Wednesday, 5 December 2012

My Cooking Holiday in Puglia Has Transformed My Christmas!

Well, well, it’s that time of year when you can literally concentrate on splashing out on a bottle of wine with a certain level of ‘seasonal impunity’.

Let me just state, I am being extremely organised this year and thinking about what Italian wines I intend to drink with my Italian themed culinary extravaganza (more of that in another post) You may be wondering why this has come to pass; suffice to say the influence of a Flavours cooking holiday in Puglia has yet to wear off and having managed to bring back some gorgeous olive oil and a head full of ideas I have decided to continue the experimentation, begun back in July.

We are so lucky to be well catered for these days in terms of wine and on any high street you are likely to find examples of Italy’s finest. I have decided to lay off the stalwarts and try something slightly different, ahem, I am going to spend a little more but the intention is to drink less. If you join me on a Flavours Pilates holiday next year I will whisper gently in your ear whether I succeeded or not!

So, to begin, I have been scurrying all over the internet and discovered a couple of internet vendors who have just what I am looking for. A Chardonnay will go well with the Baccalà I have in mind (Flavours takes the sniffiness out of salt cod) and the wine I like the sound of is made in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Chardonnay Colli Orientali del Friuli D.O.C. is the name (sounds like some rugged, curly haired Italian film star).Its colour is that deep straw hue, a kind of balance between gold and the lightest and greeny-yellow olive oil shade.

The smell of fresh hay is always evocative of seasons past and therefore you can expect a fresh and incredibly intense hit of harvest and fruit in this wine. I think it will cut through cheese nicely too. This is available from ‘wine explicit’ which is dedicated to professionals but I’m sure there’s a way around that.
Waitrose can also be relied on to save the Prosccutio, as it were. I can recommend Waitrose Chianti Classico Barone Ricasoli which is made in Tuscany and is of the Sangiovese variety. This wine is full bodied and sensuously velvety, with just that necessary tannin quality and a hint of the summer’s deepest crimson cherries. You know the mix between slightly acidic and overly ripe fruit you will find in any punnet. A twang of spice, like crushed peppercorns, further accentuates a sour sweet note which will complement the festive season perfectly; you know what I mean!

My other recommendation has to be St Michael-Eppan Pinot Grigio made in Alto Adige. I like this aromatic wine as it partners seafood so charmingly. Scallops, (ooh don’t start me), squid or any Asian influence you might like to add will be intensified by the citrusy hints and quite intense pear flavour. It is cool and resonant of the landscape of production: northern Italy where it is cooler and more mountainous. This wine is exclusive to Waitrose and is on special offer until the end of this year, so plenty of time to stock up by mail order. Whilst you are at it why not check out the last minute cookery holidays on the Flavours website and spend New Year on a Sicilian New Year break.

Marks and Spencer, on the other hand, is offering a case of six Prosecco which is a sparkling wine filled with an appley, aromatic flavour and packed with a fruity punch that is both dry and sparkling, unlike a Christmas afternoon where everyone has unzipped their trousers and collapsed on the sofa in front of the tv (or is that just my uncouth household?) Still, if you are an eternal optimist the floral notes will lift your socialising efforts; this Prosecco will do the trick and reminds me very much a crisp winter holiday in Tuscany.

Served chilled, it will augment your canapés and function as the perfect aperitif and was also a Daily Telegraph recommendation

I cannot let the opportunity to recommend a dessert wine pass me by so roll up Moscatel De Valencia 2011. This is the business and once again Marks and Spencer takes the Amaretti! This wine is not expensive, coming in at under £7 per bottle and won a bronze medal at the Decanter world wine awards in 2012. I can see why. The old fashioned cloying sweetness (which I have to admit I really love) has been replaced rather spectacularly by a pale citrus, pale lemon zing and this combination lemon and grapes is divine. When you know how fragrant and sensational both fruits are in Italy there is no surprise here; the wine is delightful. It’s clean and crisp and with a semi freddo type confection, you know, something unctuous and scrummy, this wine will cut through the cream and sugar in a delightfully sophisticated manner.

Moscatel grapes are my favourite and not many made it into the vat when I was picking this year. Still we are already drinking this year’s slightly fizzy red and very refreshing it is too.

Hope you manage to find these wines and a Flavours last minute break before everyone else does!

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