Friday, 13 March 2009
I'm not sure how we got round to it - perhaps the fact that we were quaffing a perfectly drinkable Orvieto, which I think had come in at around two euros a bottle - but the conclusion over dinner one evening last week was that it's rare (in fact, almost unheard-of) to come across a duff bottle of Orvieto. And yet with Frascati, that stalwart of cheapo drinks parties since time immemorial, it's practically a game of russian roulette when risking a bottle from a producer that you don't already know.
There's a reason, and it lies in the rules of the formal definitions of the two different wines.
Orvieto must always be composed predominantly of two grapes - Grechetto and Trebbiano - and the variations thereafter are the result of the presence in varying degrees, and very much in a supporting role, of a few other grape varieties: Malvasia, Drupeggio, Verdello and Canaiolo Bianco. It's a pretty well-defined theme on which subtle variations are invited to be played.
Frascati, on the other hand, is more...um...'relaxed' in the rules it is required to follow. It can be 100% Malvasia Bianca di Candia (but not less than 50%, in any event); it can have a minimum 10% content of Trebbiano Toscana (and not more than 20%) or of Malvasia del Lazio (but not more than 40%)....but doesn't actually have to have any of either; and it can, but doesn't have to, include up to 30% of any mixture you can think of that contains Greco, Trebbiano Giallo, Bellone, and Bombino Bianco ....oh, and to finish it off, you can include up to 15% of any other grape variety you can think of that grows within the Lazio region, if you feel like bunging it in at the time. With rules like that, I'm surprised they don't also allow a generous percentage of grass cuttings and of chicken feed...or, in fact, thinking of some Frascati's I've experienced in years gone by, perhaps they do...
In light of all of this, a polite description of the finished wine might be that it's something of a fruit salad; a less generous take might be to pair it not with Spaghetti alla Carbonara - its more usual partner - than with Spaghetti alla Puttanesca. For obvious reasons.
Roast Lamb (with a dry Mustard Crust); Potatoes roast with Sage & Rosemary.
Panettone Bread & Butter Pudding, baked with fresh Raspberries.