The best Italian Pinot Noir?


A pinot noir that knows the limits of its terroir and weather and extracts the best from both.
Not a big one, all power and depth, rather an agile one, all elegance, lightness, nimbleness; not thick burgundy curtains but half open Venetian blinds that allow a glimmer of sunshine in.
Rose immediately, then berries; when drinking what strikes you is the tingling acidity and a hint of gameyiness later on and the love for Mr Alois Lageder and his biodynamic wines that pervades you.
Below 30 pounds.


Two beautiful Cabernet Francs at Koffmann’s and Briciole, with plug

(Visited: July 2013)

The first beauty, Chinon Beaumont Catherine and Pierre Breton 2010, is a classic expression of this grape, medium bodied, floral with herbal notes, a little spicy, and a persistent desire to go on vacation in the Loire. 13% alcohol, biodynamic. We had it at Koffmann’s.


The second is a very, very different CF: L Bandit Franc, Proprieta’ Sperino 2006. This is from Piedmont, a darker, fuller bodied experience, 14%, with fruit and chocolate, but elegant, not in yer face. Had at Briciole.


Both wines were a joy. At Koffmann’s you pay at the lower end of the possible London markup range, while at Briciole the mark up is off scale, so outrageously gentle it is, just a touch above what it would cost you retail online. Given that it comes with gorgeous, hearty and expertly executed Italian food like these  tagliolini with pecorino cheese


or these tagliatelle with a lamb ragout (yes it takes much skill as well as good produce to make a good pasta)


or like this burrata oozing its heavenly juices



given all this, and more, we were saying, we strongly urge you, whether or not you are a wine lover, to pay Briciole a visit. Or two. Or more.

And if you are indeed a wine lover you’ll unashamedly cry of happiness.

As for Koffmann’s, we’ve plugged our beloved old (metaphorically of course) man on this blog so many times, and moreover we’ll do it again soon…, that only the most trusting of you are not thinking by now that we are fully paid up advertisers, so we’ll refrain for once…

Not all local, lesser known wines…

…are a charming discovery, like this one a while ago. We would have loved to be equally enchanted by this Rebo


but, sadly, we weren’t.

Rebo, in the unlikely event you don’t know, is a crossing between that king of international wines, Merlot, and a fine expression of Trentino terroir, Teroldego. It was ‘invented’ in 1948 by an Italian wine scientist, Rebo Rigotti, whose imagination obviously was focussed on wine technology rather than name creation.

Well, we were never great Rebo enthusiasts and always thought that Merlot and especially Teroldego were perfectly fine on their own, thank you very much, But we’ve had some decent ones.

Alas, this one wasn’t among them: it had thoroughly uninteresting, excessively vivacious fruitiness, even verging on the unpleasant. Sorry.


Do you know Brezeme?

For us it’s a wine discovery, courtesy of the excellent sommelier at The Ledbury:

Brezeme is a Northern Rhone appellation, and the sample we tried is from a grape called Serine, a clone of Syrah.

It is quite spicy in fact, and we taste cherries and lots of Summer fruit, as well reminiscences of sun-warmed Mediterranean beaches, and desire of a vacation.

We think it’s also biodynamic. If so it would be one of a lengthening list of biodynamic wines we really like, which is funny because we think that what in biodynamics is beyond organic is just biobullshit.

Be that as it may, what a lovely discovery.


Salice Salentino Candido Riserva, I Satiri, 2006

Sometimes one hits on a really interesting everyday wine. Here’s a recent discovery:

A beautiful hearty Negroamaro, with morello cherries, smoky notes and a kind of bittery chocolatey finish in evidence, it seems to us a real bargain for 7.99 at Majestic Scotland.

Suggested pairing: Barcelona 3 – Milan 1 (it works both for the jubilant and for the desparing).


Two Piemonte beauties

Two interesting wines that we’ve had recently and that we recommend – with the full authority of our ignorance:

Barolo Cannubi, E. Pira e figli  – Chiara Boschis, 1998

Barbera d’Asti Bionzo, La Spinetta,  2007

A king and a prince, let’s say. In common, a nice long finish. Both are quite typical of their genre (the muscular structure and balsamic touch of the Barolo Cannubi, the lively creamy acidity of the Barbera).

The Barbera is available for about 30 Euros at Italian retailers (and we had it for 45 euros in Piemonte restaurants: dream on, Londoners!). The Barolo comes at over 50 euros retail in Italy. Similar figures but in pounds in the UK. 

The small print that sadly one reads ever more often at the bottom of some fellow bloggers’ posts stimulates us to add: this post, like all our posts, has not been sponsored.


La Pech Abusé 2004

There is more than one reason to like this wine. First, its name is a witty pun, abusé/Buzet: they were refused the Buzet denomination. We like humour. 

Second, the reason why they were refused is that they did not comply with all the detailed requirements of the appellation (e.g. aging length). We always support creative individuals against rigid bureaucracy. 

Third, their label is pretty (done by the daughters of the producer). We like prettiness. 

Fourth, the wine is biodynamic. Ok, we don’t like all the mystical babble, but it is nice to know that it contains no sulphur and the farming is organic.

