With the change of season (always optimistic) around the corner, it's that time of year where gardens, patios, parks and anywhere that allows sunshine to beam in, are filled with smiling people with woollies shrugged off and sleeves rolled up. We spend most of the year waiting for this very window of sunny disposition, so it's critical we enjoy it to its fullest, and that means being prepared (cue wine!). I'm going to run through some of our best-selling and uniquely individual white wines that will be sure to keep the thirst quenched and the party spirit flowing.
Firstly, Langhe Arneis, a wonderfully 'under the radar' white wine from Piedmont, north-west Italy bordering France, an area that's more synonymous with the likes of Barolo and Barbaresco. The Arneis grape has risen from relative obscurity to become what some winemakers consider to be the most interesting white wine grape in Piedmont. Back in the 1970's, Arneis was actually used as a decoy to keep the birds and bees away from the prized Nebbiolo grapes. Now, with over 2000 acres of planting around Langhe and Roero, this grape gives off beautiful scents of white grapefruit, mango and sour apple, mingling with those of white flowers. For the adventure seeker who takes the long way round in the hope of discovering something new, this is for you! A thrill of a wine that seeks to be found, and more importantly, enjoyed for all of its uniqueness and exoticness.
For our next wines, we're headed to the north-eastern part of Italy, wherein lies the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and which has a particularly international wine scene. It's widely agreed that Friuli’s winemakers set the modern standard for making white wine in Italy. How? With the introduction of stainless steel tanks and the temperature control it permitted, everything changed, bringing about a new style of wines designed to preserve the pure flavour of the grapes. The prototype was, and still is, a crisp bright wine with pure varietal character. Let's talk about 2 white grape varieties that are indigenous to this region:
Friulano - The region’s signature contributor to the world of white wine; Italy’s answer to Tocai, a typically full-bodied wine, fruity and aromatic aromas. This wine is perfect for combating salty and fatty meats such as gammon and Parma ham. The sweet and salty ham is matched by the fruity and minerally wine, the fattiness of the ham checked by the wine’s brisk acidity. This is an award-winning wine, collecting bronze at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards.
Ribolla Gialla - This wine, literally meaning yellow ribbon, is currently in vogue in Italy; I mean, it's being poured in virtually every Trattoria and Osteria even outside of north-east Italy which, by Italian standards, speaks volumes about its popularity and demand. It pairs extremely well with oysters and grilled fish on account of its floral aromas and lovely citrus palate which is rounded off by a lingering and refreshing acidity. Also, a great lunchtime wine with its lower than average alcohol content of 12.5%. That reminds me....
All three of us at Arthouse Wine are rugby fans with partners who are rugby fans so this Saturday is a big springtime event: Super Saturday when the final matches of the 6 Nations Tournament are played out. Starting around 12pm and ending some 3 x 80- minute matches later and watched with friends, you want to have some drinks and snacks on the go – it can be thirsty work, believe me!
This year, I am making pizzette – little pizzas about 8cm across – in the morning and will dress them and put them in the oven during the 3 half-times. Couldn’t be simpler (famous last words). I have taken the dough recipe from Paola Bacchia’s ‘Italian Street Food’’ cookbook and ordered some Italian pork and fennel sausages and scamorza (smoked mozzarella) from Fratelli Camisa's website. I am aiming to keep us all going on various combinations of toppings including Paola’s: small sweet tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; Gorgonzola, sautéed mushrooms and thyme; Italian sausage (remove the skins and mash the meat with a fork before cooking), mozzarella and courgette. Drink whatever you like – it’s going to be a long day/night - but my mouth is watering at the thought of drinking our lovely Chianti Classico with these. Our Nunzi Conti Chianti Classico is produced in one of the seven sub-zones of Chianti and can therefore be labelled Classico. It will have spent more time in the barrel and the vines, having lower yields than other Chiantis, are able to produce higher quality fruit. The Sangiovese grape here is markedly black cherry in aroma and flavour, has a distinctive taste that is very Tuscan and pairs beautifully with pizza (big or small!).
