Cork vs. screw cap with Franz Haas

Wineries, no matter how long they are already existing, are always trying to improve themselves  . Obviously today this is much easier than for example 50 years ago thanks to the evolution of technology and science. What we notice today is that there are many vineyards testing on replacing the classic cork by a screw cap as closure of their bottles. The biggest problem in this change is not the producers who don’t want to make the change (as the screw cap will give less bottles that are corked or that are gone bad), but rather the miss-interpretation of the consumers who have a wrong idea of the screw cap.

Many people think that wines that have a screw cap are of inferior quality to the wines that have the traditional cork or that wines with a screw caps are the low budget ‘chateau migraine’ wines 🙂  Well nothing of the above is true.  In fact a good quality screw cap will preserve the wine better than the classic cork and let less air get in touch with the wine (or get in the bottle when closed)?  Did you know that in New Zealand they don’t use regular corks anymore, but only screw caps?

A few weeks ago the winery of Franz Haas invited some sommeliers to show and experience themselves the effect the 2 types of bottle caps have on the aging of wine. Basically we were served the same wine (aged in the same conditions), but one bottle with classic cork and the other bottle with a screw cap and this this from several vintages and both white and red wines . During this tasting we did the comparison from the Franz Haas Manna (2016,2011, 2010)  and their Pinot Nero (2011, 2010, 2008, 2007, 2006)

FYI I don’t have any shares of any screw cap or cork company 🙂 So I’m just saying how I (and I think I can speak for everybody at the table that night) experienced this.

Even before this tasting I didn’t have anything against screw caps as I already had many wines that had a screw cap that I liked very much… the tasting only made me like them more (not that I won’t drink bottle with corks anymore 😉 ). It was particularly interesting to be able to put the both wines next to each other and the difference  has been significant in many cases. What I noticed was that the wines that had the screw cap were much ‘fresher’ and ‘alive’ than the ones with the classic cork. Not that I’m saying the ‘classic cork’ ones weren’t nice, because they were…but my preference went to the ones with screw cap (with my personal favorite the 2008 Pinot Nero 🙂 ) and you could definitely notice the difference. True for some vintages the difference was smaller, but it was there.

The only message I can give is, please don’t let your pre-judgment stop you from buying a bottle of wine (or even ordering it at a restaurant) just because it has a screw cap as the only thing a producer want to achieve with this is getting the wine in the best conditions to you and how he made the wine (so with as few changes as possible)!!

Another beauty we had at the end of the evening was the Moscato Rosa!!

In case you have questions regarding the Franz Haas wines you for Belgium you can contact Vinivins for people outside of Belgium please contact Franz Haas directly.

Cheers!

P.S.: Thanks Danny for letting us have this tasting at Silo’s!!

Daddy’s day out in the Belgian wineries

Over the years my passion for wine has grown tremendously. The person who has had a great part in this is my dad. For many years (when he still had his own restaurant) we used to have our yearly trip to Vinitaly (Verona) or trips to Italy to visit wineries. Now that he has retired it is me taking him to visit wineries 🙂

Back in the day he used to take me to wineries in Italy, today I try to show him the rest of the world 🙂 🙂 but why should we always travel far when we have very top level wineries only a short drive away??? I invited my dad to visit some Belgian wine producers in ‘Haspengouw’. Haspengouw or Hesbaye as it seems to be called in English is mostly known in Belgium for its fruit yards. Especially during blooming season (spring  time) it is a very nice region to visit… beautiful flowers as far as the eyes can see. Only for people (like myself) with hay fever a double dose of allergy medicine is required 🙂 🙂

It must be said that last few years the amount of professional wineries in Belgium has grown, especially in the Southern and Eastern part of Belgium (with a few exceptions in other parts of Belgium).  The Belgian wine production mainly focusses on white wine and bubbles, although there are also a few (not a lot) wineries that produce some very nice reds (one of my favorites is Chateau Bon Baron). The success of this growth we thank first of all to the high quality products most of the wineries make, but next to that the Belgian Wines bar in Antwerp played its part too The Belgian Wines bar is a wine bar were only wines produced in Belgium are served and can be bought.  Resulting in Belgian wines finding their way into more people’s homes and on wine lists in many restaurant AND we being more proud of local products!!

