The Wine List #33: Godello

IMGP6575My retirement project to sample wine made from all of the main grape varieties in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.

The wine: Sendero das Meigas Monterrei 2009. Spain. Ordered from Laithwaite’s mail order/online wine merchants.

Alc Vol: 13.5%

HJ says: “Top quality (intense, mineral) in nw Spain. Called Verdelho in Dao, Portugal.”

The label says: “Godello is one of the great white grape varieties grown in the high, cool vineyards of Galicia. Sendero das Meigas has a pale, yellow hue, a seductive aroma of white peaches and a rich long palate with honeyed notes on the finish.”

Food combination: “Partner with your best fish dishes.” We drank it with a creamy salmon linguini that The Current Mrs Feeney produced, with her usual flair, from a recipe she found in a newspaper weekend supplement.

The verdict: Intense, tick; mineral, tick; white peaches? These greengrocer moments tend to elude me. Still, we both liked the wine, actually a lot more than the food, which we found too creamy for our taste. Definitely one to add to the wine rack in the dining room.


Life is too short to barbecue

AS you may know, I regularly swim in Swansea’s Olympic-size pool (we got it in compensation for Cardiff being chosen ahead of Swansea to be the home of the Welsh Assembly administration. I think we got the better deal, as I prefer water to hot air.)

I’m joined by about a dozen other men who have left behind the variable joys of employment. I fancifully call us The Retired Blokes Morning Swimming Club.

Extensive fence-painting duties meant I hadn’t donned the swim shorts and goggles for a couple of weeks. When I returned poolside this week, it was to be greeted with bad news.

One of our number, Pete, had died in his sleep last week. Pete was one of the more quietly-spoken members of TRBMSC (catchy, what?). Tall, gently-mannered, and with the sort of moustache that was favoured by kindly uncles in the books of my childhood.

Apparently, he had suffered a previous heart attack two years ago. On that occasion, he had left his wife asleep in bed, and driven himself to the hospital for treatment.

I’d like to think that says something about the Retired Blokes. What our American cousins refer to as The Right Stuff, I believe.

He was 71. News of his death gave me a jolt. I went home and told The Current Mrs Feeney that we shouldn’t plan for the future but live for today, and spend our money while we can.

She gave me the kind of look that indicated that I really didn’t need to give her encouragement, let alone permission (as if I’d dare), in the spending department.

That evening, we attempted a barbecue. I choose my words wisely. We’d had our first bbq of this soggy and overcast summer the night before. I used one of those ‘easy light’ bags of charcoal. You know the thing; it comes with the coals contained in a paper bag that has been impregnated with some sort of fire accelerant. Guaranteed to have the charcoal white-hot and ready in just 20 minutes.

So, one hour later, it was ready to cook the chicken fillets. TCMrsF had by then  already cooked the sausages and burgers indoors and in frustration. She voiced some decidedly pointed views on the barbecueing competence of men in general, and Retired Blokes in particular.

To prove her wrong, I returned to the scene of battle 24 hours later. The problem, I patiently explained, was that the bag of coals was probably slightly damp on account of spending the last ten months in the shed. I overcame this problem by wrapping it in a nest of newspaper.

I struck a confident match, stood back, and opened a bottle of muscadet. “That,” I declared, “will make all the difference.” It did. Damn thing didn’t light at all.

I retreated indoors. “There may be a slight problem.”

“Really?” said TCMrsF understandingly. “The fish is cooked,” she added, removing two sea bass from the oven where she had placed them about five minutes after yours truly had disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

“Let’s not barbecue any more,” I said.

“Let’s not,” she agreed.

I raised a glass to Pete’s memory.

World Crime Atlas: Botswana

A Death in the Family, by Michael Stanley.

Plot: An old man with early-stage dementia is fatally stabbed in the street at night. The victim was the father of the Assistant Superintendent in the Botswana CID. Was the crime some form of revenge against the son? Events – including another murder and a failed attempt at a third – quickly disprove that theory. But the crimes are linked. A tale of multi-national corporate greed and government corruption emerges.

Where and when: The plot revolves around the historic town of Shoshong and its (fictional) Chinese-owned uranium mine. The setting is modern day.

The detectives: David ‘Kubu’ (Hippo) Bengu, Assistant Superintendent in the Botswana CID; Jacob Mabaku, his boss; Edison Banda and Samantha Khama, detectives in the CID.

