In these reviews I know I have aimed principally towards wines most easily accessible on the high street with occasional forays to The Wine Society or to other well-regarded wine merchants like Berry Bros, Lay & Wheeler or Lea & Sandeman whose upward beat tends towards the fine wine market, at prices to match. No difficulty in finding the ‘big name’ treasures there. However I recently covered a tutorial for a fellow wine-teacher who works for a small independent wine outlet buried in the heart of the City of London, a well-stocked cave of wine supportive of the best of the small top quality independent growers whose production is insufficient to furnish the high street’s supermarkets or bigger chain suppliers.
In common with ‘The Good Wine Shop’ whose wines I have featured on occasion, this undiscovered treasure trove was a real revelation. It was therefore most refreshing to run a tasting based entirely at the artisan end of winemaking as against the ‘commercial’ wine-store spectrum where, perhaps inevitably, a certain limited predictability of choice prevails.
My choice for March takes me to the Maremma, Tuscany’s wild west (yes, they have cowboys and even rodeos there) and a wine grape named Morellino -‘little cherry’- being one of more than a dozen alternative sub-regional soubriquets for the classic Sangiovese grape, the senior partner in wines such as Chianti Classico. Heb Morellino di Scansano DOCG finds itself as one of seven different varieties of wine vinified at the Fattoria di Magliano which is not merely a winery but a centre of agriturismo, boasting a hotel and a restaurant serving its own wines to match the food.
Heba 2014 may sound a bit anonymous as a member of this individual grouping, but wine critic James Suckling gives this Morellino a score of 90 points and, for me at least, this is a marvelously true reflection of the lighter end of what Sangiovese is all about. An everyday wine maybe, but offering a true and ‘untweaked’ reflection of Tuscan viticulture at its best.
A bright, vibrant and transparently clear ruby colour in the glass, the wine shows ample but not aggressive acidity – the palate offers a vibrantly clear cut taste of its Tuscan origins – the ‘cherry’ reference of Morellino not overly pronounced – and a finish that has the merest hint of bitterness which makes it, all in all, a great foil for a wide spectrum of savoury dishes. As many Italian wines are intended to offer service to the delights of the table, here is just one of the multitude of deliciously though relatively uncomplicated Italian wines offering a textbook partnership to the local protein whether it be cheeses or meats. Great not only with salumi – the salamis and cured sausages of its home region, but also with lighter meats like chicken and guineafowl through to mushroom-based dishes, porcini perhaps. And, why not dare say it….to be enjoyed simply for its deliciously sappy and moreish self. Heba 2014 seems to promote itself as one of those wines you want to keep by for regular drinking assuming you already like the style of Tuscan wines. It is certified as organically produced.
I’ve added a prizewinning recipe below that would be well served by a wine such as this…..meanwhile here are the usual statistics:
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN||Italy (Tuscany)|
|NAME OF WINE||‘Heba’ Morellino di Scansano DOCG 2014|
|STYLE||Sappy lighter weight Tuscan red|
|PRODUCER||Fattoria di Maglianotd>|
|RETAILER||Lea & Sandeman|
|PRICE||£14.95 or £12.95 at case rate|
RECIPE – FRICASSEA di FARAONA (Guineafowl Fricassee)
1 guineafowl, cut up in convenient pieces
1 tsp vinegar
1 stalk of celery, cut in pieces
1 clove of garlic
a large onion
4 or 5 green olives
6 sage leaves
1 tbsp fresh rosemary
1 Italian (or Toulouse) fresh pork sausage
2 slices of pancetta (or unsmoked bacon)
2 tbsp olive oil
5 fl oz dry white wine
juice of half a lemon plus a small strip of its zest
1 small tot of grappa or brandy.
- Put the guineafowl pieces in a bowl of water acidulated by the vinegar and allow to steep for about half an hour.
- In a separate bowl put the following items, all chopped fairly small: carrots celery, garlic, capers, herbs, pancetta and sausage. Mix together well.
- Heat the olive oil in a fricasee pan. Drain and pat dry the guineafowl pieces and put them in the pan alongside the other chopped ingredients. Let them take colour over medium heat then reduce the temperature under the pan. Turn the ingredients from time to time and let them cook gently together until pale gold in colour.
- Stir in the white wine, the lemon juice and zest and the Cover the pan and allow to simmer on a very gentle heat until the guineafowl pieces are tender – round about 20 minutes, but check progress.
This recipe of mine was submitted some years ago to a competition run jointly by the BBC and Zanussi, the fridge and freezer maufacturers, and as the winner my prize was out of all proportion to the effort of invention: a gastronomic long weekend for two with Antonio Carluccio at the Cipriani Hotel, Venice!