You Can Email
Waiting for the ghost bus
by Peter Grogan
A Frenchman with a penchant for New World wine styles, wines from New World growers toiling among some of the least- known vines of Europe and wines that nobody ? but nobody ? has ever heard of? Prise yourself from the fell grip of the supermarkets and multiples and it's all there for you.
Michael Mori, who owns the Gallo Nero deli on the High Street (also on Newington Green), is originally from Tuscany and sells exclusively Italian wines (and spirits) - the 30-odd, carefully chosen wines represent a wider range than youll find anywhere else. An obscure denominazione located to the south of Rome, Velletri Riserva 1996 from Co.Pro.Vi (£7.40) comes out of the wonkiest bottle in the world - the contents, Im pleased to say, are anything but. Profoundly Italian - being made from Sangiovese and Montepulciano (plus some Merlot and Cesanese) it would be - its a smooth, full-bodied and complex wine with good length. If you whizzed up some fennel and licorice, mint, plums, bloody meat and tea in the Magimix it probably wouldnt taste very nice, but this does.
The Salice Salentino 1998 from Leone de Castris (£5.70) has nice redcurranty fruit to balance the slight bitter-almond edge and, with good silky tannins, is a class act compared to most of the rather insipid supermarket offerings of this appellation.
Good value for Spring slurping at £3.95, Piemonte Cortese 1999 from Cantine Aurora is pale and has a lightly floral nose and a nice tarry edge to give it some gravitas. White fruits, said I - Juicy Fruit, countered Mrs G., who knows many things.
Falanghina Sannio 1999 (£8.50) from Feudi di San Gregorio comes without any baggage, since I know neither what its made from nor whence it comes - nor do Hugh Johnson or the divine Jancis, for that matter. A little pineapple doesnt seem a lot for the money, but it has good body and I hope for it s own sake it needs a little time to develop - if not, its continuing obscurity seems assured.
Primitivo (thought to be Zinfandel) di Manduria 1996 (£7.50) comes from the heel of Italy and knits nice soft tannins with lingering toffee/caramel flavours. At 14% alcohol, its something of a bruiser, which is just as well as I tasted it, mano a mano, with A Mano 2000 (£6.75), a Primitivo made by an American in Puglia and sold by a Frenchman in North London. (The first wine won by a knockout in the first round - the second seemed to have almost no smell, was lightly fruity and a little medicinal.)
The knowledgeable Stephane Cusset buys the wine at The Cooler in Church Street. From Lyon, he has taken against the parochialism in the wine-drinking habits of many of his countrymen with something of a vengeance.
Albet I Noya Lignum 1999 (£7.75) from Penedès is made from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. A sacrilegious marriage to any true-bleu Frenchman, this may be why Stephane likes it. The Chardonnay is in tropical-fruit mode and seems happy to cosy up under its snug duvet of toasty oak with the gooseberries and celery of the Sauvignon. RoIIe, Clairette and Ugni Blanc seldom take centre-stage, but Californian Bob Lindquist puts their names up in lights in his AC Coteaux Varois Chateau Routas Pyramus 1998 (£6.95). This is lightly oaked, full of apricots and honeydew melon under a perfumed, come-hitherish bouquet.
The Moroccan Beni MTir 1995 from Domaine Riad Jamil (£7.45) smells and tastes like good, mature Cru Bourgeois claret, or better. The nose is all cedar, cigar-box and pencil-shavings and theres nice jammy fruit kept in check by good mature tannins.
A four-and-a-half-quid bottle of Cotes du Rhone from Safeburys is usually thin, chewy, pink stuff. For less than half as much again, Domaine Chaume-Arnaud 1999 (£6.45) is three times the wine - smooth and with good length, it has the superabundant ripe fruit of the vintage matched with nice, soft tannins.
Shiny new wine lists at the refurbished Ryans and Prince, and the refurbished and renamed Daniel Defoe will have me propping up the bar again for the next issue of this magazine.