Last and fundamental, it tastes good! Merlot and Cabernets (Franc and Sauv) in full Bordeaux style, so beautifully ruby that one would even feel justified in spouting nonsense on the virtues of biodynamics: we taste black fruits and earthiness and smokiness.

Discovered thanks to Massimiliano Baló, a clever young sommelier at Koffmann’s. It costs £44 there, retail about a third of that (which, by the way, isn’t bad by London restaurant standards).


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Archontico Papadopoulou (Kornos, Cypurs)

Forget the autumnal gloom, here’s is our second installment from our late Summer Cyprus holiday.  

Moving up one notch in refinement from the wonderful, basic Ladas taverna, tonight we drive up to the village of Kornos, a stone’s throw away in the woody inland from Limassol or Larnaca, to try a new and ambitious opening. The restaurant is set in a fascinating mansion over a century old, which housed the Papadopoulos family and shop. 

The charming hostess – the current generation of the Papadopoulos – gives us a tour of the mansion showing us many interesting objects found during the restoration and the rediscovery of the place: vases and other crafts, photographs and…but look, Man is already in the cellar, almost fainting at the musty sweetness of the perfume of Commandaria emanating from a very old, huge vase – we are told this is the oldest remnant of Commandaria in the island!! 

Man has to be dragged away forcibly before he falls in. This is an emotional beginning.

The bread with sesame was fresh, fragrant, well-made, and also pleasant was a sort of gazpacho served as an amuse bouche.

We were very curious to try one of the pasta dishes – we learned it is traditional in this part of Cyprus. We opted for ravioli, which were accompanied by other irregular bits and pieces of pasta -as in the old family kitchens, where nothing was to be thrown away. The pasta was well-made, and it was covered in a pleasant, yogurty-feeling sauce, creamy and quite light. The filling of the ravioli was intriguing, presenting our palates with flavours that are unusual to us, just a little on the salty side for our taste. 

A dominant theme of the evening were the sweet-salty contrasts. As in a main of pork cutlet, 

which had been marinated probably in honey to great effect, so much so that although the dish presented several faults to the fussy tasters (the meat was overcooked and hence slightly hard and dry, the tomatoes were on the contrary undercooked and frankly not too good), ultimately a sense of deep satisfaction prevailed, so spot on and beguiling was the taste.

In the other main, an old recipe of pork cubes stewed with beetroot, 

the coriander was not a mere side detail but it became a protagonist, lavished in large amounts and thus suffusing everything with fiery freshness. This lifted the rich, spicy, sumptuously greasy dish, certainly not one for the lily-livered, but a real dish from the heart and the tradition.

The same powerful role was played by the coriander in a very different offering as a starter, a huge mixed salad where once again sweet and salty played with each other in a myriad of variations.

We concluded with a dessert consisting of a sort of millefeuille which alternated phyllo pastry and the sweet Anari cheese, very typical of Cyprus (it is produced together with Halloumi, which more special to Cyprus than Feta –  or so we are told), worked in a fluffy cream. 

It was a fitting conclusion, together with the best Cyprus coffees we’ve had in the island,

to a sweet dinner.
 This is a place run with obvious passion and a clear sense of mission, that of reviving the Cypriot culinary heritage. They have basically all worthwhile Cypriot wines – which can be extremely pleasant, hic – on the list (some 150 of them) and even a fully dedicated Commandaria bar – where you’ll find samples that would be hard to get in any other part of the island. 
Although there is some elegance and formality in the ambience, don’t set your mood on ‘fine dining’ or look for too much finesse of presentation as if you were in a continental Michelin star venue, because then you’d be disappointed. Just enjoy the warm hospitality, the beautiful setting and especially abandon yourselves to the rich flavours that this cuisine brilliantly recreates from the tableau of the Cypriot tradition. 
We paid less than 100 Euros including a bottle of local rose’ (called Poze’) in the low twenties, which makes this lovely…well let’s call it ‘trattoria’ in the best Italian sense, good value too. Had we had more time, we would have loved to return to try more dishes. And more wines.


Pommard Les Petits Noizons 2005

Bought at a forgotten price at the excellent Majestic a couple of years ago and just rediscovered, with great pleasure, in a dark corner of our cellar (or, more prosaically, wine fridge), but safe in the knowledge that this Burgundy from Domaine de la Vougeraie would set us back around £100 in a standard UK restaurant and we certainly did not pay near that much, we enjoyed this Pommard, though to our somewhat untrained palates and eyes felt as if if could have stayed in the bottle for a few more years

 The colour is quite dark for a Burgundy, we smell earthy notes and cherries. On the palate, there is something big and important but unfinished going on, quite a lot of acidity, and tannins that feel still a bit unruly to us.

That said, it was bloody good.


Albarino Namorio Rias Baixas

And since we are talking about wine…

just another plug for an excellent little Summery white:

very perfumed, fruity of Summer fruits like peaches and apricots, and a touch of clean minerality. Utterly pleasant.

And once again obtained at a kind price in a Scottish restaurant (£21 for a wine that costs you over £10 in the shops), Gordon’s – more on our lunch there in due course.