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  • RAW summary

    Last month we teamed up with Isabelle Legeron MW (AKA “that crazy French Woman” and founder of RAW) to set up the first ever Ottolenghi pop-up wine shop at RAW - the artisan wine fair. Now that the dust has settled, they’ve finally found the time to sit back, relax and tell us the story of these two very exciting days:

    ‘We've always been big fans of RAW. Unlike any other wine fair, RAW offers a healthy and accessible approach to wine, bringing thousands of wine lovers to east London to taste, discuss and drink some of the world's finest natural wines. When we first pondered to partner with RAW, we were attracted to Isabelle's zero-fuss approach to wine. But it was only when we first met Isabelle and her team for a quick wine tasting that we felt this could just be the perfect match. We decided not only to participate but to host RAW's official fair wine shop both at the show itself and from our on-line store on the 19th and the 20th of May.

    On-line we offered around 30 wines made by growers who attended the fair, but the real deal was the setup, from scratch, of the pop-up wine shop in less than a day. With more than 90 wines to display from all over the world, this proved to be quite a challenge. Our goal was to create an Ottolenghi styled wine shop, with us ready to give the most professional advice, complimented with lots of Ottolenghi goodies. We aimed to create a knowledgeable yet welcoming and relaxed wine atmosphere.

    The early hours of Sunday morning, just before the official kick off, was both stressful and exciting. By 6AM hundreds of bottles, 25 wooden wine boxes, 5kg of grissini, 3Kg of salted caramel brittles, one hugely impressive flower arrangement and other bits and pieces were waiting to be assembled into our little wine shop. After pulling through some last-minute glitches, things took shape and by 9am the Ottolenghi Wine Shop was, magically (and according to plan) born and ready for business.
    The fair itself? Everything happened so fast but we enjoyed every minute. Busy from our first sale early on Sunday until the last bottle was sold late on Monday afternoon, our shop turned out to be an ideal meeting place. Fair goers came not only to buy a bottle to take back home but also to talk about wine, ask for advice, open a bottle for a quick lunch outdoors or even just to munch some grissini and brittles. We met old and new friends from all over the world, including growers, sommeliers, wine importers and wine lovers and even found the time to taste some of the most exciting wines we’ve ever had.

    Finally for all you figure lovers out there, here's a breakdown of how RAW unfolded:

    200 growers and their vineyard representatives showing the wines of 169 vineyards
    1 cider producer
    1 importer of proper sake
    1 London brewery
    1 natural tea tasting bar
    923 visits by consumers/wine amateurs/drinkers
    1996 visits by trade individuals
    153 press visitors from around the world

    We will let you know about the 2014 dates as soon as they are set, just to make sure you don’t miss the most exciting wine event of 2014.

    Gal Zohar, Ottolenghi sommelier

  • The online store moving next door!

    There have been many happy months of test kitchen-online store symbiosis. All sharing a space under one of the arches in Camden, Yotam, Sarah and Tara – developing and testing recipes – have had the most receptive tasters and discerning critics in Maria, Saga and purchasing manager Myles. A dumb waiter will now need to be installed between the test kitchen and the online store arches as the latter have (due to their growing business rather than their growing tummies) moved to their very own space next door.

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    Saga is on the ground floor fulfilling the increasing number of orders being received as our product list grows and establishes itself. Maria is upstairs, keeping on top of the all-new website and making sure that all brownie batches pass the quality control test.  The test kitchen, meanwhile, is (though missing their happy guineapigs) luxuriating in its newfound space with many plans afoot as to how best to use area which has newly opened up.

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  • Macedonian purees

    All al-fresco eating needs a dip and a spread and we have something to suit all palates, be they smoky, fiery, sweet or smooth.
    Aivar is a delicious Macedonian meze made from sweet roasted pepper and aubergine. Pairing perfectly with salty cheese – pecorino, parmesan, feta – this is great in sandwiches on a picnic or in an omelette at home. It’s great also in a falafel wrap, on a potato rosti or spooned on top of a spinach, potato and egg salad. It has been known, also, to work perfectly well eaten straight from the jar with no more than a spoon.
    For those who like a little kick given to their barbequed meat or summer sandwiches and crisps, Luteniza is the one to try. A spicy blend of roasted red peppers and carrots, ferreroni peppers give this Macedonian mezze its gentle oomph. It’s the foodie equivalent of popping the cork off a bottle. . .
    From red to green peppers and combined with smoked aubergine, Malidzano is a seriously moreish Mediterranean favourite. Similar to Baba Ganoush, but without the tahini or sesame oil, this is both fresh and light and yet intensely flavoursome at once. It’s perfect simply spread on toast – some crumbled feta on top would work well – or served as a dip, for snacks at home or for the picnic basket.
  • How to choose your bubbles

