Pergiorgia, Emidio Maero, 2008, Colline Saluzzesi DOC, Piedmont, Italy

It was that spectacular meal consisting of twenty cheese varieties accompanied by four different wines, which I have already mentioned in some other posts. Mid-June, Piedmont was stormy and the warm but humid air was heavily scented by tea roses planted around the ‘La Torre’ restaurant in Brondello. The sun was appearing between the short breaks for intensive rainfall.

We were welcomed by Ivano Maero – ristoratore, formaggiaio, genio – in his restaurant lost somewhere in the Italian province. In fact, all good and not too fancy places to eat in Italy are difficult to find and for sure never at the main square of some touristic city.

The ‘degustation’ of the cheese took four hours – it’s a whole ritual with rules. You eat cheese with your fingers and without any cutlery – the pieces served are small enough. In Italy, even the cutting of cheese is an art and there is a competition for that. But back to the ritual: First, you press the piece slightly with your index finger and thumb to check the consistence, the structure of cheese. Then you smell it and break into two pieces directly under your nose so that the fragrant particles are freed and you may enjoy the first very intensive kick of this culinary poetry, which good cheese always is. After that there is the time to eat it or – to be more extravagant in the description – to make the poetry part of your body J

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I was impressed and I still am. After such a ‘lunch’ (as it was lunch time), I was hardly able to move but satisfied with my condition I bought the wines we were enjoying during the meal. Pergiorgia is one of them and here some more details on its qualities, after a degustation in a circle of friends in Berlin…

The Hills of Saluzzo (Colline Saluzzesi) are situated in the Province of Cuneo in the southwestern part of Piedmont. In the annual report of the Italian observer for wine tourism (il Rapporto annuale dell’Osservatorio sul Turismo del vino), the whole province was recently honored for its highly developed food and wine culture. But astonishingly foreigners still haven’t discovered it. There is rather an Italian tourist here and there, but all this beauty is mainly enjoyed by the locals themselves. And what a beauty it is! The region is basically a corner between the Cottian Alps in The Northwest, the Maritime Alps in the Southwest, and the Ligurian Alps in the South – a picturesque hilly area wedged into the highest European mountain range. Big part of the European kiwi production comes from here, as the climate is suitable for diverse fruit orchards. The varieties allowed in this DOC of Colline Saluzzesi are Barbera, Nebbiolo and Pelaverga. The latter is a local grape variety, giving a rich flavor to wine and aromatic grappa of a very fine structure. Pergiorgia is a cuvee of Pelaverga and Barbera, offering accordingly a balanced body and alluring fragrance. The name of this wine comes from the daughter of the producer and Ivano Maero’s niece – Giorgia. ‘Per Giorgia’ means in Italian just ‘for Giorgia’, which was united here into one graceful word.

Giorgia was born three days after the grape harvest in 2001. The product bearing her name is from the village of Castellar. It has a deep red color, like black currant juice or red beet concentrate, or garnet among minerals, with light violet shimmer. There is slightly chocolate aftertaste, but hardly noticeable – felt just for a second. The aroma develops as wine is getting air and room temperature. It starts to release honey and then strawberry and raspberry notes, which in Germany would make everyone think of Rote Grütze, kind of red berry compote. The tannins are delicate and the wine seems ‘warm’ in mouth.

We could compare the charm of this wine with grace of little cheerful and fresh girl, couldn’t we? There is so much sun and energy in it! J

And pairing? Well, of course my first pick would be cheese, especially long-matured one.

 

 

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Heidi Grand’Or Florentine – the spectacular chocolate from Romania

Some short sweet recommendation. This is a great chocolate and one of my favorite ones. It’s a Romanian brand but looks like on a Swiss license. The website refers all the time to the “Läderach – chocolatier suisse”, but both Heidi’s office and the whole production process are in Romania.

