Tuesday, 22 December 2009

fromvineyardsdirect SACROMONTE top 10 selling wines for christmas

Me and the singing reindeer in Hyde Park
thank you all for your continued support

Me on me bike with Father Xmas

Friday, 27 November 2009

Market stall fun again

So - we are there again.  You have another chance to get your xmas presents.  Saturday Duke of York Market off the King's Rd.

Here, we did the last day of olive picking yesterday and washed the crates, brought in the ladders and the nets.  Next week like fishermen of olives we will stitch up the holes in the nets and roll them up until next year.

These are the thousand year old olive trees.  Rather scary to pick from, so I hope you all realise what a risky business it is getting you that delicious oil!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Market Stall

This is Rohan looking very ready on Saturday morning.  I gather there was a good turn out and some people turned some lolly out of their pockets.  Excellent stuff chaps. 

More blooming olives!!!

So, more olives.  Olive oil is delicious.  I hope you all appreciate it.  We are up the trees all the time and it is very exhausting.  Beautiful weather though as usually this time of year, the cutting wind from Siberia is blowing one out of the trees.  This year it is nearly tropical.

Hot from Pot - Last bunches

This is the last bunch of Charlotte's little helpers with the last bunch of grapes.   The Pinot Noir variety leaves a lot of 'second growth'  bunches on the vines.  These are not part of the main harvest as they are acerbic and grow off tributary shoots.  Being rather parsimonious, I used to look at all these grapes and wonder what to do with them...  raisins...  chutney...  preserves...  a sweet wine?   Guess which I choose?  Well, we leave them on the vines until they are sweet and make WINE out of them funnily enough.  It is usually a curious dry white amber semi-sherry which everyone imbibes happily enough.  We make a bit for private consumption in the castle.  Waste not want not, I say!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Hot from Pot

There has been blog silence from the Castle for a while, I know you were all on tenterhooks waiting for the next installment.  I got 'flu.  Not swine it seems but I was laid low in bed for a few days and emerged on Monday swinging back up into the olive trees with vim and vigour (not icelandic eco-slaves).  And we are picking like it is the end of the world which I gather is supposed to be ending for all surviving Aztecs in 2012. According to an unreliable sauce who wishes to remain anonymous,  the aztec calendar ends in 2012 because they ran out of stones and could not be bothered to find any more since 2012 seemed a long way away as did the stones. 

So in my bed,  I got rather bored and grumpy so watched bits of early and surrealist cinema on youtube.  I can highly recommend Hans Richter and Fernand Leger.

The dogs would not leave my side.  


Super exciting funtime for all of you in LONDON.  Potentino stall with a beach umbrella at

THE DUKE OF YORK MARKET (off the KING'S ROAD) Saturday 21st and 28th of November, 10am-4pm

Tasting and especially buying is the idea. Wine and oil galore.

Rohan (our 'agent') and Alexander (my 'little brother') will be be standing at the stand all day for you.

I hope it is not raining.

Alexander is in the photo in a merry yule time mood with a false moustache so you can all get in the right frame of mind for purchasing christmas gifts from us. (moustaches on order)

Giacobazzi's Delicatessen and Osteria Emilia

For those of you who live in North London, we have a few new treats in store for you- Giacobazzi's Delicatessen and Osteria Emilia on Fleet Road in Hampstead will soon be receiving their first delivery of both the Sacromonte and the Piropo. Giles Coren's review of Osteria will whet your appetite...

These jewels in the London food scene were recommended to me a number of years ago by John Owen, one of the fellow founders of the Frontline Club. Thank you very much for the recommendation!

If anyone would like to recommend us to their local restaurants and delis. do post a comment and Rohan or I will drop a sample off to them.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Duke of York's Market

This coming Saturday 21st November, Rohan and I will be selling our wares at the Duke of York Square Food Market, just off the King's Road from 10 to 4- it is just next to Partridge's. Do come and join us- we are hoping for a mild day.

It should be quite an event- Katie Caldesi will be cooking up a storm as well as the regular crowd of stall owners- personally, I am looking forward to half a dozen oysters for breakfast...

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Monday, 9 November 2009

Rain stops olive picking

We have had thunderous nights and soggy days.  Much snow on the Amiata.  Picking olives is not possible in these conditions for us as the quality of the oil is dependent on fast delivery into the press with a certain quantity.  If you leave olives for too long, especially if wet, they start to ferment and go rancid.   If we take 5 crates of olives in to press because rain stopped play it is too expensive and fiddly to take to the press for 6 litres of oil - for example.  Quality quality quality.  Sacrifices for trying to attain the best we can.   We need at least two days of good dry harvesting.  So - what do we do???  Start cleaning, painting and tidying up the mess in the castle after a heavy busy season..

