The wines of Masseria Altemura in the heart of Puglia have great versatility when it comes to food. But how do they perform amongst a diverse selection of picnic dishes? A team of sommeliers find out
The great British picnic is a good test of a wine range’s food friendliness and versatility. Faced with a picnic basket filled with an array of dishes, the few bottles of accompanying wine need to work hard to match with as many as possible.
Masseria Altemura was up to the challenge, gathering a team of sommelier tasters in a garden in London – specifically that of the Enrica Rocca Cookery School. Office caterer Dayan & Webb was the ideal supplier, specialists in ambient-temperature food perfectly suited to picnics, and with a focus on presenting seasonal food beautifully. A selection of nine wines from the estate, including the brand new Sparkling Falanghina, Saliente Brut, was lined up alongside this impressive picnic spread.
The estate’s history goes back to the 4th Century – a fortified farmhouse in Salento in Puglia, located between two seas, namely the Ionian and the Adriatic. Far more recently, in 2000, the Zonin family acquired the estate with the intention of preserving its underground river, its century-old olive groves, and the region’s winemaking traditions.
It was the latter that was the priority for this panel of sommeliers, as they searched for a match for the first dish, a white Dover crab tart with paprika and red pepper. For Mikael Hannequin of Searcys at M by Montcalm, sparkling was the way forward. ‘The touch of sweetness in the Saliente matched well,’ he thought. Andres Ituarte of Coq d’Argent also found a match in the Apulo Rosso, a match that brought out some herbaceousness.
A skewer with Serrano ham, fig and honey dressing was best paired, according to Ituarte, with the rosé sparkling, Rosamaro Spumante Brut, with ‘salty and sweet notes working really well, with the wine’s fruitiness cleaning the palate from the dish’s bitter and salty notes’.
Next was the deceptively-substantial dish of roasted vegetables and hummus on sweet potato toast. ‘I originally thought to pair a sparkling or white wine with this dish, but it has some quite intense flavours, actually, so the best match was the Altemura Primitivo di Manduria,’ thought Jacopo Mazzeo of The Pig Restaurant & Hotel. ‘The wine had some roasted notes too, so it was a good pairing.’
Tasters were firmly into red wine territory for the next dish, a bavette steak sandwich with chili jam, onion and mustard mayonnaise served on brioche. ‘The Sasseo Salento paired well with the steak sandwich. That dish needs a wine with structure, and the Sasseo brought out some of its umami notes too,’ added Mazzeo.
‘The Apulo is really doing the trick with the bresaola again,’ commented Hannequin of the next pairing, the beef served with omelette tagliatelle, endive salad and rocket.
Next up was sea trout with kohlrabi and apple salad, Gorgonzola dressing and spring grains. ‘I liked this with the Fiano Salento,’ said James Fryer of Portland and Clipstone restaurants. ‘It’s an oily fish, with some creaminess, so you’re looking for some freshness.’ For Mattia Scarpazza from Petersham Nursery, the Fiano was also the right dish here. ‘I thought the wine was very crisp, and worked really well with the whole dish,’ he said.
‘The richer Aglianico was fantastic with the crumble,’ said Hannequin, referring to the honey and almond crumble pots with seasonal fruit and cream. On encountering the final dessert, the timeless classic strawberries and cream, all Ituarte said was: ‘Bubbles, all day, every day.’ And quite rightly so.
The one-bottle picnic
While all of the wines here made good matches with multiple dishes, there was one that kept impressing our panels in a variety of pairings, and that was the Apulo Rosso Salento, a Primitivo.
James Fryer of Portland and Clipstone Restaurants described its ‘lifted cherry and darker purple fruit on the nose, with sweet red and black fruits on the palate’.
‘It was the most versatile and easy-drinking wine here,’ said Andres Ituarte of Coq d’Argent. ‘If I had just one bottle for a picnic, it would be the Apulo,’ added Mikael Hannequin of Searcys at M by Montcalm.
And if our panelists could bring a second wine? While there were votes for the Sasseo, Falanghina and the Fiano, most agreed that you couldn’t go wrong with some fizz at a picnic, and would have chosen either the Sparkling Falanghina, Saliente Brut or the Rosamaro Spumante Brut.
Other wines tasted:
Altemura Primitivo di Manduria DOC
Andres Ituarte, Coq d’Argent
Mattia Scarpazza, Petersham Nursery
Mikael Hannequin, Searcys at M by Montcalm
James Fryer, Portland and Clipstone Restaurants
Jacopo Mazzeo, The Pig Restaurant & Hotel