Alan and I have just spent a four days in Tuscany. In truth, it started as a holiday – a quick break to recharge the batteries as Alan is now working seven days a week again. Of course, those who know him will think nothing of this as it is his norm. We stayed at the glorious Castella Banfi, great service, stunning views and rooms, and really good food, but it’s for their wines they are best known. One thought led to another, we contacted our wine suppliers who arranged some tastings for us.
Tuscany is so very beautiful, even as it is now, in the grips of a drought. It’s hard to imagine somewhere just two hours flight away hasn’t seen rain since April isn’t it? With stunning hill towns, wonderful views and mellow colours, driving between wineries was no hardship, the roads largely deserted, open views and the addition a great set of Italian cabrio wheels, he just couldn’t stop smiling. We both agreed that the drive between Montalcino and Sienna along the back roads is probably the finest drive we have ever been on and that’s really saying something, Welsh roads being as they are.
Italian wine at its best is as good as any in the world and during this tasting our eyes were open to just how good they can be. We visited three of the great Italian wine estates Banfi, Checchi and Il Poggioni, all family-owned, all producing great wines. We were treated with the open handed hospitality Italians are famed for, despite the fact we will hardly be their biggest customers. We will definitely be adding to the Italian section on the Palé wine list. Another thing we have learned is that our new wines will have a story attached to them; our meeting with the families and their passion for what they do. It’s definitely something we will replicate for other countries. When we find a Sommelier, and we are looking, along with training, visits to these wineries will be an essential part of the role.
Closer to home, Palé weathered storm Aileen unscathed. She is the first of the autumn storms to head our way. It was a teensy weensy British storm, nothing to compare with the devastating hurricanes in the Caribbean and USA, nor indeed the freak storm seen in northern Tuscany on Monday where many died in the flash floods. Nevertheless we were well prepared, generator ready, roof gullies cleared, outside furniture stowed.
We got back to Rome airport with the news showing the bombing on the tube at Parsons Green. A reassuring quick call to the family in London to check they are okay was inevitably followed by more sombre thoughts that, once again, we are thinking of those who were not so fortunate.