The kitchen is the hub of life here at Potentino.  Since we moved in and did the restoration it has never been touched because we were always in it, cooking, eating, warming by the fire and playing silly games or talking or singing.  It needed a bit of attention as we did not notice it had got decidedly GROTTY.  The spider webs were the least of the problem.

Everything was moved out.  The painting podium was assembled and off we went scrubbing gently so most of the vaults did not fall down (probably 14th century) and since there was evidence of an earlier  celestial blue under the filthy ocre sludge colour we had been living with, I decided to do that.

Lovely, refershing and somewhat spiritual like a  Renaissance monastery library studiolo UNTIL the morning after the first coat, when I went back in and the ancient smoke damage had seeped through my heavenly blue to created a tobacco stained eau de thames diseased surface.  It had to go and with the aesthetic courage of a petulant interior decorator manque' I made everyone start again.  We painted it more or less the same colour it had been.

You may see the difference.  It is a very happy environment once again for the meals that provide the stomachs that run the bodies that make the wine and oil that I hope you all enjoy.  'Ces' was immediately inspired to prepare a delicious mollusc and crustacean delight (crayfish).

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

"yumyum"- Grape Schiacchia

Grape schiacchia
Cavolo Nero and white bean soup
Sausages boiled in red wine
Celariac and red onion risotto

News and Reviews- Evening Standard

Always have to blow my own trumpet! But don't despair, quite soon, it will probably be an ear trumpet.

Andrew Neather in The Evening Standard:

Three top Italian wines

Andrew Neather

Castello di Potentino “Sacromonte” 2005, Montecucco Rosso (www.fromvineyardsdirect.com, £9.95. Mail order only, you can mix cases by calling 020 7490 9910/9904. Free delivery)

My friend Michelle brought me back a bottle of this deeply obscure Tuscan red from holiday; I was overjoyed to find that it is now available here from the excellent website FromVineyardsDirect.

This is made from 100 per cent sangiovese, but streets ahead of any Chianti at this price: full, rich, expressive, with a fine minerality. Lovely.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Hot From Pot- The Svinatura

We have done the 'svinatura' (taking the grape skins off) for the Sangiovese and all the wine is safe in the barrels maturing. During this process we empty the barrels of the skins and give them a light pressing with a hand worked press. This is very old fashioned and time consuming but is very gentle so we only get the best juice from 'vinaccia' after racking the wine off. The skins go to the Nannoni distillery to make our grappa Riserva (aged in wood and very similar to a cognac) and a Pinot Noir grappa which is rare. Both are very smooth unlike most grappas because we hardly press the skins and they are full of wine. Some of my little helpers were very merry during this operation as you can see from the t-shirt and its occupant. Needless to say there are many fumes in the barrels that may effect their judgement and discretion if they had them to begin with.

The olive harvest continues in beautiful Autumnal beauty. Idyllic picnics on the nets under the trees. We have moved on to the olive tree indigenous to SEGGIANO called the 'olivastra seggianese'. Some of our trees are over a thousand years old. The oil is particularly delicious and has a very low acidity which is a prestige. Now, it is important to add that SEGGIANO is our local village, where many people live and work and struggle in a reality which is not a brand name. Some of these people do not know how much the olive oil from SEGGIANO is sold for in certain retail venues in London as they certain do not manage to get paid that sort of price. But this is the nature of marketing and consumerism concerning our little village SEGGIANO.

Since Messalina and Coco seem to be very popular, I have decided to include a section here called
"Doggies" for their fans. When we are harvesting they love to completely ruin all the staking and netting arrangements. Coco adores to wander around under the nets like a strange underwater phantasm while Messy tries unsuccessfully to hurdle the staked edges. You can see some of their antics.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Olive Harvest

Hot from Pot

We had the first snow on the Amiata mountain this afternoon which is exceptionally early.  A light flaking.  Fires and chesnuts.  Strange to think that only a week ago we were hot and flustered picking grapes for our neighbour down the valley.  Lots of singing and hilarity at the meal afterwards.  Rather ziggy zaggy returns to the castle over the river and I think someone fell in but no one can ascertain the facts.

The olive harvest has started and Lyncurio (the alchemical magical potion) and the new Piropo were decanted.

The greenest dream deep liquid has emerged from the first olive pressing like something from the Wizard of Oz's set for the Emerald City.  Hard work but pleasurable rewards.  Well done everyone... 29 crates maximum!!!   Sooper troopers.   So far 1,800 kilos of olives.  Phew.

