As a self-confessed lover of Sangiovese there’s one blind spot I can’t deny, and this is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I’ve been there and yes, it’s a lovely place, perhaps one of the nicest Tuscan hill towns in which to sip a glass as the sun goes down and the birds swoop over San Biagio. But when buying the wine for some reason Chianti and Brunello have always won the race.
(No wild boar on the menu but some of these wines are made for that combo)
So it was, I thought, always going to be educational as well as enjoyable that our next Sangiovese lunch at The Harwood Arms near Fulham Broadway was going to cover these oft-forgotten Tuscan reds, but it didn’t work out to be quite as educational as I’d hoped. The wines were good, no doubt about that. It’s just that we didn’t really pinpoint anything that made the region unique. Not that they tasted like Brunello or Chianti, but some of the younger wines didn’t especially taste of Sangiovese at all.
One of my two Wines of the Day was not a Vino Nobile, nor was it red. It was Livio Felluga Friuli Rosazzo Bianco “Terre Alte” of uncertain vintage (front label said 1997, back label 1996, probably therefore the former). Generously provided in magnum, it had hints of a dry Sauternes, waxy and with a citrus orange not quite reaching marmalade. It grew in complexity. I’d never had one this old, and I’d love to do so again, although doubtless the bottle size had its effect.
I should also mention the other white, not in the same league as the Felluga, but a wine I wish I’d bought (it came from nearby Vagabond Wines but I was unaware until later), Rossese Bianco 2012, Josetta Saffiro. I’ve drunk red Rossese but never white, and this was from Castelletto di Monferato and labelled Langhe, not from Liguria. A fresh herby white perfect for a summer seafood lunch.
Boscarelli Vino Nobile Riserva 1986 The first bottle was dead but a backup proved really interesting, tenacious of life and very old, its nose was almost sweet like a dessert wine. Maraschino cherry with a good hint of butterscotch sounds odd, but wines like this are fascinating, you can never truly understand what’s going on. So, typically, I liked it.
Poggio alla Sala 1985 More classical, and indeed tasted much more youthful, so much so that we all thought it tasted more 1990s than 1980s. Good but not approaching greatness.
Salcheto 2011 Biodynamic producer whose recent wines have been fabulous according to others at the table. I think this vintage marks a change in bottle and label, but hopefully not in style? This had a lightness and the potential, there is something there. But it wasn’t showing. And there was a tiny hint of volatility, more lipstick than nail varnish, but slightly intrusive. Yet there was a nice lift to it. I would like to sit down with a bottle over an evening rather than write it off here.
Boscarelli 2010 More depth and ripeness from a better vintage I presume, but there’s also wood here and it needs more age, obviously.
Il Macchione Riserva 2007 This was also too young but shows promise. There’s clearly too much oak right now, but it was well structured with ample fruit to mellow nicely. Sourcing older wines isn’t easy but this is currently available at Uncorked and with seven or eight years age it just needs a few more in the cellar to be drinking nicely.
Salcheto Salco Evoluzione 2000 (in magnum) This was my other Wine of the Day. Richness, poise, everything in perfect harmony in the glass as a fellow diner wrote, and the wonderful thing about a magnum is that you can savour it for longer. This was really in essence what we’d all come for, a mellow and well aged Vino Nobile which truly did live up to its name.
I’d be doing the chaps at the Harwood Arms a disservice if I didn’t give them a mention. Excellent service as usual, very relaxed and unobtrusive, with ample and good glassware, plus delicious food on my part. The famous Harwood Scotch Eggs are possibly the best pre-starter (or starter) in London and on this occasion we were each presented with two halves, one venison, the other black pudding. My real starter was the game faggots, haunch of fallow deer as a main and English cheeses for dessert. One or two who chose the crab starter were less impressed, but to be fair they were not charged for them. The cheese selection is minimal, but then they have their great strengths – game. The venue is excellent in all respects for a wine-based lunch and seems strangely not very busy at lunchtime each weekday I’ve been there. Anyway, I can heartily recommend it, along with the Salcheto if you do stumble upon a magnum of 2000!