Kerstin Rodgers (@MSMARMITELOVER)
In the film ‘Sideways’ lead actor Paul Giamatti goes into raptures about the grape Pinot Noir: “It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and, uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and…ancient on the planet.”
Inspired by this description I went straight out and bought a rather pricey bottle of Pinot Noir, from my local supermarket. I was disappointed; it didn’t hit the spot for me. Nevertheless I persisted, and expertly guided by WineTrust100 I’ve tried several Pinot Noirs. Now I understand.
The Pinot Noir grape, originating in Burgundy, France, is particularly good for the heart. The heart disease rate for the locals is way below average due to its higher amount of ‘resveratrol’.
The world’s most expensive wine, worth even more than first growth Bordeaux, is Romanée Conti, comprised of 100 per cent Pinot Noir grape. Part of the reason for this is that production is tiny; they produce very few bottles per year. You have to have connections and serious money to buy it . Another fact about Pinot Noir: it’s one of the primary grapes used to make champagne.
In 2010, the Romanée Conti vineyard was held to ransom, kidnapped as it were. A ransom note was sent to the proprietor Monsieur Aubert de Villaine, and two vines were injected with herbicide, to show that the threat was serious. Eventually the culprit, a career criminal, was caught and sentenced to prison where he killed himself.
A Pinot Noir ranges from £9.50p to £29 a bottle on the WineTrust100 site. Remember Pinot Noir does not, unlike other reds, need to be aired before drinking. You can open up and start drinking straight away.
Here is a list:
Tabali (2011) from Chile, at £9.50p a bottle. This is a new vineyard, that only started in 1993.
Lawsons Dry Hills (2011) from New Zealand, £14.
Rully, domaine Jean-Baptiste Ponsot (2009) £18.
Beaune-Bastion Premier Cru Domaine Chanson (2009): the most expensive at £29 a bottle, but great quality, a special occasion wine. Fantastic bouquet, complexity of flavour.
The Gamay grape is grown a little further south, in the Beaujolais region, north of Lyon. You don’t see it anywhere else in the world. Beaujolais wines tend to be young and must be drunk within two or three years. In the 1980s, the Beaujolais Nouveau marketing campaign was devised in an effort to encourage people to drink young, fresh red wine. When I lived in France, every November posters would go up in bars and shops ‘Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé’ and there would be a rush to grab the first bottles of that year’s vintage, from November the 15th. There was a bit of controversy: an article in a local Lyonnais newspaper accused the Beaujolais producers of making a ‘vin de merde’. Sales went down and Beaujolais has had to work hard to resuscitate the reputation of the better ‘cru’ Beaujolais, tainted by the sometimes rough and dodgy Beaujolais Nouveau production.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Beaujolais region, and have enjoyed visiting the vineyards in the area, which includes Fleurie, Chiroubles, Juliénas, Morgan, Moulin-à-Vent, Brouilly, Saint-Amour. It is a wine that benefits from a phenomenon known as ‘situational drinking’. That is, it tastes best when you are drinking it surrounded by the beautiful green hills of Beaujolais. But WineTrust100 are stocking a Beaujolais villages which I like for £10. This wine, for a grape that is low in tannin and high in acidity, making it a good choice as a lightly chilled red, is nevertheless flavoursome and fruity.
Some reds can be served with fish as well as meat. The versatile Pinot Noir is one of those grapes, along with Gamay. Both wines should be served at what is called ‘cellar temperature’, around 10 to 13 degrees centigrade, that is, only lightly chilled. These wines, light bodied reds, are not as tannic as full bodied reds. Red wines get their colour from the skin of the grape and the less time it has contact with the wine, the less tannic and mouth drying the wine will be. Chilling brings out the fruitiness!
This month I have devised a fish and seafood stew recipe for you. Try it, with some of the wines I have recommended above.
Smoked cod, tilapia, mussel and saffron stew
1 red pepper, roasted, skinned, torn into strips
1 green pepper, roasted, skinned, torn into strips
75ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
1 fresh bay leaf
1 leek, finely sliced
A large pinch of saffron threads, crushed
500g fresh tomatoes, quartered
2 tilapia fillets, torn into strips
400g smoked undyed cod, cut into 2 inch chunks
250g of mussels, debearded
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper, freshly ground
A handful of flat leaf parsley
First roast the peppers in the oven, cutting them in half and putting them cut side down in an oiled baking tray at 200c for around half an hour. Once the skin is bubbling and slightly blackened, remove from the oven and put the peppers in a covered bowl. Five minutes later, remove the peppers and strip off the skin, remove the seeds and stem. Tear into strips.
Heat the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed saucepan (a Le Creuset casserole or Dutch oven pot is perfect for this) over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, leek, fennel seeds, bay leaf and saffron. Cook until the onion is softened. Then add the fresh tomatoes and peppers.
Cook over a medium heat for another five minutes then add the fish and mussels, cook for approximately ten minutes until the mussels are open and the fish is tender.
Check your seasoning, add black pepper and parsley and serve with crusty bread.
This month I’ve been drinking reds. Even though it’s June, it can be chilly outside!
Try this wine, Little J (2010) £10 from Austria, made from the Zweigelt grape, similar to Gamay.
Corte Giara Amarone di Valpolicella (2010) at £25 a wine for celebrations and occasions. Great with a cheesy pasta.
Valpolicella Allergrini (2012) lovely for a tenner. Try with a mushroom sauce and pasta