Click "Read More" below for Paola’s pizzette recipe.
We currently have 3 sparkling wines in our online wine shop. They are all delicious but how do you decide which sparkling wine to try? Find all three in this month's 'Celebrate it's February' Case with FREE delivery....
Lucciole , literally meaning 'fireflies', is our best seller for a reason...it appeals to everyone. An extra-dry sparkling rosé the colour of rose petals presented in a voluptuous bottle with a pale pink foil and vintage-photo label. Made from Corvina (the main grape found in Valpolicella wines) and Syrah, it's rounded and fruity in taste with lovely candied notes of red fruit berries such as strawberry and raspberry. Dry and versatile when it comes to matching food, it has a particular affinity with charcuterie, Caesar and Niçoise Salads, duck, and desserts such as zabaglione.
Serve it, as they do in Verona, in a coupe glass with a single basil leaf.
Bruttino is 100% Pinot Noir so is more dense and richer than the others with that yeasty/toasty component being prevalent. It can withstand heavier food pairings than both the Lucciole and Perschers.
Enjoy it as an aperitif with crostini and olives or with fish: sea bream or monkfish tails in a lemon, thyme and butter sauce. If you fancy something meaty, you could pair this nicely with roast chicken and tarragon, or a herbed pork fillet with buttery mash or gratin. Mmmm, that’s Valentine’s Day menu sorted.
Bruttino also has the ability to age longer.
Perschers, meaning 'a good time', comes from vineyards situated in Barbaresco, a picturesque and quaint village known more famously for its Barbaresco, deemed to be the queen of Italian red wines, the King being Barolo. Perschers is a blend of Chardonnay and Arneis grapes. It is made in the traditional 'Metodo Classico' exactly like Champagne. While all quality sparkling wines go through a second fermentation, the 'Metodo Classico' means this happens in the bottle and is followed up by a period of 'sur-lie' ageing in a cellar which gives the wine its texture and complex flavours.
Perschers has a fresh, fruity and aromatic style, there's still a bit of body and richness to it that comes from the 'sur-lie' ageing in bottle but it's counterbalanced more with the natural zest and tropical nuances of the Arneis grape. A good wine to pair up with Asian-influenced dishes or dishes with spice.
In the same way that we are surprised by bad weather every winter in the UK and the arrival of Christmas every December, generally we feel optimistic at the start of January, eager to take down the decorations and resume normal service; about 3 days in we feel disheartened, bleak and utterly miserable. It’s good to take stock but I’m not sure how beneficial it is to embark on a punishing regime; it certainly doesn’t work for me: long dark days at low ebb need a small treat at the end to get me through and that, for me, is a glass of lovely wine.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Matt Kramer’s article http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Matt-Kramer-25-New-Wines-to-Try-in-2017 about setting yourself the ‘learning’ challenge of discovering new wines and the author has compiled a must-try list that will take you out of your wine comfort zone (note: 4 of the 25 are from Italy and wines we stock). Madeline Puckette ‘certified wine geek’ and author of ‘Wine Folly – an Essential Guide to Wine’ writes a fantastic piece on her Wine Folly blog entitled ‘Wine is the secret to being skinny, happy and wise’ where she backs up each light-hearted point with hard evidence and it makes for an uplifting read http://winefolly.com/uncategorized/why-wine-will-make-you-skinny-happy-and-wise/
I say, cheer is not just for Christmas. I have a dear friend coming to stay next week and I shall pour her some of our wines from lesser-known grapes to try: Aglianico and Falanghina from near Naples in Campania, Arneis and Dolcetto from Piedmont and Sicilian Etna Rosso and Rosato made from Nerello Mascalese – I can guarantee she is going to have a great visit!
Italy is THE wine-producing country to discover this year: all those fabulous and esoteric indigenous grapes; if nothing else, you will have an idea where to go to on your next holiday/city break and what to drink when you get there. So, this January, learn something new (Italian wine), be sociable (it’s good for your health) and consider this: you don’t have to cut out, maybe cut down BUT make it count!