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    Some things never change. Ever since Dom Pérignon perfected his sparkling wine-making techniques in the 17th century, sparkling wine has been the perfect wine with which to celebrate. No matter what the occasion, there's nothing quite as fabulous as a row of elegant long glasses filled with bubbles. It’s time, however, to move on from the often-acidic and underwhelming Champagne offered by many supermarkets and expand our horizons to find something new. Not sure how to distinguish one sparkling wine from another? Let us help you select the right bubbles:Sparkling English wine: only a few years ago, most of our local fizz was quietly patronised by those ‘in the know’.. How fast things have changed! Nowadays, oozing with confidence, accolades pilling up and comparisons to Champagne being made, English sparkling wines are going from strength to strength. Set aside your preconceptions and see out this Jubilee year by filling your glasses with some local pride, bubbles and joy...

    Italian Prosecco: the lighter, softer and less formal option, this is the perfect way to kick off the evening. Light and casual, however, can also mean delicate and delicious. Try to look for the small, independent producers found in specialized wine shops or in our online shop: Coste Piane Prosecco is one of our favourites. Made in the traditional methode Champenoise, this offer a richness and complexity usually associated with Champagne but for a Prosecco price.

    Spanish Cava: not all Cavas are born equal and a lot of the cava we know gives the drink an unfairly bad name. There are, however, a few artisanal producers who still make the real thing: . rich and elegant sparkling wines which age gracefully. A far cry from your supermarket Cava, Josep and Antoni Mata Casanovas from Caves Recaredo produce one of our absolute favourites. Using organic and natural fertilisers only, with no use of irrigation, their Cava is a real gem: gentle and very sophisticated. More than five years old it is rich and complex in style and will surprise all the Cava sceptics out there.

  • A Mediterranean wine feast

    Food and Mediterranean wine share an everlasting love story. The ancient tradition of cuisine based on fresh ingredients and abundance of flavour was always complimented by the local wines, which thanks to the mediterranean climate are such stars in their own right. The warm, dry, sunny summers gives them ripe and spicy fruit flavours, while the mostly mild, wet winter nights retain the vibrant fresh acidity.

    In Classical times, most of the world's wine was produced in regions surrounding this famous sea. Back then - when wine consumption was at its all time high, the soft and fruity wines grown around the Mediterranean sea were kings. It was only many years later, when thin and acidic wines burst into fashion, that vine growing moved further North from the Mediterranean shores and French and German wines rose to fame.

    Nowadays, hundreds of years after their decline, both production and consumption of Mediterranean wines is on the rise again. With Southern France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Turkey, Israel and Lebanon all involved now in quality winemaking, it's difficult to ignore the innovation, quality and deliciousness these wines now represent.

    As Yotam celebrates his Mediterranean feast, we are happy to compliment it with two of our favourite Mediterranean wines.

    Domaine du Matin Calme was created in 2006 by Anthony Guix and Veronique Souloy. Their tiny 5 hectares of vines are worked organically without any chemical or synthetic products. Only indigenous yeasts are used at the winery and the wine is bottled without filtration or added sulphur. Planted west of Perpignan about 500 metres up in the Pyrenees-Orientales the Grenache & very old vines Carignan benefit from granitic soils which gives the wine a fresh and crisp style.

    Considered by many to be the best natural winemaking co-op in the world, les Vignerons D’ Estézargues also controls some of the best vineyards in southern France where the classic Mediterranean Grenache, Syrah & Carignan grapes are grown. The winemaking philosophy at les Vignerons D’ Estézargues advocates the use of natural yeasts only: no filtering, no fining and no use of enzymes during the winemaking process. The fermentation process is a spontaneous one, with very few sulphites added at bottling.

    More info about our Mediterranean Duo can be found here and you can also browse all our wines here.

  • Elisabetta Foradori

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    Nowadays considered one of the natural wine movement’s stars, Elisabetta's quest for real and
    authentic wines wasn't always easy.

    Saving Teroldego

    Born in the small village of Mezzolombardo - "among the vines" as she says - Elisabetta took over
    the family estate at the young age of 20. At that time, local wines were consumed by local people
    in the local bars. The quality of most winemaking in the region was industrial, commercial and so
    low that it didn’t leave the Dolomite mountains. Her first years were hard and it was only when
    she decided that a radical change was needed that her real connection to the land began. Elisabetta
    replanted a large part of the vineyard with a naturally selected clone of the local Teroldego
    Rotaliano and concentrated on producing wines with a strong sense of place.

