The Buyer
Enotria’s Cork & Fork: matching 4 Italian producers with 4 cuisines

Enotria’s Cork & Fork: matching 4 Italian producers with 4 cuisines

In order to demonstrate how premium wines work with a range of different cuisines, Enotria&Coe has launched Cork & Fork a series of one-day immersive events where four sets of buyers rotate around four restaurants to learn more about food pairing and the wines themselves. Cork & Fork is one part of an ambitious programme of events this year that Enotria&Coe is running to help market key areas of the portfolio, particularly its Italian and Spanish producers, and to focus on producers’ shift toward lighter styles and more moderate alcohol levels. The Buyer’s Victor Smart joined the first gastronomic jaunt in London’s West End.

Victor Smart
27th February 2024by Victor Smart
posted in Tasting: Wine ,

“On this Cork & Fork tour, we pilgrims have discussed far-ranging topics from the challenges that sommeliers face in decanting fragile older wines, moderating rising alcohol levels, and the take-up of rosé in Italy,” writes Smart.

Appetite required: stop #2 on the Cork & Fork tour

There are no hard and fast rules to pairings, but Enotria&Coe’s Cork & Fork course is decidedly ambitious. There are 12 different wines to be sampled at four eateries with four distinct cuisines, ranging from sushi to high-end Italian. To simplify things a bit, at each restaurant a single wine is to be paired with one signature dish. And at each of the venues, all spitting distance from each other in London’s Soho, one producer is at hand to explain their wines.

Enotria&Coe’s objective is to spread the knowledge of its experts, account managers, and customers – and let them meet the producers who, after all, really know what they are striving to achieve.

“Nothing beats learning from a producer in person about their range, as it brings their passion to life,” says Enotria&Coe’s head of marketing Alex Notman-Watt. “However, the UK is one of the most competitive markets in the world for wines and spirits, so we asked ourselves how we could best help our producers set themselves apart and provide excellent service to our customers.”

The result is to have planned an ambitious schedule of events that all try and help customers curate the perfect wine list, with each event incorporating a ‘bucket list’ element – foraging for truffles, sailing the Solent or experiencing a hot air balloon ride.

Learning first hand from producers about pairings

“We have curated an ambitious schedule of unique, memorable experiences, celebrating the expertise of our producers, by bringing together leaders in their fields to discuss topics which add commercial value for our customers. These events include a foraging dinner in Cornwall focused on sustainability, where six producers will share the opportunities and challenges they face when implementing sustainable practices. At dinner, our producers’ wines will be paired with ingredients foraged during the day by participants.”

Cork&Fork, then is a key part of this marketing plan with an enticing mantra of “sip, eat, learn and enjoy”.

Cork&Fork begins…

Prosecco meets affordable sushi

For the first event in the series, we are set to discover four producers from Italy with diverse styles: Bertani, Ruggeri, Frescobaldi and La Spinetta, joining me on this jaunt are senior wine buyers and sommeliers from top hotels, restaurants and wine merchants from London and the South.

For openers we are at Sticks’n’Sushi, a cool Danish chain specialising in affordable sushi. It’s twinned with Ruggeri Valdobbiadene which makes more than a dozen Proseccos from the classic terrain – that’s the original, posh part of the now vastly extended Prosecco DOC. On offer are the basic Prosecco Superiore DOCG (ABV 11.0%, £13.47) together with the firm’s most awarded wine, the Giustino B 2022 (ABV 11.5%, £19.40). Both are 100% Glera variety.

But, interestingly, chosen for the food paring is a rosé, the Argeo Rosé (ABV 11.5%). This goes with Pink Alaska (salmon, avocado, cream cheese and lumpfish roe) and Shake Teriyaki (salmon, teriyaki and spring onion). This wine is 85% Glera with up to 15% Pinot Noir. Self-evidently the pink hue chimes with the salmon plus a lovely freshness goes well with the oily fish. There is also some decent fruit, meaning that at just £11.60 a bottle it’s terrific value. Prosecco (it sounds so desirable when pronounced the lilting Italian way!) is clearly sloughing off old prejudices.

