WINE IN MY BLOOD

Beijing, 11 August 2013

Last weekend, I was reading a really interesting article in the Sunday edition of the Financial Times. It was about winemaking in Georgia (the country, not the American state), which archaeologists tell us has been in the winemaking business for 8,000 years or so. But what really struck me in the article was the following paragraph:

“The result is a width, a tannic grip and a textural depth that no conventionally made white wine will ever have. The wines’ aromas and flavours are singular too. Their acidity is muted, since they have all been through the acid-softening malolactic fermentation, while contact with the other matter in the jar, especially the yeast deposits, rounds the flavours further. In place of the fresh fruits that so many white wines suggest, these evoke dried fruits, mushrooms, straw, nuts and umami. They have less of an oxidative tang than their colours suggest; indeed, their articulation is often understated and quiet, though orchestral in its allusive range. They are meditative wines, sumptuous and subtle.”

I’m always awed by this kind of writing about wines. Whenever I drink a good wine, all that comes to my mind is “Mmm, that’s good!”

I feel it shouldn’t be so. I mean, wine courses through my veins. My maternal grandparents, whom I have referred to in earlier posts, were both descended from families of vignerons, winemakers, who lived in these small villages in the Beaujolais.

Julienas

Jullie

We know that this is where they came from because my father, a passionate amateur genealogist, spent a number of summers in the 1950s ferreting around in the local archives and tracking down the generations one after another. It was a joke in the family that the villagers would see my father hove into view on a bicycle, whitened by the dust on the roads – they weren’t asphalted in those days – and announce in French, but with a very English accent, that they were his cousins.

But back to the matter in hand. Really, I’m just a vigneron with a thin icing of education. So I should be able to talk for hours on end about the orchestral and allusive range of the wine I’m drinking, pointing out the evocations of mushrooms and raspberries and nuts and whatever else. But all that ever comes to mind is “Mmm, that’s yummy! Pour me another glass.”

And the worst of it all – but don’t spread this around – is that I don’t really like Beaujolais. I much prefer Spanish wines.

winesfromspain

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Julienas: http://beaujolaisandbeyond.co.uk/images/uploads/appellations/Julienas.jpg
Jullié: http://photos.itea.fr/photos/gites69/G/photo10/1606.jpg
Wines from Spain: http://alegriaonline.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/winesfromspain.gif

GONE FISHING

Beijing, 8 June 2013

Readers of my posts will no doubt have noticed that I often refer to a piece of canal which runs close by our apartment and along which I walk every day as I go to and from the office. I like my piece of canal, especially during the summer when along the banks the weeping willows have leaved and the water irises stand tall, while the lotuses on the artificial island in the middle of the stream are unfurling.

irises May 2013 004

Closing my eyes a little and squinting a bit, I could almost imagine that I am on a placid river running through a quiet wooded landscape rather than in the middle of a highly urbanized setting. This view of the canal today, where to a great degree the fog blots out the buildings,  gives an idea of what I mean.

misty canal 002

Fishermen also like it. The moment the ice melts and the trees start flowering, they filter out of the surrounding urban jungle and start settling down along the banks.

fishermen 002

fishermen 003

They sport what look to my eyes like state-of-the-art fishing rods (no stick, string, and safety pin for them), nets to hold their haul, and various pieces of fishing tackle.

fishermen 013

And there they sit all summer and well into the autumn, staring out into the middle distance, waiting for a nibble on the end of their lines.

fishermen 010

fishermen 011

What are they thinking about, I always wonder, as I walk briskly by aiming to arrive in the office on time. Really, what do fishermen think about all day?  This has always been a mystery to me. And what are these particular fishermen catching, for Lord’s sake? The few times I’ve seen a fish on the end of their lines, they were small and malingering. I fervently hope they don’t take them home to the wife to cook.  I should clarify that as my pictures show the overwhelming majority of my fisherpersons are men. I got quite excited one morning when I spotted a woman, and I guess this other woman I saw a week or so ago thought it was better to be with her man than alone at home.

fishermen 009

I am no fisherman; I suppose that much is clear. In fact, I have only ever fished once in my life. I was 14 going 15, and I was on a canoe trip on Lake of the Woods in Canada.

lake of the woods

I remember the date very well; it was when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Me and my travel companion, Steve, must have been the only people in the whole of North America not sitting in front of a TV that day. After a hard morning’s paddling and looking over some Native American rock paintings,

rock paintings

Steve decided to give me a taste of the sport. He hauled out his fishing rod, set me up, and gave me a short lesson in its use. We then sat there for a while – not long, thank goodness – until I got a bite. My fish fought a bit, but after a while I hauled it in. It was a large pike, or so I have thought all these years. It certainly looked like one. But my internet surfing for this posting has convinced me that I caught a muskellunge (or muskie to the experienced fisherman – you see how quickly I catch on to the jargon …), which actually does belong to the pike family.  I suppose my catch was no more than a metre long but in my mind’s eye it has grown over the years to an enormous length. Steve took a photo, with me holding the muskie a trifle nervously but still sporting a smug smile on my face. Where is that photo? Sitting in a shoe box under a bed somewhere, perhaps, or now that both my parents are dead it is probably buried in a landfill in some foreign land. For all intents and purposes, gone. But here is a photo, which seems very similar to mine in my mind’s eye, except that we were sitting in a canoe while this gentleman is standing in a rather swank boat

Muskie on Lake of the Woods

Well, I suppose that will be the only time I ever sit behind a rod staring into the middle distance thinking about … what?

fishermen 008

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Lake of the woods: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m5tjkqKB7h1r1ghhbo1_1280.jpg
rock painting: http://www.canoenorthwestontario.ca/sscimages/history/IMG_4260_1.jpg
Muskie: http://harrishillresort.com/files/images/49%20inch%20Muskie%20on%20Lake%20of%20the%20Woods.JPG
the rest: mine