    Going natural

    In 2000, even after almost singlehandedly recovering the Teroldego Rotaliano from extinction,
    Elisabetta still felt that something was missing. Her quest for that something led her to the
    philosophies and biodynamic agriculture of Rudolph Steiner, who inspired her to convert all her
    vineyards to biodynamic agriculture. Ten years on, with ICEA and Demeter certification, she is
    extremely pleased with the results and feels that her wines now preserve the true character of the
    grape and reflect the land of their origin.

    The identity of a vineyard

    In 2009, after years of observing and listening to the land, Elisabetta decided to bottle her best
    vineyards seperately:

    “Sgarzo” - where the cooler climate gives Terlodego grapes an unusual freshness

    “Fontanasanta” where the indigenous white varietal Nosiola is grown on poor soils and higher
    altitude.

    In order to preserve the vineyards authenticity Elisabetta went on a journey to the origin of
    winemaking and its very first techniques: the use of traditional clay amphoraes. First used in
    Georgia (thought by many to be the birthplace of wine) in around 6'000 BC and unchanged over
    the centuries, the use of clay amphoraes is now revived by a handful of artisan winemakers. The
    shape and porosity of the clay allows the wine to stay on its skins for a long time so that the grapes
    can reveal their character with extreme purity. The 8 months both the Teroldego "Sgarzon" and the
    Nosiola "Fontanasanta" spend on their skins in an amphorae helps them retain and amplify their
    distinctiveness.

    The Teroldego "Sgarzon" and the Nosiola "Fontanasanta", both produced in very small quantities,
    are now available as individual bottles or as part of the Foradori Trio.



  • Gonzalo Gonzalo - the new Spain

    Gonzalo Gonzalo's love story with wine started like so many others have done so before. Born in
    Logroño, Spain, he grew up among his parents vineyards' in Fuenmayor, Rioja Alta. Following the
    family tradition, he studied oenology at the university of Rioja before completing his oenologist
    training in a big industrial winery. The first turning point for Gonzalo came, however, when he
    went off travelling through France and Italy where he met small vine-growers and winemakers
    whose natural winemaking practices were about to change his life. Returning from his travels he left
    a commercial winemaking career behind to set up his own estate. Respect to the land and natural
    winemaking were at the heart of the estate's philosophy from day one.

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    The second major turning point in Gonzalo’s journey towards sustainable viticulture and
    winemaking was the illness of his father, caused by years of daily exposure to chemical fertilizers
    and herbicides while tending their vineyards in the 1970s. This influenced him profoundly
    and spurred him on to fight the battle his father had lost. His first objective was to restore the
    biodiversity in the vineyard lost due to chemical treatment. Rejecting modern chemical treatment,
    Gonzalo has instead sought out his own methods with respect for the land, his vineyards, and the
    traditions of his forefathers.

    In the weeks prior to the bottling of Gran Cerdo's first vintage, young Gonzalo naively approached
    the local bank for some financial help to launch the new wine. To his surprise the application was
    declined on the basis that “wine is not a seizable asset”. Gonzalo eventually managed to launch
    the wine without the bank's support but did not forget. Ironically named Gran Cerdo (‘big pig’ in
    Spanish) the wine's back label tells his amusing take on the matter (see below).

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    And the wine? Made from younger Tempranillo vines, this declassified Rioja is packed with
    crushed cherries, strawberries and a pleasant softness. This vibrant and juicy little natural wine is
    phenomenal value and turned out to be an international success. But Gonzallo just can't sit still.
    Seen by many as Rioja's "Bad Boy", Gonzalo keeps on pushing winemaking limits and is nowadays
    busy forging relationships with other artistic forms such as painting, music, fashion or architecture,
    in order to stimulate joint creative talent.

  • Orange wine time

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    Didn’t wine drinking use to be simple, back in the day? There was white wine, red wine and, if
    you were feeling risqué, a drop of rose. White worked with fish, red with meat and rose was for
    that rare summers-day moment. Then came postmodernism, bringing with it the rule of reason:
    pair light wine with simple food, heavier and more complex wines with richer dishes.And then, just
    when we though we’d got it all settled, orange wines burst onto the scene and all hell broke loose.So what are they, really? Orange wines are made from white grapes vinified just like red ones. This
    means that the whole grape is used (skin and flesh) during the winemaking process, and as opposed
    to traditional white wine-making the skins macerate with the juice. This results in a wine with a
    rich, more complex and sometime tannic taste which is, also, orange in colour. They are great with
    fish, fantastic with meat and make for the perfect winter-warming drink. There are no certainties
    any more: how things have changed!

