Coldplay, Strictly, Crispy Pancakes… we all have our ‘guilty pleasures’. For drinks expert and restaurateur Mike Turner, his is Asti Spumante – a drink that, when he first discovered it, he drank with almost everything, much to the dismay of Italian sommeliers. But, despite the derision this precursor to Prosecco often gets, Mike argues it’s a serious drink with masses of skill in the making of. He visits the winemakers of Piedmont and the growers who supply the fruit and has his belief re-confirmed… Asti Spumante is a fizz that seriously needs your re-appraisal.
When Mike Turner opened his first restaurant, little did he think about the spirits shelf – the “every other alcoholic drink in the world in a quarter of a piece of A4” shelf. Mike had just about got used to being a professional wine buyer (and he knows a lot about wine) so how was he going to catch up with his spirits knowledge against the clock? He seeks help from Colin Hampden White who steers him firmly towards whisky as the first category to get on top of. But that is not such a straight path.
Spend any time with restaurateur and wine writer Mike Turner and you’ll know what great company he is, but what does he like to get up to when he has some spare time in the summer? That’s if he manages to get any at all having just opened his new restaurant, La Ferme, in Primrose Hill. When he does he’ll be sitting down to old episodes of Red Dwarf and working out the rights and wrongs of kidnapping….if it’s all for a good cause.
Ventoux is a region of the Southern Rhône that is best known for its towering mountain – a Holy Grail for cyclists and a climb that claimed the life of the first British world cycling champion Tom Simpson. It is also an important wine producing region, representing over 1,300 wineries across 51 communes. Previously known for making high alcohol ‘rustic’ table wines, things have been changing there and the quality has been improving as Mike Turner discovered when he went along to a Ventoux AOC tasting.
“I can’t help but wish I was sitting in a village café in the South of France with a bottle of glorious salmon pink wine, a bowl of bouillabaisse, the mistral rustling through the trees, and Marion Cotillard sat just…” Well we can all but dream and thankfully for us Mike Turner has put his wishful thinking about all things South of France and most of all Provence rosé to paper, with this open love letter to a style of wine that, well, he simply can’t do without. Which is a sentiment shared not just by him, but the customers in his north London restaurant and millions of others around the country.
Too often seen as an easy-going afternoon summer drink, Vinho Verde is a serious and complex wine – both red and white – that is perfect for food matching of many kinds. So says Mike Turner, who reaffirms his love with the Northern Portuguese wine a year after his Damascene moment – although he didn’t quite expect to have to put his money where his (motor) mouth is when the Vinho Verde publicity team gave him a call…
Talking, sharing and opening up about mental health is very important to Mike Turner. Being able to understand the pressures and problems that other people have with their mental health is key, he believes, to helping anyone, anywhere cope a little better with any issues they may be having. Which is why he is delighted, and honoured, to be asked to join a panel with the drinks charity, The Benevolent, to discuss how the drinks industry is handling mental health at next month’s London Wine Fair.
Can the spirit of a Catalonian Vermouth bar ever be recreated in North London? That’s the question wine expert Mike Turner asks. He recalls his first experience of a Vermouth bar in Barcelona, gets enthusiastic about it in his customary way, then wonders whether he can recreate the drink and the atmosphere in La Ferme, a new restaurant he has opened in North London’s Primrose Hill district.
Right boys and girls, it’s time for my go at my “Wines of 2017”. I’ve picked out a memorable wine from each month, some of them not even the best I’ve drunk, one in particular is actually the worst I’ve ever drunk. But they all mean a lot to me for different reasons. Lots of great wines didn’t make the list, but I loved them all the same.
Lured by a bloody steak and a large glass of Malbec, Mike ‘I’ll do anything for a free lunch’ Turner became a human guinea pig for Cadus winemaker Santiago Mayorga who wanted to test out his Malbec clonal research on a group of unsuspecting British journalists. Impressed with what he drank, Mike started waxing lyrical (in a Friday lunch sort of way) about Malbec, Bonarda and pretty much anything else that came to mind.