A winery that raised the ‘high quality’ bar very high for the others is Clos d’Opleeuw. Clos d’Opleeuw aka the life work of Peter Colemont is the only Belgian wine included in the Sotheby’s lists, being reviewed in the NY times and a Jancis Robinson favorite… So in other words a winery that I had to show my dad. (I already visited it once in 2013) Knowing the winery has only 1ha of land, around 2000 vines and a yearly production of 35Hl,  it is like a shimmer in comparison with wineries where they produces thousands of bottles… but the quality of the end product is just like at the big boys. During blind tastings Peter’s Chardonnay is often taken for top Burgundy wine.

On its 1ha piece  of land Clos d’Opleeuw only produces 2 types of wine, a Chardonnay (98% of their production) and a very small production of Pinot Noire.

The vineyard, as the name says, lays within walls (clos) creating a microclimate and a perfect climate to grow the grapes (or fruit in general) in the cold Belgian weather. When Peter Colemont purchased the piece of land back in the ‘90s it was far from the beautiful vineyard it is today, a wilderness with a few cherry trees in it.  In a few words Peter had to start from scratch and build up everything by himself. Something he still does today as he does all the work in and around the vineyard himself.  When you taste his younger Chardonnay’s you’ll clearly notice notes of oak. Yet there is more than enough freshness and fruitiness. In addition, we taste aromas of butter, vanilla, toast and a variation of white and yellow fruit. The concentration, fullness with a beautiful aftertaste… a joy as big as hearing Peter talking with so much passion about this wines!   If you ever have the chance to try one of his wines please do so, you won’t regret it!!

After a wonderful lunch at my favorite Limburg wine restaurant Mondevino  we set sail to the producer of the drink I started my lunch with…

Domain Cuvelier is specialized in sparkling wines.   The difference  between this winery and the previous is that owner Yves Cuvelier comes from a long line of fruit growers and his (together with his brother Patrick who I was told boss on the land and Yves in the Cellar) main job is still fruit grower. The wine making is a hobby that got out of hand 🙂 🙂 . For making the wine the brothers work together with Guy Geunis (who has been in the business for 25 years and is a role model for Yves) and Rik Schuers from the close by vineyard Optimbulles that I visited a couple of years ago. Just to be clear, both wineries have their own way of working, the only thing they share are the material, infrastructure and knowledge .

It was in the year 2000  Domain Cuvelier planted its first vines of  Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Later Pinot Meunier and Grüner Veltliner followed. It surprised me that they planted Grüner Veltliner as I read somewhere that in Germany they don’t use this grape a lot because it’s too wet for the grape kind and Belgium (and especially where the vineyard is located) is not that far from Germany… but then again you read many things 😉

The majority of the harvest is destined for their CuBiz, a traditional brut that consists of the classic trilogy (70% chardonnay, 20% pinot noir and 10% pinot meunier). It was only in 2015 that they started experimenting more with the Grüner Veltliner  that let to their BizTro (mono cepage and first Grüner Veltliner in Belgium). The top of the bill is their BizJoe, a method traditional extra brut, blanc de noirs! You could also tell that Yves was very proud of his BizJoe 🙂 not he is not proud of the Cubiz, but the extra sparkle when talking about BizJoe gave it away.

When you have to compare their sparkling wines I would say that Cubiz is the ‘easy to drink’ (my dad’s favorite) one and ‘BizJoe’ the more complex’ one (had my preference) and the BizTro somewhere in between 🙂   The BizJoe is very delicate with hinds of toasted bread and full flavored. The BizTro is a dry wine with a  high acidity level and a light vegetal character through the short skin contact it had. For the Cubiz it is the chardonnay that gives it elegance and finesse, a beautiful golden yellow color and rich apple flavors. The Pinot Noir provides body and structure, the Pinot Meunier adds the round and fruity touch.  All special on their own and add Yves’ drive and passion to that and you have a winner.

With this festive note we ended our day and my dad was more excited than ever (he was really impressed by the drive both winemakers had and the story they had to tell).

Mission completed I’d say!

Time to put the sommeliers in the spotlight

With the ASI World Championship for Sommeliers being held in Belgium (Antwerp aka the most beautiful city in the world 😉 ) in 2019 I thought is was time to put another key person of a restaurant  in the spotlight… I mean it are always the chefs that are put in the spotlight, but  to create a full gastronomical experience it takes  so much more than only food, the beverages that accompany the dishes for example are as essential for the experience! So time for a change I’d say and put that spotlight on the sommeliers. They deserve it !

