Castello di Verrazzano – the treasure of Tuscany

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Castello di Verrazzano has a long, enduring history. Located in the heart of Tuscany the property housed many aristocratic families over the years with a winemaking history dating back to 1150.

Found in the Chianti Classico area, between the Italian cities of Florence and Siena, Castello di Verrazzano holds a beautiful position that was firstly an Etruscan settlement and later, Roman. In the 7th Century the castle became the property of the most famous resident, Giovanni da Verrazzano, an explorer who discovered the bay of New York and drew up the first map of the East coast of the U.S.

In 1964 he was honoured by the city of New York by naming the famous bridge, that links Brooklyn and Staten Island, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Three stones were taken from the Italian castle foundations and placed at the beginning of the bridge, and that same day, three stones from the bridge foundations were placed on the façade of the villa.

When the last of the Verrazzano family died in 1819, they were succeeded by the Ridolfi family of Florence. The Marquis Ridolfi, who is well known in Florence’s more recent history as the founder of Fiorentina, Florence’s Football Club, is also the mastermind of the Florence Maggio Musicale Festival.

Now owned by the Cappellini family, the great tradition of winemaking continues. From 1958, when they took over the castle, they set about restoring the villa, surrounding agriculture and vineyards using traditional methods, respecting the historical and architectonic features.

There are 105 acres of vines thriving in Verrazzano’s limestone-rich soil, which is reputedly responsible for the singular blend of muscularity and finesse evident in the Verrazzano wines. In addition to its famous and historic wines, Castello di Verrazzano is also a farm, producing a wide range of different produce, including olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey and grappa.

As a company who sources and imports wines from all over the world we are proud to stock a range of Verrazzano reds from the Minituscan Rosso IGT to the impressive Supertuscan Chianti Classico Gran Selezione. See them all here.

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Fabulous Amarone! – In The Press

Amarone, a wonderfully rich and powerful dry red that, despite the trend for lighter wines, has become popular after years of obscurity. With an abv that varies from 14% to a hefty 17.5% this wine is not for the faint hearted, but it rewards the brave with aromas of black cherry, fig, dark chocolate and a rich, velvety palate. We have two Amarone’s and both of them feature well in the results of the Decanter Amarone Panel Tasting, which is impressive, as the judges had to sip and sniff their way through 166 wines. A tough job.

 

 Amarone Classico Reserva, Pret a Porter, Bottega 2011

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The presentation of this fabulous Amarone is sublime –  with a studded leather label and a presentation box that evokes a vintage suitcase. However, it’s not just about the looks, as the wine inside the bottle is divine.

The judges awarded this wine a coveted 93 (out of 100) and it was therefore ‘Highly Recommended‘.

Here’s what they said…

‘Immediately vanilla and creamy blackcurrant aromas spring forth from the glass. These are followed by intense plums and chocolate in a sensual mix with caramel, prunes and smoked almonds. Mouthwatering acidity brings it all together. Decanter Magazine May 2017

Buy now … www.lebonvin.co.uk/amarone-classico-bottega

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Amarone Classico Lenotti Estate 2011

Lenotti wines never fail to excite – from inexpensive ‘house’ wines to the less every-day bottles such as this one. Also look at their ‘baby Amarone’ Valpolicella Classico Ripasso which, due to a similar winemaking process where the juice is ‘re-passed’ over Amarone grape skins, it gains extra body and flavour. Anyway, back to the Amarone…

The judges awarded this wine a respectable 87 (out of 100) and it was therefore ‘Recommended‘.

Here’s what they said…

“A wine that is admirably pieced together with sour cherries, plums and clove with aniseed spice coming through underneath. Decanter Magazine May 2017

Buy now … www.lebonvin.co.uk/lenotti-amarone

 

How to drink better wine for your money

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After a short break we’re back in The Sheffield Telegraph with another wine column. This, the 5th in the series, was published not long after the Chancellors Budget, which got us thinking how to beat the taxman and sip on superior wine.

