1 May 2008

Sheltering Dolomites

‘…wine moistens and tempers the spirit and lulls the cares of the mind to rest. It revives our joys and is oil to the dying flame of life...'
ON APRIL 29th, I whooshed up to floor 29 of the Millbank Tower, ‘one of the few London office towers to have won affection’ according to the Pevsner guide. My reason: a tasting put together by 'Hunt & Coady', not as the name might imply a crack private detectives partnership, but a wine events company whose philosophy is neatly summed by the Socrates quote found on their web site.
The altitude of the architecture reflected the high (1,000 metres and counting) aspect of Italy’s smallest wine region, the Alto Adige. Also known as the Südtirol, reflecting the period of Austria's irksome tenure, winemaking is thought to date back to 500BC.
New Zealand Master of Wine, Peter McCombie sobersidedly introduced. A glance at his neglected web site hints at his dexterity in achieving wine and food synergy. The high acid, often strong wines encountered certainly demanded nourishment alongside.
I quite liked the poured produce from this sunny, in parts climatically Mediterrenean region, comprising porphry, limestone and glacial soils, although I fell in love with none.
My favourite comes from the Meran winery, named after the sun-soaked spa town. Ironic, considering the pavement gray sky in the capital. This was further exacerbated by this floor of Millbank's freezing decor: a whitewash, from floor to ceiling. The scheme must have been created by an interior designer given 'Purgatory' as the theme.
The '07 Sauvignon Blanc, fortunately labelled as such (many producers use German names) had lemon verbena mingled with a little butter on the nose and a silicon palate with firm acidity. No U.K. importer presently exists.
The most unfortunate experience involved Abbazia di Novacella's Sauvignon (also '07), a monstrous, turbulent wine evoking 'dog sweat'.
Without mopping, meaty food, I didn't understand Lagrein, a local celebrity with high international expectations. This ancient variety seems to contribute dense, blood transfusion coloured wines that are powerful, with dark berries and violets and soft, but simultaneously bitter tannins. Some 'Tyrolean dumplings' might have tamed the harlot-scarlet nail polish coloured curio.
I am greatly enjoying Jay Rayner’s gastro-chronicle, ‘The Man Who Ate The World’. I am however bothered by his attitude to exercise. Whilst admitting ‘never being thin’, he appears to have developed a punishing rhythm in tandem with his eating habits. The morning after an extravagant restaurant experience, he massochistically purges himself on his ‘huge Nordic cross-tracker’. Perhaps this is tantamount to an eating disorder, or simply in fear of eventually turning into the nameless critic who ‘put on almost eight stone’ in twelve years (or both). He specualtes whether the professional critics were originally thin, and ‘like curious virgins unacquainted with the clap, had no ideas of the consequences…’
Time Out has published a substantial chapter on wine culture, past and present in this week's issue. I am delighted to see that my words about Bedales have taken top billing on their merchant rundown (p.34). Incidentally, before going to press, I received an e-mail by accident in which their critic brutally criticised the English wine I sent them.