Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Mile High club

Diners keen to escape the daily grind of the capital without leaving London should head to the next Mile High pop-up. Having already jetted diners off to buzzing Berirut and cool Copenhagen, the latest pit stop on their route planner was Sicily. 

Given a boarding pass to print out before you arrive at a secret central London location, the aviation theme begins as soon as you step through the door, where you're warmly greeted by a pair of air hostesses dolled up in retro Pan Am uniforms, evoking the glamour and excitement air travel used to elicit.  

Having got our passports stamped, we're ushered to a Campari bar in the departure lounge for an appetite-whetting apéritif. Bypassing the more traditional options of the Negroni, Bellini and Aperol Spritz, I went off piste with a Gatsby-esque Mint Julep made with Wild Turkey Bourbon and Elderflower liqueur, the freshness of the mint invigorating my palate for the feast that lay ahead.

Waiting patiently until our names were called, my travel buddy and I were ushered through the departure gate, and, after a matter of seconds, arrive safely in Sicily, evoked through a dining space dotted with drying laundry, orange scooters and cockerels balancing on crates. A four-course tour of the flavours of the southern Italian region smacked me round the tastebuds like a left hook from LaMotta – the starter: marinated swordfish in orange and cinnamon with fennel and pine nuts was one of the finest compositions I've tried in a while, the tang of the orange and fennel giving the swordfish a ceviche-like freshness. 

A gigantic plate of "Pasta alla Norma" followed. Piled high with gooey cheese, sweet tomatoes and smokey peppers, it's charm lay in its simplicity and ability to comfort. The main event: slow roasted pork belly with braised cabbage, white beans and Sicilian lemon was a class act, the pork boasting a roof of crunchy cracking packed with piggy flavour, while the meat underneath was achingly tender, lifted by the lemon and made more homely by the beans. 

Post feast, the party carried on back in the departure lounge, where the Juleps continued to flow to the sound of nostalgic tracks from the likes of Fleetwood Mac mixed with Daft Punk's ubiquitous Get Lucky. The next stop on the Mile High itinerary is Mozambique on 18-28 September. Tickets cost £65 and can be bought here, while just £5 will bag you a Campari cocktail in the departure lounge – chocks away!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Montes Taita: Chile's first 'super icon' wine?

Prestigious Chilean producer Montes has released its first “super icon” wine onto the market. The estate’s co-owner and chief winemaker Aurelio Montes launched the wine – Taita – which is specifically being aimed at Asian consumers, at Vinexpo in Bordeaux this week. “I’m allocating the wine all over the world but a large proportion of it will go to Asia,” Montes said.

Just 3,000 bottles of the inaugural 2007 vintage were made, and future vintages of the wine will only be made in exceptional years, Montes confirmed to the drinks business. “With the 2007 vintage I chose to make the blend from 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with the rest made up of Syrah and Carmenere, but it won’t be the same every year – nothing is set in stone. It depends which varieties performed well in the given year,” Montes said.

Named after a word used in South America to mean both “wisdom” and “father”, Taita was made in collaboration with Chilean terroirist Pedro Parra.
“Pedro spent three years analysing the micro terroirs of Marchigue in the Colchagua Valley where there are no rivers,” Montes told db.
“He discovered that an old glacier had formed and melted there thousands of years ago, bringing with it great quantities of alluvial material, which has led to the formation of decomposed granite and clay soils,” he added. The 15.7% abv wine is made from a six hectare plot within a 700-hectare farm and spends two years in 100% new French oak and a further three years in barrel.
The grapes were dry farmed, with Montes explaining that he “wants to touch hell” and see how far he can push things without resorting to irrigation. According to Montes, putting the vines under extreme stress has resulted in a rich, full-bodied wine boasting notes of truffle, mocha, cedar, blackberry, blueberry and bitter chocolate.
In terms of its ageing potential, Montes predicts that Taita will cellar for at least 15 years. Each of the 3,000 bottles, priced at £180 a pop, are adorned with a copper figurine of Montes’ signature winged angel holding a goblet in one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other. 

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Wine 'handbags' hit UK shelves

Forget the latest Louboutins, the chicest accessory to be seen rocking this summer comes with a liquid centre – Swedish company Vernissage has started selling wines shaped to look like designer handbags in the UK due to unprecedented consumer demand. Keen to appeal to fashion savvy consumers, last year the company released the trio in the US and a number of European countries, but overlooked the UK.

But due to repeated requests from British consumers, the wines are now available to buy in the UK through The Exceptional Wine Company. Created by Stockholm-based graphic designer Sofia Blomberg, the “Bag-in-Bag” wines are made at the Nordic Sea Winery in Sweden run by Takis Soldatos.
Comprising a Chardonnay/Viognier blend, a Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, and a Syrah rosé, the range is made from grapes grown in the Languedoc. The wines are packaged in a handbag corresponding to their colour – white, black and pink, finished with a black cord handle and a pop-out spout at one end.
Developed by Blomberg to make the wine inside easy to carry, the 1.5-litre handbags, priced at £25.99 each, are designed to be enjoyed on-the-go. Literally thinking outside the box, Vernissage developed the female-friendly brand in a bid to sex up boxed wine’s unfashionable image. Wine and the City can't wait to get its paws on all three.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Jailhouse hock: Frescobaldi releases prison wine

Prisoners tend to their vines on the tiny Italian island of Gorgona

Revered Italian wine producer Frescobaldi has partnered with a group of inmates on a tiny island in the Tuscan Archipelago on a white wine project. Having planted vines a few years ago, prisoners on the remote penal colony of Gorgona have made 2,700 bottles of Frescobaldi per Gorgona DOC, a Vermentino and Ansonica blend.  

Despite their hard graft, the prisoners will not be allowed to drink the wine, which will instead be sold to restaurants and bars around Italy. Thirteenth generation family member and the company’s vice president Lamberto Frescobaldi, who worked on the project, describes the wine as "intense, with a marvellous character.”
Lamberto Frescobaldi with the blend

One of Italy's oldest and most respected wine dynasties, the Frescobaldi family were hands on throughout the project, offering the island’s 50 inmates advice on planting, picking and winemaking techniques. Marchesi de’Frescobaldi is the first company take part in a scheme launched last year in which businesses invest in the island to give prisoners skills that will help them get a job after they’re released.

The project was welcomed by Anna Maria Cancellieri, the Italian minister for justice, who said it could be replicated at other prisons: "Initiatives like this have a constructive effect on inmates, allowing them to specialise in an area of work that will be useful to them once they leave prison. For prisoners who do not find work, the rate of repeat offending is 80%,” she said.

Italian prisons are the third most overcrowded in Europe after Serbia and Greece. "We need to go ahead with this model because we want to show the world that Italy's prisons are worthy of a civilised country," Cancellieri added. Many Italian islands have been used as prisons in the past, both for political prisoners and common criminals. Gorgona is one of the few still in operation.