Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine. Show all posts

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Puglia, a wine tour of Salento

Negroamaro grape

My latest wine education adventure was in Puglia, Italy, in the region of Salento with Salento Wine Tours. We started with an excellent lunch by the sea sampling Salento IGT. Indicazione Geografica Tipica is a designation which was created to accommodate growers who couldn't meet all the DOC or DOCG regulations for whatever reason but were still producing great wines. It is one of the most commonly used IGT titles in Puglia, southern Italy.

Salento, the limestone-based terroir, is a peninsula that divides the Adriatic Sea from the Ionian Sea and provides Italy with its 'heel'. Salento IGT wines can be red, white, rosé, still, sparkling, passito or dry – basically any style the local winemakers can think of, they can make. The majority, however, stick to the time honoured established styles of the area: powerful, dry, rustic reds.

Traditional Puglian varieties are most commonly used, particularly those for the local DOC-level wines. Southern Puglia's star DOCs are Primitivo di Manduria and Salice Salentino. Unsurprisingly,  the main grape varieties (Primitivo, Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera) are also essential to Salento IGT wines. The aromatic red Aleatico and the unsung Susumaiello (by the way I love that name) also get a turn in the spotlight, as does the grape Fiano, making a token appearance in the white wine category.

When you think of Southern Italy, the words hot, dry and flat spring to mind - and that is most definitely the terroir of Puglia. As you get closer to the coast, you can find relief from the famous hot weather of Southern Italy, accurately nicknamed Il Mezzogiorno (meaning 'the midday' and referring to the relentless heat). Olive tree groves dominate the landscape, and, although Italy is known for its olive oil, you won't find olive trees in such density anywhere else in the country. The region produces almost half of Italy's olive oil. Vineyards are prolific here, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of olive tree groves too.

Among the wine regions in Puglia is Salento. It is in the southeastern section or the “heel” of the boot. Many of the wines produced here stray from the designated growing zone, blend or ageing specifications of their proprietary DOCs. They are therefore categorised as IGT.  This gives producers the freedom to experiment and make wines the way they see fit. 

The peninsula of Puglia contains two other viticultural areas, Brindisi and Taranto. The dominant red grapes grown are Primitivo, Negroamaro, and Malvasia Nero. These blends are often released as IGTs and are technically rosso blends, often having international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah in the mix or they are made into single varietal wines. There are also some excellent Salento Rosato wines, a few of which we tried on this trip. Whites (biancos) tend to be made with Verdeca and Francavilla. Producers also often use international varietals such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in their blends.

One can also find novello (young), frizzante (lightly sparkling) and passito (sweet) wines produced under the Salento IGT designation.

During my stay in the region of Salento, I got to know Negroamaro which is a native red wine grape variety from southern Italy. It is grown almost exclusively in Apulia and grows particularly well in  Salento.  The grape can produce fragrant,  rustic wines,  very dark in colour and slightly earthy on the palate.  We sampled some delicious single-varietal Negroamaro wines as well as blends of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera in Salice Salentino.

Another grape that caught my attention was the Susumaniello. Although it's considered a New Wave grape, it's an ancient grape of the area. Susumaniello also hails from Salento in Apulia. It’s found almost exclusively around the town of Brindisi, often used in rustic blends with the likes of Negroamaro, Primitivo, and Malvasia Nera. Nowadays, it's taking its place as a single varietal wine.

Salento Wine Tours organised this unique 'Negroamaro wine tour'  around the region over four days, we visited wineries, vineyard and lots of eateries around the area sampling the food and wines of the region. They offer luxury wine tours,  private wine tours and group wine tours, cooking classes in a relaxed environment and English speaking wine expert guides throughout the visit. For more details, please head to Salento Wine Tours 

*The wineries we visited in Salento*

Leone de Castris in Salice Salentino

A small village in the region of Salento is the home of Leone de Castris, a historical winery of great importance in the area.  They were the first ones to produce quality wine in Salento.  The village was founded around the winery back in 1665. We visited the winery, the wine museum and sampled their wines over lunch.
Chandelier Murano c. 1700

Dona Lisa portrait

Their first harvest of  Negroamaro in 1943  is called Five Roses  - a Rosé wine. The name comes from the family; there are three generations and five children (five roses). On curious fact was that back in the day,  Leone de Castris paid their workers, who were mainly women, the same as the male workers.

Their wines can be found  at Eurowines  and Fiandaca in the UK

Our meal at Leone de Castris

Villa Donna Lisa restaurant at Leone de Castris, Puglia

Salice Salentino Rosso Riserva DOC “50°
Salice Salentino DOC, grapes: 90% negroamaro, 10%Malvasia Nera di Lecce. The garnet red colour. On the nose red fruits, herbal, pepper, tobacco and cocoa. On the palate, it is soft,  with a well-balanced tannin with a slightly bitter finish.

