A Self-Imposed Time Out

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You may have noticed that I’ve taken a bit of a break from the blog. I’ve actually taken a break from most social media platforms because I’ve needed to turn off and disconnect in order to avoid being triggered by certain people, places or labels.

It’s been more than 6 months since the judges found Marc Sibard guilty of harassment and sexual assault and more than five years since I handed in my resignation but I still have nightmares and recurring dreams. Just last night I found myself justifying to some imaginary character why I moved away from France. 

It’s not only inanimate objects that trigger my subconscious; even real people in real life will call me a storyteller or a money-hungry witch to my face.

“Why did you make it all up?” they ask.
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Beaujolais Nouveau Release Day

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The third Thursday in November means the release of the latest Beaujolais Nouveau vintage. Another year and still the craze persists. Italians have Novello wine too… but, like with most things, the French are better organised and therefore more commercially successful. 

Well, commercially successful is a relative term. 

Photo (c) Paco Mora / owner of La Cave d’Ivry (the photo was obviously not taken in his shop!)

That supermarkets are plugging the new wine at 1,99€ a bottle devalues the work of the vineyard labourers, the winemaker and his equipment, and the price of the land and of the grapes.

Beaujolais is hugely successful in generating interest and increasing consumption for a couple of days, yes, but in a year like 2017 with unprecedentedly low yields across the board, shouldn’t we be making consumers pay a little more? 

I was reading a piece (in Italian) by my friend Angelo Peretti this morning in which he talks about his incomprehension of the unwavering support that people give to their favourite football team. He likens it to his bafflement at how the different sides in the wine world (conventional vs natural) also jeer, shout and mock the other. Whilst I most definitely fall on the natural end of the spectrum, I hope I succeed in keeping an open mind. I wholeheartedly agree with Angelo’s conclusion: if a wine is made well, I’ll drink it. (I mean, remember that I am English after all!)

That said, when I’m at home choosing which wine to open, I have very simple criteria: it must be made well, taste good and suit the occasion. There’s so much choice of wine out there today that I don’t understand why we still feel obliged to drink something we don’t enjoy. As some famous person once said: “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” 

Now I know the standard of Beaujolais Nouveau has vastly increased when you think back to the banana years but most of them are not my cup of tea. 

I like the Gamay grape; it has unique qualities that remain largely under-appreciated. Beaujolais was also the first French region for which I learnt all the appellations (Burgundy is impossibly complicated for a beginner, Alsace unpronouncable, but the 13 crus of Beaujolais, perfect!)

The problem lies in the fact that I am not a huge fan of carbonic maceration. I know that light and fruity red wines appeal to a certain sector of the market but there’s no getting over my predeliction for wines where you taste the soil, the roots, the minerals. 

It’s not that Beaujolais Nouveau wines are bad, it’s just that there are better alternatives. If you don’t mind, I’ll be drinking this Beaujolais today at lunch.

In The Vineyards With: Laura Rizzoto (Balestri Valda, Soave)

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“I’m the wild child in the family,” claims Laura Rizzotto.

Balestri Valda is a relatively-recent, family-run winery, with vineyards and the cellar perched just above the town of Soave, in the Veneto of Italy.

I say relatively-recent but it is worth mentioning that the family are far from being newcomers. They are well-known locally and made their name as contractors specialising in sparkling wines. (i.e. if you wanted to make a wine in autoclave (prosecco-style) but didn’t have the means to do so yourself, you take your still wine to them and they’ll transform it.)

Laura and her father, Guido, work together on the Balestri Valda winery, while her brother and grandfather are still actively making bubbles for other local producers in Soave and the surrounding area.

The Balestri Valda cellar was clearly a huge investment; it is large and spotlessly clean. Currently 65,000 bottles of wine are made per year and it’s predominantly Soave Classico DOC.

The Balestri Valda cellar

At the end of 2016, Laura finished university and moved back to Soave. She’s taking an increasingly important role at the winery and she’s a huge believer of biodiversity.

“My father waits for me to go on holiday and the first thing he does is cut the grass!! It’s not good for the bees. They need longer grass.”

Photo (c) Laura Rizzotto

Yes, did I mention that Balestri Valda make their own mille-fleurs/millefiori honey?

 

Laura is bringing in several important changes to the Balestri Valda winery: firstly, that they are in the process of obtaining official organic certification.

Secondly, their new wine “Libertate” – is Laura’s pet project. It is made from Trebbiano di Soave only – a far call from the traditional Soave (from garganega grapes or a blend) – and vinified in amphora and stainless steel. They’re not quite natural wines yet – I’m used to wines with a little less SO2 – but if Laura gets her way, Balestri Valda is heading very much in the right direction! A winery to watch!



Balestri Valda website and Facebook