    Orange wines have, however, been around much longer than we might think. In the region of
    Kakheti, Eastern Georgia (AKA the oldest wine region in the world), the monks of the Alaverdi
    Monastery Cellar have been making it for thousands of years. The modern era of orange wine
    started in 2000 when an eccentric wine producer in northern Italy, named Josko Gravner, adopted
    the ancient Georgian wine-making techniques to produce Italy's first orange wine.

    In 2002 Elena Pantaleoni, owner and winemaker at La Stoppa in Emilia Romana, decided to
    produce a very special wine, named after the founder of the estate, Mr Ageno. She soon discovered
    that the local Malvasia di Candia and Urtrugo grapes were especially suited for orange wine-making
    and yielded wines of great complexity and elegance. Now, in its 5th vintage, the Ageno from La
    Stoppa is Italy's benchmark orange wine, sold in the world’s best restaurants and appreciated by
    wine-lovers worldwide.

    One of the latest additions to the world of orange wine is the Baccabianca from Tenuta Grillo. Made
    by a husband and wife team, they use only organically-grown Cortese grapes (normally used the
    produce Gavi di Gavi) from low yielding vines. The juice is then left to macerate with the skins for
    45 days to create an unusual wine that combines an intense fruity flavour with spice and a touch of
    tannins.

    Whilst dividing opinions and all very different in taste, there is little doubt that orange wines are
    one of the most exciting wine trends of recent years. If you’re after a wine to challenge your taste
    buds and warm your wintery nights then it’s time to have some orange wine fun.

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  • Wine against mafia

     

    For the foodies amongst us, Sicily is a food haven. Thanks to its warm, Mediterranean climate some of the world's best tomatoes, artichokes, olives, citrus fruits, apricots and aubergines are grown here. The island's surrounding coastlines are abundant and famous for their local tuna, sea bream, sea bass, cuttlefish, swordfish and sardines. Being Italy's third largest wine producer, Sicilian wines are also some of the world's favourites. For most local farmers, however, these fertile lands carry a dark history. During the many decades of the Cosa Nostra rule, the Mafia bosses took control over a lot of Sicily's best and most fertile plots of lands. For many years, locals have been reluctant to put their feet on what was considered ‘sacred territory’.

    With the decline of the Sicilian Mafia in the early 90's, some of the estates of now imprisoned mafia bosses have been seized. But it was not until 1996 that state legislation allowed these confiscated lands and properties, said to be worth many millions of euros, to be used for the benefit of the people. Centopassi winery is a merger of three local co-operatives fighting together to resurrect the land's dignity.

    Located on a plateau at the Upper Belice Corleonese, Centopassi cultivates vineyards originally confiscated from ‘boss of bosses’, Salvatore ‘Toto’ Riina, who is serving multiple life sentences for crimes including ordering the assassination of judge Giovanni Falcone. Benefiting from a high altitude and the cooling effect from the nearby Mediterranean sea, this special terroir proved to be particularly suited to the production of quality wines. All the grapes are organically grown, as Centopassi believes that organic viticulture can, literally, cleanse the soil of its sinister past.

    Now recognised by Italy's leading wine guides, L'Espresso and Gambero Rosso, the wines of Centopassi are original, full of character and aim to express their land of origin. We are proud to sell them and support their efforts and worthy cause.

  • RAW - the artisan wine fair

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    We are absolutely delighted to announce our partnership with RAW - the artisan wine fair. RAW is a two-day celebration of some of the best wine talent in the world. Featuring more than 150 growers, RAW is one of the most exciting collections of fine, natural wine artisans ever to come together in the capital. Their wines are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health and, best of all, absolutely delicious. The official RAW Wine shop has just launched on the Ottolenghi on-line store and will run to the end of May. Giving wine fans a preview of what’s on offer at the show, the online store stocks a selection of approximately 30 wines from the show’s exhibitors. For those who like to try before they buy, we will be hosting the RAW wine shop at the fair, stocking even more wines than the online store and giving visitors the chance to purchase new discoveries and favourites they’ve tasted at the show.
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    Feel free to browse through these exciting wines and producers and make sure you mark the 19th and 20th of May in you diaries so you can pop in to say hi. Our take on natural wines? Here are some of Yotam's thoughts on RAW, natural wines and why they're so delicious: "My love of food goes hand in hand with an admiration for great wine. The RAW online shop focuses on artisan producers, local grape varieties and wine made in the most natural way. Made by environmentally-committed producers they give a strong sense of place – geographically,historically, culturally. These are also, crucially, wines that we simply love to drink – and we're quite good at that! We are delighted and honoured to be working with Isabelle Legeron MW and her team at RAW, the only artisan wine fair. This partnership feels very natural indeed." Yotam Ottolenghi

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