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Thank you to every single one of our customers for your support over the last 12 months! It has been an interesting first year for the three of us at Art House Wine. We have learnt a great deal about the wine industry and running a business together – we all have our individual and complementary strengths. We are mildly anxious about the future effects of Brexit but we have a lot to be thankful for.
We believe in our wine producers and have faith in their ability to make a wonderful product with love, care and expertise and we love that you appreciate a good thing when you see (taste) it. Thank you. Running your own business isn’t easy but we are giving it our best shot and keeping a sense of perspective...... as the great man himself, Sir Terry Wogan, said
“get on your toes, keep your wits about you, say goodnight politely when it’s over, go home and enjoy your dinner”
Cheers Terry! Merry Christmas everybody!
We were asked recently to answer some questions about the business. Dario is our Wine Director and is based in Italy. He was first off the mark (I’m putting it down to time difference!) and given that our wines and producers have been clocking up awards left, right and centre we thought it only fitting that we gave him the stage. Over to you, Dario (loud applause!)
1. Who is Art House Wine?
"Art House Wine is a contemporary wine brand that is currently pursuing the latest wine treasures that have yet to be discovered in the UK. We want our winemakers’ wines to look appealing, taste phenomenal, and give customers the chance to discover new varietals from the hundreds of indigenous varietals Italy has to offer (highest in the world)".
2. What do you do?
"I select the wine for Art House Wine by tasting as many wines from as many regions, here in Italy. Enotecas have become my office, and if a wine varietal, label, bottle shape or simply a glass of what they've got open that day, becomes of interest, it's tasted!
Having the opportunity to visit the vineyard and meet the winemakers makes it all the more visceral and rewarding. There's a sense of kindred spirit and a bond that you feel when someone welcomes you into their home and shares their life passions with you".
3. Why only Italian wine?
"I think it's important to specialise in one or two things, so you can put your sole focus on maintaining the highest standard in that particular field/product. So, having an affiliation with Italy from day one (I was born there) lent an obvious choice as to where we were going. Plus, Italy has so much going on in terms of regional food and drink that you're always spoiled for choice. I also think that what's coming out of Italy now in terms of wine could be looked at as pioneering".
4. 3 words that best sum up AHW?
"Glass Always Full!"
5. Which is your favourite wine?
"It's hard to name a favourite so I'll whittle it down to one white and one red: white - Falanghina from Terra di Briganti; red - Etna Rosso from Piano dei Daini".
6. What do you love most about Italy?
"The thing I love most about Italy is the lifestyle. There's a chaotic order by which I mean there's a rule of thumb for most things and only by integrating in Italian life, will you begin to see/understand those. Just to use a few examples, if it's raining, you use an umbrella. Cappuccinos are drank solely in the mornings. Dinner is eaten at least after 20.30. And lastly, whenever you drink wine, you eat food".
It’s been a deliciously buzzy autumn so far. We heralded in the last vestiges of summer with some glorious wines from the Bosco vineyard in the Abruzzo region: a walloping Chardonnay, a super anytime-anyplace-anywhere rosé and two lip-smacking Montepulcianos, one a Riserva: big glass to allow the aromas to gad about, lit fire, comfy chair and a bit of quiet time in which to savour the long finish of this wine whilst contemplating the joys of life, and your life in particular. (Yep, I have a fantasy scenario for all my drinks not to mention an outfit - Marni, Dries Van Noten, Margaret Howell and cleverly mixed in vintage, FYI).
Currently, we are in a heightened state of anticipation for the arrival of wines from two new vineyards in Sicily: biting nails, tapping feet and gulping wine SIMPLY CANNOT WAIT!
While there will always be room for more wine, we feel that for our first year in business we have achieved a good representation of Italy’s important wine-growing regions. We started out last November with just 18 wines and 1 olive oil and we are now stocking 38 with 6 more to hit the site in the next fortnight. We are delighted to have made this progress – in fact we may have to crack open a bottle or two in celebration!