Sense of Place: The book was praised for this by the much-respected (by me at least) Crime Fiction Lover website, but it is actually quite sparing in its description of the towns and countryside. It does score strongly on the cultural landscape of Botswana. At one point, Kubu reflects on how music is at the core of life; “We sing when a baby is born, we sing at birthdays and weddings, we sing at work and we sing when people die.” The author (actually a writing team of two South Africans, Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip) returns to the theme at the funeral of Kubu’s father: The coffin is opened the night before the funeral, and crowds of mourners pray and sing until dawn. When the service is over, the crowd moves to the grave in a long procession, and the air is filled with song and ululations.

And I now know that a traditional funeral meal in Botswana will include a smooth maize meal porridge (sap), a fatty boiled meat dish (seswan) and dried corn kernels (samp); possibly washed down with Shake Shake beer, so named because you have to shake the carton to mix the ingredients before you can drink it.

But the book also examines darker themes – the clash of traditional and modern, the disconnection between village elders and disaffected young men, and the tension over the growing numbers of Chinese, who are investing heavily in the country but are distrusted over their motives.

There is also an undertow of suspicion that, below the benign family image of Botswana, is a disturbing acceptance of wife beating.

Worth reading? Yes. I use my e-reader on this project, for convenience in obtaining and storing books, and add the paper version when I discover a title or series I want to collect. This is the fifth in the Kubu Bengu series: I will be adding them all to my bookshelf.

World Crime Atlas is my retirement project to read a crime novel set in each of the countries in The Times Atlas of the World. I am particularly interested in the sense of place created by the author.


The Wine List #32

IMGP6557MY retirement project, to sample wine made from all of the main grape varieties listed in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, goes West.

Grape: Zinfandel.

Wine: Winemakers’ Selection White Zinfandel California 2014. (Sainsbury’s)

Alc Vol: 11%

HJ says: “Fruity, adaptable grape of California with blackberry-like and sometimes metallic flavour. Can be structured and gloriously lush, ageing for decades, but also makes’ blush’ pink, usually sweet, jammy.”

The label says: “Crushed strawberry and juicy watermelon flavours.”

Food: recommended with berry desserts. We shared a bottle with friends at the end of a supper party, over a home-made fruit salad.

Verdict: The pink version, but not too sweet and definitely not jammy. The fruitiness worked well with the dessert. Did the job.

The Wine List #31

IMGP6553My retirement project, to sample wine made from each of the main grape varieties listed in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book, samples an underrated Italian white.

Grape: Garganega

Wine: Soave Denomizione di Origine Controllata Classico 2015. Italy. From Sainsbury’s ‘Taste The Difference’ range.

Alc Vol: 12%

HJ says: “The famous, still underrated Veronese white. Wine from the volcanic soils  of the Classico zone can be intense, mineral, v fine and quite long-lived.”

The label says: “Zesty with lemon and lime flavours. Crisp with a mineral freshness.”

Food: recommended with cured meats and pesto pasta. The Current Mrs Feeney and I drank it with antipasti, black olives and chargrilled artichokes, followed by a chorizo and butter-basted chicken pizza.

The verdict: This wine was indeed from the Classico zone of hillside vineyards around the walled town of Soave in the north-east of Italy; but we would not describe it as intense. It delivered on the zesty and mineral promises on the label. It was fresh and light, making easy summer drinking for an alfresco meal when the sun shines (and that is, sadly, all too rare around these parts in these climate-changed Welsh summers.) Mrs F, who isn’t a wine lover and is therefore a reluctant partner in this project, gave it her “I can drink this” seal of approval.

The Wine List #30: a fruity Sicilian

My retirement project to sample wine made from all of the main grape varieties mentioned in Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.

IMGP6512 Grape: Nero d’Avola.

Wine: Corte Ibla Terre Siciliane Single Estate 2013 (Marks and Spencer).

Hugh Johnson says: “Dark-red grape of Sicily, quality levels from sublime to industrial.”

The label says: “A ripe and concentrated full-bodied red with deep blackberry and spiced plum aromas over peppery cherry and berry flavours.”

Food: Recommended on its own, or with charred meats, peppery steaks or roast pork. We drank it with lamb chops and roast potatoes.

Verdict: Neither sublime nor industrial. As usual, I couldn’t pick out the specific fruit flavours mentioned on the bottle, but I thought it was a very pleasant wine that (as is often the case) tasted fruitier and fuller when we finished the bottle the next day.