I know you might find it strange that I am putting this job on a pedestal even though I’m not a sommelier myself…  but let’s say that there are  2 persons to blame for me finding a passion that is not my profession 🙂 My Dad and  William ‘Pato’  Wouters (who I met through my dad 20 years ago)  🙂 🙂 My dad because he introduced me into the world of good wines (and food in general)  and William for helping me widening my horizon ad showing me different aspects in the world of wines  and introducing me in the world of Sommellerie. A few years later  I’m a board member of the Belgian Sommelier Association , Co-organizer of the ASI Sommelier World Championship and being as much as possible busy with wine and sommeliers … so you could say it has found a way to my heart.

What is a sommelier? I know that around this topic there is a lot of confusion. Most people think that a sommelier is only responsible for serving wine, but they do much more.  A sommelier is a trained  (HoReCa) professional with  deep knowledge of how food and wine, beer, spirits soft-drinks, cocktails, mineral waters, and tobaccos work in harmony (on top of what the job of a waiter implies). It is their mission to give an extra dimension to the meal you are having  :-).

In the past year I’ve been fortunate enough to have done over 80 interviews with TOP sommeliers form all over the world (and I will continue interviewing) from the great Gerard Basset to Arvind Rosengren  to Sören Polonius.. .  FYI It does me great pleasure to see  that many Sommelier Associations from other countries have taken over these interviews and translated in their local language and even started putting more of their own sommeliers in the spotlight… so basically spreading the word and making the job of sommelier more popular.

What I learned from all the interviews I did is that  in bigger cities like London, Paris or Brussels or countries like Japan or the US the job of Sommeliers is mostly valuated as it should and most restaurant owners understand the added value of having a  sommelier in their restaurant. But what surprised me maybe even more was that in many ‘smaller’ countries or countries you won’t expect the job of sommelier is taken serious the situation improving as many new Sommelier Associations are founded and many are also joining the ASI (International Sommelier Association)!! What Sommelier Associations  do is giving chances to young people to discover the a wonderful world, to build an International career and bring together people with the same passion.    There a many examples of sommelier whose life changed and turned 180° thanks to their local sommelier association.

Anyhow I can only advise you to check out the interviews with the sommeliers and let them be the shining star for a change 🙂 You can find the interviews (English) via following link 

A sip of the Sicilian sun in the heart of Brussels

I’m sitting here in the sun thinking that is has been waaaay to long since my last blog post…. Although technically speaking I’ve still been writing, but for the Belgian Sommelier Association and next to that I am very busy co-organizing the ASI Best Sommelier of the World competition that will  be hosted in Antwerp in 2019 (seems far away, but I assure you that it isn’t 🙂 ).  I’ve also been busy as I became dad for the 2nd time and I can say for a fact that that doesn’t make organising your days easier 🙂

Even though I didn’t write too much for my blog anymore I did get to know many wonderful the last months. Last week for example I got to taste some top Sicilian wines made by the Planeta winery . Unlike many other wineries of this size that have been making wines for centuries Planeta only started making wines in the 90’s…  The Planeta family (from Spanish origin) has been in agriculture since 1585… the current generation is already the 17th generation in agriculture in Sicily. The Planeta winery story started in the Menfi/Sambuca region (South West of Sicily)  where 2 generations  bundled their forces or better Alessio, Santi and their uncle Diego Planeta (and eventually also Diego’s daughter Francesca)  with a little helping hand of oenologist Carlo Corino.

It might seem easy to make wines in a place like Sicily (or any southern wine regions) because of its constant sunshine, but that sunshine also has its disadvantages… lots of sun often translates into high sugars and basically also high alcohol percentage. Unfortunately this was also the reputation southern wines had for many years  high alcohol and not  easy to drink… BUT thanks to modern techniques and knowhow  we are able to harmonize and control all of this much better resulting in some magnificent wines.  Already from the start our friends from Planeta were determined to plant both local and international types of grape and it was an immediate success as in 1995 they were honored by many famous wine journalists/critics with their Chardonnay (that had been in wooden barrels).

Today 27 years later they have 6 wineries  (around 400ha) spread over Sicily  : Ulmo at Sambuca di Sicilia, Dispensa at Menfi, Dorilli at Vittoria, Buonivini at Noto, Feudo di Mezzo on Etna and finally La Baronia at Capo Milazzo.  It also seems they keep growing both in quality as quantity

Tasting the Planeta wines under the Sicilian sun would have been perfection, but tasting them in the heart of Brussels at restaurant Bocconi did get close (thanks to the warm and great people at my table obviously). The lunch also wouldn’t have been the same without the great care of host/sommelier Jean- François who clearly knows what he’s doing!! During the lunch I was fortunate enough to sit next to Alessio Planeta who spoke with lots of passion about his wines and the beautiful island of Sicliy.

