6 Apr 2018

Spring Wine Spotlight

Our Restaurant Manager, Emily, shines the spotlight on a new-ish wine on our list; one that’ll be perfect for the impending glorious springtime!

Malvasia Puntinata 'Cardito' by Donato Giangirolami (Lazio, Italy).

The beauty of being an independent restaurant is that we really do decide what happens. We have an evolving wine list so it tends to change most weeks. The ‘problem’ is that we all really love wine and we’re constantly getting each other excited about something new. Like excited children we don’t want to miss out. This particular gem of a wine has been on the list for a couple of months now but seems to have gone under the radar - I wanted to give it a bit of a attention.

The story starts in Lazio, Italy; the province which is home to Rome. It’s hot, with rolling hills and many small lakes; the landscape is an idyllic place to grow wine (even nicer to drink in).

The wines of Italy can be complicated as there are so many grape varieties. According to the Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry (MIRAF) there are 350 ‘common’ varietals, and at least 2000 indigenous. Wines are commonly known by their place of origin; some of which are very well known such as Chianti, Gavi or Barolo. For a winemaker to use these prestigious names, they must meet certain winemaking criteria and employ specific techniques. For many reasons, acheiving this locational ‘brand’ can end up adding a lot of cost to the final bottle. Going for a less well-known region or grape can therefore give you great value for money. And that’s what we’ve done here.

Lazio is not one of the most famed regions for wine in Italy, but it’s a great place for wine. Plantings are usually dominated by Malvasia, Trebbiano & Grecchetto which are, in the main, blended to create the spritely (and often deliciously refreshing) Frascati.

Winemaker Donato Giangirolami has decided to break from tradition, and make wines of single grape varieties - in this case Malvasia - and we are happy they have.

The estate started life in 1956 with just 5 hectares by a chap named Dante Giangirolami; father of the current owner, Donato. Over the years, the estate has grown and diversified - including going organic, which is something I place a lot of value on.

Donato has 3 daughters who all work for the estate so it really is a family affair. They grow a bunch of other varietals: Merlot, Syrah, Montepulciano, Pignoletto, Grechetto, Chardonnay and Viognier to name a few. Alongside grapes they also grow 38 hectares of kiwis. Because why not.

The grape in charge of this wine is Malvasia Puntinata (AKA Malvasia de Lazio). There are many varietals referred to as Malvasia, with the majority in Italy. “Puntinata” roughly means “spotted with”; small little spot marks on this grape identify it as a ‘superior’ variety. The grapes are small, which helps to produce a concentrated flavour. This isn’t the most popular variety and plantings are down... so we’re doing our bit to keep it going.

This refreshing wine has some notes of orange blossom, grapefruit and apricot. It doesn’t experience any oak aging which helps retain the freshness and fruity flavours. It is kept in contact with its lees for 6 months to give it texture and depth. It’s an interesting wine with some savoury herbal notes. Delicious alone, but wine is always more enjoyable with food.

This would be delicious with shellfish, smoked salmon or some light antipasti and will absolutely come into its own as the weather gets a bit warmer.

We were talking about spring and summer dishes in the kitchen earlier and reminiscing about some gin-cured sea trout we did last year, served with broad beans, peas, and radishes. The fish had a weight to it that would balance brilliantly with this wine; there are lots of savoury, saline, herbaceous flavours and as touch of oilyness.

The seasons really come in to focus when you see the new produce appear and think about the wines that will compliment them. I can’t wait to see what our chefs come up with this year as spring finally unfolds.