Monday, 29 October 2007

The Longest Weekend

It was just endless. Bottle after bottle after bottle. Raging, swirling torrents of wine. Little brooks bubbling with grappa. The odd puddle of a digestivo made, remarkably, from walnuts. And then still more wine, red, white, pink, sparkling, wonderful, OK and downright undrinkable (sorry Riccardo). Any visit by the Savages always necessitates hoisting the storm warning flag but this one took the word excess to new semantic depths. Which is why the only hope of staving off the onset of terminal cirrhosis lay in a swift Monday-morning draught of Sylibum Marianum, more commonly known as milk thistle, which is meant to be able to repair even the most horrific post-weekend liver damage. Oh! But what's that lurking in the background? 1.5 litres of that most pleasant of Veneto wines, Refosco? And my wife is cooking chick peas with pig fat bits this evening? Oh Lord...please someone, anyone...stop me before I drink again!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Optic-free country

It still gives me a ridiculous, childish thrill when I order a gin and tonic here and it's placed on the bar. There's none of that nannying, Blair/Brown knows best how-many-units-a week-do-you-drink-you-hopeless-alky nonsense. The barman or barmaid just spins the top off the bottle of Gordon's or whatever and gives the glass a good glugging. Some bars are more generous than others of course, but it's all part of the learning process. The Haiti bar, for example, fills the glass up to the sodding rim, which even I find a bit hard going when there's a long wine-filled night ahead. Anway, this example is from Voglino in the centre of town and, yes I know, there are ice cubes in the glass and a slice of lemon, but that is still one mother of a (Tanqueray) gin. Note the bottle of tonic is untouched. Incidentally, should they put me up against the wall and if I were to be asked for a final beverage, I think the G&T would do the job nicely. But an Italian one of course.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Easy does it

What you north Europeans must realise (and this is pivotal to an understanding of the profound gulf that exists between inhabitants of the United Kingdom and those citizens of the Italian Republic) is that whereas we drink with the sole intention of getting completely trolleyed, bladdered, shitfaced, arseholed or hog-wimpering drunk, Italians don't. They drink because it's a fine accompaniment to food and it aids their digestion. When the intrepid explorer Savage of Africa comes on one of his bi-monthly visits, we go eye-to-eye with a bottle of grappa and the bottle loses. An Italian will take a digestivo (just the one) so that he has a sound night's sleep.
Which is why (I think) when we went for luncheon in Vigevano the other day with the Duchess of Kent we had a half bottle of Bonarda (an unusual but pleasing, slightly sparkling red wine from Piedmont). Because that's what the other people at the table were drinking. Am I turning into a booze poof? In Blighty I used to bray away ad nauseam that I had never had a half pint of ale in my life. A defining moment? Oh Lord, I hope not.