|With Gateano Monteriso's Food and Robert Joseph's Wine|
Penny Flood is taken on a gastronomic tour of Italy at Bianco Nero
I was really looking forward to the wine tasting at Bianco Nero because, not only was it my first wine tasting, I was also hoping to renew an old acquaintance. The evening was hosted by wine expert Robert Joseph whom I’d met in New York many years ago, before he became a world famous wine expert. So, I was full of hope for a good evening and I wasn’t disappointed.
It was also my first time at Bianco Nero and I have to say I was impressed. It’s in Hammersmith in a building that looks as if it might have been a bank in a previous life but any austerity on the outside is more than compensated for by the inside, which is decorated in Bianco Nero’s signature black and white and is an absolute delight, the place screams style.
On arrival we were given a glass of Prosecco before being taken to our tables where we could nibble on ciabatta and olive oil and contemplate the feast to come - a selection of Italian wines chosen by Robert, with a four course menu of traditional Italian dishes which originating from the same region as the wines. The menu was designed by Bianco Nero’s head chef, Gateano Monteriso and the food was delicious.
The first course was a sea-food lover’s dream with marinated anchovies, tiger prawns wrapped in spec, seafood salad with olives and potatoes and a selection of Italian cured meats with grilled vegetables. For the vegetarians there was huge salad of all sorts of vegetables with pine kernels and soft cheese. This was followed by a wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil.
The white wines that we drank with this were Verdicchio from Marche, a Pinot Grigio from Friuli and a Cesconi Olivar from Trentino. As you probably don’t know what a Cesconi Olivar is, I’ll share my new found wine knowledge with you, it’s a blend of Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
Three or four times, between courses Robert got up to take us on his wine tour of Italy, a wine producing nation he really likes and we learnt that it’s one of the largest wine producers in the world, with over 350 grape varieties from 20 wine regions and for this evening he had chosen some lesser know wines, hence the unusual names. He’s an interesting and amusing speaker but he’s not a wine snob, far from it. In fact, he made it clear that he despises wine snobbery and was happy to tell us about good wines he has found in Tesco and Waitrose at £4.50 a bottle – Pinot Grigio and Moncaro Verdicchio respectively. The most important thing about a bottle of wine, according to Robert, is the way it tastes and his advice on how to choose wine was: “When you find a wine you like, buy another bottle and if you find one you don’t like, choose something else.”
He also approves of screw top bottle caps which was surprising as I thought it was just people like me who can never find the corkscrew who liked them. I really expected him to hanker for the old days of real corks, but he’s tasted too many wines that have been contaminated by bad corks to want them back, and he likes the way screw tops are easier to open.
After the whites came the reds and with them we got to eat wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil followed by rump of lamb with roast peppers and olive sauce. The vegetarian option was rosemary polenta with aubergine and there was lots of it. All this was accompanied by a Vesero Taurasi from Naples, a Vajara Dolcetto from Piedmont, a Mano Negroamaro from Puglia and a Allegrini la Grola. This last was interesting because it used to be a Valpolicella but it’s been upgraded.
I was lucky enough to share a table with Robert so we could reminisce about New York and I had the chance to ask something that had been bothering me since it had been a news item a couple of days before: “Is it such a bad thing that rosé wine is made from blending white and red wine rather than the traditional way?”. His answer surprised me as I thought he’d come down on the side of the traditionalists but he was adamant that there is absolutely nothing wrong with making rosé wine that way. “That’s how it’s made in the rest of the world,” he said, “and it’s only the French who are making a fuss.”
So how did he rise from a being a journalist at Haymarket to become acknowledged as one of the 50 people who will influence the way we drink wine in the 21st Century? It was through determination and hard work and he’s reaping some enviable rewards of his efforts - he travels all over the world, eats in the finest restaurants, drinks the finest wines and gets paid to do it.
Finally came the dessert, delizia alla vaniglia, a sponge cake filled with vanilla cream which was heavenly. It was accompanied by a Contero Bracchetto from Piedmont, a sparkling wine made from the unusual Bracchetto grape with a low alcohol level, which by then was a good thing.
I thought everything at Bianco Nero was lovely and I’d certainly say it’s worth a visit, especially for a special occasion, and if you ever get an opportunity to listen to Robert Joseph and drink his wines - go for it.
April 25, 2009