When you think of Silicy you think red wine, but for me their whites are as impressive.  It speaks for itself that one should always go crescendo, but if the first wine you get already is of such level that you don’t know it is possible to even go higher… but apparently it can ;-). The first wines we were served were the 2015 Cometa  that already has a cult status since his first edition and 2015 Eruzione Carricante 1614. The Cometa is fresh acidic, has a terrific savoury length and is a very stylish and wine that can convince everybody. What I think everybody would like about this wine is its aromatic notes of citrus and tropical fruit with some hinds of white peach and the fact that it doesn’t dissapoint when taking the first sip (on the contrary). If you like Rieseling style wines, I’m sure you’ll like the Eruzione 1614 as it contains 10% of Rieseling (90% Carricante) . A palate of fresh apricote and green apples with energizing minerals… again a wonderful easy to drink wine.

The previous wines were great, but the absolute star of the lunch was the 2014 Didacus which means Diego in Latin (referring to Diego Planeta who has been very important to the re-birth of the Sicilian wines). The Didacus was actually created as a ‘celebration’ wine for the 20 th anniversary of the first Chardonnay they made in 1994.  Although the price of this wine is quit high, it is majestic and very classy  wine that has everything I love:  full bodied, complex and yet very fresh with a magnificant finish that lasts forever :-)…I think that is all thanks to the old vines that are from 1985… It is a wine that can easily stand next to the best Burgundy Chardonnay’s. I hope you will get a chance to taste it some day, but as there are only few bottles this might become a very tricky quest.

After the wonderful whites it was time to discover some reds with a first in line the 2015 Mamertino (60% Nero d’avola 40% Nocera) followed by the 2007 and 2011 Santa Cicilia and as last but definitely not least the 2014 Eruzione 1614 Nerello Mascalese that for me together with the Didacus were the stars of the lunch (it will also not surprise you that I now have a few bottles of the Eruzione in my personal cellar).  The Marmetino has an elegant floral nose with hinds of roses and prunes  with refined tannines and velvety soft finish.

From the Santa Cicilia Alessio wanted us to put 2 different years next to each other, the 2007 and the 2011. I must say that I was very surprised how full of life the 2007 was. When you tast the wine you notice black fruit notes mixing on a minerally frame as bright acidity and spice drive the fruit-filled finish. Although I must also admit that when I tasted both wines they for some reason made me think of candy or cassis… If i would have to compare both I’d say the 2001 is a bit more bitter with hinds of chocolate and spices… My preference went to the 2007, but that’s a matter of personal taste.

They kept the best for last 🙂 the 2014 red Eruzione!! This wine is one with a LOT of potentional and can easily stay a few more years in your cellar. Light ruby Pinot Noir-like color. What I liked about this wine was the very gentle handling of tannins, which, with Nerello Mascalese, can easily get a bit rustic round the edges. Delicate Pinot Noir-like flavours, red fruits but needs more concentration and fatness on the palate… it basically found its way to my cellar at home 😉

Great wines,  but also great food!! Feast your eyes on some of the treats we were served

I think next time I defintely need to try these wines in the Sicilian sun (I think another wine trip is presenting itself 🙂 🙂 ) Thank you very much Alessio for this wonderful lunch!

For all my Belgian readers in case you want more info on Planeta wines please contact Young Charly. For all my non-Belgian readers, please contact Planeta to help you to get in contact with your local salesman .

Sommeliers themed lunch: Prosecco vs Champagne and cava

Champagne, cava, prosecco or another bubbly wine… everybody has their favorite, but are they able to distinguish that same favorite when tasting blind? Last week I was present at yet another wonderful sommelier themed lunch organized by Zonin in presence of Lorenzo Zonin. What I always like about their lunches is that you learn enormously! Not only just by listening to the top sommeliers who are also present or to Lorenzo Zonin, but also by yourself. Every lunch they have a different theme and all wines you get are always to be tasted blind. Of these wines you have to distinguish (depending of the theme) what wine it is, vintage, kind of grapes used, etc… I can say for a fact that we’ve (as it wasn’t only me) discovered many great wines . What  I think for all of the lunches I’ve already had the one still most stuck in our minds is the American Barolo styled wine from the Zonin estate in Virginia as everybody was convinced that it was a very old Barolo Piemonte!

