Sunday, 5 July 2009


In this infernally hot weather, making deliberate reference to Dante’s circles of Hell, isn’t it nice to have a bit of space from everything? What the Americans would call ‘me’ space. I am having a very liberating evening to myself. My brother, Ben, is going to his first liberating ‘event’ in London with a friend, and Dad had gone to Australia for four weeks to see other members of the extended family. (The name Woodbine comes from our nineteenth century prisoner ancestors who acquired the name when they either became liberated, and did not want to be associated with their misdeeds, or because they did not want to be caught after ‘liberating’ themselves). You get the theme so far.

At last, alone in the house in Bath; keeping cool with all the windows of the building open at the back, overlooking our small terrace and herb garden. Jazz music playing ever so slightly too loud whilst preparing supper – a basement kitchen helps muffle noises for the neighbours, or at least that is what I am convincing myself as I really can’t face their complaints in what I am currently wearing. Yes, keeping cool wearing just my boxers, an apron, and a glass of something I found in the fridge to hand. Quite the naked chef. All being a picture that reflects the heat and need for space.

So this is it. Salad chopped, vinaigrette prepared, and salmon oiled and in a skillet waiting to go (my top tip is that I like to cook my fish and shellfish in bacon fat. But I digress). I pour out the Terra Viva, Bianche Terre di Chieti, organic 2007, white wine that my Dad had obviously bought from Waitrose for a carefree evening. The grapes being classified as typical of the geographic region, Abruzzo, with its humid landscape and sometimes excessive heat; in other words, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo table wine (Science bit: Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is a subvarietal of the standard Trebbiano. It is known in France as Ugni Blanc, used predominantly in brandy making, especially in Armagnac. Well, that is comforting).

Pale yellow with hints of green, the smells emanating from the glass (over the smell of cooking) are citrus. Grapefruit and lemon pith with an almost ‘sweet’ element to it. The label states that there are aromas of peach and melon and this could explain the ‘sweetness’ that I am getting, but it is very subtle and a little more floral than that.

On the palate this wine has a fairly obvious citrus bite, but behind lies the link to convince me that this will go well with my food. Elements of basil and liquorice herbs are drawn out as the flavours linger in the mouth. And, yes, as the label suggests, the sweet fruits are there; subtle but evident. High acidity versus a slightly unctuous almond cream; a flinty minerality added to the lemon finish. This is a definite Martini lemon rind moment with that almost nutty oily element (normally coming from the gin in a Martini, but bear with me, I am on a roll) contrasting against the sharp flinty citrus notes. That same mineral note also complimenting the herbal liquorice basil link, which I mentioned before.

The contrasts in the glass reflect the contrasting and dischorded jazz tunes coming from the CD player; acidity against unctuousness; lemon against almond cream; modern music against the Georgian surroundings. I dismissed this as a humble table wine, but I have to be honest, the mood, the food, both are being lifted by this enjoyable quaffing wine.

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