Posts by Mark Slaney

Armenian Wine

I was first introduced to Armenian wines a few years ago by Charles Masraff who, this spring, will be hosting a wine dinner at Condita Restaurant in Edinburgh on Thursday 21st March showcasing Armenian wines. Having become a fan of Lebanese wines since first drinking Chateau Musar back in the 1980’s, I can’t believe that Armenian wines have managed to not come onto my radar until so recently. With recent discoveries by an international archaeological team of the Areni cave unearthing wine making vessels dated at close to 6100 years old, Armenia can justifiably claim to be the oldest wine-making
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Fonzone and Ferreri

I recently had the opportunity to introduce three friends, all wine merchants, to some Italian wines that have yet to make an appearance in this country. The range of wines were very diverse but the wineries all shared something in common and that was a commitment to making seriously good wines within the context of their respective frameworks of location, grape varieties and heritage. My particular interest in the wines that we were tasting was that they all had either organic credentials or inclinations. For now I will comment on the wines from the two wineries in the south of
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Azurmendi

Three Michelin stars means that, as far as Michelin are concerned, the cooking is exceptional and it is worth a special journey. Well, Azurmendi is 2,000 kilometers in a straight line from where I live and Azurmendi was on my list of restaurants I wanted to experience, so I figured that it was worth “a special journey”, to use the Michelin phrase. Andy Hayler did a review of Azurmendi in May 2013 and gave a very informed report on his meal, course by course in meticulous detail and the restaurant is somewhere I have long wanted to visit. Whilst many
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Aldo Rainoldi Nebbiolo Sassella

The landscape of Valtellina reminds me of bit of some quiet corner of Scotland; remote, under-populated, criss-crossed with dry stone walls, mountainous and snowy in winter. The vineyards here are certainly off the beaten track and the climate and landscape are not what I think of as typically Italian. Summers are warm but not hot and winters are very cold: perfect for making fine, cool-climate wine. There’s a large diurnal variation in daily temperature too which helps produce grapes with good acidity as well as stylish fruit. The local grape is Chiavennasca which, outside of the valley and throughout the
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Relae

Having read Christian Puglisi’s “A Book of Ideas”, I fast-tracked Relae to the top of my restaurants in Copenhagen to try and on my third visit to the city went for lunch. Compared with all the glossy covered, large format, restaurant chef cookery books, Relae (the book) stands out as refreshingly different. And the presentation of the book reflects the raison d’etre behind Relae the restaurant. The opening of the book, about how Christian Puglisi moved from Noma to finding his own voice and launching his own restaurant, is written in a captivatingly casual and honest manner that is very
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Natural and bio-dynamic wine

I recently came across a book titled “The Historic Hotels of Scotland” written by Wendy Arnold and published in 1988. The guide profiled thirty hotels that the author regarded as Scotland’s finest in 1988. One of the hotels, the author commented, had a “selection of wines, said by many to be the best in the north of Scotland”. That hotel was The Clifton at Nairn. I worked there in the early 1980’s and the wine list was a role call of all the great wine estates of France and Germany of that time with vintages stretching back to the 1960’s.The
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Northern Spain: in search of food and wine part 2

Vega is a tiny hamlet on the coast, a few houses, sand dunes and the Atlantic. Gueyumar restaurant with just one spoon and fork in the Michelin Guide looks out onto the sand dunes. The place looks fairly unassuming and the giant fish bolted on the outside wall suggests that this place might be offerering something a bit light-hearted. However, the opening page of the wine list with around seventy different Champagnes gives warning that this place is actually pretty serious about what it does. The wine list is over six hundred wines strong. In contrast to the vast wine
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Northern Spain: in search of wine and food part 1

There were three ranks of smart, white taxis outside Madrid airport, perhaps twenty, maybe thirty cars and the one that we took was driven by an aspiring Jason Bourne. By the time we reached our hotel, the location of which, our Bruce Willis act-alike had absolutely no idea, we had managed enough U-turns, over-takes and last minute lane changes, to convince us that we’d earned a large glass of wine in a setting that was hopefully tranquil. The  Hotel Quinta de los Cedros did not disappoint and in the jasmine scented garden, with Albarino to hand, my nerves settled. In
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Eating in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen many of the restaurants that are of a more traditional style are open only at lunch time whilst many of the more modern restaurants are open only in the evening. We pre-booked lunch at Amalie  http://restaurantamalie.dk/ in the fashionable Amaliegarde 11 Street. It was agood job that we’d booked – the place was packed. Amalie is in the quarter where the embassies are to be found and Royal Palace guards in traditional blue uniforms with bearskin hats, patrol. Amalie is a small, intimate restaurant with panelled walls, crisp linen and an old pine dresser near the entrance crowded
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Ettrick Valley Smokehouse

Two places that I have lived in the Scottish Borders have a connection with smoked salmon. One is the little town of Duns in Berwickshire, which is where Farne Salmon is based. The other, the Ettrick Valley, is home to the Ettrick Valley Smokehouse.  Farne salmon provide smoked salmon to supermarkets, amongst others, and their turnover exceeds £70 million. They have close on six hundred staff.  The Ettrick Valley Smokehouse employs one person, the owner, Mike Roberts. This article is about Mike’s salmon, which costs a bit more than most, but as the phrase goes, “pay your money and take
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