sommeliers-themed-lunch

What usually happens during these lunches is that the Zonin wines are put next to sometimes French wines, American wines from other colleague estates or sometimes against wines from different Zonin estates. They do this as this way they can see how they should/could improve their wines (in a nutshell). Our theme this time  was sparkling wines. So it was  Zonin sprakling wines (Prosecco) versus Champagnes and top cava’s. I know many amongst you think it is easy to distinguish which is which, but trust me blind tasting is harder than you might think. What makes it even more mind breaking is that it could be either 3 and having to tell which grapes they used adds extra spice 🙂 Let’s not forget that I’m an amateur, not a pro sommelier.

blind-tasting blind-tasting-2

Let me first start with a few facts  about  Prosecco. Something I didn’t know is that Prosecco that now is mostly known as a regional product from around Treviso actually originates from Friuli (from the 8th century) or  better from the village Prosecco on the Karst hills above Trieste (so right next to the Slovenian border). Although back then it was called a Pucinum wine produced with Glera grapes (and I’m pretty sure there were not yet too many refined bubbles involved.  Prosecco DOC can be made in 556 villages spread over 9 provinces in 2 regions Trieste and Treviso.  For it to become DOCG it would need to come from specific villages around Valdobbiadene , Colli Asolani  or Coneglino Valdobbiadene.  It is only since 2009 that use of vintages has become a common thing. Also in contrast to Champagne or Cava, with Prosecco there is no fermentation in bottles.  Tasting notes: Prosecco is very fruity and floral with in general dominant notes of green apple and pear. If you would go to the more refined Prosecco’s you’ll find aromas of peach and almonds.

prosecco-by-lorenzo-zonin

The biggest difference between Prosecco, Champagne and Cava would first of all be the types of grapes used.  For Prosecco this would be mainly Glera (Verdiso, Bianchetta, Trevigiana, Perera, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio & Pinot Nero up to 15%). For Champagne this would be Pinot Noir, Pinot Munier & Chardonnay. For cava it are Macabeu, Parellada & Xarello (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Subirat Parent). FYI to know more about the grape variaties check this link .  I know some people tend to say that Prosecco is sweeter, but I think they are confusing Prosecco with Moscato d’Asti that is indeed a sweet bubbly wine. Another difference between the 3 would be type types there are. Prosecco only has Brut, Extra Dry, Dry or Demi Sec… our French and Spanish French add Extra Brut, Extra Sec(o), Sec(o) and Doux/dolce. Although the biggest difference next to the grapes would be the bubbles itself .  FYI, the facts above are generally speaking as of course it all depends of the winery, etc…

vicky sommelier-themed-lunch-3 me lorenzo-zonin catherine

The location for this edition of sommeliers themed lunch was restaurant Tartufo   (just outside Brussels).  A great discovery btw!!

chef-at-work-2 chef-working

Chef Kayes Ghourabi  has made it a meal to remember.  The first dish we were served (after a wonderful series of tasty appetizers) was scallop with foie gras d’oie and truffles. Paired with this we got 3  glasses. For us to tell which was the Champagne, Cava or Prosecco 🙂   The 2nd glass everybody was convinced it was top cava, but when they revealed the bottles it ended up to be Champagne by Devaux .  We didn’t see that one coming… then again that’s part of the game. So the first one was a Prestige 1821 DOCG Prosecco by Zonin, 2nd (Blanc de Noirs) and 3rd glass (Cuvée D) a different champagne by Devaux . The Cuvée D combined freshness with lovely orangy/mandarine notes 🙂 . In Prestige the freshness comes first with notes of green apple and nice aromas.

appetizer 5 Appeziter 1 appetizer 2 appetizer 3 appeziter 4

Scallop with Foie gras

Zonin Prestige Devaux champagne 1 Champagne devaux 2

With the sparkling wines served with the next dish (Seabream with tomatoes, basil and olives) we were lifted up the next level of tasting as we had to say which grapes was used in the 3 glasses of Prosecco?! Was it Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco or Pinot Nero. The Pinot Bianco is somehow the ‘easiest to distinguish as it is the most exuberant/aromatic of all 3… or at least that’s the theory… Even if I didn’t immediately found out which one was which I must admit my preference out of 3 went to the Pinot Bianco , second place would go to the Pinot Nero and 3rd place would go to the Pinot Grigio. Not that any of them would be a sacrifice to drink 🙂

Seabreamprosecco-white-editionzonin-black-editionzonin-grey-edition

With the Main course which was Pike Perch (fish) with butternut and salsify we didn’t get 3, but 4 glasses again with the task to say if it were Champagne, Cava or Prosecco… It resulted in there being served 2 Prosecco’s: 1 Frizzante and 1 classic Cà Bolani Prosseco  DOC (always a winner and an every man’s friend) and 2 Cava’s : MVSA Brut Nature and  Masia Sabor Brut.

