Italian collaborations

From my colleague Ursula – italy in London

Meeting Ilaria Tachis

I was privileged recently to meet Ilaria Tachis at an event in Mayfair’s Novikov restaurant organised by Dolce Vita wines.

The occasion was to allow Ilaria to present two wines from her estate and also to speak about her relationship with her father – the legendary Giacomo Tachis, Italy’s (late) great innovative wine maker.

Ilaria – scholar and oenophile – spoke movingly about her relationship with her father and how she did take over responsibility for wine-making when within her heart she wanted to follow a course of language and literature.

She has done both; there is in Tuscany a substantial library founded by her father and perpetuated by Ilaria – then of course there is the wine!

Ilaria Tachis

The photograph above is of Ilaria with that commemorative bottle of 100% Merlot, labelled Giacomo.

For the wine-pairing menu at Novikov, she brought two wines from her own vineyard and two others from friends in Sardinia.

With the first course, seabass carpaccio (almost invisible in its paleness) and with the tiniest taggiasca olives – a Sardinian Vermentino; with the young grouse and wild mushroom risotto her own 2013 Chianti Classico, much praised for its use of wood; Ilaria did mention her intention to seek a structure and strong body from the ancient culture of wheat and wine.

With the braised whole beef shank came the sublime and pure 100% Merlot Giacomo – to be laid down in memory; with the pear and caramel mille-feuille, a digestive to proclaim and enshrine Sardinian hospitality and friendship.

My thanks for the invitation to Signore Ambro of Dolcevita wines and here is a photo of that great man presiding

In her speech, Ilaria humanised the legend which is her father- she said that quite often when in a local restaurant he would order Lambrusco or a beer – he maintained that from ordinary sources, great things grow.

I am reminded of Shakespeare:

Lowliness is young ambition’s ladder.

Whereto the climber upward turns his face.

But when he once attains the utmost bound He then unto the ladder turns his back,

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees

By which he did ascend …

(Julius Caesar Act2 Scene1)

Not for Giacomo or Ilaria …


Sake, nut roast and claret

The Japan Expo London Earls Court 2013

There was a very slow-moving queue for the sake tasting but the wait was worthwhile. There were 33 sakes to taste at eleven tables. Each table had at least two instructors to explain their brewing technique and also talk about which part of Japan the rice came from and how the sake was made.

All the people in the queue really enjoyed this and were full of questions which was why things moved so slowly. But no-one was getting stressed – I think the Japanese instructors radiated a sense of calm and good nature and dignity which affected us all in an ameliorative way – or was it the wending our way through the 33 shots of sake that kept us all in such good spirits?

There were two delicious sparkling sake to start off with - Suzune Wabi and Sho Chiku Bai Shirakabeguta Mio. We were told they were only 5% alcohol but for all that they were a delight and would grace any dessert.

Later in our instruction we were told that traditional sake is around 15-19 % alcohol and most of them were. All were high class sake and all were smooth to the palate and pleasant to the tongue – not like some of the cheap stuff I have encountered in Chinatowns all over the world.

All were distinguished but none more so than the Gekkeikan Nigori Sake by appointment to the Japanese Imperial Household! Nor indeed the sake from Urakasumi responsible for producing the sacred sake for the prestigious Shiogama shrine, the Ichinomiya of Northern Honshu.

It was interesting to learn that the name Urakasumi came from the words of a poem, 'ura' means 'bay' and 'kasumi' means 'mist'; these were taken from the line:'The winds of Shiogama's sea blow gently through pine trees, like a mist hanging over the bay. Has spring arrived to these numerous islands all at once?'

The penultimate and final tastings though was rather different – on these two tables there were examples of 40% alcohol sake which tasted rather like a single malt whiskey or the rice wine’s Irish equivalent – the potato wine, poteen – illegal actually!

Standing in the queue and looking around there were so many aspects of Japanese culture to take in – obviously lots of technology stands, but also evidences of the bizarre – boys dressed as girls, girls dressed as sailor-boys, tall transvestites (one beareded) – I don’t think he was Japanese – in fact I think I recognised him from Brighton!

But all these young buzz kids were exotic and beautiful and my colleague was doing a lot of stuff with her camera, instantaneously sending it all on to Facebook and the kids were loving it, posing and laughing - in fact everyone at the expo seemed to be happy all of the time!

Shaun Traynor


Christmas Day 2013

This year the challenge was what to have with the nut roast – nut roast specially prepared by young, up and coming dramatist, Chris O’Connor – and a happy solution was found – the Chateau Senejac 2009, a claret from one of the best known crus bourgeois estates of the Haut Medoc and available at an offer price of £13.99 from the dear old Co-op.

The Co-op has a lot of stick lately but their wine buyer, Ben Cahill, remains one of the best in the business.

This wine was his recommendation; it is full bodied, has woodland scent, is actually itself, nutty – and with wonderful deep forest undertones. We had ours with Christmas lunch – the wine is available until 3 January 2014 at the offer price – go get one for the New Year’s Day buffet! Scrumptious!

Shaun Traynor
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