Tuesday, 15 August 2017

High on acid | Tavkveri 2016

It’s July and we’re back in Georgia, the three of us sitting on steps very hot, talking about the cold. About how bare it was on the way to Pheasant's Tears in March and how in Kasbegi there’d been snow. But now the cicadas are burring in the sun grasses and the cold airport floor on which we’d slept our only hour in 30 is nothing more than a rumple in my corduroys and we wash our faces and go.

Vino Underground thank god hasn’t changed but it feels like we have: how instead of just a guess at what we’d like to drink, ours was now an educated one. We select six and tell Natia no tasting now, see you later, these are for while the sun is still on.

Tbilisi is also different. The stark streaming sunlight of March is softer, and the little produce hole-in-the-wall stalls that line the streets, fuller. Liberty Square (or Freedom Sq., it seems to go by both) is full of tourists making plans in languages you can understand, the Georgians now sitting on the steps they seemed always to be sweeping when it was spring. It’s humid. There are watermelons everywhere. We return to the steps under the tree full of what we assumed were cherries but which tomorrow we’d learn are cherry plums, not cherry-cherries, called Tkemali. The grasses are still burring and we have a drink.

The first and only other time we drank Mariam Iosebidze’s Tavkveri was in December in the snow, in New England. We’d asked the peeps at Chambers Street Wines ‘for something with volatile acidity', and they suggested two: Del Prete 'Torre Nova' 2015 and Mariam’s 2015 'Tavkveri' (notes). We took both. At the time, playing a board game on the floor in front of the wood stove waiting for dinner, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I found it too acidic; whether admitting I did would be to admit some sort of defeat. You have to understand: I drink vinegar dregs and eat kimchi drunk at night. You can no-sweat dress a wound or salad with my kombucha. This would have been a personal defeat.

In the end I sidestepped the issue entirely and concluded it would make more sense in a different setting, suggesting, ‘outside hot Georgian summer let’s say grilling’. Not knowing anything about Georgia whatsoever, this was a total cop-out. But it’s still nice to be right.

Tasting notes:

Fruit punch pink in your glass shimmering with sea clam on the surface bubbles. Smells like pickled hibiscus. The 16 is more rounded than the 15, starting river pebble rolling smooth to then tighten out towards a flinty edge, like running your tongue from the flat head along the edge of an arrowhead (if you think this sounds sharp, the 15 had a body like a battle axe). In the taste department you’re knee-deep in a silty cranberry bog (or while we're here, raw Tkemali) with an ocean breeze blowing hints of a wild Georgian beast your way, the beast, no doubt, with a beautiful woven blanket over its hairy back. There's also a wisp of a gun just gone off. A super-soaker thirst quencher and as much as I hate it when supermarket wine labels say it, would work with anything blackened off a hot coal grill.


Mariam Iosebidze
"Tavkveri" 2016
Kartli, Georgia


Sunday, 13 August 2017

La Cosa, The Thing 2014

For me wine is for fun, for drinking, for talking, for dancing, for taste and sometimes for thinking. Like a good tomato I like it best unadorned, sans hoo-ha, flip-flap or hullabaloo (I eat the best tomatoes over the sink). So with tomatoes vaguely in mind, we started a pop up wine project. A place for ourselves and the undies-wrapped wines in our suitcases: a no frills, no chairs, no beer-affair with an up-turned bookshelf for a bar.

We call it Le Carton and next time we’ll be pouring wines from Georgia which is kind of killing me 'cus that's all the way in October and it's only August and I’m not allowed to drink any of the wines until then. But this isn’t about then. Actually I wanted to talk about our first pop up: that time we played bar on a street corner outside a club in the rain, that time being the first time I tried "La Cosa, The Thing". 