Troccoli cime de rapa topped with Puglia stracciatella  e gamberi 

swordfish with Salmoriglio (rocket rosemary olive oil salt pepper)  and vegetables
2010 Five Roses 67th Anniversary Salento I.G.T. from Leone de Castris, a fresh and floral Rosé. Varietal: Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera, On the nose, is fresh, berry fruits with floral notes.  On the palate, the fruit, medium acidity, tannic and well-structured. 
La torta millefoglie al caffè

Leone de Castris
Via Senatore de Castris
73015 Salice Salentino (LE) Italy
Tel. +39 0832 731112

L'Astore Masseria

L'Astore Masseria 'Wine Cathedral'

L'Astore is located on the outskirts of Cutrofiano, the town is known for pottery with a strong Greek influence. 
The winery is full of history and tradition.  The winemaking tradition dates back to the 1940's when they produced wine in large quantities to be sold “by the tank”. In the late 1990's they initiated the production of quality wines at a great expenditure and with much hard work.  They have been certified organic since 2012. They only work with native grapes from Salento: Negroamaro, Aglianico, Primitivo, Malvasia Bianca, and Susumaniello.

Next, we visited the underground Oil Mill which they converted into a wine cellar,  according to the architectural traditions of the Salento area. It features star-vaulted ceilings, and they use only regional materials such as the local limestone and sandstone. Italians and foreign visitors alike call it, “the cathedral of wine.”

L'Astore Masseria
Via Giuseppe di Vittorio, 1, 73020 Cutrofiano LE, Italy
Phone: +39 0836 542020

Next Post: Eating and Drinking in Salento with Salento Wine Tours

Disclosure: I was a guest of Salento Wine Tours for review purposes. All views are my own

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Getting to know Lugana and Valpolicella wines

Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London

Onwards with my wine education, I was recently introduced to the Italian wines of Lugana and Valpolicella over dinner at the iconic Savoy Grill in London.

Lugana wines are relatively unknown in this country, but the Consorzio Lugana D.O.C. is making an effort to raise their profile here in the UK.  I was invited to a delicious meal at The Savoy Grill to get to know about Lugana and Valpolicella by UK Sommelier Association.

Lugana is located in northern Italy, in and around the territory of lower Lake Garda. It's a gorgeous place, I've seen pictures, with vineyards ringing the lake and the Italian Swiss Alps in the background. They mainly produce white wines made with the Turbiana grape, which is a variant of Trebbiano. The wine is classified into five designations, 'basic', the Superior, Riserva, Vendemmia Tardiva and Spumante.

The 'basic' Lugana D.O.C. makes up 90% of the production and gives wines that have an intense and delicate bouquet with notes of almonds, white flowers and citrus. On the palate, it is dry, fresh and refined.

Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London

At the Savoy Grill, our first course was Fresh Crab Avocado Salad with crème fraîche and was paired with various Lugana whites. I found the wines to be smooth and elegant, a far cry from your usual Pinot Grigio.

Our next few courses were matched with wines from the Valpolicella DOC. Valpolicella is also located in and around Lake Garda as well as having proximity to Verona and Venice.

The UK is one of the top markets for Valpolicella. It's commonly found in your local supermarket, but there is much more to it than that.

The wines are divided into three separate categories. There is the  Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Ripasso and  Amarone della Valpolicella.  The sweet red wines  are known as Recioto della Valpolicella. The main grapes used for the blend are Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Each wine is made in a distinct style, and they vary wildly from light and fruity to dark.

The Valpolicella Classico is a blend of the three grapes and is vinified in the usual red wine making method. Ripasso is made by macerating the wine with fermented marc (grape brandy) and dried grapes that have already been used to produce Amarone and/or Recioto. Amarone is made by drying the grapes for up to 3 months before being vinified into wine. Finally, Recioto is a sweet red wine perfect for dessert.

These are gastronomic wines, mostly being strong and robust, they need dishes that can stand up to their intensity.
Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London
The second course was Steak Tartar with Caviar, slow cooked egg yolk and Parmesan cheese. It was paired with Valpolicella Classico and the Valpolicella Ripasso. The wines were real powerhouses with a long finish, smooth tannins with balanced acidity and structure.
Lugana & Valpolicella at Savoy Grill London
The main was Venison Wellington with Salt Baked Celeriac and bitter chocolate sauce. It was paired with the Amarone della Valpolicella. The wine has an illusion of sweetness, being full bodied with hints of dried fruits, firm tannins and high acidity. Be careful with them because they are ka-pow!