Pik perch

masia-sabor mvsa-brut-nature prosecco-doc

The ‘easiest’ sparkling wine to distinguish  was the one that came with the chocolate dessert. You could immediately tell it was a prosecco because of the smell, the looks and the ‘bubbles’ being thicker. When they put it in out glass the foam stayed a while in the glass… just like with a pint of beer. It was the zonin ICE demi-sec. Attractively intense, very fruity and aromatic with hints of jasmine and ripe Golden apples. It is deliciously well balanced….

Cholate Moeulleux

zoinin-ice

Again glad I could be part of this wonderful event!! My favorites of the day were the Zonin White Edition , the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Prestige 1821, Cà Bolani Prosseco  DOC , MVSA Brut Nature  and the Cuvée D

For more info on Zonin wines please contact Hasselt Millésime or Winespot

The butcher’s son

With a restaurant name like ‘The Butcher’s son’ it leaves little to the imagination what type of cuisine they prepare. Let’s just say it’s not a veggie place 🙂  . The butcher’s son is as you might have already expected a restaurant with as mean topic on the menu meat. Although Luc Dickens (one of the 2 owners) told me they don’t want to be the typical meat restaurant with only men as customers… They want to open up their restaurant to everybody and therefor chose for a more “general” menu. If somebody wants vegetarian or more “hard-core” meat dishes like specific intestines it is all possible :-).

butcher-son

When I first heard their name I (and I think most people) presumed that either Luc Dickens or Bert Jan Michielsen (the 2 owners) would be the son of a butcher… right? After hearing the real story behind the name I think the name ‘the butcher’s adopted son’ would be more correct 🙂 🙂  . At a particular day Bert Jan was supposed to take the train back home, unfortunately missed his train. As it dates back to a pre-cellphone period Bert Jan had to look for a place where he could call and inform his parents .  This search brought him to a nearby butcher shop De Laet & Van Haver. As he had to wait a while before his parents were able to pick him up, the shop owner suggested if Bert Jan wanted he could role some meatballs while waiting . To make a long story short (but you know I prefer telling the long story) this was the beginning of a life long friendship and many weekends (after words full time)of  working at the De Laet & Van Haver’s butcher shop and catering business  in Hove … and today a collaboration with them and having a restaurant right next to their new butcher shop in the old Antwerp city brewery of De Koninck . In other words the owner saw Bert Jan as his son…

stadsbrouwerij

I know Luc and Bert Jan mostly from their years working at the highly awarded restaurant De Schone Van Boskoop and Luc I also know from the Belgian Sommelier Guild .

Luc and Bert Jan by Resengo

I’m also a fan of their location in the old Antwerp city brewery of De Koninck . I say old, but it is still an active brewery, but as after restructuring the brewery they had some parts they weren’t going to use anymore they freed up this space to create an oasis of food 🙂 and bring creative/passionate people together. You can find craftsmen like  cheese master, chocolatier, butchers, etc… here. I do recommend everybody to visit it (even if you don’t want to eat their) as it is worth it. You’ll find more info on the brewery on the following link.

Butcher son 2 Butcher son

I know it sounds unbelievable but I do always try to keep it as short as possible… but I always want you guys to get the whole picture and all the info :-).

For our meal my friends and I chose to first go for all the refined meat appetizers  (all home made in the next door butcher shop) they have on their menu with exception for the 1 non meat dish 🙂 What we basically had was : dry aged  Secreto 07 (a product the Adria ‘El Bulli’ brothers also sell in their restaurants and shops in Barcelona); Calf Brains with tartar sauce; Pig head with mustard; 18 months Duroc ham de Batallé; Croquette of pork leg with pickles and some game pâté. Very nice selection, me personally I wasn’t a fan of the brains, but that clearly was a personal opinion as my table guests could have eaten a second plate 🙂 I must admit that it was also the first time I tried it in my entire life… To accompany these appetizers it seemed more that logic to take a beer made in the local brewery and that perfect marriage to my opinion… FYI the brewery makes specialty darker beers so not a pils.