On next to Burger and Lobster, a chain with outlets from London to Kuwait City, specialising in burgers and wild Atlantic lobsters. Here we taste the wines of La Spinetta, which has morphed from humble Moscato d’Asti production to one of the most acclaimed estates in Italy under the leadership of Giorgio Rivetti. He was one of the ‘Barolo Boys’ who reinvented the full-bodied wine’s production, thereby making it a good deal more affordable. I haven’t met him, but apparently the indomitable rhino on the bottle labels captures his spirit.

A white, Timorasso DOC Organic Colli Tortonesi 2022 (ABV 13.0%, £19.64) and a red, Barbaresco Bordini DOCG 2020 (ABV 14.5%, £41.76) are proferred up. But the signature food course of mini lobster roll and a cheesy arancini-like ball is paired with Chardonnay Lidia 2020(ABV 12.5%, £33.31). This is the producer’s answer to the question ‘Can Italian whites age?’ Full-bodied with notes of ripe apple, citrus and almond, it has a good balance of acidity and creaminess. It will certainly be good for another two to three years. And the acidity is a treat, cutting through the gooey cheese in that rice ball.

Valpolicella is able to turn down the heat in Tamarind Kitchen

At Tamarind Kitchen we are greeted by Indian cuisine and the winemaker Bertani. Here we taste the Soave Vintage 2022 (ABV 12%, £17.78), a light and very palatable offering with notes of tropical fruit. Interestingly, it’s made with brief skin contact, although it is not an orange wine. Then on to the most expensive wine on our walk in the wild West End, the Amarone Classico DOC 2013 (ABV 15.5%, £117.24). Suffice it to say, that Amarone sales are generally falling, but not this one’s.

The food pairing, here, is with a hot and spicy baked venison samosa and requires something different than the Amarone’s weight and plum-jam flavours. The producer’s answer is the Ognisanti Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC 2021 (ABV 12.5%, £27.04). With 80% Corvina and 20% Rondinella, this is bone dry, has soft tannins and notes of fresh plum. Bertani sees this as its future – lighter, lower in alcohol and ideal to take the edge off the hot, hot spices in the food.

Casarecce and duck ragu at Frescobaldi

Last, but by no means least, we wend our way to the famed Frescobaldi restaurant, not in Soho but swanky Mayfair. There’s an ineffable air of calm sophistication inside. For those that haven’t yet dined there, the Frescobaldi eatery is an offshoot of Frescobaldi the winery. The latter has roots in winemaking that date back to the 14th century and has over 1,000 hectares in some of the best sites in Tuscany.

Our host is Ms Melissa Tondini, export manager, who introduces us to the Pomino Bianco 2022(ABV 12.5%, £15.29) and a much more familiar Castelgiocondo Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2018 (ABV 14.5%, £44.05). For the food pairing we have a casarecce pasta with a simply mouth-watering mallard duck ragù served with Nipozzano Vecchie Viti 2020 (ABV 13.5%, £23.44). “Vecchie viti” designates the wine comes from the oldest vines at Castello Nipozzano with a deep root system. It’s mainly Sangiovese and aged in oak for 24 months. A particularly favourable year, this displays wonderful fruity balsamic notes and there’s no astringency to the nice tannins.

On this tour, we pilgrims have discussed far-ranging topics from the challenges that sommeliers face in decanting fragile older wines, moderating rising alcohol levels, and the take-up of rosé in Italy (it’s decidedly patchy, apparently). In other words, we have met the Cork & Fork’s stated goal that we “sip, eat, learn and enjoy”. Luckily, three more Cork & Fork events across the UK are already in the diary over the coming year.

Enotria&Coe is a commercial partner of The Buyer. To discover more about them click here.