Contratto Masterclass and Cocktail Competition

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On Monday, 9th November, we spent the afternoon at Evans and Peel to host a Contratto masterclass and cocktail competition. If that wasn’t exciting enough, we were lucky to be joined by Anja Cramer, owner, with husband Giorgio, of Contratto distillery.

Contratto was founded in 1867 by Giuseppe Contratto. The winery is known as the oldest producer of sparkling wine in Italy, in fact, the Metodo Classico 1919 Contratto Extra Brut was the first vintage sparkling wine ever made in the country.

 In 150 years of wine making, Contratto went from producing sparkling Moscato and red wine to still wines, vermouth, tonics and syrups. The winery is now owned by La Spinetta (a family run business) who acquired it in 2011. Since then they have reintroduced Contratto to the world and continued to preserve and uphold its 140-year-old tradition and top quality.


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Evans and Peel isn’t like most bars you’ll find in London. It’s an underground, hidden cocktail bar located near Earl’s Court tube station.  I don’t know whether you’ve been before, but it’s not the easiest place to find. After 10 minutes walking up and down the same street looking for a big sign saying ‘Evans and Peel’, which didn’t exist, I finally had to ask someone to point me in the right direction.

I won’t spoil it for you, but this place is definitely worth a visit if you haven’t done so already! All I can say is, expect the unexpected!


So the masterclass kick started at 2 o’clock and on tasting were 3 vermouths, Bianco, Rosso and Americano Rosso, a bitter and an aperitif. The flavours were incredible, each having their own individual taste and uniqueness.

Just a few tasting notes for you, so you can see how different the ingredients are for each of the Contratto products.

Up first was the  Contratto Vermouth Bianco, which had flavours of coriander seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, bitter orange peel, sage, sweet orange peel, liquorice roots and many more….the list is endless!

Next we tried the Contratto Americano Rosso Vermouth, which had flavours of ginger, mint leaves, hibiscus and hawthorn flower, nettle leaves and bitter and sweet orange peel.

The final vermouth we tasted was the Contratto Rosso, which had flavours of hawthorn flowers, coriander seeds, marjoram leaves, chamomile leaves, aloe juice, cinnamon, mint leaves and ginger roots.

After the vermouth’s, it was on to the Contratto Bitter and Aperitif.

The original recipe for Contratto Bitter dates back to 1933 and is based on a mixture of delicately infused, premium natural herbs, spices, roots and seeds combined with Italian Brandy. Flavours include cardamon, enula bell, swertia, nettle and bitter and sweet orange peel.

Last but not least was the Contratto Aperitif, it had flavours of tangerine peel, juniper berries, rhubarb, ginger and wormwood. This complex yet well-balanced boutique aperitif is capable of turning any aperitif based cocktail into a wonderful experience.

I’d recommend that if you haven’t sampled these products before, you definitely need to now…. delicious!

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Once the masterclass had finished there was just enough time for a quick break before the cocktail competition started at 3.30pm.

So, similar to other cocktail competitions we’ve hosted, each bartender had to come up with cocktails on the spot. They could enter as many drinks as they liked and were judged purely on taste alone – not presentation. To make it a bit different this time round, as well as having the use of all the Contratto products, we selected a range of additional spirits the bartenders were allowed to use. These included  a bottle of Rives Special Gin, Rhum Clément Blanc, Château de Laubade Armagnac, 1615 Acholado Pisco and Pierde Almas Mezcal.

The ones to impress and judging the competition were Nick Bell (Amathus Retail Manager), Anja Cramer (owner of Contratto distillery) and Simon Epale (Bar member at Evans and Peel). The winning prize was a trip to Italy, home of Contratto, and all runners up received a bottle from the Contratto collection. Oh and a Contratto apron too!!

 

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The competition was extremely high making it a very tough decision for our 3 judges. After a lot of backwards and forwards and re-tasting the cocktails, a decision was made. Drum roll, please…

In third place was Csaba Toth from Oblix Restuarant. Congratulations Csaba!

