Story and photos by Dr. Michael Lim The Travelling Gourmet TM
Travel, Food & Wine Writer/Editor and International Wine Judge
Copyright all rights reserved
The intrepid and debonair Travelling Gourmet TM jets to Italy on Singapore Airlines to…
MARVELLOUS Lombardia and Erbusco to taste wines at Bellavista Winery. Bellavista means ‘beautiful view’ and produces fine sparkling wines. Bellavista wines are Italy’s answer to the Champagnes of France. Here, in the famous Franciacorta region of Italy, the wines are lovingly crafted in exactly the same way, just like in Champagne, France. In a nutshell, the technique used is the time-honoured “metodo classico” or “methode champenoise” which involves double frementation in the bottle, plus extended aging on the “lees”, or in French “sur lie”.
Franciacorta has 19 municipalities and is located near Lake Iseo. In 1500, when the Venetian Republic was at the height of its splendour & power, Franciacorta produced food and wine destined for the tables of princes, kings and rich merchants. The splendid city of Venice was the market of choice for introducing the wines of Franciacorta.
Bellissima Bellavista and lovely L’Albereta!
As well as Bellavista winery, the enterprising Moretti family also own and operate L’Albereta Hotel. L’Albereta Hotel is a magnificent Relais & Chateaux 5 Star luxury boutique Hotel perched on top of a hilltop, it is surrounded by lush manicured vineyards. Far, far from the madding crowd, the 19th Century Italian nobleman’s mansion has been lovingly restored with all the mod cons you expect to find in a luxurious 5 Star hotel. The ivy-clad Manor house is cocooned in 15,000 acres of Parkland with a Fitness Trail and award winning Sculpture Park. Guest rooms and suites are huge and mine has a Jacuzzi Hydrotherm bathtub. Oh my God! It’s living the life of Reilly when you are here. No wonder I have the look of the proverbial Cheshire Cat fed on rich cream! Wahahaha! I adore the enlightened 5 Cs approach of the Relais and Chateaux properties. They stand for what is best in Life, namely Charm, Courtesy, Character, Cuisine and Calm. So very pleasingly different from the distasteful, vulgar and crass Cash, Car, Condo, Country Club and Credit Card beloved of some Asians, especially ,,die typisch kommunistische Schweine….”
My SIA plane SQ368 flew smoothly into Milan’s Malpensa Airport or MXP early one foggy wintry morning…I landed at 08:28. Then just some one hour and twenty minutes later I had driven up along the Autostrada to Erbusco near Lake Iseo.
Latitude: 45°27′51″ N
Longitude: 9°11′22″ E
Elevation above sea level: 127 m
Provincia di Brescia
Geographic coordinates of L’Albereta Hotel:
Latitude: 45.6° N
Longitude: 9.97° E
Elevation: 235 m
Beautiful statues and modern Objets d’Art surround L’Albereta…
Staying in L’Albereta is a joy! The only 5 Star Luxury Relais and Chateaux Hotel in Erbusco, this salubrious hotel is really something out of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”. My most comfy and opulent suite number 25 even had a Hydro jacuzzi bathtub to luxuriate in while listening to Rachmaninoff! Oh, la la! Heavenly!
From the balcony of my lovely suite there was a splendid view of the vineyards…
One afternoon after a smashing lunch, I borrowed a bicycle from L’Albereta. They have bicycles for the complimentary and exclusive use of the house guests. As well as burning Calories, I cycled all round the estate and got a really close-up look at the vineyards with their grapevines which encompass L’Albereta.
Buono Bistro Vista Lago
Over lunch of typical Milanese specialties, I tucked in to a HUGE Cotelleta alla Milanese fragrant with the intense smell of the butter it had been flash-fried in. The natives call it the Orecchio di elefante which translates as the “Elephant’s Ear”. The vitello or veal is oh so very yummie but it is not so thinly pounded flat like the famed Viennese Wiener Schnitzel. Both Vienna in Austria and Milano in Italia claim the credit for creating this fabulous dish, just like Malaysia and Singapore fight over who created Bak Kut Teh! Humans fight over everything…remember the Spice Wars…
YUMMIE in my tummy!
