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Neil Sowerby’s July Wine Ideas

Long-lived Italian reds and fresh, summery whites

Written by . Published on July 14th 2014.

Neil Sowerby’s July Wine Ideas

I’M just back from a week’s walking (and selfless wine tasting on my readers’ behalf) in Piemonte. Every vine-clad hillside seemed topped by a village with a castle and limitless opportunities to sample the famous local reds. Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto are among Italy’s best.

Rarely in the region will you find a Barolo as elegant as their Bricco delle Viole; nowhere else will you find a quality Riesling like theirs. 

The week we were there this idyllic wine area was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Status and I can see why. 

The dark, intense reds were teeth-stainingly toothsome, so it was with some relief on our return to seek out some fresh summer whites at the Three Wine Men roadshow in Manchester Town Hall.

Oz, Tim and Ollie pressing the flesh, flogging the merchandise and conducting the merry misrule as their public, faced with some terrific tastes, omit to spit.  

Oz Clarke holds forth


Oz Clarke holds forth

But first, an introduction to two of the Barolo area’s finest producers and tips to where you can buy their wines over here. 

Manchester City Centre merchants Hanging Ditch have the best selection from Aldo Conterno and GD Vjara, perfectionist family firms that uphold tradition but also move with the winemaking times. 

We spent an exhaustive two hours in Poderi Conterno’s enormous country cellars near Monforte d’Alba being tutored through the single vineyard 2010 Barolos by Aldo’s youngest son Giacomo; he handles the vineyards, his brothers Franco and Stefano make the wine; their father, the hugely influential Aldo died a couple of years ago.  

The Aldo philosophy has been taking stages further under his boys, for whom terroir and drastic selection of only the best grapes is an obsession. Ageing is in traditional large Slavonian oak barrels, never (for Barolo) at least) in new oak barriques. 

2010s, from a classic year, will improve for a decade and more. The tannins are raspingly beautiful, but not bitter, the nose characteristically of roses, expect tar scents to develop; and, in the case of the reds from the Romirasco site, there’s a heady spiciness, too.

The Colonello vineyard Barolos area is as ethereally elegant as this grape gets, the Cicala, from a sandier less clay soil is more robust, chewier. Fascinating to see the difference and to sample a blend of all three from 2006, the Gran Bussia Riserva, closed-in and mushroomy. These, when they arrive, are all designed for laying down for years. 

Hanging Ditch stock the 2008 Cicala at a hefty £135 (for an extra £6 you can open it in the shop near the Cathedral). You’ll also find the Aldo Conterno il Favot Langhe Nebbiolo 2010 for £60. This is named after their HQ and comes from Nebbilo vines too young to be considered for Barolo. 

At Hanging Ditch you can also find three wines from GD Vajra, a 2012 Nebbiolo (£25), a 2010 Pinot Nero, PN Q497 (£30) and a 2009 Freisa Kyè (£40), the latter pair showing the questing approach of Aldo Vajra and his brood in the Vergne vineyards, which are set as high as it gets around Barolo.


Kye's bottle has lovely looks

Rarely in the region will you find a Barolo as elegant as their Bricco delle Viole; nowhere else will you find a quality Riesling like theirs. 

Old-style winemaking is combined with new-style temperature-controlled fermentation. Take the old-fashioned Freisa grape, very much the poor relation of Nebbiolo. GD Vajra treat it seriously, adding real depth to its herby, peppery appeal.  

Similarly their Dolcetto Coste and Fasatti offers unusual complexity for this often simple red. Nutmeg, prunes and violet all figure in the 2011 from Halifax Wine Company, justifying its £21.45 price tag. 

After our tasting at Vajra with daughter of the family Francesca we refreshed our palate with a glass of Moscato d’Asti, a luscious medium-sweet fizz, all honey and elderflower. So summery. You can buy this one at Reserve in West Didsbury.   



Francesca Vaira talks barrel ageing

Which brings me to those summer whites from exhibitors at Three Wine MenThe first two are available mail-order from Berry Brothers & Rudd (£10 off a case). 

Ch Respide Cuvee Calliypyge 2012 (£16.50): Toulouse-Lautrec used to holiday at this Chateau in Bordeaux’s Graves region. Unlike T-L, though, this is a big one. Lots of vanilla from oak barrel fermentation and heady aromas of mango and peach are what hit you first – followed by a similar concentration on the palate from this 60% Sauvignon Blanc/40% Semillon blend. One for creamy chicken dishes or even a Thai curry.

Caprice Viognier 2011 (£17.75): 
From France’s Ardèche region, close to the Viognier grape’s original heartland, it smells of honeysuckle and offers a pure shot of stone fruits in the mouth.
Greywacke Wild Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Corks Out, £26.99): 
Majestic stock the standard, softer Sauvignon Greywacke (pronounced 'grey-wacky') at £19.99. But this Wild One is a step up – more minerally, slightly flinty but full of clear fruit. It is made without laboratory yeast strains, and is old-barrel fermented, giving a savoury, smoky edge. The winemaker is Kevin Judd, who created Cloudy Bay way back.
Montes Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013 (Co-op, down from £8.79 to £7.29 until July 15): A Sauvignon that doesn’t hit those heights, but this new addition to the Co-op range is a lovely lemon-lime, tropical fruit refresher with cut-grass and herbs on the nose. 

King’s Ridge Oregon Pinot Gris 2013 (Marks & Spencer, £12.99) 
More peach, along with melon and pear, from this newcomer to M&S’s adventurous wine list. The grape, Pinot Grigio in Italy, is approached more seriously in Alsace, and across the Pond and beyond in Oregon, where this example comes from. Great purity and freshness. Try it with smoked salmon dishes.
Finally, two Albarinos, seafood-friendly classics from North West Spain...
Paza San Mauro 2013 (Spirited Wines, £14.50): Brilliantly straw yellow colour with citrus on nose and palate, with a surprising silky mouthfeel. Very attractive.
Martin Codax 2013 (Majestic, £12.89):
From an Albarino front-runner, peachier, herbier aromas here with honey and peach tastes, finishing long.

Tim_Atkin_Tasting_An_Albarino_From_Spain's_Ria_Baixas_Region[1]Tim Atkin tasting an Albarino from Ria Baixas

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