Italian wine tasting with Bat and Bottle

In the atmospheric medieval surroundings of Oakham Castle we enjoyed a simple but beautifully constructed wine tasting last week with Oakham’s own Bat and Bottle Wine. With over 20 years of wine merchanting under their belts, these guys really know their stuff and the selection they presented really showed the best of some old favourites, rare finds and comforting quality that is the best of Italian wine.

By utter chance rather than design, I managed to start off with one of the most interesting wines of the evening – purely because I wanted to bypass the crowds, head for the small wine producers that were in attendance and try something new – basically my go to motivations in any situation.

L’Etrang√© 2015

This spontaneously fermented wine goes for 11 months without sulphite and in combination with the aromatic Vermentino grape – a new one on me – this led to a wine with surprising punch and character. Super dry in the mouth, after the initial shock I tasted elements of pear, green vegetal elements and even a clove spice, but all subtle and muted, like hearing the sounds of a distant orchestra drifting through a dusky forest. Definitely different, and definitely something you will come back to again.

Lis Fadis
Friulano ‘Sbilf’ 2010

When writing up your highlights from a wine tasting, it’s probably prudent to include the one where you just wrote ‘wow!’ in your notebook. Again, this unique ancient grape, the Friulano, was another new one on me. I found that there was an interesting yeasty nose on this wine but again a punchy flavour with liquorice and spice balancing out with great acidity which created a fresh but flavourful wine. Again, deeply unusual and therefore vaguely hypnotic.

Lis Fadis
Chardonnay ‘Guriut’ 2011

As if one offering from the small Lis Fadis was not enough, I cannot go on without mentioning their Chardonnay. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste, this was my wine of the evening – it could not have suited my palate more. It had a lovely buttery quality but was still gracefully bright and balanced. Absolutely what I look for in a beautifully executed Chardonnay, but I acknowledge, not to everyone’s tastes.

Mauro Franchino
Gattinara 2011

A gorgeous Nebbiolo from Alto Piemonte – you’ll remember my burgeoning obsession with this region from our recent visit to Turin. This example scored highly for me because of the gorgeous burnt amber colour which evinced the honey, apricot and plum flavours within. This was probably my ‘easy drinking’ option of the night.

Ca’ La Bionda
Amarone 2010

I have to finish on The Boy’s pick of the evening. He had bought me a bottle of Amarone to try some weeks previous, but hadn’t actually tried any himself at the time, so he hadn’t expected the almost grappa like nose and the awakening sweetness of the wine with its balancing bitterness, good body but also subtle finish. Think raisins, perhaps the merest hint of treacle, but without the cloying stickiness. This is complex and exciting wine, without going anywhere near dessert wine territory. Eminently drinkable.

So, this is just a taste of the 20 wines we sampled over the evening. It is testimony to Bat and Bottle’s expertise that such an eclectic and exciting compilation of wines from Italy were assembled in one room, and to hear Ben’s introduction to the wines was to be inspired by his passion and dedication. If you have the inclination I would think that joining their wine club, the Conspirators, would be a move you would not regret.

Cin Cin! *snigger*



Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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