It is one of the many lovely dishes on the menu of L’Albereta Hotel’s Bistro Vista Lago. The name is very apt because out on the patio you can see the lake whihc is lago d’iseo in the far distance. There is also a big persimmon tree with many persimmons. I could not resist plucking a few. Back home in sunny Singapore I made the slightly tannic fruit into marmalade. They also have an “haute cuisine” gourmet ristorante but more of that later…
Mmmmm…crispy and crunchy outside, succulent with a nice “al dente” bit inside…As a bonus, when you dine here you can see the splendid Lago di Iseo or Lake Iseo in the distance. The amazing view gives the restaurant its name…Bistro Vista Lago. Over the course of lunch I ran into an old friend, Vittorio Moretti, who owns the L’Albereta Hotel and many other wineries too, including famed Bellavista! He was with another friend of mine, Clovis Taittinger of the famed Taittinger Champagne house. The father of Clovis, Pierre Taittinger is also a good friend of mine.
Friday 20 November, 2015
Somewhere in sunny Italy…by Lake Iseo…
My trusty Breitling titanium watch woke me with its alarm at 07:00. I brushed my teeth and gums and shaved. Then I was in the well equipped Gymnasium which has a man-sized stand-up punching foam bag. Excellent for some Krav Maga elbow strike, knee strike and palm heel strike practice! I find pools quite irresistable so after the Gym…I dived in the big pool with numerous Jacuzzis and a powerful wave feature. As you swim against the flow you burn more calories!
After a most refreshing bath, an exquisite and bountiful breakfast awaited me in Bistro Vista Lago served by pretty and voluptuous Claudia. In between bites…I strolled out to the spacious verandah terrace to take in unforgettable views of Lago d’Iseo or Lake Iseo, and its island in the middle called Montisola. The warm Italian sun shone and bathed the undulating countryside in a warm and exqusite glow…as the brown leaves floated down like parachutists from the gigantic Japanese Persimmon tree on the right of the terrace. Baby blue skies with fluffy cotton wool clouds framed the mysterious lake that is rumoured to hide Nazi gold…However, Nazi gold was far from my mind as I dipped a hot flaky buttery croissant into my Cocoa-dusted Cappuccino and savoured it. Mmmm…absolutely heaven with a dash of Italian Acacaia Miel (honey). There was organic Mirtilli Yoghurt (blueberries) and cheese and Parmigiano and Emmenthal and Proscuitto and Salmon and Bresaola (air-dried beef) and a rejuvenating fruit juice cocktail of Carota (carrot), Arancia (orange, Albicocca (Apricot), Ananas (pineapple) and lots more…I was glad I had gone to the Gym for a work out and for a swim earlier…I fell in love with the cute Donut filled with golden Vanilla creme patissier dotted with Vanilla seeds…Yes, I confess it was love at first bite!
Dinner was in the Salon de Musica of L’Albereta which normally serves a Benessere or Healthy Menu but not on this occasion!
Saturday 21 November, 2015
A very big day today with a tour of the Contadi Castaldi Winery which prides itself on innovation for excellence. Despite having toured and seen so many wineries and cellars all over the world, it was still exciting to see the damp and cool cellars of what used to be a Brick factory. Down dark, narrow and mysterious passageways to see the countless rows of bottles resting in twilight…
Following the special tasting, a very delicious typically Italian Lunch was served. All manner of cold cuts like Prosciutto and Salame and Speck plus assorted cheeses with rustic rye and wholemeal bread…Yummie!
Later in the afternoon it was off the Bellavista Winery, famed for producing premium Franciacorta sparkling wine in the traditional artisanal style. It was so near, only 3 minutes by car.
