I am pleased to present Cuculo’s latest wine portfolio. I have liberally sprinkled hyperlinks to the various wines, estates and even, in one flutter of mad egotism, an article of my own creation.
Champagne & Sparkling
Oh, how we were ahead of the game when we introduced high quality, keenly-priced Prosecco to our customers back in 2006. Prosecco was still in its discovery phase back then. We were the sorcerers of sparkle. But times change and when you see a bottle for £6 in a supermarket you know it’s time to move on. There are fabulous Prosecco estates out there – and I’ll reassure you now that we’ll not give it up – but that particular bubble (ha!) has burst.
For us now it’s all about Franciacorta. Over the past three years I have been trying to source a good version but one has to be careful. The Méthode Champenoise is never cheap compared to fermentation in large stainless steel vats. If you want to learn more – hope you do – you can find inspiration in ways I cannot satisfy by visiting the appellation’s official website here.
Other new sparklers include a sublime, delicate Royale Reserve Rosé Brut Champagne from the historically important Philipponnat (horses, not tractors, are still used in the vineyards) and, for something really special, the same estate’s Vintage Brut Cuvée “1522”. For the ones who enjoy their Champagne with a bit of the old Extra Brut the Pierre Gerbais Cuvée de Réserve continues to be delicate and fabulous, coming, as it does, from the southernmost point of the region, the Côte des Bar, where Champagne meets Chablis.
Gavi… while La Zerba’s high-altitude, cool fermentation, top-of-the-tree Terrarossa continues to delight, we have, after some fair searching, found something we love at mid-price. Le Marne’s Gavi DOCG is a fabulous little number, with all the bright mineral and floral qualities one could wish for. It’s not as concentrated as La Zerba’s – nor is it as expensive. I have always trusted the very particular trinity of trofie pasta, fresh Pesto alla Ligure and a glass of Gavi to deliver a bright burst of sunlight on even the rainiest of days.
A new pair of Primitivo wines grace the list, both coming out of the irresistibly creative I Pastini estate. The cheaper “Macramé” is lighter and less concentrated than its muscular stablemate, “Arpago” (of the Valle d’Itria appellation). From scorching, arid Puglia (Southern Italy) this rich, fruity grape traces its roots to Croatia; elsewhere you might also call it by its other name… Zinfandel.
My buying focus in the early part of this year has been the £18 – £25 price bracket. There is so much to explore here. Castel Juval’s singular Müller-Thurgau is a highlight for anybody who enjoys seductive, vibrant dry whites. Pflüger’s biodynamic dry Riesling “Bundsandstein” is another must. I wrote about this one here.
As for the reds, of notable popularity have been La Croix-Chantecaille’s St Emilion Grand Cru and Albert Mann’s Alsatian Pinot Noir, rather charmingly called “Le Grand P”. Barolo Grandee Giuseppe Mascarello’s Dolcetto d’Alba is like sticking your nose in a jar of raspberry jam; another Dolcetto from an appellation so iconic it has been able to drop the grape name altogether is Pecchenino’s Dogliani DOC, “San Luigi”.
Some of you have already tried Cave Mont Blanc’s “Chaudelune”, a Vin de Glace made from grapes at Morgex, Europe’s highest vineyards in the shadow of Mont Blanc. This iconic wine is a superb combination of Mediterranean freshness and Sherry-like oxidisation.