Saturday, 27 December 2008
This story has been three-and-a-half years in the making, and follows two parallel lives; that of myself, and that of this very bottle of wine (picture may not depict actual bottle of wine but may be indistnguishable from said bottle).
In the summer of 2005, myself and three brave souls embarked on a voyage from South Yorkshire, heading in the direction of Barcelona. We were too attend the Sonar electronic music festival, and my friends were to leave me there, as I was to start working in a summer camp a week or so later.
We made it in time, alas, my car did not, suffering the same fate as Joan of Arc, in the same town, Rouen, going up in a puff of smoke. Green Flag maintained our momentum in the form of overnight train tickets, and etc etc.
After the festival, which was boss, I arrived at the summer camp, next to the UNESCO monestry of Poblet. Many stories happened me that summer, and the subsequent summers that I was foolish enough to return to teach the spoilt rogues English, but there was a story taking place not 5 minutes down the road, in a place that looks like this:
This is Milmanda castle, near the town of Vimbodi in Tarragona. It is classified as a D.O. Conca de Barbera region, and it is on this estate that wine giant Torres produced some of its best wines: Milmanda, of which I will harp, and Grans Muralls, which I have yet to probar.
July and August 2005, then, would have been the ripening of the Chardonnay grapes that eventually made it into the bottle, and the following summer, the wine would have been maturing in oak casks. In the final year of my time at camp, I found out about the vinyard, and organised a trip for my staff to go and check it out. The little tourist choo-choo was right on time to whistle us round the local village before dropping us off at the castle.
The standard Torres DVD clart was presented, emphasising the great yadda-yadda and the importance of the hoo-ha, before the local guide took us for a peak around the castle. Not much to see, unfortunately, as the wine is processed at their mammoth plant near Vilafranca, but there was an electrified hawk on display to draw attention to the conservation work that Torres is involved in.
At the end of the tour, we were all invited to a glass of the standard Vina Sol. A few of us decided to chip in for a bottle of the Milmanda that we'd heard about, enchanted as we were by the stories of this wine at the Prince and Princess of Asturias' wedding, as well as its appearance on the wine list at El Bulli. Even to our naive palettes, this golden liquid seemed special, and after the tiniest of portions, I was ready to hand over €30 in readies, more than I had ever or may ever consider splashing out on 75cl of booze. Needless to say, I took care of it like a newborn panda, and planned to save it for a very special occasion.
After I got it home, it stayed stowed away in my room for a good while, fearful that it could be mistakenly uncorked if kept in the kitchen and drank with lemonade out of plastic cups. It gathered dust, I liked that. I got an old airing cupboard like my grandma had, and my bottle had a new home. Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise; sunset. Sunrise - sunset.
I began to get a little anxious about my baby wine panda after reading a couple of things, and talking to a couple of people. Most white wines, especially chardonnays, are drunk soon after purchase, and to stop the wine from deteriorating, it should stay still, at a temperature of 14 degrees. I would never be able to manage that, so got to thinking about having a special occasion as soon as I could.
Two and a half years had passed. But with no children or weddings in sight, there was only one thing for it. Christmas! Thank God for the birth of Jesus. A special semi-traditional lunch with my hermosa novia before she went off to see her papa in Venezuela: ideal. The wine, as it happened, coupled gloriously with every course. The Catalan staple, sopa de galets; fried prawns; a cheese board, and finally; chocolate muffins.
The tipple? Ya te digo. A metallic golden in colour, like the baubauls suspended in the lounge. Legs slow to cascade around the glass. A rich autumnal smell, mature and comforting. At taste time, creamy, all around the mouth. With very little acidity, the only thing similar to other chardonnays I've tried was the reminicence of mature white fruit. The overriding joy to this drink is the strong notes of butter in every sip, more evident as the bottle went down, and the presents were unwrapped.
Mark Philip Dix I