We had some tastings and lunches with charming Norwegians and Australians who are very appreciative of all.  It is wonderful to see the joy that Potentino gives to people especially after a few glasses of wine. 

Exciting Extra Glamourous activities - a team from the Italian La Republica magazine, "Io, Donna"  (I, Woman), came to take photos of my very beautiful and graceful mother,  Sally,  as a tribute to her loveliness and achievement.  Clothes racks and make up artists and flashing cameras all day. "Blow Up" at Potentino.  Costantino Ruspoli was the David Bailey of the situation.

Tomorrow we start taking grapes off the vats and continue picking olives.


food tantalisers from Potentino

oyster picnic under the olive trees and wild cyclamen as decoration
cavolo nero and chesnut sauce with short pasta, garlic and chilli
guinea fowl with white wine, black olives and juniper berries
served with a dish of polenta and porcini,  and beans cooked in tomato and  rosemary
farro (spelt) cooked as a risotto (farrotto) with zucchini and wild mint

Friday, 9 October 2009

Guida Espresso 2010

Cesare Calvani - our administrator/cook - and I rushed up to Florence in our filthy car to the presentation of Vini d"Italia Guida dell'Espresso.  I was wearing my Yves Saint Laurent wine gangster pin striped suit and my Nosferatu wine vampire t-shirt.  It was packed.  There was a lot of talking and then everyone scrummed for the food and wine.  I got our bit of paper for the award.  Here are some photos.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Vino d'Eccelenza Award Ceremony Today

Charlotte and Cesare are on their way to the award ceremony as I type...

The 2010 Guida Espresso reviews are finally in for the 2006 wines- We were in the top twelve wines in Tuscany.

Sacromonte 2006- 5/5 bottles 18.5

austero ed elegante nello sviluppo dei profumi, di humus e sottobosco, macchia mediterranea, ha grande carattere gustativo, centro bocca ritmato, armoniso, finale di grande energia e profondita'

An austere nose: an elegant evolution of humus and undergrowth, Mediterranean macchia. With great flavour, rhythmic central mouth, a harmonious finale of great energy and depth.

Piropo 2006 - 4/5 bottles 16.5

profumi da pinot nero maturo (viola, lampone, cuoio) buona dolcezza e sapidita' al palato, bel carattere, finale lungo con leggero esubero alcolico.

A bouquet of ripe pinot noir (violet, raspberries, leather); a fine sweetness and flavour on the palate, a beautiful personality; a lingering finish with a slight alcoholic exuberance.

They weren't easy to translate! But my mouth is watering now...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

How the Guida Espresso chooses its wines.

Today, Charlotte found this wonderful insight into how the Guida Espresso chooses its wines, how the scores work and how many wines actually get tasted- I was astonished!

I was particularly fascinated by the fact that they leave the wines open overnight to see if a wine has been "made up".

I am sure Charlotte will write about the nafarious practices in wine-making once the harvest has been done and things have calmed down, but it is good to see that the critics try to spot it!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sunday, 4th October, 2009

"Hot from Pot"

This week we finished the Alicante harvest.  Then we bottled 2007 Sacromonte, about 14,000 bottles.  Then there was the cleaning up the Castle project - weeding clipping and strimming of the terraces.  Olive tree work - pruning unwanted growth as we are getting ready for the harvest which starts after the grapes are all in.  Then we had a lunch and wine tasting with Boris Fantechi's biking gang who were absolutely delightful and very cool in their hard core leathers which belied their sweet natures. Vroom, vroom.  The red Ducati really big one was prime.

Now, after we put the grapes into the fermenting vats, it is not all over... a lot more goes on:  we have to do "pump overs" and 'delestage' work.  Basically, during the fermentation (yeast naturally present on the grape skins turning the natural sugars present in the grapes into alcohol - when that has happened the wine is 'dry' with no residual sugars) the bubbling pushes all the skins to the top of the barrel and you need to 'bathe' them, circulating the liquid wine over the thick, hard cap of skins.  This extracts colour, flavour and tannins.  The cap of skins wil also stay alive and not turn to vinegar.  In my funny little vision of wine-making, I think wine is 'alive' and must be allowed to exchange and transform.  This is one of the reasons why we ferment in a natural material - WOOD - oak from Allier in Provence, France.  Most producers ferment these days in stainless steel, which is inert and does not breathe.  In WOOD, there is an exchange between the oak, the wine and oxygen.  I hasten to add we use large vats not barriques.  5,000 litres instead of 250.  The 5,000 vat size allows for a slow exchange which has a thorough effect on the structure of the wine instead of a quick superficial spread of flavouring which the barrique can afford if so used.

