As we cruise into the last third of February, you don't have to be a meteorological magi to discern that we're not out of winter yet.

Romain Duvernay 2011 Cotes du Rhone

 

A friend recently trudged up to my office at around 6:30pm to find me opening a bottle of Romain Duvernay, 2011 from Côtes-du-Rhône. Anticipating pleasure he seized the bottle from my hands and inspected the label, nodding sage-like and exclaiming, "Nice… it is definitely Côtes-du-Rhône season!"

Ordinary Rhône wines night suffice if the conversation is established in flow and you are trying to hold distraction-by-pleasure at bay, but when we're damp, a little testy and tired, we want quality in bags! Thus I am pleased to say that the Romain Duvernay delivered a mouthful of pleasure that stopped us both in our tracks. After a sniff and sip, Ricardo paused for thought before exclaiming that he thought I was being extravagant with my choices but - and here's the tip - this bottle only costs a tenner.

Made from old grenache, syrah and mourvèdre vines, this wine has hints of rich dark fruits that are balanced with good tannin that cuts across the palate leaving it fresh and wanting another sip. Just how I like it! The blend ensures a combination of emergent flavours. I noticed liquorice and Ricardo picked out some spices before musing on a plate of roasted winter vegetables. The scene was set!

I was sent this to taste by Roberson Wine and asked to give a frank response. Well, frankly, it is delicious and a bargain! I would recommend it with pleasure. Buy a case or two, one to drink and one hide under the stairs… in the children's playpen, or wherever you choose, but bring out a bottle every six months or so, and see how it develops.

CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2011, ROMAIN DUVERNAY

Available from Romain Duvernay Cotes du Rhone
Bottle price £9.95
Bottle price when buying case of twelve £8.46

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Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.

 

East from Roma to Abruzzo

From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.

 

After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of. 

Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!

 

What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.

 

The Palazzo is located in the centre of Fermo, a small Roman hilltop town with a rich history dating back to antiquity. Flying from abroad, Ancona is the closest airport, 67km north (about an hours drive) along the coast of the Adriatic sea.