It’s Spring, one of our favourite times of year as the gloom of winter is behind us, the days are growing longer and the sap is rising – but then, so are the taxes. The Budget has been announced recently and each year, we at Le Bon Vin and other retailers, worry how the chancellor will attack our businesses with ever-increasing excise duty hikes.  It makes life as a wine merchant increasingly hard. This year it’s a significant rise – 9p on a standard bottle of wine and 10p for sparkling, never mind a whopping 36p on spirits! It’s worth noting that in France, the homeland of the founder of Le Bon Vin, consumers pay just 6 pence in duty on an average bottle of sparkling wine and 3 pence paid on still wine.
But it’s not all doom and gloom as, while it’s going to cost a little more for your bottle, there is a way to beat the taxman and sip on superior wine for your money.  At Le Bon Vin, we often tell customers that the value for money in an £10 bottle of wine is significantly higher than a £5 bottle of wine, even though you’ll be spending £5 more and here’s why:

Duty is now up to £2.16 on still wines (that are between 5.5-15% ABV) add on the VAT at 20% and your £4.99 bottle has a disproportionate total of £3 of tax. This leaves just £2 for the retailer and winemaker to make a fair profit. Say the retailer requires a reasonable margin then the remainder of 75p must cover costs of not only the wine, but the bottle, the label, packaging, transportation and wholesale profits. Luckily, at Le Bon Vin, we cut out the middleman and import most of our wine, so the money we save is passed on to our customers where possible.

So, after all these costs we find that the actual value of the wine is somewhere in the region of 5p. Yet, if you spend a little more, for example £6.99, then the winemaker has £1.91 to play with, while £7.99 gives them £2.50, etc. At £10 the difference is even more pronounced with the winemaker having £3.66 and if you splash out on a £15 bottle the winemaker will have a whopping £6.58 to tantalise your taste buds. That is a humongous 900% increase on the winemaker’s share in a £5 bottle of plonk.

Maybe it’s time to consider that what we drink is as important as what we eat, as who would savour meat or fish that cost just 5p? Instead you might suspect that it is poor quality and not so very good for you. So, it’s well worth spending a little more on your wine so you will get a much better return on your investment for your taste buds.

A votre santé!

In the Press – Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles, Bandol, Provence 2015

We welcome the return of sipping a chilled glass of rosé along with the promise of summer. The sunrise is earlier every day, the birds are upping their game and buds are already showing on the trees and shrubs. Even today there is (some) blue sky above Sheffield.

So put aside that glass of Malbec and begin spring with one of Provence’s finest: Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles Bandol Rosé.

The judges gave this wine a coveted 93 (out of 100) and it was therefore ‘Highly Recommended’. AND, we have it for £14.95 per bottle unlike our competitors – see pic below.

Here’s what they said…

‘Pale, salmon pink with orangey flecks. Restrained aromas of apricot, spice and herbs that continue on the palate. Concentrated, chewy and weighty with mineral acidity. Mouthwatering and freh, if a little understated. Complexity will come. Drink 2016-2018’ 93/100, Top 50 Rosés
– Decanter Magazine September 2016

Stock up for the summer or begin the rosé season today! www.lebonvin.co.uk/domaine-lafran-veyrolles

Un très délicieux Pancake Day!

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For a change, and because we specialise in French drinks, we decided upon a pancake day with a distinctly French influence. So where would we find out more? Simply by chatting to Patrick Jouan, the founder of Le Bon Vin who grew up in Brittany, France. What he described was mouthwatering, so we researched the recipes and the wines to match. Enjoy!

Apple Crêpes with Calvados

The classic combination of sweet apples with a calvados kick makes these pancakes impossible to resist. This recipe by Delia Smith is relatively simple to do while the results are outstanding. We recommend Calvados du Domfrontais, Domaine Pacory and Cidre Poire Normand to sip while dining.