Savoy Grill London
Black Forest Trifle with pistachio brittle at The Savoy Grill 

Lastly, we had the Recioto della Valpolicella which are the sweet red wines of the region matched with Black Forest Trifle with pistachio brittle. The dark chocolate and sour cherries of the Trifle were reflected brilliantly in the dessert, a fabulous way to end the evening.

Wines Tasted:
Consorzio Lugana
1) Lugana 2016 Bio, Az. Agr. Marangona
2) Lugana 2016, Conchiglia, Az. Agr. Citari
3) Lugana 2016, Az. Agr. Bulgarini
4) Lugana 2016, Vigneti Villabella
5) Lugana 2016, Gruccione, Az. Agr. Nunzio Ghiraldi
6) Lugana 2016, Limne, Az. Agr. Tenuta Roveglia
7) Lugana 2015, Brolettino, Az. Agr. Cà dei Frati
8) Lugana 2015, Fabio Contato, Az. Agr. Cà Maiol
9) Lugana Riserva 2014 Molceo, Az. Agr. Ottella
10) Lugana Superiore 2011 Madonna della Scoperta, Az. Agr. Perla del Garda

Consorzio Valpolicella


1) Az. Agricola Montetondo - Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2014
2) Az. Agricola Meroni - Valpolicella DOC Superiore 2010 "Il Velluto"

Valpolicella Ripasso

3) Corte Merci - Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso 2015
4) Tenuta Santa Maria alla Pieve - Valpolicella DOC Classico Superiore Ripasso 2014
5) Benazzoli - Valpolicella DOC Superiore Ripasso 2013

Amarone della Valpolicella

6) Vigneti di Ettore - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2013
7) Cantina Valpantena - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012 "Torre del Falasco"
8) Crosarola - Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG 2012
9) Villa Rinaldi - Amarone della Valpolicella DOC 2003 "Corpus" (my favourite!)

Recioto delola Valpolicella

10) Villa Crine - Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG 2014 

Thanks to UK Sommelier Association, Consorzio della Valpolicella and  Consorzio Lugana DOC  for the opportunity to savour such delicious and elegant wines.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Spain, a luxury stay at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

Arriving in Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine is very much like the start of a glamorous Hollywood film. A long curved driveway reveals a limestone Abadia (monastery) from the 12th Century.  Reception is very welcoming, and understated elegance seems to flow over the building from decor to service.

The refurbishment work took ten years to complete. Its craftsmanship is of high quality, and the materials work in tandem with the local ecosystem.  The abbey is sustainable and historical, sharing close ties to the technical development that took place during the Roman Empire.  The rooms have windows and shutters, thermally insulated curtains and an underfloor heating system to ensure they are visually sleek and pleasing.

Everything has been thought out. The service at the hotel is discreet and elegant with small personal touches that make the whole experience even more enjoyable.

The resident Stork

detail of the church

The rooms are very spacious; mine had a beautiful view of the vineyard. The estate produces a small amount of wine of high quality.  The vineyard and the winery are very well kept, and they have interesting wines in their bodega.

My room at LeDomaine

My superior double room was a perfect size for a solo traveller, decked out with Loewe TV with international channels and Nespresso coffee machine. The Queen size bed was comfortable and dressed in crisp white linen. The fluffy white towels and bathrobe are of the best quality possible.

A bottle of their award winning  Abadia Retuerta Special Selection Sardon de Duero 2013  was waiting for me in the room. One thing made me very happy was my room views to the vineyard in both the room and the bathroom. The bath was strategically positioned so I could see the vineyard from it.  That's luxury!

A bathroom with a view at LeDomaine
The view from my room

The wine at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

They have a range of wines; the first one is their Special Selection which is a blend of 3 varietals, 75%tempranillo (Spanish varietal), 15% cabernet sauvignon and  10% Syrah, it is their best seller.

The second one is their Pago (plot) wine; these are single varietal Pagos - 100% cabernet sauvignon, the Pago Garduna, 100% Syrah, the Pago 100% Tempranillo, and the Pago 100% Petit Verdot. T

Their third line is the Nine Marker Collection which is an experimental wine list, made with international varietals, like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Touriga National,  Gewürztraminer, and Graciano. These wines are not on the market; they are experimental wines to see and study the behaviour of international grapes in their terroir and weather conditions.

A tour around the vineyard and winery is a must!

The SPA at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

The underground spa won the award for Best Spa 2016, it is beautifully designed and very welcoming. Every treatment room is named after an estate wine.

The Spa Sommelier Experience is a unique personalised wellness experience inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine's five element theory and wine tasting ritual. 'The five S'  - see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour.
The Spa Sommelier Experience

My first treatment was a surprising mix of wine, essential oils; cedar, (woody) thyme - herbal and yuzu (citrus/grassy). What follows is then a bespoke wine tasting where you choose an oil to have with your treatment. The Sommelier 1 treatments last for 90 minutes and let me tell you that it’s not long enough! It’s an enjoyable experience when you have a full body massage with the essential oil of your choice. The room overlooked an internal garden with green vegetation and a water feature.  It’s enclosed and very private.  I feel asleep during the treatment, and I left the spa floating!

