ImageIt has for some time struck me that the world in which we live has gone slightly mad.  Watching the news, one is presented with images of teenage youths slurping strange fizzy alcoholic brews that appear to have been created especially for them.  That, I expect, is regarded as the lower end of the boozing scale, but even moving along and up the scale I believe that the behaviour hardly changes.  

Step outside yourself for a moment and perceive the situation from an abstract perspective and you will see that you have a race of animals that actively desire to pour lots of liquid into their digestive system, that has no nutritional or life giving importance but has the effect of total loss of control and derangement.  I certainly do not exclude myself from these seething masses and it is for this very reason that I am writing now.

Although many alcoholic drinks on the market are nothing more than flavoured intoxicants that will eventually bring their consumers to a sorry end, readers of this blog site will surely be aware that wine itself has very many healthy attributes. Wine consumed moderately on a daily basis (i.e. 2 – 4 glasses) does more good to the system than it can possibly do bad.  It serves a multitude of good deeds such as lowering blood pressure, improving digestion, fighting free radicals that can develop into cancers, delaying aging, and the list goes on.

This being the case, why do so many of us happily cruise through the safety zone and on into the 4-8 glasses in an evening and beyond?  At this level wine too becomes a poison that the body has to fight to control and one that eventually will take its toll.

We are all aware of the extreme cases of alcoholism that have beset popular icons such  as George Best, but what we do not fully grasp is the extent of the proximity of our lifestyles to the perils of self poisoning, chronic illness and, eventually, unpleasant death. By regulating our days with excessive qualities of this irrational gift that we call wine, we are placed effectively on a trajectory to change the very nature of our body and lead it to the irreversible conclusion that boozing is an imperative like breathing, thus triggering the internal rotting that will show up on tens of thousands of death certificates as ‘Multiple Organ Failure’.

Though being rational when sober is an easy thing, few of us have any guidelines or instruction to guide us on our journey into the big lunch, party or night out with friends, thus it becomes the body’s saturated and dishevelled form that indicates that it is time to stop ordering “one more bottle!”

Last Saturday night, for example, my friend and I decided to try out a new local wine bar and started the evening in a very sober state.  We began by acknowledging our own tendency to over do it and remarked that this would not be one of those nights.  Indeed, a glass of water accompanied the wine in more or less equal measures.  The first bottle a lovely Beaujolais with distinct Gamay characteristics that caused a round of regular sipping.  After this we thought that we would try an Italian Reiciotto della Valpolicella which was rich and intense.  The grapes here had been left to dry on the racks and the flavours was so deep and tannic that I consumed more water with this bottle.  Following on from this we ordered a Muriel Rioja Gran reserve 2003.  This was smooth and festive with a lovely roundness that perfectly defined a relaxing evening.  The conversation was good and we were now feeling a little more subdued.  We decided to move on and walked down the high street.  I should add that this moment would have been the perfect time to call it a night and say good bye but, alas, the dreaded “auto-pilot syndrome” had kicked in.  We were heading to another place for a last bottle and, this for me is the interesting point to consider; where pleasure occurs, peaks and starts to diminish.

It was this last bottle that then flooded the system and gave me the thwacking hangover thatI really did not want, however, at the time I was powerless to avoid it.  As this is a regular pattern that I believe it is necessary to break I am trying out my own therapy of presetting the limits.  During the week when my partner and I open a bottle of wine, I decant it into a half bottle decanter and know that this is my lot.  Of course there are evenings where the will defies my authority but by and large this has been successful.  For my next application of limits and to stave off my own diagnosed, “auto-pilot syndrome” I am going to set a social drinking limit of three bottles of wine (1.5 per head) and see how I go.  I am sure that with Christmas looming, self-control will ebb away like fine wine from my glass into my jerobelly!

Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.

 

East from Roma to Abruzzo

From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.

 

After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of. 

Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!

 

What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.

 

The Palazzo is located in the centre of Fermo, a small Roman hilltop town with a rich history dating back to antiquity. Flying from abroad, Ancona is the closest airport, 67km north (about an hours drive) along the coast of the Adriatic sea.