The brand offers a broad range of products – only the Grand’Or collection consists of nine different flavors. I’ve tried several of them and they are all good, without any doubts, but my favorite remains the ‘Florentine’ one. The obvious reason might be my love for that mysterious crunchy layer of almond flakes in caramel. This old sweet, simple but fantastic in taste, is known under several names: in French it’s called praliné or pralinoise (Julia Child’s book offer a nice recipe), in Italian it would be croccante. But the name of the chocolate is derived from the Florentine biscuit, which is a cookie with two layers – the chocolate one on the bottom and a caramel one on the top, whereas there are nuts or dried/candid fruits in the caramel. Mmm, this reminds me of another specialty: the Jewish-Polish magagigi cookies, which are basically the same, but much bigger 🙂 But it’s a topic for another post…

So, in the tradition of the Florentine cookies, the Heidi’s product combines a very nice praliné/croccante with a high quality chocolate. I wish you poftă bună (in Romanian) or bon appetite!

 

 

 

Song of Songs – even more on wine and love

Wine and vine(yard) have various symbolic meanings and as such appear in all traditionally wine-drinking cultures. In this post, I want to shortly present the “Song of Songs” (שיר השירים), one of the books in the Old Testament. The Jewish culture is truly one of the oldest, which involved wine in its rich religious and artistic symbolism. The reason for which I decided to write about it on the St. Valentine’s Day is that the “Song of Songs of Solomon” is an expression of love, of an extraordinary beauty and of significance for Jews and Christians. I’ve even heard an opinion that it is the ‘mother’ of all European love lyrics. In fact, the very name points to its particularity. The “Song of Songs” is in Hebrew a superlative construction, indicating greatness, like in the case of the “Holy of Holies”, used for the inner part of the Jerusalem temple.

The relation of deep love between the man and women in the Song has been often defined as an allegorical illustration of love between God and Israel or Christ and the Church. So, the people of Israel would be the betrothed of God, or the Church the betrothed of Jesus, respectively. It is believed that at the assembly of Jewish wise men (Chazal, Hebrew: חז”ל), at which the Song was added to the Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible, it was said that all the fortune in the world is not worth the day when Israel was given this book.

At the same time, the song is full of erotic symbolism. The meanings of wine, milk and honey can appeal to every adult’s imagination.  We find comparisons like “may your breasts be like clusters of grapes on the vine” or “your mouth like the best wine”. In the text, wine can be generally interpreted as a symbol of supreme pleasure, and together with milk a fertility symbol. Some researchers see in ‘vineyards’ female body and in ‘vine’ a symbol of woman’s erogenous zone.

Millennia after the composition of this song, we can still enjoy the text in its aesthetic and poetic beauty, regardless of its religious interpretations. And immersing in these sensual verses, gratify your own senses with a glass of some Israeli wine – it might be a kosher Bordeaux-style cuvee from the Judean Hills, where allegedly “love is better than wine”, but they didn’t have ‘Yatir Forest’ reds when they wrote these words, did they?

My favorite musical interpretation of the “Song of Songs” (Serbian: Pesma nad Pesmama) is by Divna Ljubojević – a famous Serbian singer of sacral music. It’s sung in the original language of the text – Hebrew.

Love and wine – some poetry

I’ve decided to post some of Rutagengwa ‘Felix’ Ndayitabi’s poems, which mention wine. They are all very beautiful – I love their simplicity and deep symbolism at the same time. Unfortunately, they are only in Italian.

Ti coprirò di parole
Per abbracciarti nuda
Parole più antiche
Delle montagne
Leggere come il vino.
Voce  da cantante di Night
Per dire che il cielo è bello
Quando vira a tempesta
Ti seppellirò di versi
Per sentirti sotto le mie carezze
E vederti sotto il mio corpo
Ascoltarti canticchiare all’alba
Una canzone da notte breve.
Dopo le parole, a silenzio tornato
Pelle contro pelle
Baci a divorare le parole

 

La notte sotto i lampioni
Quando escono tutti dall’antro
Guardo verso il cielo
E viaggio verso un luogo
Dove ci sei sempre
Dove il vino è rosso
Dove mi aspetti
Nuda
Lì in quella stanza
Dove dicevi ti amo

 

