Stuart George

Cecchi nowt: Identità London 2010

In Restaurants/wine and food on June 7, 2010 at 3:34 pm

I spent lunchtime today (7 June) at Vinopolis, where the Italian wine journalist Filippo Bartolatta hosted a tasting of Cecchi wines with Andrea and Cesare Cecchi.

The tasting was a showcase for the launch of Cecchi’s new Supertuscan wine Coevo IGT Toscana 2006, half of which is Sangiovese, with the rest Cabernet Sauvignon (of course!), Merlot and Petit Verdot. As one might predict from its blend, Coevo “has no style but is all style”, as C.B. Fry said of Victor Trumper. A good drink but utterly soulless.

The other recent wines shown – 2007 Il Boschetto, 2007 Poggio al Leone, 2008 Val di Toro and 2009 La Sughera – were in much the same vein: fleshy, some tannin, warming alcohol and moderate length.

However, the 1988 Il Boschetto and 1989 La Gavina Cabernet Sauvignon were much more interesting. The Sangiovese in purezza of Il Boschetto had faded into oxidation, with more acidity than anything else on the palate. Although made from Cabernet, La Gavina was very similar to Il Boschetto, hearteningly evoking the smells and flavours of Tuscany rather than of Cabernet.

The ’89 showed even better when Massimo Bottura of Modena’s Osteria Francescana showed us a few of his dishes. This man is a genius, an Italian Heston Blumenthal. The five dishes we tasted with him were magnificent. I’m no chef and much of what he said was over my head – I can’t type that quickly, anyway.

First up was a panino di mortadella, in which Massimo had somehow turned mortadella into a liquid. I ate it before I remembered to photograph with my recently acquired iPhone… Sorry.

Then we had some risotto with truffles, which was superb with the similar flavours of the 1989 La Gavina.

The third dish was ravioli with cotechino. Massimo said that the cotechino was steamed for five hours. Yum.

His avant-garde take on bollito misto included injecting eggs with ragù, which he claimed inspired an episode of House. I watch very little television and have never seen that programme.

A dish of veal was as tender as the night (to misquote Keats). The meat was cooked for 22 hours! The parsley sauce was great, as was the creamy sauce made with extra virgin oil and mashed potato. For me, this was the only dish that went better with a younger wine and it worked well with the Coevo 2006.

The final masterpiece was what Massimo called an “ice cream bar.” This was a terrine of foie gras injected with 35-year old balsamic vinegar. Truly magnificent, though I felt a pang of guilt at eating foie gras… I no longer order foie gras but can still force it down when confronted with it at a tasting.

This Cecchi tasting was part of the Identità London event beiong held at Vinopolis today and tomorrow. This “international chef congress” is a place for top chefs “to present and exchange ideas.” The theme of the 2010 congress is, appropriately given Mr Cameron’s recent pronouncements, “The Luxury of Simplicity”.

In the expo area there were tastings of hams, cheeses, beers, oils, pastas and so on. The Prosciutto di San Daniele and Montasio cheese from Friuli brought back happy memories of my time in that lovely part of Italy during the autumn and winter of 2001-2.

Of course, this being an Italian-themed event there was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Here is a lovely pair of dishes that I spotted:

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