Food 1 Food 2

For my mean course the first idea was to take an Entrecôte , but when I saw they had a sweetbread videe on their menu my mind was made up. A videe is  a puff pastry that gets filled with a kind of chicken and mushroom stew.  In this case the stew had next to the chicken and meatballs some sweetbread and got finished of with some hollandaise sauce. On itself not a special dish you might think, but trust me finding a good prepared videe is not an easy task!  My problem was that the videe was for 2 persons… so I had to convince one  my of 2 table guests taking it with me 🙂 I might not be a sales person, but I do know who to get it my way 🙂 🙂 the other person at my table however  took an Entrecôte.

Videe

Best decision ever to take the Videe as it is by far the best I’ve ever eaten!!  I know when we saw the dish arriving we had to share both I as my buddy thought we’d be fighting for who got the last bit as it didn’t seem enough… but our eyes were bigger then our stomachs as the dish was heavier. So instead of fighting it was rather suggesting the other one to have the last bit 😉 🙂  Nevertheless a wonderful dish!!

As we had the luck of having a sommelier at our table (and no I’m not referring to myself as I’m just an amateur sommelier) who was even a former finalist of the Best Sommelier of Belgium competition. His choice for wine went to a 2014 Spanish Garnacha Cellers Joan d’Anguera Altaroses D.O. Montsant. Good choice Bram!!

Wine

When we thought the night couldn’t become better, there came the bottle of the 1976 Madeira 🙂 🙂 FYI we just drunk a glass of it, not the whole bottle…

Wonderful food and a marvelous evening I recommend to everybody.

 

Heavenly delights white truffles and Barolo wine

That I’m a fan of the Nebbiolo grape is clear by now I think? For the last few posts I’ve been talking to you about the Valtellina variant. This time however  I’ll be talking about its more famous brother from the neighboring region Piemonte  (Alba/Asti). I know it seemed that I don’t like Alba/Asti  or Barolo variant, but I do without any doubt like them. It is just that as my roots are in Vatellina it has a special place in my heart… but I wouldn’t call drinking a Barolo a big sacrifice 😉 It is just like Luciano Taliano (owner of the Montaribaldi vineyard) said during the meal we had a couple of days ago at Spiga d’oro:  he is fan of all his wines, but the Barbaresco is the apple of his eye… why? Because his family roots are in Barbaresco….

montaribaldi

The older a Nebbiolo wine get the “easier” it gets to recognize them, because as they age the wines take on a ‘brick-orange’ shade at the rim of the glass. I know it might sound strange but you should just try it once putting an older Nebbiolo wine next to for example an older Sangiovese wine… The difference in color couldn’t be bigger. Next to its ‘characteristic’ color the Nebbiolo wine comes with fragrances of violets, tar, wild herbs, cherries, raspberries, truffles and tobacco. The most ideal location is at an elevation between 150 and 300 meter. What is special about the nebbiolo grape is that it usually only gets harvested in October, sometimes even at towards the end of the month. This is ‘special’ if you know most grapes in other regions get picked at the end of august or the latest at the end of September… then again the climate and hours of sun during the year obviously decides this … I know the Nebbiolo grape might seem like an easy grape to grow, but it isn’t as it does not adapt particularly well to various vineyard soil types. It prefers soils with high concentration of calcareous marl.

montaribaldi-vineyards-2

Just like in many other regions there are multiple approaches on making wine, a ‘traditional’ way and a ‘modern’ way. Both have their pro’s and contra’s. A contra of the traditional way or at least how it used to be done many years ago was the ‘lack’ of taking hygiene in consideration that would lead to the a bacterial infection and in the end development of off flavors and potential wine faults that would require at least 24 hours decanting to alleviate . Nowadays winemaking for both traditionalists and modernists include strict hygiene controls and the use of some modern winemaking equipment… so if you no worries anymore 🙂

The most famous wines from Piemonte made with the Nebbiolo grape are without doubt Barolo and Barbaresco. The way to distinguish the 2 wines was very well described by Giorgia Tontodonati from the Montaribaldi vineyard. Barbaresco is the ‘queen’ elegant, ‘softer’ and aromatic, Barolo is the ‘King’ very complex and strong.

