Saturday, 16 May 2009

Some good company and some fine Italian wines and food at Amarone in Nottingham

Last night Diane and I met with our friends Andy Leslie, David Bennett, Bernard Caille and Peter Bamford, for a most enjoyable evening of good food and fine wines at Amarone, a new(ish) Italian restaurant in Nottingham. The main theme for the evening was predominantly Tuscan wines, although we started off with an extremely quirky wine from north-east Italy......

Dario Princic Pinot Grigio Venezia Giulia 2006 (in magnum)
Due to a very long maceration on the skins, the colour is blush - almost rosé, as you can see from the picture. A closer look reveals transluscent tawny and amber nuances - certainly a "complex" colour and beautiful to look at! A quick swirl shows some impressive tears and suggests a sweet wine, as does the nose, which offers a heady mix of peach, apricot, mandarin, ginger nuts and rose water - like a supercharged Alsace Pinot Gris with bells on. The palate comes as a bit of a shock. What you get is a very rich, yet bone dry wine, with lots of extraction, lots of complexity, some warming but not hot alcohol and a dry, almost dusty - even tannic - finish. I brought a little home with me and, drinking it tonight, a not unattractive cheesy quality has appeared, but the fruit is still evident. The others loved it, though I have to say I'm really not sure I like it that much myself. But it is certainly interesting, bordering on weird. Vive la difference!

Querciabella Batar 1996 Bianco di Toscana IGT
Deep yellow/gold colour. What a nose! Gunpowder, struck match, flint, garlic mushrooms and a hint of lime oil and mandarin. This is like a really (really) good 1er or Grand Cru Burgundy, with a warm climate slant. Rich, glycerous and gorgeous - no discernable "fruit", just full-on, rich, minerally Meursault/Montrachet flavours. Into its stride at 13 years old, but possibly with even more development left in it. Wonderful, complex and very long.

Frescobaldi Castelgiacondo Lamaione Merlot 1995 Toscana IGT
Showing some sign of age, but still quite a deep ruby/blood colour. Volatile acidity and Kiwi boot polish dominate the nose, with just a hint of cherry fruit, cigar ash and green pepper in the background. And it is pretty much bereft of fruit on the palate, too. Dry, austere and past it.

Inama Bradisismo Cabernet del Veneto 1999
Deep, bloody, slightly bricking at the edge. Meaty, savoury, warm, almost alcoholic nose and crying out "like me!" And indeed we did like it. To say this is almost 10 years old, it is super fresh and seemingly young, though not overly tannic. Very fruity, very complex and very alluring, with sweet fruits, a touch of red pepper and spice, slightly warming alcohol and lovely acidity. Long, too. A real cracker of a sexy wine, with easily 10 years left in the tank.

Barone Ricasoli Casalferro 1997 IGT Toscana
I brought this one and was most pleased with how it showed. Black cherry, tobacco, green pepper, herbs, talc and some nice Northern Rhone-like lily aromas. This was really elegant and complex. Full of fruit, but with some lovely spice, herb and tobacco flavours. Lovely, elegant, balanced and very Italian. Following the Inama 1999, this was like a nice big cigar after a jam roly poly - both lovely wines, but very different.

Fontalloro 1993 Vino di Tavola di Toscana
Another of my wines, though for some reason, I didn't manage to write a note on it. I just remember that it was good, but not great, and probably needs drinking soon.

Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S Niccolo 1986 Toscana IGT
The first in a flight of 3 vintages of this wine, which is (I believe) predominantly Sangiovese, so the quintessential "SuperTuscan". Heady aromas and flavours of red cherry, herbs, spices and redcurrants, along with all sorts of secondary notes, including tobacco and undergrowth - a complete wine, and very "winey". Not big, not brash, but light, elegant and perfectly mature. Lovely wine.

Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S Niccolo 1990 Toscana IGT
Much headier than the 1986, with more in the way of balsamic and VA aromas, but also some leafy undergrowth and floral and mushroomy notes. Fantabulous acidity, full of cherry and rich, curranty flavours and a touch of old oak. Another lovely wine, though markedly different to the 1986 - or perhaps with more time left to develop(?)