In second place was Giovanni Graiadei from The Blind Pig at Social Eating House. Congratulations Giovanni!

and in, first place and the lucky winner of the trip to Italy was…….

Filippo Brunelli from Ceviche in Soho. He stole the show with his signature cocktail made up of Contratto Fernet, 1615 Pisco Acholado, lime juice, ginger ale and Angostura Bitters. 

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I’d just like to say a big thank you to Anja Cramer for hosting the Contratto masterclass and judging the cocktail competition. Thank you to our 2 other judges, Nick and Simon, well done boys and finally a huge thank you to Evans and Peel for letting us host the event at your amazing bar.

For more information on upcoming events, please visit our blog.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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For everything good Mezcal, for everything bad Mezcal!

On the 16th September (a very wet Wednesday) we invited Julio Mestre, owner of Los Siete Misterios Mezcal, to our Soho and Shoreditch stores for an evening of mezcal masterclasses.

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Let me start by giving you a little Los Siete Misterios history lesson:

Los Siete Misterios is inspired by the land, legends and mysteries of Mexico. It was established in 2010 by Julio Mestre and his brother Eduardo. They had one objective in mind, to produce mezcals that symbolise the countries rich heritage, passion and culture.. and that they did!

Los Siete Misterios is produced in the district of Sola de Vega in the Sierra Sur Region of the State of Oaxaca. The natural climate and terrain is the ideal spot for agave growth.The agave is cooked in underground ovens before it is hand smashed using wooden mallets. Once the mezcal has fermented in sabino vats for 10 days it is then distilled using a clay pot technique that has been around for centuries. This gives it its unique and very powerful flavour.

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On tasting that evening was the Los Siete Misterios Doba-yej, Los Siete Misterios Espandin, Los Siete Coyote and the Los Siete Misterios Tobala.. and I couldn’t wait to try them all!

Mezcal varies hugely in flavour and you’ll notice this if you’ve tried it yourself. The flavours change slightly because of the way it’s cooked and the type of wood used.

Just a few little interesting facts for you here, or if you’re planning to produce your own mezcal, some things you should definitely take note of.

  1. Mezcal shouldn’t be left too long to ferment as it can overpower the flavour, due to the acidity.
  2. To prevent damaging the agave you need to restrict the amount of water which gets to it.

So first up was the Los Siete Misterios Doba-yej.

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This is distilled in copper pots, giving it a slight rubbery taste. It had citrusy aromas of lemon, lime and grapefruit and delicate notes of toasted caramel, floral and sweet agave. This mezcal tends to improve with air as it develops the fruity and floral notes. Similar to wine I’d advise you leave it to breath for a bit before you decide to taste it.

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Next up was the Los Siete Misterios Espandin. Instead of a copper pot this is distilled using a clay pot, giving it a more refined flavour. It has fruity aromas of cherries, raspberries, bananas and delicate flashes of smoked olive and wet earth with a powerful long finish.

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After the Espadin it was time for the Los Siete Coyote. This had fruity tones of strawberry, cherry, banana, mango and well-cooked agave. It had delicate tones of liquorice anise, mint, vanilla and floral flashes.

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And last but not least was the Los Siete Misterios Tobala which had delicate notes of chocolate, tar, prunes, smoked chipotle and cooked agave with a delicious sweet finish. Note to self: Leave it in the glass for a few minutes before sipping, helps to bring out the best aromatic qualities!

To finish up, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Julio for introducing us to the world of mezcal and for letting us sample the delicious Los Siete range. Cheers!


If you missed out on this masterclass then don’t worry, you can keep an eye on upcoming masterclass by visiting our website.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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California vs Burgundy

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On the 16th September,  Alex Down, Amathus Wine Expert, hosted a California vs Burgundy masterclass at our City store in Leadenhall Market. The idea of the masterclass was to get everyone to try something a bit different and pull them away from the usual Chardonnays, Chablis, Pinot Noirs that we’re all guilty of buying.

