Marion and I were out for a quiet dinner together last week. We went to one of our favourite places in Bristol to try out a new restaurant that we had heard good things about in Wapping Wharf, an area I love not just because it is a vibrant part of the old dockland but because it is bucking the trend of globalisation. I hate to see new developments – and indeed existing retail areas – that pander to the balance sheets of large multi-national chains of shops and restaurants that have squeezed out the independents. In Wapping Wharf there is no chain to be seen. A friend of mine, Phil Haughton, runs the Better Food Company who have an organic store there (visit it if you have not done so) and he tells me this is a conscious decision of the developer, Umberslade.
It is also the location of CARGO, Bristol’s first retail yard made of converted shipping containers. In one of these shipping containers is our destination for the evening – BOX-E – a tiny 14 seat restaurant. We ate well and it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. With interest, and some pride, I noticed that they had a bottle of wine from our local vineyard, San Lorenzo, on the wine list that the waiter was raving about. It was a wine (that I see often in Abruzzo) that is made without any sulphur, the most widely used and controversial additive in winemaking. The main function of sulphur is to inhibit or kill unwanted yeasts and bacteria, and to protect wine from oxidation. Few winemakers are brave enough to make wine without it.
It was nice to see the connection with Abruzzo but I was also struck by the degree to which we accept huge mark-ups on the cost of wine when we eat out. The wine from San Lorenzos that was on the wine list I have bought for 10 euros in our local town (where the vineyard has a shop) and was being charged out at £33.00 for the very same bottle. Something is wrong here.
And whilst on the subject of wine I am often asked about the connection between the most common wine from Abruzzo that we see outside of Italy, Montepulciano D'Abruzzo, with the town in Tuscany of the same name. My father who lived in Tuscany (not far from Montepulciano) up until his death a few years ago used to rib me about what he saw as the theft of their local grape and the use of the name of his neighbouring town, Montepulciano.
In fact, there is no connection at all. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano might share the same name but is made not from the Montepulciano grape; it is a completely different grape called Sangiovese. At one time it was believed that the Montepulciano grape and Sangiovese may have been related. While this relationship has proven false, it is still not known how the dominant grape of Abruzzo took the name of the Tuscan town.
More guests to Casa del Colle are showing an interest in visiting vineyards whilst staying there so I have just updated our website with more information about wine and wineries.
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