  • Preparation time: less than 30 mins
  • Cooking time: 10 to 30 mins
  • Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 50g/2oz plain flour
  • 25g/1oz buckwheat flour
  • 1 level tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml tub crème fraiche
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tbsp. Calvados

To make the pancakes:

  • 50g/2oz melted butter

To serve:

  • caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp calvados
  • double cream, well chilled

Method

1. Peel and core the apple and cut into quarters. Coarsely grate into a bowl then toss it in 2 tbsp. Calvados and leave aside for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, sift the flour, buckwheat flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Then in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and crème fraiche together, then gradually whisk this into the flour mixture using an electric hand whisk until you have a smooth, lump free batter. Stir in the apple and calvados.

3. To make the pancakes, melt the butter in the frying pan, then tip it into a cup. To make your first pancake, heat the pan over a medium heat until it is very hot then use 1 tbsp. of the batter to make each pancake, cook until it becomes crisp at the edges and is a lovely golden colour underneath, then, using a palette knife or spatula, turn it over and cook the other side until crisp and golden (about 45 seconds on each side.)

4. Remove the crêpe to a warm plate. Lubricate the pan again with the melted butter, then continue cooking the pancakes until the batter is all used up. Transfer the pancakes to warmed plates, giving each person three or four, lightly dusted with caster sugar. Then combine the cream and calvados, put a little on each serving and hand the rest round separately. For a special occasion, you could flame these by leaving them piled on a large plate, dusting with caster sugar, then warming 3 tbsp. of calvados in a small pan ­ light it with a match and pour the flaming calvados over the pancakes. When the flame has died down serve each person three or four pancakes with pouring cream, served separately.

Download the recipe PDF here.

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Ham & Gruyere Galette Complète

Galettes hail from the Brittany region of France, and like bread were historically a very basic food item. This recipe is topped with an egg, melted Swiss cheese and ham. You can add almost anything, caramelised onions, sautéed mushrooms and even add green vegetables like spinach. Pay tribute to its rustic origins by pairing this dish with a glass of apple or pear cidre – Loic Raison Brut or a rich buttery Chardonnay like this one..

  • Preparation time: less than 30 mins
  • Cooking time: 10 to 30 mins
  • Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 80g buckwheat flour
  • 80g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 110ml milk
  • 110ml water
  • 2 tbsp salted butter, melted, plus extra as needed

Filling:

  • 4 eggs
  • 225g Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 225g sliced ham

Method

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, milk, and water. Whisk from the inside out, gradually pulling in the dry ingredients from the sides until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

2. Whisk in the melted butter. Then, whisk in 55ml cold water, or enough so that the batter has the consistency of heavy cream.

3. Heat a 12-inch non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and ladle some of the batter in the centre. Immediately tilt the pan to evenly distribute the batter into a thin, even layer. Return to the heat and cook undisturbed until lightly browned at the edges, about 1 to 2 minutes. Then flip with a spatula and cook for 1 more minute. Transfer to a plate and repeat until batter is finished.

4. To make a galette, heat the crepe pan and wipe a tiny bit of butter around the bottom. Add the crepe, ugly-side down (you’ll know which side I’m talking about), heat for 10 seconds or so, then flip. Place a slice of ham in the centre of the crepe and then crack an egg on top of the ham. Sprinkle about a ¼ c. of grated cheese around the egg and cook over medium heat until the egg white sets. Add the spinach and tomatoes at this stage if required. If you want to speed up the process, put a domed lid or another frying pan over the crepe. As soon as the cheese has melted, fold the edges of the crepe up so the galette is square and the yolk is framed by the round edges of the crepe.

Download the recipe PDF here.

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Echlinville – from barley to bottle

 

Established in 2012, Echlinville Distillery was the dream of local man, Shane Braniff, and in 2013 it became Northern Ireland’s first licenced distillery in over 125 years. Since then, his hard work has paid off as the distillery and brands are now firmly established in the whiskey industry, winning gold at the World Whiskey Awards and the Irish Whiskey Awards.

The new ultra-modern state of the art distillery, set in the magnificent grounds of the Echlinville Estate on the picturesque Ards peninsula, has rich soil, saline air and a temperate climate that contributes to producing the finest Irish Malt and Pot Still whiskeys.

Unusually the barley, used for each base spirit, is grown in the estate’s surrounding fields and floor malted in house (most other distilleries buy in their already-malted barley).

