Harrods looks magic, but I have never liked it. It is one of those places that was built to make you dream but makes more than one Londoner sick. Legendary temple of luxury, only tourists put it on their “10 things to do on a Saturday afternoon”, contributing to the giant anthill: Something to run away from.
But Harrods loves wine. The wine department was rather empty when I came in, the perfect time to taste some of the biggest names in Italian and Australian wine history.
Representatives from the Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi family from Italy and the Yalumba vineyard from Australia were there and told me the long fascinating history of their family’s heritage, real fairy tales.
The Frescobaldi family has been making wine in Italy for 30 generations and has more than 700 years of history in winemaking. Dedicated to making Tuscan wine, they own 5000 hectares, allowing them to pick the best grapes the region has to offer. As any other master wine maker, the family knows what tradition, innovation, love and experience means.
Last Saturday they had some of their best wines on display. I present to you my selection:
Red: Luce, Toscana, 2005. Luce’s wine was created in 1995, the first wine ever produced in Montalcino by blending Sangiovese and Merlot grapes in a region usually using Sangiovese only. It is an original blend coming from a collaboration between the Italian Frescobaldi and the Californian Robert Mondavi families. This wine will age very well and is already a delight for the senses, with a structure palate and great depth. With altitudes ranging from 350 to 420 meters, the estate is one of the highest in Montalcino. It is in an area with perfect weather and soil conditions, giving birth to wine with great concentration and power. (88.50£, 76.50£ on sale)
Red: If you can’t afford a Luce, you’d also be delighted with a Montesodi Chianti or a Nipozzano Chianti, Rufina Riserva 2005. The two are intense with firm tannins. If you prefer solid wines go for the Montesodi that is rich, structured and elegant with currant and berry aromas and a touch of spiciness (42.50£, 35£ on sale). if you still like full-bodied wines that are not too heavy, go for the Nippozzano that will seduce you with its crisp and long lingering finish (Magnum: 47,50£, on sale: 38.50£).
Dessert wine: Pomino Vinsanto DOC, 2003. Luminous, elegant, amber. What struck me about this wine is the making process: grapes are hanged for up for 3 months (see picture)before being crushed. The barrique used for the Vinsanto are small, and only sealed at the top with wax. This way the liquid still received air from the pores in the wood and evaporation takes place (hence why there is a loss of liquid). The resulting taste is a perfect balance of sweetness, a full palate with a seductive creaminess and a fruity flavour. Worth trying! (36.5£, on sale: 31.50£).
The Yalumba vineyard is in the South of Australia. It is an aboriginal name meaning “all the land around”. It is the fruit of the work of a British brewer that came on the island to start a new life. Today, after 6 generations, Yalumba is the oldest family-owned winery in Australia. Again, passion, innovation and tradition are the master words, together with integrity and seriousness. They make their barrels themselves with French oak for a very personal finish.
White: My 10th wine was a white. I am very hard on whites and this Eden Valley Virgilus (Viognier) 2007, managed to keep my mouth shut for a while. Powerful and elegant, smoky and mineral, oily and complex, it leaves you with a delicious apricot taste on the palate (26.95£ – on sale 22.95).
Red: The Octavius Barossa (2001) is very dense and strong in color. Spicy, with chocolate and smoky oak notes it is a very stylish and exceptional wine. Its full body cherry fruit palate has a wonderful concentration and length. My friend Ana, raised on the strong Spanish reds of her native country, has a soft spot for this wine. If you decide to cut calories and switch chocolate for wine, you’ll be delighted. (48.50, sale price: 39.95).
Dessert Wine: With a gold and luscious hand picked (thanks god!) Botrytised Viognier 2007, the wine tasting couldn’t have finished more perfectly! In the range of dessert wines this Australian one is my favourite, it has an intense aroma of honeysuckle with hints of lavender. The palate is left sweet with a long and elegant influence of stone fruits and spices, and the finish is surprisingly fresh with lingering flavours and a hint of lemon peel: Have it with goat cheese and you’ll be in paradise. (12.50, promo price: 10.50).
Don’t wait until Christmas to find the magic at Harrods. On a warm Saturday afternoon, go to the lower ground floor and have a glass. Take a deep breath and relax.
Harrods evening wine tastings :
Book in advance: 02 7893 8777 or email [email protected]
The Frescobaldi Family as well as the Yalumba chose French aok for their wine.
There are few countries that make barrels: France, the US and Slovenia are the main ones. French barrels are famous for their subtle influence on the wine, in comparison to the American oak that gives a vanilla flavour. Thus, one must be careful to generalizations : though it’s true that American oak is higher in lactones (which can impart vanilla flavors more generously) & lower in tannins than French oak, the flavor of French oak also adds vanilla to wine . Stereotypes between French & American oak are rampant. Modern barrel making techniques (how the barrels are cut, made & toasted) & also hybrid barrels (Franco-American blends) are proving many of the old rumors false. Penfolds Grange is the most expensive (& respected) Australian wine made in 100% new American oak.