Castellare di Castellina I Sodi di S Niccolo 1998 Toscana IGT
Seems a touch volatile and hot and unbalanced at the moment - almost a touch clumsy, in comaparison to the 1986 and 1990. Or perhaps it just needs much more time. It does open out a little with some air, though, showing hints of elegance perhaps to come. I'm not sure it will ever hit the heights of the other two wines, but you never know. One to keep for 5-10 years, I think.

Castellare di Castellina S Niccolo 1998 Vin Santo del Chianti Classico
I'm not sure how this is made (perhaps somebody will come along and fill-in the gaps for me) but it is a rather lovely dessert wine. Sort of "Rivesaltes meets Tokaji", so right up my street. Rich and glycerous, laden with caramel, toffee, eau de vie and orangey marmalade aromas and flavours. More than ample acidity makes for a rich, yet refreshing dessert wine, and a lovely way to finish the night.

Bernard opens another bottle, whilst David attempts to throw one of his new "unbreakable" glasses at Peter. (The photos were taken on my mobile phone, which unfortunately does not have flash).

Andy looks on admiringly at David's tasting technique, whilst Diane contemplates the weird and whacky Dario Princic Pinot Grigio

Incidentally, the food was really good - a nice assortment of fresh breads, olives and an olive oil and balsamic dip as an appetiser, followed by various starters and mains, all with really fresh, flavoursome ingredients - buffalo mozzarella, juicy, herby tomatoes and salads, and some fabulous pizza. And I have to say the service was brilliant, with friendly (and very pretty!) waitresses offering just the right mix of attentiveness and space for a bunch of winos like us. I would recommend it to anyone in the Nottingham area wanting to try something a little different and off the beaten track.

Thanks also to Andy Leslie for organising - and for bringing all those fabulous Castellare di Castellina wines!

Leon Stolarski


Andy Leslie said...

Thanks for the notes Leon - memories of a cracking night!

I agree the restaurant looked-after us really well.

I made some notes on the 1993 Fontalloro - Dark & brooding cashmere warmth and fruit cake on the nose with just a touch of perfume. Tannins still dominate the palate but there was also good sour cherry fruit. I didn't think it showed particularly well in the company it had, but in a few years it should be good.

I took the 1998 I Sodi di San Niccolo home and retried it last night and today. By lunchtime today it was singing - all perfumed grilled meats and rich plummy fruit. I'm sure this will come round like the older vintages we had.

The Vin Santo is made from Malvasia bianca (mostly) and Trebbiano toscano hung-up to dry in a ventilated shed and then slowly fermented in 20-30 year-old small barrels. It then undergoes some further post-fermentation time in barrel. The Castellare version, like all the good ones I've had, is quite fresh, but there is a very wide diversity of styles, some very oxidative.

Thanks again for the notes.

David Bennett said...

Great notes Leon (as usual) and not much to discuss more than Andy has said. The food was singing and a great tribute to the Chef.

The Pinot Grigio was stunning. Quite the most moving wine i've had for ages. Incredibly enthralling and complex. Certainy weird when compare to "normal" wine, but then who wants normal wines everyday?

The Castelfero was for me the red of the night - beautiful and elegant with great fruit structure without ever being cloying or pastille fruited.

The Batar (50:50 Chard/Pinot blanc) with a decent lick of oak was superb. Worthy of the great estate and a tribute to fab winemaking. Having been to Querciabella I can vouch for the meticulous methods used to protect the fruit and the attention to detail in the barrel rooms.

Te 3 I Sodi's were delightful with the older of the 3 being the most interesting. The 98 will be a cracker!

Leon Stolarski said...

Andy/David - Thanks for filling in the gaps for me. That was one great evening and we really should do these sort of (smaller) events more often - though I must stock up on more wines from these sort of regions first!

How about Provence next time? Or Burgundy? Or Iberia? Or explore a single grape variety?

Anonymous said...

Good notes Leon,Thanks.
it was good to have a "Non Blind" tasting for a change,I think it focuses the senses more on the wine itself rather than the urge to be the best wine detective at the table.
I'm not saying that blind tasting should be abandoned as it's great fun but this sort of event once in a while is really worthwhile.
looking forward tothe next one.


Leon Stolarski said...

Agreed, Bernard - it is nice to have a break from the blind tasting thing and take more time to assess and enjoy the wines for what (we know) they are.

Having said that, I do love the fun of being a "wine detective", even if it can sometimes make one look more like Clouseau than Poirot!