Also coming soon: our new 2-bottle wine boxes so although these may not be ideal for stocking your cellar/wine rack/cupboard under the stairs, they are perfect for sending as gifts to special people or treasured employees (and you-know-what is just around the corner!).
We are also offering wine tastings to introduce you, your friends or your customers to our wines. If you wish to host a very special Art House Wine tasting, please contact us to arrange. We are based in the South-West but can travel, within reason.
Finally, we will be exhibiting at Cheltenham Wine Festival in April 2017 and would love to meet you there! One for the diary (leather-bound with hand-crafted pages).
“Good Clothes Open All Doors” – Thomas Fuller 1608-1661.
Since my sister bought me this quote as a fridge magnet many moons ago, I have used it as a justification for buying an expensive item of clothing. (Ironically, having bought a very sleek black fridge a few years ago the magnet has been retired as the new fridge is way too cool for magnets). I don’t buy many clothes (I’m in the wine business, remember, S-K-I-N-T) but it is always the ones from years ago that were beyond my means but I couldn’t pass by that are still with me today and still get commented on.
Because, at Art House Wine, we are a superficial bunch, one of our criteria for buying a wine is that it has to look as good as it tastes. We love a good-looking label and so, apparently, do the majority of wine consumers when faced with a choice of wines that they know little about; the label swings it every time.
Italy is a great wine-producing country where new wine-growing technology and techniques are being married with centuries-old tradition, experience and grape varieties so it makes sense that where Italian vineyards are producing more contemporary wines they should project a modern image; out with the medieval scrolls and family crests on labels and in with the works of living artists and graphic designers.
After all, if a producer is investing in what is inside the bottle, why wouldn’t they invest in what is on the outside? It is the first thing the customer sees and has to make the right impression. Why would you slap a generic label on a carefully nurtured, developed, blended and original product? A truly great label gives you the necessary information about the contents but it also waxes lyrical and persuasively about the treasure that lies within and gives you something stylish to look at on the table. So go ahead and choose your wine by its label; it is the bottle’s – and the vineyard’s – ‘good clothes’ and it may open the door to a new wine!
Our Nemorino labels are drawn by artist Mattia di Rosa, product designer for Alessi. Bosco winery’s Donna Bosco’s labels are from paintings by 70-year-old Costa Rican artist Lilian and they are dedicated to the women of the Bosco family who supported the winery over its long history.
I’ve just come back from 2 wonderful weeks in France. We travelled on my husband’s motorbike “une ‘arley Davidson” – he rode, concentrated, navigated while I looked around, dreamed, smelled the air , felt the changes in temperature as we cruised about. The French love motorbikes (well you would if you had their climate) and are fantastically bike-friendly. Motorists in any queue generously make way for bikes to sail through the gaps onward bound. They understand and it is heart-warming and I loved them all for it. Then there’s the conversation, forget your cute puppies and babies, a motorbike will get you noticed and everyone wants to ask you about it and tell you what they ride.
I have always loved the solidarity amongst bikers: they will nod, wave or (as in France) kick a leg out as acknowledgement that you are all in the same club. There’s an unwritten code that you stop and help a biker that’s stuck at the side of the road. As someone who has spent more than my fair share of being stuck at the side of the road (due to husband’s love of vintage bikes) I can testify that bikers on bikes or bikers who happen to be driving a car that day are the ones that stop because chances are they’ve been that person in need or will be one day.
It’s good to stop and help someone - even if they can sort themselves out, it’s showing you care. And that’s a lesson to us all.
The past few weeks have definitely been difficult to make sense of on a global, national and personal level. The Italians have a saying “La calma e' la virtu' dei forti” (Calm is the virtue of the strong) so with this mind I would like to share some heartwarming images from Pinterest to make you calm and strong and believe in mankind!
Very enthusiastic wine lover who loves a party!