Us in the East Midlands are lucky to have access to a range of Piemontese wines. Bat & Bottle are a phenomenal independent Italian wine retailer working out of Oakham. They are passionate, knowledgeable and humorous. If you haven’t made the time to visit one of their wine tastings yet you are really missing out.
Emma and Ben are an elite wine tag team. Dedicated to learning, exploring and tasting, they are always popping off to Italy to meet new producers. They offer a wine club as well as regular tasting events.
I first came across them at their Christmas tasting in 2016. Last week I went back to Oakham for their latest event. Squirreled away behind the church, castle and school was the Castle Cottage Cafe. This is a quintessential English country garden cafe. I’d be delighted to return in the day to see their full menu!
Beneath a canopy, surrounded by delicate fairy lights as the sun went down, we took our seats. The late summer evening had a slight chill in the air, and a sudden downpour added to the cosy, communal feel! We started off with a glass of Villa Giada Suri Bianco 2017. This is from the newly created Piemontese Sauvignon Cortese DOC.
Despite the name, Cortese is actually the dominant grape at 80%. We were all surprised with the deep colour of this young wine. The flavour matched the colour. Stone fruit and unripe pear flavours melded with cooked apple and quince notes. A lighter acidity than I was expecting and a long but delicate finish made this a very drinkable wine.
Next up was Ascheri’s Gavi di Gavi Christina 2017. It is from the Gavi di Gavi DOCG and one of my favourite little towns – Bra. This was a more citrussy wine with the high acidity that you expect from Cortese. Bit of green apple, dab of sherbert lemon.
We were also treated to loaded boards of antipasti. Cured meats and cheeses, grapes, and a very Piemontese touch of marinated peppers. All excellent for nibbling along with the selection of fresh breads. All adding delicious fat and salt to our palates making the wines even more easy to drink and enjoyable!
Each wine came with an approachable and light hearted introduction from Ben. His jocular manner doesn’t hide his deep understanding of Italian wine. It is clear every guest valued the time spent in his company. Our next wine was again from Ascheri – their Dolcetto Nirane 2015. Our table had been discussing how our go-to red in Piedmont is Dolcetto and this confirmed that idea.
Apparently 2015 was a key year for Dolcetto. I’m seeing excellent Northern Italian reds from 2015 across the board if I’m honest. I think for the lighter reds the flavours are really coming into their own now. This medium red has a light body with practically no tannin. It’s deep garnet colour belies its lightness. Black fruit swirls around your mouth – deep cherry and plum. This is a very good wine cut through with a little bitter pepper and spice.
It’s always exciting to try a new grape. Freisa was mine – with Favaro’s F2, also 2015. This was lush cherry and blackcurrant on the nose, but with a less fruity and more savoury taste. It had a medium body and excellent balange. Another very good wine, and now I am seeking out a sparkling Freisa to try that incarnation.
We finished the day with a really excellent Barbera. The Brezza Rosalia 2013 had a light fruit nose and was full of blackberry astringency, plum and spice. The hefty weight of this wine was very pleasing indeed! This wine’s closure is a glass cork. I detected a slight whiff of wet dog right in the back. I wonder if this is a consequence of the closure, but it was not overwhelming. Certainly it did not tip the wine over the edge and I’m interested to see more of this closure. It is very pretty indeed!
We enjoyed this evening for the bargain price of £15. I cannot stress highly enough what great value that is. The Piemontese wines themselves were also excellent value to purchase on the night. If you’re happy to spend £10-£15 a bottle then you will get an incredible level of quality here. Naturally we paid in full for our attendance.