Friday, May 26, 2006

It's Bath time...

Not before time, a place where the Grappa diaries would be proud to take a tipple - and it's in the UK. Sadly, a bit far from bonnie Scotland but if ever we venture south of the border (although why would we?) we might try it out. It certainly looks like a good place...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Taken roughly...

After all my pretentious posing and guffing on about grappa distilled in oak barrels with a hint of saffron what a pleasure to be brought back down to earth.

The venue: my sister's house. The occasion: an Indian carry-out. The grappa: a brand known by no other name than "Colli Toscani".

It reminded me of the pioneering days of grappa drinking when your old mountain cousins used to wait until the end of a meal and produce a bottle of something they had brewed themselves. No cork or screwtop here when a rag would suffice. The whole family would gather round to watch for your reaction. And, boy, did that stuff pack a punch.

This was no deadly brew like back in the backwaters of the Tuscan hills but still it took me back. Clear, pure and with the kick of a mule - just like I like my women. And it produced the desired effect, two hours of nonsensical rambling about the forthcoming World Cup. Once again I am proud to call myself a Tuscan.

Strangely, I could find no entry for this brew in my grappa bible. Good. Rating: immeasurable.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

I think I have my answer

First night home alone spent as follows:

1) Listening to fantasy baseball radio show.

2) Playing online poker.

3) Blogging until after 11pm.

Mmm. I think I see how the week is going to progress.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What's a boy to do?

Friends, I am being placed in a terrible position. My wife and family are going away to stay with my in-laws for a few days. Firstly, can I state how much I will miss them. But secondly, it presents me with a dreadful opportunity. In simple terms...

Three whole nights to behave like a single "scemo" again.

For those who have never lived as a single "scemo" (fool is my kindest translation) it generally consists of three things.

1) Staying up very late playing computer games/watching sport.

2) Talking at immense length about football, nonsense and good-looking women.

3) Drinking more grappa than is sensible/advised by government health experts.

As a responsible, married, father-of-two etc, is this acceptable behaviour? Shouldn't I cut the grass, tidy the attic and catch up on the ironing? Will you tell the missus if I don't? Should I restrain myself or should I go for it full pelt and what the hell?

Oh, the torment...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Francoli, my dear, I don't give a damn...

If there ever is a patron saint of grappa it should probably be San Martino. So how appropriate that those fine distillers Luigi Francoli should produce a brew dedicated to him. He may not strictly speaking be Italian but, with the level of acquavita now flowing in his veins, he could surely play for the Azzurri if Jack Charlton ever takes over as Commissario Tecnico.

This particular brew is not mentioned in my new "bible" but Francoli certainly is. With 600,000 bottles a year it is one of the biggest grappa producers in the land. Out of Ghemme in Piedmont it produces a number of grappe but this is the one which passed my lips recently.

With a deep colour - down to ageing in oak casks, I'm told - it is an eminently drinkable brew which is presumably especially for export since it fails to feature on their official website. Perfectly acceptable middle range drink with decent flavour and kick without being particularly impressive in either department. A good all-rounder and certainly not one to turn the nose up at - as if we ever did that.

Grappa diaries rating: 69 per cent.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Our reviewer hard at work

As always, there are no lengths to which our reviewer is unwilling to go to bring you the most up to date grappa information.

Valvona & Crolla, 19 Elm Row, Edinburgh

Like Celtic getting to a major European final or getting to spend an uninhibited night of passion with Angelina Jolie some events are once in a lifetime occasions. This is mathematically correct as in my lifetime Celtic have been in two major European finals and I’ve never even met Angelina so on average they have both happened once. I’m ignoring the European Cup final defeat to Feyenoord in favour of the delectable Ms. Jolie if that’s okay.

Anyhoo like Homer Simpson seeing the “all you can eat” sign outside his favourite seafood restaurant my eyes were immediately drawn to the “complimentary grappa tasting” on the Valvona & Crolla list of events when it was released a few months ago. A quick check in my dictionary confirmed that complimentary did indeed mean “free of charge” so here was a once in a lifetime grappa event. Although the campaign begins now for Valvona & Crolla to make it a weekly event.

Valvona & Crolla is an Edinburgh institution. Outside a small grey exterior suggests no more than a corner shop but inside it opens out like the proverbial TARDIS to provide a haven for lovers of all things Italian. Hams, cheeses, fresh fruit and veg, sauces, oils and home baked bread all guide you round to the back of the shop where you are greeted by a large selection of wines from principally Italy but some others from around the world. There is also a fantastic cafĂ© at the back of the shop. Probably the only downside is the attraction the shop has for that certain type of Edinburgh resident who calls his kids Tristan and Miranda and insists on discussing his latest trip to Tuscany at the top of his voice. Listen pal, Ryanair can get you there for £20 nowadays. It’s no big deal.

However if you are ever in Edinburgh you have to pay a visit. It sure beats standing on Princes Street taking photos of the castle and getting in the way of us locals. Other towns have a castle but only Edinburgh has Valvona & Crolla.

So, on to the free grappa. Valvona & Crolla have been selling Bruno Pilzer grappa for some months now and four varieties were available for tasting. The following are the four with my unique Celtic grappa rating.

Chardonnay – Light and subtle but definitely full of class. Rating: Shunsuke Nakamura
Moscato - My favourite of the four. Bit more dig than the Chardonnay but a grappa for all occasions. Rating: Shaun Maloney.
Traminer – Very robust grappa and not one to be taken lightly. Rating: Roy Keane.
Pinot Nero – One contact and your taste buds are picking themselves off the floor. Like hitting a brick wall. Rating: Bobo Balde!

God only knows what happened for the rest of the weekend though. It’s all a bit of a blur………………

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A new bible?

It was with great pleasure that I received my post last week as a parcel from Amazon finally arrived after days of anticipation. Yes, a guide to grappa by Axel and Bibiana Behrendt (they beat you to it Martino). Luckily, it does not cover all the grappas there are so there is still room for improvement on its impressive detail.

Also, it has inspired me to undertake a new mission - to try to sample all the grappas on its pages. Come with me as I share my tasting notes and compare and contrast with their views. If I make it to the end alive it will be a fine achievement. Certainly looking forward to tracking down some of the more obscure ones. Wish me luck!