Wine and Food report

Wine and Food November 2018 Report

Function No 335
Wednesday November 28, 2018

The lunch was held in the Members Dining Room and attended by about 260 members and guests.  Drinks and canapes were also served in the Long Room Bar area, following the earlier AGM of the Society held upstairs.  A glass of locally-produced Vinea Marson Prosecco 2017 complemented the three canapés – a wild boar ragu with Calabrian chili, pecorino crostini, a peperonata with white anchovies, buffalo mozzarella tart, and a tasty meat ball with prosciutto and a rockmelon gel.

Diners comments on the canapes were mostly very positive: “great selection, oysters beautiful, plenty available, well matched with the wine”.  Overall, very well received!  The opinions on the sparkling were a little divided, but overall it was a well accepted wine. 

The lunch was formally opened by Chairman Rob Rouch who provided backgrounds to our guest chef Caleb Osterman and our wine commentator of the day, Peter Johns. 

For the entrée, Caleb created a superbly plated crab and sweet corn ravioli with red pepper essence, and mascarpone.  The great concept was beautifully presented, with the various components providing complementary flavours.

The entrée was accompanied by two beautiful wines - Erste + Neue Pinot Grigio 2017, and the Monto Ronca Gardellino Soave 2015.  The Pinot Grigio is graced with lovely purity in its clean, focused fruit. There is a wonderful warmth that radiates through the wine even if this remains a fresh, mineral-driven style of Pinot Grigio [website].  

The Monto Ronca Gardellino Soave (2015) is a “stunning exclusive from the highly renowned Antonio Fattori”. He’s “one of the most talented winemakers in the Veneto,” and of all his wines, “his white Soave expressions are the true standouts,” writes The Wine Advocate. And this new release is in a league all its own.  All Soave wines must have at least 70% of Garganega grape in it.

What makes ‘Gardellino’ so special? Antonio’s team hand harvested the Garganega grapes from a special vineyard, located on the steep slopes of Monte Calvarina (an inactive volcano). Thanks to Italy’s exceptional 2015 vintage, they had their pick of perfectly ripe fruit. Back in the winery, Antonio dried the grapes on straw mats for 40 days. This process turns each grape into a raisined knot of intense, concentrated flavour. Light oak aging lends further complexity, plus toasty baking spice notes.  It has captivating aromas, showcasing apricot, peach and citrus notes, underpinned by dried fruits, mint and sage. On the palate, the wine is luscious and well-balanced, with dried orchard fruit flavours. Hints of baking spices frame the long, smooth finish.  Antonio gives the utmost care and attention to his wines, which means he makes them in very tiny batches [VINOvations website].  Attendees assessed both wines as being very good, but not ‘excellent’.

Similarly, the main course of South Australian saltbush lamb rack with white polenta, basil arrabbiata, spring peas, crispy garlic was well received.  Caleb needs to be complimented on the cooking to perfection of the lamb, and providing some greens – appreciated by many.  The course was simply and elegantly presented.  

Accompanying the main course were the Le Corti Chianti Classico 2015, and the Fontalpino Chianti Classico Riserva 2013.  The Chianti is well rated on Vivino.  The 800-year-old Corsini family was once the largest landowner in Italy. Today their Chianti Classico property, Le Villa Corti, includes 49ha of vineyards in the commune of San Casciano Val di Pesa.  The wine is made with Sangiovese grapes.  The 2015 strikes a good balance of ripeness and tension, with dense ripe cherry and plum wrapped in juicy acidity and grippy tannins. Nuances of sweet spice and mineral add complexity. Drinking Window: 2018-2024. Score - 89. (Michaela Morris, decanter.com, 2018). 

Fontalpino Chianti Classico Riserva 2013 – 91 Points WineEnthusiast Editors’ Choice - A Tuscan “Sangiovese ‘enticing scents of violet, iris, perfumed red berry and a whiff of cake spice emerge on this vibrant red. The chewy, savory palate has good concentration for the vintage, offering black cherry, ground pepper, clove and liquorice. Firm, mature tannins and vibrant acidity provide balance while a mint note backs up the finish”.

For the cheese course, we were served an Occelli Testun al Barolo with fig jam and crackers.  Testun Occelli al Barolo is an ancient Italian mountain cheese, typically made from a mix of sheep’s and goats’ milk. This hard cheese is packed in “grape must” resulting from the production of Barolo wine, infusing the cheese with an amazing, decadent, vinous flavour.

The origin of the cheese in Italian folklore makes a great story for the dinner table. The legend says the cheese was originally produced by accident, after it was concealed in a wine barrel and then forgotten during the time when hiding food was a necessity to avoid it being stolen. When the cheese was rediscovered the intense winey flavour proved a surprising success. Testun Occelli al Barolo is aged for at least five months before being refined for two more months in the Langa vineyards where it is coated with the pressed grapes used to make Barolo wine – the flavours of the cheese and grapes mingle together to create a flavour that is creamy, sweet, winey, buttery and sharp all at once (testun loosely translates to ‘hard-headed’, referring to the texture of the cheese). Once you cut through the coating of crushed grapes, the texture is flaky and melt-in-your mouth soft. In 1999, producer Beppino Occelli was awarded ‘Best Drunken Cheese’ by the Slow Food Festival for this special and unique cheese (individualrestaurants.com).

The cheeses were accompanied by a Tenuta Montanello Barolo 2013 – rated around 90 Points, made predominantly with Nebbiolo, and is at 14.5%.  Barolo is about 40 km south of Turin in Cuneo province, Piedmonte.  Several websites state: “Pipe tobacco, wild berry, violet and balsamic aromas mingle together on this structured red. The tight solid palate offers crushed cherry, vanilla, star anise and a hint of oak alongside taut close-grained tannins.  It is ruby red with light garnet hues of medium intensity, bright and alive.  Intense, fresh, fruity with notes of cherry, raspberry and flowers of violet, vanilla and spices.  Full, harmonious, slightly dry with a pleasant finish.  In oak for 24 months.  Medium weight with a supple mid palate and good richness contributed by the ripe red cherry, Morello cherry and strawberry fruit, it then firms up on the finish with dry chalky tannins. Earthy dried herb nuances, leather and spice are also apparent. Vibrant acidity with an aftertaste of spicy red cherries, Morello cherries, earthy leather, dried herbs and spice.  Cellar for 5-6 years.  The wine was judged to be one of the best of the day.

A ‘mini highlight’ was the palate cleanser - ice-cold limoncello!  Chef Caleb commented that this had been included to counter the strong cheese flavours prior to dessert.  A number commented on this great initiative!

The dessert, zeppole with pistachio cream, candied orange, and a toffee string, was another enjoyable one.  Simply, but elegantly presented, and full of flavours. Caleb commented that it was designed to complement the chosen wine – the Monte Ronca Recioto di Soave 2014.  The wine is their classic expression of the full extent of the appassimento technique.  This is 100% Garganega, with complete rack drying for generally 6 months, resulting in a world-class dessert wine. A perfect balance of incredibly rich sweetness, balance with a wonderful line of acidity keeping it fresh and lively.  Judged to be the best wine of the day.

Another great day!

Andrew O’Brien