So to avoid any reservations or pre consumptions Alex decided to turn the masterclass into a blind tasting. On tasting was a selection of California and Burgundy wines, three red and three white.

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Down the side of the tasting sheet was a list of the 6 wines on tasting that night. The idea was to taste the wines first, see if people could pull out any crucial flavours and then from there decide which one they thought it might be. Trust me this wasn’t as easy as it sounds..

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So up first and in no particular order was the whites which included a Domaine Charley Nicolle 1er Cru Chablis 2013, a George’s Burrier St Veran ‘En Faux’ 2013 and a Fess Parker Chardonnay 2013. 

So let’s have a look at some of the flavours our masterclass attendees could taste, (the majority of which were spot on).

The Domaine Charley Nicolle Chablis (from Burgundy) was described as light and fresh with a burst of citrus and acidity that hit the mouth. The George’s Burrier St Veran (again from Burgundy) had some toasted and honeyed notes with grapefruit savours. It’s typically described as having a long finish but surprisingly compared to the Domaine it didn’t. The final white was the Fess Parker Chardonnay 2013, the only white from California. This had aromas of citrus, lemon and honey and flavours of vanilla and spice. This was a favourite of mine that goes perfectly with a bowl of creamy pasta. Bon Appetite!

Before we move onto the reds, I’d like to give you a quick tip. You might already know this but if not here goes… The sign of a good wine is not necessarily where it comes from or how it is made but can be determined by how long the flavours remain in your mouth. So next time you have a glass of wine bare this in mind!

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So on the red side, again in no particular order, was the Fess Parker Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir 2012, the Patrick Clemencent Pimont Rouge 2012 and the Fess Parker ‘Ashley’s’ Pinot Noir 2012.

The Fess Parker Sta. Rita hills (from California) was described as a bit spicy, it had pepper and red cherry qualities but was light at the same time. The Patrick Clemencent Pimont Rouge 2012 (from Burgundy) was much more dryer than the Rita Hills and was quite subtle in flavour. Finally we had the Fess Parker ‘Ashley’s’ Pinot Noir, again from California. This had more depth with scents of blackberry, black cherry, sage, vanilla and baking spices on the nose and provided a long lingering finish on the palate. This particular pinot noir actually comes from Fess Parker’s daughters winery who is, believe it or not, called Ashley!

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After the tasting it was time to decide on our favourite red and white from the ones we’d tasted. Let me remind you that it was a Califonia vs Burgundy masterclass so we were intrigued to find out which one came out on top.

The clear winners of the masterclass was the  Fess Parker Chardonnay 2013 and the Fess Parker ‘Ashley’s’ Pinot Noir 2012, both from California, Santa Barbara County. For me this was quite surprising, I assumed that the Burgundy wines would be the favourite, simply because they’re very established in the wine world.

Not to sound like a clique but you should never judge a book by its cover. When it comes to wine you should always try it before you decide whether you like it or not. Don’t not try it because of the region it comes from, a lot of the time you’d be very surprised!

To keep an eye on our upcoming masterclasses please visit our website.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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An evening with Argentina

On Wednesday and Thursday night we opened our doors to Enrique Carelli, owner and winemaker of Bodegas Carelli, to give a series of masterclasses, held at our City and Shoreditch stores.

The Bodegas Carelli winery has been owned by the Carelli family since 1943 when Santos Carelli planted their first vineyards in Argentina’s premium Mendoza region. The winery is now under the control of Santos’ son, Enrique who works with his son (also called Enrique). The winery lies on a latitude of 34 degrees which defines the style of wine they produce and gives it its distinct fresh and floral character.

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The masterclasses began at 6.30pm with an introduction into the winery, production, fermentation and bottling.

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After the introduction it was straight into the tasting.. the part I think everyone was looking forward to the most. I know I certainly was!