The Thing is a sweet wine made by Bodegas Maestro Tejero from high-grown (1.000m) Muscatel de Alejandría gapes (stems, seeds, skins and all) and it smells like raisins. Like plump to burst raisin-bread toasted to caramel, slightly burnt, both sides buttered-raisins and raisins fresh stuck in fried dough powder sugar down your shirt. Of butter-oozy hot cross buns and boozy English wedding cakes and way wine cellars smell like raisins and basically any raisin you can think of except awkward musili raisins 

(Turns out the maestro does effectively, if not in fact, make The Thing with raisins; relying on noble rot to shrivel some of the grapes ((commonly grown to make raisins)) and hanging the rest out to dry for two months.)

The next thing I’d say is that drinking The Thing in the rain will make you forget it’s raining. Take a sip and sit back for (rocket) l a u n c h, sour watermelon acidity shooting >>>shocks<<< through to the dark sides of your teeth, fruity sugar stardust ricocheting around where your dentist tells you to clean better and giving you a big acid s m ile.

Tasting notes: 

Looks like a chunk of fossilised amber with things in it (unfiltered, though no mosquitos). Smells like raisins and early-stage fermentation. Tastes intensely fruity — of kiwi, rhubarb stalks dipped in sugar, an apple picked in August, yellow grapefruit, salted limes, watermelon Jolly Rancher yes I know this isn’t a real fruit — spliced through with laser-like acidity that blasts your palate clean after each sip, taking you on to the next and next and next.


Bodegas Maestro Tejero, La Cosa The Thing 2014
Muscatel de Alejandría
Segovia, Ribera del Duero, Spain


Friday, 28 July 2017

Vej 2014

When people ask me where I'd like to live I say somewhere with good tomatoes and mountains in that order. Georgia happens to have both plus wine — something I'm slowly accepting as a third condition — but this isn't about Georgia. And nor, with 560 odd photos to edit, pages of memories and memory-memories to process, could it be. Not yet. We got back eyes red on the red eye Saturday morning and where I suppose a real writer would have already drafted something about anything, I cleaned jars to make room for the spices we carried in our suitcase next to all the wine and labelled the vinegar mother Ramaz gave me, 'VINEGAR!!'. 

But it's also sorta about Georgia. For one, we only opened the bottle because I was too nostalgic to drink anything red. For another, in Georgia we'd asked if anyone was making an orange pet nat. The answer was no, but that someone in Italy was. And guess who.

The first time I drank "Vej" 2014 was the same week I discovered how much sense it makes to sit on a beach naked. We were camping and went to Ghent for pizza one night, drank a bottle, took two for the road: it was a pretty glorious week. The second time was at a small wine fair last October. We'd been picking grapes, stacking crates but mostly drinking with Ernesto (Costadila) and Dennis Montanar, and went home by way of Venice and, Padua. There we met 'the guy that made that wine we drank at the Superette' and I remember wondering whether it was really true when he told us what he was pouring, what we were drinking, was the first or the only — I forgot — natural orange pet nat. True or not, it was another glorious week. 

On Sunday we opened our last bottle after taking all day to cook Indonesian and clean jars. Not Georgia, raining and no tomatoes, but pretty glorious.


Colour of sun shining through a clouded-plastic cup of orange jello. Smells like sweet Christmas tangerines or mandarines, I never know the difference but here I think I mean tangerine, and heady summer night orange blossom, ripe to bursting pear and crumbly Amaretto cookies. Tastes like pineapple, raisons, apricots, dry thyme and pink HubbaBubba chewing gum. Boring label.


Podere Pradarolo, Vej 2014
Malvasia di Candia Aromatica (270 days skin contact)
Varano de' Melegari, Emilia-Romagna


Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Denis Montanar

Denis Montanar

Friuli-Venezia Giulia, October 2016

They mix the wine with water out in the vineyards y'know


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Dead sheep, living wines

A pop up dinner party by Clavelin, Le Carton and Wilbert van de Kamp 

Dead sheep + Living wines

2 July 2017  

More pop up parties:

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