There are four brands produced by the distillery: the historic Dunville’s, the extremely popular Jawbox Gin, the self-titled Echlinville Gin and the modern and quirky FECKiN range – the brainchild of the founder Shane Braniff.

Dunville’s VR Old Irish Whiskey Dunville’s Three Crowns Irish Whiskey

Almost 80 years after the last Dunville’s was distilled, the Echlinville Distillery revived the Dunville’s brand, and began distilling at their facility.  There were over 100 years of sometimes turbulent history in the family owned distillery (and tea importer), Dunville & Co. Their most popular whiskey, Dunville’s VR, was launched in 1837 and named after Queen Victoria, when she ascended the throne. Unfortunately, Dunville & Co. was liquidated in 1936 due, in part, to family tragedies and Prohibition in the USA.

Jawbox Gin

A Classic London Dry that is also the first single estate gin, made from grain harvested, distilled and bottled on the estate. Named after the jawbox – the colloquial name for the Belfast sink because it reflects what this gin stands for: ‘a time when the front door was left unlocked. When the kitchen was the scullery.  And in the tiny scullery stood this big sink. Clothes and dishes and weans got washed there. A lot of craic was heard around a jawbox.’ Also, a tribute to Belfast is the recommendation to mix this gin with ginger ale as along with ship building, rope making and delicate linen weaving ginger ale was invented there.

Echlinville Gin

Ireland’s first super-premium single estate pot still gin made using local botanicals to infuse the land and the sea – petals from the whin bush (gorse) and seaweed from Strangford Lough.

FECKiN Whiskey, FECKiN Spiced & FECKiN Vodka

The name is the only non-serious part of this range and surprisingly it doesn’t translate to the other foul-mouthed swear word that quickly comes to mind. In Ireland, this challenging verb means to throw something or to keep a look out. From the late 19th century it was defined as ‘to steal’.  Whatever you believe it means, it’s certainly eye catching, unconventional and it totally encapsulates the ‘craic’.

For 2017 the range got a fresh new look – a rectangular bottle and newspaper style double sided labelling with quirky news stories about ashtrays for motorcycles and ejector seats for helicopters, that will no doubt keep the imbiber entertained while sipping. Look out for FECKiN Gin and FECKiN Spiced Rum, due in stock soon.

FECKiN Vodka, FECKiN Whiskey & Echlinville Gin

High praise for Carlos Serres

The Decanter tasting panel has a hard life: 191 premium reds from Rioja were tasted and the results published in the March 2017 issue. We spotted two of our wines in the Highly Recommended section and, whether you put your trust in the points system, both scored well. We rate the Carlos Serres wines very highly ourselves so it’s great to see that the professionals do too.

Carlos Serres, Gran Reserva 2008

Highly Recommended, 91pts

Carlos Serres Gran Reserva 2008

This region of Spain is one of the most renowned however it’s easy to overlook the more complex, quality wines for easygoing, simple wines that are so prevalent. That’s the beauty of this area, from reds to drink before the next harvest, to premium Rioja to keep until the next century. This is a classic fine wine category that is up there with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Barolo.

Gran Reserva 2008

‘Peppery, earthy and unique, this is a sensitive soul in deep contemplation. The balance is there, as well as the juiciness and brightness. Not a commercial style, but a wine of good persistence. Drink 2017-2023’  

Decanter review

 

 


 Carlos Serres, Onomastica 2011

Highly Recommended, 90pts

Carlos Serres Onomastica 2011

While Decanter didn’t review the current vintage that we have in stock (2007), they did say this about that years harvest: “Low alcohols and freshness from long, slow ripening. Drink up.” Take advantage of this more mature wine that’s drinking so well now, and look forward to the 2011 vintage which is due in stock late 2017.

Onomastica 2011

Graciously balanced and open, this Rioja is showing maturity in a delicate gossamer style. It will be a great charmer with its energy, velvet tannins and attenuated fruit. Hedonistic character. Drink 2017-2022′  

Decanter review