I’ve already had the pleasure to have travelled many times to Piemonte to discover the many wonderful things this region has to offer. Next to their wonderful wines they  also have a very refined cuisine with evergreens like ravioli del plin, Tajarin al sugo, vitel tonné (vitello tonnato), Agnolotti, carne cruda alla piemontese, etc… BUT the other world famous trademark product of the of Piemonte is the one and only white truffle! Earlier this week all these wonderful things got combined at one of my preferred Italian restaurants in Belgium Spiga d’oro by my dear friend Franco Di Taranto… As tip of the iceberg he had invited Luciano Taliano from the Montaribaldi winery and trifolau Ezio who brought white truffles he had found the day before… only when in Alba itself you’ll get them on the day itself 🙂 To describe the evening in 1 word “Mythical”!! As I’m not really the man who sticks to one word (sorry for that)  I’ll tell you more about this wonderful evening that made me feel in Piemonte all over again!!

truffles-and-wine-2

Montaribaldi is a quite young vineyard as the brothers Roberto and Luciano Taliano only opened it around 1994. Technically speaking the vineyard already existed earlier, but in 1994 as after he acquired the vineyards from his father Guiseppe aka ‘Pino’ who had founded it in 1968. The vineyard was named Montaribaldi after the old Roman roads that link the winery to the vineyards. Luciano’s goal was and still is to create a diverse selection of holdings that highlights the different wines of the region.

montaribaldi-family

What I think is the reason for success of Montaribaldi wines is the accurate selection of grapes (the wine gets made on the land) and careful vinification. They also are very fortunate to have vines located in between the ones from their renowned neighbor Angelo Gaja. After having tasted their wines I can only come to the following conclusion their balance, length, intensity and concentration of flavors are all right how they supposed to be! Combine these wines with a meal by Franco and you have a feast… We were served the following menu with paired wines:

my-table

A secret celery and truffle salad ‘Arte e Querce’ prepared by Ezio’s wife Clelia. The salad got served with a 2015 Roero Arneis (white). I never saw a man so proud!! You could really tell truffles are Ezio’s passion as he was flaking it so proudly… very endearing to see 🙂

Celery truffle saladRoero Arneis

ezio

Vitel Tonné & Carne cruda a l’Albese con tartufo bianco paired with a 2012 Barbera

Barbera Vitel tonné

Robbilo tre latte with blac truffle, leek from Cervere, pears, beetroot and cugnamust from Nebbiolo. This dish got paired with a refreshing 2010 Langhe

RobbioloLanghe

“Cocotte” (cheese fondu) from Fontina cheese with fennel sausage and white truffle flakes. Served with 2 Barbaresco’s from different pieces of land aka Palazzina and Sori. Both wines were from 2011.

Barbaresco Cocotte

The main course of the evening was venison with a Barolo reduction with white truffle that got paired with the wine everybody was looking forward to drink the 2012 Barolo.

Main course SVI

Barolo

To end our meal we got served a chocolate dessert together with a Moscato d’asti. We did also get some white truffle flakes on our chocolate dessert, I didn’t refuse it but if it wouldn’t have been there the dessert would have equally been good 🙂

dessert

For me when you prepare a dish with truffles, it should be the truffles playing the main role!! Here again the key word ‘simplicity’ is important to make sure the truffle gets the justice it supposed to get. That’s exactly what my dear friend Franco did. My first words after my meal (and you can check with the people at my table) were “I feel like going to Piemonte now”!! So I guess a trip to Piemonte won’t be far off 😉 😉

I’m not sure why I always have to say which wine I prefer as I like all of them and I don’t want you guys to think that because I prefer one over the other it means the other wines were bad… as they weren’t  🙂  But just to keep everybody happy I admit that the Barbaresco’s charmed me most with on the first place the Sori. On the nose sweet and penetrating notes of licorice and chocolate, firmer and more sustained on the palate but with the roundness and solidity of a high quality extraction. Maybe the fact Luciano talked with so much love about it had an influence ooooooooor that Giorgia compared it with a queen 😉 😉 who knows?! One thing is for sure once again I’ll need to expand my wine cellar and definitely have another winetrip to Piemonte 🙂

the-event-team

Many thanks to Franco,  Aline, Toni, Luciano, Giorgia, Ezio and his wife for making this an unforgettable evening (and of course also my table guests 🙂 )

For more info on Montaribaldi wines in Belgium please contact SVI.