Up first was the Carelli 34 Malbec 2013, the flagship wine for Carelli. It was fruity on the palate, very easy to drink with some great plum and cranberry perfume… at only £8 a bottle it defiantly didn’t disappoint!

Next under scrutiny was the Carelli 34 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012. This is a fantastic cabernet with vibrant fruit flavours and cinnamon spice to the nose. It’s well balanced with medium acidity and soft tannins.

What was really interesting to find out was that the Carelli 34 range has been named after number 34 for a particular reason. Possibly like everyone else I just assumed that they used 34 because the winery lies on a 34-degree latitude. But in fact, it’s because Enrique’s father won the lottery with number 34, he then used the money he’d won to purchase the Carelli winery. How amazing is that!

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So back to the tasting.. next up was the Carla Chiaro Malbec Réserve 2010. This was rich in flavour with green bramble and blackcurrant intensity which provided a nice long finish in the mouth.

Number 4 on the list was the Carla Chiaro Bonarda 2010. This was the most interesting of the wines with a distinctive smell of manure, some oaky notes, black fruits and cherries with fine tannins.

Last but not least was the Carelli Reserve Malbec 2009. This was a favourite of mine, it was deep in flavour with a complex array of vanilla, sweet spice, black fruits; balanced perfectly with well-rounded tannins and a very smooth finish. Perfection! I’m now even more excited to taste the Carelli Malbec 2010 which has just won a silver award at the IWSC. Congratulations!

The passion Enrique showed for his wines was inspiring, certainly for me anyway, it made the masterclasses that bit more exciting. It was almost as though he was discovering the wines for the very first time again.

The masterclasses were a huge success, thanks Enrique for bringing us some fantastic tasting wine!

Please visit our website to browse our selection of Carelli wines we have available in store and online and to keep up to date with our upcoming masterclasses.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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Say yes to Rhum Agricole!

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Last week we gave a warm welcome to Rhum Clément for a series of masterclasses held in our Amathus stores. The evenings were hosted by the fabulous Audrey Bruisson, Global Ambassador of Rhum Clément and Peter Holland, from the Floating Rum Shack.

Rhum Agricole is the result of a nineteenth-century molasses shortage and the imagination of Homère Clement, owner of an estate in Martinique. He analysed and mimicked the French distillers of great Armagnacs to perfect his method of rum production known today as Rhum Agricole. To make the rhum he pressed the sugarcane like grapes to extract their fresh natural juice and then fermented a wine to distil into an eau de vie.

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The masterclasses were a great success. Everyone got involved right from the start and were keen to get stuck into making their own Ti Punch, which was served on arrival. In case you didn’t know the Ti Punch is the national cocktail of the French islands, like the Mojito is to Cuba and the Caipirinha is to Brazil.

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After the Ti Punch it was straight into the tasting. With a little help from Peter and Emilie Campesato (Amathus Brand Ambassador), Audrey presented each of the rums for our masterclass to taste.

First up for tasting was the Clément Première Canne, a natural rum distilled from free-run fresh cane juice resulting in a clean and crisp spirit with tremendous body and balance. An absolute essential for your cocktails!

Next up was the Clement Canne Bleue which is produced using a single variety of sugar cane called Canne Bleue. This rum stands out for its powerful flavour and elegance.

Following on from the Clement Canne Bleue was the Clément Select Barrel. This is aged in particular oak barrels selected for their rich natural sweetness and intense aromatic qualities for a minimum of three years. It’s known for its soft vanilla notes and remarkable smooth finish.

It was then time to taste the Clément V.S.O.P which is aged for a minimum of four years in virgin Limousin barriques and re-charred Bourbon casks.

Second to last was the Clément 10 years. This rum has been prepared by the longstanding traditions of the Clement Family. The reduction of flavours over time has given this rum a beautiful concentration of character.

And last but not least the Cuvée Homère Clément. To create this, natural rums are aged in oak casks (French & Bourbon vats) for at least 6 years. This founder’s cuvée stands out for both its power and finesse.

