I think every booklover recognises this: the magical feeling of stepping into a new bookshop, the browsing through its collection and that fantastic feeling when you open a book and think: "Hmm, I think I am going to like this one". With wine it's often the same. Even if we know that supermarket wines for 90% suck, we will continue to browse its wine department hoping to find some down-prized good Bordeaux, a lesser bottle of a great winemaker, or just something that wakens our interest, and occasionally, yes!, we are lucky.
Whenever I'm around I try to stop at Italia Authentica, a wonderful Italian supermarket in Wavre near Brussels, on the Chaussée de Louvain, where the quality of the cheese and the charcuterie is incredibly good and the people behind the counter know how to work with it (the mortadella and the salami's really very thin sliced, as they do in Italy). You can also find Italian mineral waters, beers, pasta, etc etc and in short it is a tiny but complete supermarket as you would find it in Italy.
The wine department has until now not impressed me, but one keeps hoping, and this time I took a bottle of Trebbiano Spoletino 2009 from the Cantina Novelli in Umbria home. I allready tasted some of its wines, disliked some for their blandnes, but liked its Pecorino and its neroCube blend. Trebbiano wines usually disappoint me, but, hang on, wasn't the Trebbiano Spoletino something different ?
Stefano Novelli is a man who likes the grapes of the area, experiments a lot, and tries to restore old vineyards so he can work with the old vines. This wine is made from ungrafted, century-old vines, and you can taste it ! It has a nice, intense colour, and the nose is absolutely waw! The fruit is brilliant, all kinds of summer fruit passed through my mind, but i also found resin and box (buxus), a bit like a good Sancerre. In the mouth this wine is "vivace", lots of volume but also full of joy, and sun, and herbs, and fruit, and I kept tasting and enjoying it to the last drop.
To be honest, I picked this wine up with a bit of despair, just to have something easy for my wife who likes a glass of unpretentious white as an apero. Only at the end of the bottle I remembered to give her a glass too...
Brilliant wine. For sale at Italia Authentica in Wavre (they have a shop in Liège, Drogenbos near Brussels and La Louvière too), at the webshop Umbria (also Belgium), the 2011 however, and in many other countries (check out Google). I paid 10,89 euro, a good price as it seems to be slightly more expensive on the internet.
I have to admit that even big companies can sometimes do surprising and original things. The Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize has allready developed a quite nice beer offer, but now they even start pioneering ! Tasting beer some questions frequently come to mind, and one of them for me was allways this one: can I taste the hop variety ? I smell the difference when I visit a brewery and the brewer lets me smell his different hops, but most beers are blends, and than I get hopelessly lost.
About a year ago Delhaize listened to the hidden wishes of many a Belgian beer lover, and created a series of three Single Hop beers, around the idea that if the brewing process was identical the character of the hop variety used would stand out, a very interesting concept. This limited series was a great succes, sold out very fast and was rebrewed at least once (I think). The new Xtrem Hop series goes a step further and concentrates on hops that deliver lots of bitterness.
The quantity of hop is allways exactly the same, so you can taste what the hop variety adds to the beer. I just love the idea, and for once I pity you non-Belgian beer lovers ! Of each variety 4000 bottles were made, and the beers have all 7.1 alcohol. All three hops come from Washington State.
I started my tasting experience with the Columbus, normally the most bitter variety of the three. I loved it. It has the extreme but well-balanced bitterness that I adore in a beer, and that I can also find back in for example an Orval (though I don't think they use Columbus). I do however recognise the taste from the beers I drank from the Jandrain-Jandrenouille brewery. This is not so suprising if you know the owner is the biggest European importer of American hop. This must (is!) a lovely beer on a hot day, quite dangerous as it is one of those you can quaff all afternoon, never getting tired of it. I absolutely love it.
By the way, all beers were tasted in a glass from the Belgian Beersommelier so there is no influence from the shape of the glass. This really excellent beer tasting glass is by the way also availalable in Delhaize, with a book (in Dutch) and some Belgian beers in a nice pack with two glasses. The glasses were developed by Ben Vinken, Belgium's first and best known beersommelier, and I'm very grateful for this.
Next day I decided to make one of the favourite dishes of my wife, chicken in milk out of Jamie Oliver's Happy Days with the Naked Chef, a really succulent and easy dish, based on a peculiar effect when the lemon curdles the milk and creates a fresh tasting and really fantastic sauce. I'm not giving you the recipe, buy the book, it's full of great tips. But what you really need and makes in my eyes the difference is the quality of the lemon, and you need sun soaked untreated fresh lemon skin. So when you travel, or have friends who travel to the sun, don't forget, you can do really great things with them.
On the picture you can see the lemon peel and the other main ingredients, garlic, cinnamon and sage. The quality of the chicken is of course also important. But what to drink with it ?
We went for a small competition, Germany against France. The Anjou Blanc 2007 of René Mosse was a great wine, but a bit too much with an aroma and taste of dried fruits and wax and this did not combine that well. My favourite with chicken is and allways will be pinot noir, and despite the lemon it proved again a great combination. In this case it was the basic spätburgunder Ahrweiler from Adeneuer, a 2011, soft but with very nice fruit, i noted pomegranate, and the freshness and the fruit combined incredibly well with the fat and the freshness of the chicken.
One lemon left...