Ricordo questa notte
Come un sogno confuso
Immagini rotte dalle luci
La magia dei tuoi occhi neri
Sposa dei fumi d’alcol
Fa ballare le ombre
Tra i nostri corpi
La tua risata parla
Il tuo corpo balla
Le tue mani inventano segni
Scritti dalla magia dei tuoi occhi neri
Al mattino, sbadigliando esco
Dal l’antro dove veglio
Tra poeti, amici, poche amanti
E una bottiglia di vino
Chi mi offrono i miei migliori incubi
Guardo la città che si sveglia
Nel cielo grigio un sole pallido e freddo.
C’e il solito gregge senza anima
Profumato di cattiva colonia e caffè
Di gente di corsa verso il giogo
Poi per tutto il giorno affogo
In quel ombra ch’avvolge il giorno
La via piena di umani terrifica
Viene il tramonto
il vino mi porta nella notte
Barcollo verso il mio antro
Più soave d’un letto di donna
Li a cuore libero
Scrivo versi
Do del tu agli dei
E Bacco mi rende visita

 

No ho canti per te
Non ti  do gloria
Lo farebbe un eroe
Che raccogli spoglie di guerra.
Ma sulle rive del Congo
Ho lasciato impronte
E i miei piedi hanno lasciato un solco
Tra le savane e le foreste
Non ho doni da portarti
Lo so, modesti sono i miei regali
Solo una poesia a volte
Ebbro di vino e non di Nsamba
Per volare verso di te
Quando a luci spenta
In una stanza spoglia
Spargo una lacrima
Mentre cammino sulle tue rive.

 

 

Saint Trifun’s Day – wine and love

Today we are celebrating the Saint Valentine’s Day. This is quite a commercial holiday and successfully exported from the Anglo-Saxon countries to almost all around the world. Regardless any deeper cultural meaning, I guess we all enjoy this day, well, unless one is an inpatient single.

Serbia, where I am now, is not an exception. The whole Belgrade is full of guys and girls with long red roses. But here we’re celebrating also the memory of some other saint – Saint Tryphon (Serbian: Trifun), the patron of wine, wine-makers and vineyards. Actually, according to the old Julian calendar, used in the Orthodox Church, we have today February 1st. And this the day of wine!

The Holy Martyr Tryphon (or Trypho) is a saint of both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. During prayers he is often invoked for the protection of gardens. He was born in Lampsacus (Ancient Greek: Λάμψακος, Lampsakos), which was in Phrygia, now in Turkey. I will spare you the story of his martyrdom – let’s just mention that human creativity in tortures is endless.

In Serbia, the Saint Tryphon’s Day (Serbian: Trivunjdan or Tripunjdan) is celebrated especially in the wine-growing towns and villages of Vojvodina, Šumadija and Pomoravlje regions; sometimes more than the fall harvest home festivities, which may be spectacular too. In the countryside, the saint himself is also called Zarezojlo, Zarezan or Orezač. This day priests bless vineyards and winegrowers go to prune the vines. As a matter of fact, those other names of Saint Tryphon are related to this traditional ‘pruning’. It is believed that from now on the snow will melt, the spring is slowly taking over and this way both nature and love among people awake; and here is the place for the Saint Valentine. There are also numerous sayings and customs related to this holiday.

When we’ve already immersed into the Balkan world, it’s noteworthy that Saint Tryphon is also the patron of the beautiful town of Kotor in Montenegro, where the splendid Romanesque cathedral is dedicated to him. Considering the size of Kotor, the church itself has much to offer: Consecrated in 1166, it hides a surprising treasury, unique frescos from the 14th century, as well as the cross with which the Pope’s legate Marco d’Aviano blessed the army of Polish king, John III Sobieski before the Battle of Vienna – one of the decisive moments in the European history.

So, let’s celebrate the double holiday – of love and wine – with a glass of some good grapes’ nectar and maybe a little bit of love poetry… Already Ovid wrote in his “Amores”:

This festive day calls for loving, and poetry, and wine:

these are the gifts it’s right to carry to the gods”.

Needless to say, love and wine have much in common, so let’s finish with the French proverb: “May our love be like good wine, grow stronger as it grows older”. Cheers!

PS: Since I’m a grass widower in this period, I will spend my St. Valentine’s/St. Trifun’s Day with a glass of sweet liquorish Mavrodaphne and Italian poetry by Rutagengwa Ndayitabi: “Viene il tramonto/il vino mi porta nella notte”. This passage is a recommendation, too 🙂