The "delestage" technique involves racking all the fermenting liquid off the barrel until the hard cap of grapeskins falls to the bottom of the conical vat.  It breaks up and we then pump all the wine back over it.

Next post I will describe the 'svinatura'  when we take the skins off the wine, which go off to make A QUITE  DRINKABLE grappa.

Tomorrow, we start the main Sangiovese harvest.  Two days left.  It is a great joy for me to be able harvest at the beginning of October again.  When I started making wine nearly 20 years ago in the Morellino area (closer to the coast near Scansano), we always picked about the 10th of October.   The weather conditions have altered so considerably that the norm is often the second or third week of September.   Being under the Amiata mountain makes a great difference as we have an influx of cold air all summer and I think this suits the Sangiovese grape better.  Later, in the winter, I will be polemical about forced viticulture but am too busy making wine at the moment to rant.  So don't hold your breath. 


Potentino recipes of the Week

Roast Mountain Pears (a bit like green potatoes) with Lots of Garlic, Roast Pumpkin, Roast Yams and served with a young Pecorino (local sheep's cheese) and Potentino Chutney (made from the green leftovers of the vegetable garden three years ago)

Broccoli Rab (Cime di Rape) and Anchovy sautee'd with garlic and Pepperoncino (red chili peppers)
with a short pasta.

Pesto with raw zucchini (courgettes) blanched almonds, wild penny mint, fresh marojoram,  fresh parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil and spaghetti.

Pumpkin, chesnut and wild fennel risotto - made specially for Ashley's 24th birthday.

Thought for the Day

"Man's greatness comes from knowing he is wretched: a tree does not know it is wretched.

Thus it is wretched to know one is wretched but there is a greatness in knowing one is wretched."


Monday, 28 September 2009

"Hot from Pot" Harvesting

Not a dull momento here at Pot. We have taken the grapes skins off the Pinot Noir after fermentation, the 'Piropo' 2009 vat. It is now 'dry' wine and has a deep purple red hue. You want to dive into the velvety colour and disappear into its rich oblivions if you peer into the expanse of the vat.

We have taken the 'white' off its sediment. It is becoming paler and is sweetest twilight pinkling with a twinge of amber dawn. The bouquet is a divine secret. You will have to wait until February. It is to be called "Lyncurio" as suggested by that great mandarin of gemmology and pyrotechnics - Ben Gaskell of Gaskell Quartz. This is a mysterious stone which has magical properties , related to Jacinth or perhaps an amber, and much associated with Bacchus. I quote from Ovid's Metamorphosis

Vine-wreathed Bacchus
Received from conquered India, a gift
Of lynxes, beasts whose urine, so men say,
Changes to stones, congealing in air.

We have bottled "Piropo" 2007 and harvested the Alicante and some of the Sangiovese that was about to get a bit shrivelly. Very clean and promises well. Acidity and so on is good. The weather is still hot with lovely Autumn chill at night and the chestnuts from the mountain will be ready any day now. We have started lighting the fires.

We are hoping to bottle the rest of the 2007 early this week but due to bucreaucratic bungling in the miasma of the Grosseto agricultural institutions we have to wait another week for the tasting commission to pass the wine as D.O.C . Luckily the weather is holding out so we are going to do 12 hour sessions of bottling at the last minute in order to empty the vats for the rest of the harvest. Touch and go. It is infuriating but typical - the structures that should serve the producer serve only the structure at the expense of the product.

I have included in photo fun something we ate. I will expand this into our food section called "Yumyum" and will write up the formulas. More news later.

Thought for the day

"A shut mouth catches no flies."
Marlene Dietrich in Von Sternberg's

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy by Nicolas Belfrage

Nicolas Belfrage, a loyal supporter of Potentino from the very beginning, has included us in his new book about the finest wines in Central Italy- a great compliment.

I have just ordered a copy from Amazon.co.uk- you can get a taste (of the book, not the wine, unfortunately) from the Look Inside function too- the bete noir for me as publisher, but great for me as customer...

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

NEWS & REVIEWS-2010 edition of GUIDA Espresso Sacromonte 2006 awarded 5/5 bottles VINO D'Eccellenza

2010 edition of GUIDA Espresso
Sacromonte 2006 awarded 5/5 bottles
VINO D'Eccellenza

We have taken on a new wine distributor in the UK and Ireland -From Vineyards Direct- who has very kindly agreed to give special promotional terms to our friends.