The next day, my second treatment was a full body scrub, a body wrap and another full body massage with yuzu oil. I am not sure if it was the oil or the vigorous massage, but I felt super sleepy afterwards. My skin felt very smooth and revitalised.  Ahhh, Bliss!
One of many treatment rooms

On my third day, I had a full facial with an added delightful 30-minute foot massage. This time we were in the ‘Special Selection’ room. It’s a bigger space, with two massage tables, an oval bathtub, private shower and steam room. An enormous double silver sofa dominates the room. This room can be booked in advance to enjoy as a couple, with your lover, your parent, or your best friend.  It overlooks another private internal garden.

Interestingly every treatment starts with a foot scrub in gorgeous ceramic bowls and jugs! They are made by a local ceramist, again in keeping with Abadia Retuerta’s philosophy of supporting their staff, the local economy and the environment. After the foot scrub, I moved to the massage table. The treatment always starts with the sound of small double bells.  It’s a terrific experience; it's no wonder this SPA was awarded Best Spa 2016.
The Spa at LeDomaine
SPA indoor pool

Eating at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

Michelin starred Refectorio at LeDomaine

There are two restaurants at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine; one is the Michelin starred Refectorio, and the other is the Vinoteca, the later is an all day modern and relaxed approach to dining using local and seasonal ingredients.
Their wine cellar is incredibly well stocked, both with their wines as well as with a small but well-formed list of fine wines from all over the world. 

The all day dining restaurant's wall is covered with their wines. It’s an informal space but still has a carefully curated menu and the service is excellent.

Some of the beautiful dishes I ate at Vinoteca
butter was divine dusted with Salt de Vino (wine salt), baking is done in the premisses
white asparagus and aioli

grilled artichokes with hazelnut cream

air baguette, marinated 'iberico presa', capers, rocket and parmesan

steak tartare
this was amazing white fish carpaccio served with a very hot olive oil dressing and Tiger mussel

my love for rice .... juice rice with prawns  from Medina del Campo (nearby town), squid and aioli

Cecina  de Leon, salted and dried meat, served with oli, pepper and pan con tomate  served with Cava

Breakfast at Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

One of my many delicious experiences at LeDomaine was the breakfast.  Talk about starting the day off right!

They offer an excellent list of coffee, teas, infusions, and fresh juices. There is also a platter of seasonal fruits available. They also have a variety of milk for all tastes and dietary requirements. The bread basket is very comprehensive, full of local cakes and homemade bread - whatever you choose, you can’t go wrong!

The eggs were cooked as they should be! I had Eggs Benedict with Iberico ham - a fabulous combination. Pan con Tomate - one of my favourite Spanish dishes - so simple but made with ingredients that were top notch.

A selection of cured meats from Iberico to loin, chorizo to boiled ham. The cheeses were both from cow and cured sheep's milk - accompanied with quince and walnuts

Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine is a hidden gem in the Ribera del Duero. It is just outside a small village called Sardon de Duero, near Valladolid.
They also offer plenty of other activities in and around the estate.
I had lunch in the nearby village of Traspinedo at 'Entre Brasas y Sarmiento',  a very modest local restaurant serving regional and seasonal food, it's no frills and done just right.  Their speciality is pincho de Lechazo Asado a la brasa de Sarmiento, translated as:  local baby lamb cooked on the skewer over an open fire. Fantastic food and friendly service. I also learned to make sourdough bread at the Michelin star  Refectorio's kitchen

Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine

How to get there

LeDomaine is located in Spain’s north central province of Castilla y León. It is situated on the banks of the River Duero east of Valladolid in Ribera del Duero region.

Connected by plane to the airports of Valladolid "Villanubla" and Madrid "Barajas".
    By car from the airport of Valladolid to LeDomaine: 40 km.
    By car from the airport of Madrid to LeDomaine: 220 km.

By High-Speed Train from Madrid "Chamartin" Station to Valladolid "Campo Grande" Station: 55 minutes.

By car from Valladolid "Campo Grande" Station to LeDomaine: 30 km.

GPS: 41º 36' 54.95" N, 4º 24' 39" W

Personalised transfer service on request.


47340 Sardon de Duero Valladolid,Spain

Tel: +34 983 680 368


Next Post: A Michelin dinner at Refectorio at LeDomaine

Disclosure: I was a guest at Abadia Retuerta for review purposes, this press trip was organised by Magellan PR . All views are my own.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...