Showing posts with label wine tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wine tourism. 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, 25 April 2017

France, Languedoc-Roussillon: Stylish stays and amazing eats with Pays d'Oc wines

As part of my Pays d'Oc wine adventure, a meal at Michelin-starred restaurant La Table de Saint Crescent and at Domaine Gayda happened to be on the cards as well as a very stylish stay at Château St Pierre de Serjac in Puissalicon and a quirky overnight at a barge/hotel.

A Michelin meal at La Table Saint Crescent

The restaurant La Table Saint Crescent( part of a former oratory from the Middle Ages) opened its doors for the first time in 1995 after a major refurbishment.  The imposing building is located on the outskirts of Narbonne, a town full of history, along with the Canal de la Robine.

Since 2008, when Chef Lionel Giraud took over the management of the kitchen, we were told that over the years the place has been continually refurbished, but always in keeping with the building's architectural history. The dining room is modern, light, airy and elegant. The service was when we visited was exceptional and very knowledgeable.

Our dishes and wine were perfectly matched with Pays D'Oc wines below:

Pays D'Oc wines served with our meal at La Table Saint Crescent

Mackerel in three citrus potato - liquid centre explosion of citrus juice

Dry olive, fruits and citrous sphere that was another fun explosion eat!

Crisp tapioca very finely sliced  monkfish chicks , sesame oil, wood vines on top

Pays d'Oc wine with our starters

Fish soup  - I loved it!  Super filling, very tasty and so pretty

Well, what can I say I ate almost all before taking the picture It was amazing!  Celeriac remoulade coffee from Ethiopia nuts mushroom and mustard leaf croutons

Lobster, Cabbage,  local fortified sweet red wine (Banyuls) reduction - This dish was paired with a full bodies red wine from Pays d'Oc -  - Yes, seafood and red wine and it worked a treat!
Palate cleanser : citrous meringue - refreshing and I thought that was dessert ....

Dessert: Light citrus ice cream with chocolate crumble and dark chocolate mousse berries and edible flowers - Chocolate is always a good idea!  a beauty of dish and delicious!
I really enjoyed this Michelin meal - highly recommended.  
La Table de Saint Crescent in Narbonne
T: +33 4 68 41 37 37

Dinner at Domaine Gayda in Brugairolles with Pays D'Oc wines

Located about 20km from Carcassonne, Chef Jean-Christophe Gille is serving delightful food in a very welcoming atmosphere with stylish decor and stunning views of the organic vineyards.   We were taken around the cellars by  Tim Ford, co-owner of  Domaine Gayda,  and his fabulous wife, Barbara.  We heard so many interesting histories of how they met, how Tim end up in Africa and Barbara eventually followed him.  I could've stayed at that table hearing the history of the Domaine and their own stories for days. It was a great dinner with fantastic food and great company.  I love learning and hearing the behind the scenes facts and anecdotes from the  wine producers.
The restaurant is beautifully decorated, quite modern and very spacious. Service was cordial. I was told they have a huge New Years Eve party every year. 

The meal 
All made in the premisses and look that branded butter
Pea soup and wasabi- light and refreshing

Brandade  and pickled onion - Brandade is a
emulsion of salt cod and olive oil this one had a sharp pickled onion on top - nice touch

Foie gras lentils bacon, Toast and cream horseradish paired with Gayda  Chenin Blanc - The sweet and sour of the wine cut through the fatty and delectable Foie and being a lentil lover I  really enjoyed this dish. Never thought of the combination of lentil, bacon and foie - always learning something different.

Mushroom and  Hazelnuts, cod,  fish eggs and mash olive oil - that mash potato was a dream... not for the fainted hearted.

Local beef, potato fondant, ceps and  celeriac paired with Cabernet Franc- Figure Libre 2015 - the wine cherry, cassis notes and spices. Elegant, full-bodied and perfect pairing with this hearty meat dish.

Apple chestnut cream (Creme de Marron) apple compote  and French toast nice looking dessert!

Cheeses: Comte,  bethmale, ewe coulommiers and quince - I enjoyed the local cheeses.

This place is a wine and food  lovers dream!

Domaine Gayda
Chemin de Moscou
11300 Brugairolles
Phone: +33(0)4 68 20 65 87

Stylish stays in the Languedoc-Roussillon to explore Pays D'Oc wines

Château St Pierre de Serjac in Puissalicon

Who wants to stay in a Château? A majestic Château estate overlooking its working vineyards, it features a hotel, a restaurant, a spa and luxury self-catering properties set in 200 acres of beautiful Mediterranean countryside in the Languedoc, South of France. The property has self-catering properties with private terraces and gardens, and some even come with private heated swimming pools. 

There's also a very swish restaurant and bar in the property serving Pays d'Oc wines too.  A very beautiful , stylish and peaceful place to stay in the region.

An underground cellar in the Chateau - Yes please!

Infinity pool overlooking the vineyard

My room

The view from my room
The restaurant at Château St Pierre de Serjac

Foie Gras, cherry and green apple

Juicy and tender beef tenderloin very nicely cooked for my taste

Alphonsia Maria Barge - chambres & tables d'hotes  in Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone

The barge is almost a hundred years old, it's  an authentic Dutch vessel of 110 feet long. It was built in 1913 in the Netherlands and remained in service until 1998.

In its heyday,  it transported cereals along the small canals all over Northern Europe. Over the past 90 years, the ship has gone through various transformations. First, Alphonsia Maria was built as a sailing boat. However, in 1926, the main mast was taken down and replaced by an engine. Nowadays it's been modernised and is privately owned. It's used as unique accommodation with 4 bedrooms owned and catered by Yann LABAT. 

The barge is quite comfortable and very well equipped with all modern amenities. 
If you like quirky and different place to stay with charm this is a place for you! I loved it. 

They provide wi-fi, bicycles, fishing rods, balls of petanque and canoes as well as breakfast and evening meals. There is also a 150 sqm terrace with a swimming pool, solarium, couch and an outdoor dining area.

We had a Pays D'Oc wine tasting on the deck overlooking the Canal Du Midi with a splendid sunset as the background.  What could be more perfect? The local oysters for the aperitif were caught that morning just a few kilometres away. 

 The evening menu costs €28 and includes an aperitif, appetiser, entree,  and dessert (wine and coffee)
 Lunch from €15: Live oyster tasting, from the Bassin de Thau, delivered daily by the producer, salads and a board of prawns.
Transfers to airport or train station from €25.
I stayed in the "Madame Marguerite" room with a modern shower room including an excellent hair dryer! 
(all prices 2017)

Alphonsia Maria Barge
(nearest city Montpellier : 10 km)
t: +33 (0) 695827441

Disclosure: I was a guest of Pays D'Oc IGP. All opinions are my own.
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