From Vineyards Direct are offering the wines at the very reasonable prices of:
Sacromonte 2005 £9.95 a bottle/ £119.40 a case
Piropo 2005 - £12.95 a bottle/ £155.40 a case

For orders of 3 cases or more of our wines :-
Sacromonte - £9.45 a bottle/£113.40 a case
Piropo - £12.45 a bottle/£149.40 a case

Delivery is included in the above prices - if you wish to take advantage of these prices for these larger orders please let either ourselves or let FromVineyardsDirect know at service@fromvineyardsdirect.com - otherwise please place your orders directly with www.fromvineyardsdirect.com

In the 2009 Guida Espresso they said:
2005 Sacromonte 16.5/20.
'strong, robust, energetic'

2005 Piropo 17.5/20
'kaleidoscopic, fresh, aromatic"

In association with Simon Hoggart, The Spectator and From Vineyards Direct we are happy to announce that SACROMONTE 2005 is in The Wine Club Offer of The Month in this month's issue of THE SPECTATOR.


Joanna Simon writes
2005 Castello di Potentino, Sacromonte, Montecucco Rosso
This is a dark, velvety, sangiovese with succulent sweet fruit and supple oak. Very definitely sangiovese, but not the dry, astringent school of Tuscan sangiovese or the jammy new world style. It carries its 14.5% abv effortlessly and is perfect for drinking now, but has plenty of life in it. Montecucco is a relatively new DOC in the province of Grosseto in the south of Tuscany between Montalcino and Scansano. Castello di Potentino is owned by Graham C Greene and the wine is made by Charlotte Horton.
£9.95, From Vineyards Direct

Photo fun Pinot Harvest

Hot from Pot

Charlotte Horton was born in Chelsea, London, in 1963. She took her degree in Literature and then worked for Vogue magazine, Secker and Warburg, the publishing house, and then as a free lance journalist. In 1988, she became active in Italy.

Her family has owned and restored property in the Province of Grosseto for over 40 years, including two of the area's most important architectural monuments, the Castello di Montepo and currently, the Castello di Potentino. Her activities have consisted of wine, food and olive oil production, restoration, event organizing, cultural promotion and such like. She has been making wine for 18 years.

The Castello di Potentino is situated in the Grosseto area, on the slopes of the Monte Amiata near Seggiano. The foundations of the Castle date from Etruscan times and the main structure is Renaissance. The estate is made up of 4 hectares of D.O.C Montecucco vineyards and about 500 ancient olive trees, the Olivastra Seggianese variety, indigenous to the area. The estate received five out of five stars in The Guida Espresso 2007, and our out of five in Decanter 2004. Last year Potentino was awarded a star for originality and continuity of quality from the Guida Espresso (along with estates such as Biondi Santi, Col D'Orcia, Querciabella) and five out of five stars again this year for the Sacromonte Sangiovese.

"Hot from Pot"

The Pinot Noir is happily bubbling in the vats. The bunches were splendid and firm. Sugar readings confirmed an alcohol content of about 13.5-14 so we picked. I had a heroic team, too many to mention, but you were all fantastic. Thanks.

I like to put proficient people in difficult corners. They usually perform better and so one may at least begin the arduous approach towards excellence as an escape. Obviously, this principle must apply to 'moi aussi' otherwise I would be a tyrannical hypocrite (silence at the back there, please). So, the great challenge for this year was to make a 'white' wine from the Pinot Noir (red grape.).

Quite honestly, I never really believed in the value of making a white in Tuscany because the environmental conditions are generally not right. However, here at the Castello di Potentino, we have a very particular micro- climate. Low - 380m, protected basin valley, right under the highest mountain in Tuscany, touch of sea air, ex volcano etc. etc .

After observation of the happiness of the Pinot Noir I planted here, I realised that the minerality of the soil (volcanic and therefore geologically new and bursting with energy) plus the nocturnal incursions of cold air at night, were influent enough to POSSIBLY... MAKE A GOOD WHITE WINE. So... we did.

Now, this involved a great deal of squishing and bucketing and finger crossing and new refrigeration plants with instruction manuals (which I have an inbuilt aversion to reading). You can see some of this going on in the photos so I am not giving away too many secrets about what we did because I can't really remember anymore anyway. However, I am sure it will be very good or not. What I can tell you is that we dumped all the grape skins (red) from the 'whitish' wine fermentation into the pinot noir 'Piropo' mix which is a super idea as it will make it even better. It might stain your clothes more if you slop it around too much before getting it into your mouth though, so make sure it gets in.

ps The moon was full so it should all be ok

Next episode soon. Taking the grapes skins out of the barrel from the Pinot Noir. Harvesting the Sangiovese and Alicante.

Thought for the day

'Without obsession, there is no excellence.'

Pu Song Ling, China