A most EXTRAORDINARY tasting…
I was most privileged to take part in a most unica (unique) tasting of the Bellavista 1987 vintage. The wine was 28 years old! More to the point, I tasted the exact same wine kept in different sized bottles. From the standard 75cl bottle, to the Magnum of 1.5 liters to the Jeroboam (4.5 liters or 6 regular bottles) and the massive Methuselah (6 liters or 8 regular bottles) and titanic Salmanazar (9 liters or 12 bottles). The only difference all other things considered was the SIZE of the bottle in which the wine had been aged. The results were truly astonishing! For sparkling wine…SIZE does matter!
As the Founder and President of Terra Moretti, Vittorio, explained to me with a smile, ” I wanted to see what happened when the same wine was kept in different sized bottiglia (bottles). People thought I was crazy… The original bottles we used were too weak, and could not withstand the pressure and they broke…so we commissioned the Glass Blowers of Murano Island in Venezia to make special big bottles that could withstand the pressure inside without exploding! We succeeded!”
From left to right: Salmanazar, Methuselah, Jeroboam, Magnum and Standard bottles!
The Travelling Gourmet TM with the President of Terra Moretti and Founder of Bellavista Winery, Vittorio Moretti, and his lovely second daughter Francesca Moretti who is the Head of the Wine Division.
The wine from the 75cl bottle was poured using a special technique. First, only about 15ml waspoured in to the glass…a pause…then another 25ml was poured. This helps the sparkling wine to open up more and keeps the bubbles for longer. The coulour of the wine showed its age of 28 years…deep dark gold. There were not many bubbles and the few that were present disappeared very quickly! Its bready flavours were intact but the fruit was somewhat subdued.
Next, wine from the Magnum was poured. It was clear to my eye that the colour was definitely youthful, more so than the wine from the standard 75cl bottle. A bright pale straw colour. The perlage (bubbles) were many and energetic.The taste was fresher and the attack more dynamic too. Why is the wine that has been aged in bigger bottles fresher and more youthful? The reason is micro-oxygenation. For a smaller 75cl bottle, the wine is subjected to more micro-oxygenation and ages faster. For the larger bottle, for example, the magnum which is 1.5l, the wine is less exposed to micro-oxygenation. The wines from the even bigger Methuselah, Salmanazar and Jeroboam bottles were even fresher and maintained their bubbly effervescence! The 26 year old Franciacorta wine from 1989 aged in the Methuselah bottle was amazing youthful in terms of its bright colour, acidity, perlage (bubbles in the wine) and flavours! I was astonished!
Il Cena MERAVIGLIOSO!
The Gala Dinner right inside the magnificent Bellavista Winery was a marvellous and very grand affair. Held in collaboration with Gambero Rosso, Italy’s famous Wine and Food magazine and media group, it was a very grand carte blanche affair. My friend the CEO of Gambero Rosso Luigi Salerno was in attendance. Right inside the titanic winery the Gala Dinner began with a lovely song performed by the equally lovely singer, celebrated sultry and sexy Pilar! Throughout the gourmet offerings and lots of Franciacorta sparking wine, amica mio Pilar and her band sang for us beautifully.
Foodwise, the Caviar on Puff Pastry paired well with Riserva Vittorio Moretti 2008 Magnum Franciacorta.
Caviar on Puff Pastry with Red Onion Cream for dinner!
I also relished the yummielicious Guinea Fowl with Pomegranate going hand in hand with the newest vintage of Bellavista Meraviglioso Franciacorta!
Towards the end of her performance, Pilar very kindly asked me to sing with her…We sang that immortal song “Volare” together in Italian and drank Bellavista Meraviglioso Franciacorta sparkling wine. There was loud applause and cries of Bravo! It was truly a night to remember! Un grand moment!
L’Albereta Relais and Chateaux Hotel
Via Vittorio Emmanuel 23,
25030 Erbusco (province of Brescia)
Tel: +39 030 7760 550
Via Colzano, 32
25030 Adro, Franciacorta (Brescia)
phone +39 030 745 0126