of love within their beloved vines. 

I sold 25 tickets for the wine tasting evening, a real mixture of wine enthusiasts and foodies came along including two lovely girls who were only 18, very promising for the wine world! My sister arranged some beautiful scentless flowers from the garden in wine bottles along the table, sorted glasses, moved lots of heavy tables, in fact she did most of the setting up. Then it was Mum in the end who sourced cheese and biscuits. I wanted to go with Parmesan (as it’s Italian) but in the end we went for a delicious cheddar from Stamford Cheese and Wine Cellar, Mothers are always right aren’t they.

So in hindsight I didn’t really do anything except turn up with the wine Rob had sent me and get it open. The Cuccuvaia needed a few hours to breathe and I opened the Corte Malgiacca too just to give it some real depth of flavour and show it at its best. 

It turned out to be a beautiful day, everyone arrived on time and after some shimmying, we got them sat down before pouring the first wine of the evening, Villa Ligi Spumante. I found out some interesting facts about the area of Le Marche (pronounced le mark-kay) while doing some research. A mighty bold claim is that they founded bubbles in this area, long before Dom Pérignon even registered his first champagne. I’m glad we started with a fizz, it perks everyone up, especially on a week night. Lots of positive feedback was murmured around, “It’s not like prosecco at all is it,” and “Mmm yes lovely and dry, biscuit,” was the general consensus. 

Villa Ligi – Spumante – Chardonnay 70%- Verdicchio 30%
Day/Night thermal excursion, secondary fermentation with Charmat or Martinotti method and two months ageing sur lie.

We moved onto the first white of the evening, Il Civettaio. The Vermentino grapes are grown in the Maremma countryside and they’re highly influenced by the sea breeze. It’s a light white wine, easy drinking and the almost savoury notes make you keep going back for more. Perfect for a warm summer’s day either on its own or with food. For some people, this was their ideal white wine, for others, they needed a little bit more.

I overheard someone say “I can’t quite pinpoint the smell, but it reminds me of something, it smells like sex,” which was possibly my favourite tasting note of the evening. I suggested it was a little salty on the nose, but I definitely think sex is a far more exciting and possibly more accurate description, Rihanna would probably like this wine.

We chose to do another white wine next, for comparison. This richer option was a Pecorino which is a sunshine wine through and through. I’ve reviewed it before, here. However, it was interesting to see how different we all are. You could probably split the room in half over white wine preference. La Valle Del Solle Pecorino has a well-balanced acidity, lovely nose of honey, quite floral. Minerality and complexity on the palate, great length, lingers for the rest of the day.

Italian wine tasting

Rosé was next on the agenda, the bright coloured delicious 50% Syrah, 50% Sangiovese rosé I think someone referred to as Princess Punch when they saw how luminous pink it was. I tried my best to tell people to not judge it by it’s colour and I think only one wine taster couldn’t even bring their lips to touch it for fear of enjoying it. The rosé did well, a few people couldn’t get used to a rose having some tannic structure but generally, 10/10 for Sempre. Rob told the funny story behind the label of this wine, which features a bright pink elephant to match the wine. “When asked why there is a pink elephant on the label, Andrea the 27 year old wine maker said “It’s the only pink animal I could think of!”

Onto the reds now and I was starting to worry the 75cl portions were too much as one punter looked a little wobbly. I soon came to realise this was actually because they were also drinking their wife’s share, she was there for the food and entertainment only. The first red, Corte Malgiacca Rosso, is a slap in the face of an introduction to Italian red wine. See ya snobs, it says, this is what we Italians are creating now. Corte Malgiacca is situated in the Pizzorne hills, 12km north east of the historic city of Lucca and 30 minutes away from the Tyrrhenian coast. The 10 hectare property is divided into vines and olive groves facing west towards the sea.

The food started coming out just in time for the final red, the majestic Cuccuvaia. Rob told everyone the story of the Greek winemaker behind this wonderful bottle of red. The Greek in question just so happens to be called Stavros and he owns the San Gabrielle Arcangelo winery where he makes this Cuccuvaia, in small quantities, it’s famous where it’s from. This wine is 100% Sangiovese, it’s leathery, full of fruit, slightly herbal, deep dark and broody, lots of cherry, toast, bloody delicious.

What I loved most about the wine tasting evening is that it got so many people into a different wine. Lots of people came up to me at the end with their purchases saying, “I didn’t think I liked Italian wine,” or “I never usually drink red but I can’t wait to share this with my friends, it was delicious.” The food at the end of the evening also went down a storm. A lovely traditional lasagne with a huge salad and plenty of garlic bread to soak everything up. And do you know what? You can’t beat getting a bit loose on a school night.

I will be running more tastings in the future, but if you would like me to host a tasting for a group of friends or for a corporate function, do get in touch!

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