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I think everyone will agree that the critics were very tough, but I was pleased to see that all of the rums went down a treat!

If you didn’t get chance to attend this masterclass then not to worry. We have another masterclass next week with Bodegas Carelli, wine from the Mendoza region in Argentina. Visit our website to book your place now.

Knightsbridge Soho City Shoreditch |

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An Evening of Big Argentine Reds

Join us for an evening of Bodegas Carelli masterclasses on the
9th and 10th September at our City and Shoreditch stores.
The masterclasses will be hosted by Enrique Carelli, the owner and
winemaker at Bodegas Carelli.

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The winery has been owned by the Carelli family since 1943, when Santos Carelli planted their first vineyards in Argentina’s premium Mendoza region. The winery is now under the control of Santo’s son, Enrique who works with his son (also called Enrique). The winery lies on a latitude of 34 degrees which defines the style of wine they produce and gives it its distinct fresh and floral character.

To book yourself a ticket please visit http://bit.ly/1KjCupW

Idiom Winery – The Italian Job

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Being an Italian family it made perfect sense to the Bottega’s to make wine in South Africa using famous Italian varietals. We’ve already looked at, and vicariously enjoyed, their French influenced range of wines, follow the link if you missed it, so now it’s the turn of some of the most expressive wines I’ve tasted in a long time.

Italy boasts more indigenous grape varieties than any other country and yet we rarely see them being produced successfully outside of Italy. They have a real sense of place and so being able to produce high quality wines with iconic Italian grapes is truly a feat to be applauded.

We started our Italian Odyssey with the grape best known for producing Barolo and Barbaresco, Nebbiolo.

Idiom Nebbiolo 2010 is as typically varietally correct as any text book will tell you. Licorice, nutmeg and tar first fill the nose but these are quickly followed by lashings of juicy sweet and sour black cherries and roasted strawberries. The texture is firm and confident in the mouth and the rose petal delicacy of the finish really highlights the skill that has gone in to creating such a mutli-faceted wine.

Staying in Piedmont we next tasted the grape that has made the towns of Asti and Alba famous, Barbera.

Idiom Barbera 2010 is as smooth and sumptuous as you could want a wine to be. So inviting with aromas of milk chocolate and dried cherries the richness continues with hints of freshly ground coffee beans and warm buttery toast. But forget all the waffle, this wine can easily be described by just 5 words; George Clooney in a glass! Hmmmmm

Chianti is arguable the most recognised red wine of Italy and so the Bottega family couldn’t really make iconic Italian varietals without including Sangiovese, the grape much loved across Tuscany, including Brunello di Montalcino.

Idiom Sangiovese 2010 is once again absolutely typical of the variety except with a little more warmth and playfulness. We have the expected strawberry, cherry and plum fruit, leathery earthiness redolent of riding horseback through a forest after the rain, and the tannic, but not too tannic, structure. But what I feel really gives this wine the edge is the fresh floral, herby finish that lifts the palate at the end. It is an absolute delight.

Our final wine on this exploration and admiration of Italy is a grape that in southern Italy is called Primitivo, but is possibly better known for being what the Californians call Zinfandel. And what a wine to end with.

Idiom Zinfandel 2010 is exotic and explosive in the glass. It bursts with heady fragrances of sage, rosemary, dill and thyme before giving way to something more reminiscent of gingerbread, balsamic vinegar and slow roast lamb. You can actually taste in the wine what you should be eating with it! Add to this armfuls of fresh raspberries, black currants and Morello cherries and the mouthful is complete. Sumptuous yet elegant with something new waiting to be discovered behind every drop.

 

It was such a pleasure to taste the range of Idiom wines and you have the chance to as well. On Thursday 11th December Amathus Knightsbridge is hosting a comparison evening of the Idiom Italian varietals against their original counterparts. It proves to be an interesting and entertaining masterclass so book your place early to avoid disappointment. Simply email us at tastings@amathusdrinks.com to secure your place.