Why is Chablis? One reason is, the vicinity of the French capitol (it’s Paris, you do not have to Google it: Paris). This meant that in pre-railway days wines could be transported using barges along the rivers from Chablis, which was the closest vineyard area (Montmartre does not count, as it was a very limited area of production). In long gone days, before the phylloxera, the Chablis/auxerois/tonnerois area produced about 2/3 of the total of what is today produced in Bourgogne (including Chablis).
Of course, cistercian monks started it all in the 7th century CE, but, in France, what vineyard was not started by cistercian monks? And it could have been earlier.
After introduction of railways, Chablis was under stress not only from replanting after phylloxera, but also out-competed by other wine-producing areas in the South, where vineyards gave big yields of hearty and coarse red wines.
Chablis, today, is about white, dry, wines, made (predominantly) from chardonnay which is locally known as beaunois, indicating that it is recognized as imported from the Beaune area.
Predominantly because some ampelographer hiking the vineyards found that lots of vines were, in fact, pinot blanc rather than chardonnay. So it goes.
Sometime in the 50s (1957? 1956?) vineyards suffered cruelly under a very harsh winter – the Grand Cru vineyards were used for skiing and sledging – and many vines died. 1957 was a very small harvest.
SInce then, the vineyards have grown back (though not to their pre-phylloxera strength) and the wines are recognized as among the best white wines in France.
An English author, whose name escapes me, claimed that Chablis should be drunk during the first 3-5 years after its harvest. Possibly, the truly greatvintage Grand Cru wines could be saved up to 10 -12 years. Tops.
My first experience of older Chablis was a magnum 1986 1er cru, drunk with friends back in 2005? or 2006? The only problem was, the second magnum was corked (I still wake up in a cold sweat thinking of that now and then).
About a year later, summer of 2006, again with friends, a 1978 Chablis made by a negociant who has since retreated to Chalon-sur Saône, making Bojolpif. Wonderful – nutty, undergrowth, with a distinct and elegant acidity – wonderful.
Today, we have passed another mark. A Chablis, non-vintage, but made during the 1950s, by a Henry Laroche, proprietaire et viticulteur, Maligny (Yonne), bought from a good provider. SLightly brownish as behooves its age, but, fresh, vibrant, with a taste of overripe apples, hazelnuts, a bit of butter, and the clean Chablis acidity that has been likened to a blade of stainless steel … that is of course a metaphor. 10 -12 years? Forget it.
Mouse taint. In Spanish, rat taste. Something similar in German.
There are many ways in which wine can become unpalatable. TCA (cork taint), madeirisation or oxidation, volatile acids, bret. Some of them can at times lend charm to the wine, or add something particular – sherry and madeira, or vin jaune from Jura, will more often than not have notes of oxidization. Old, traditional Bandol smelling like a stable is afflicted with brettanomyces and may be the better for it (possibly). No one, on the other hand, ever claimed TCA added something of value to a wine. And now comes le gout de souris.
In the hospitable home of good friends Jan and Barbro we were having a tasting of the wines of Mas Zenitude, led by none other than the winemaker himself, Erik Gabrielsson, and his lovely wife Francee, who is also in the wine trade. After going through 6 wines, he passed a seventh around the table, saying, Beware – this one has “le gout de souris”. Which indeed it did, and a friendly argument broke out concerning this mysterious taint. Erik mentioned that it would pass, on cellaring (possibly true), and raised the hypothesis that it was due to some kind of oxidation (not exactly).
The taint has apparently been known for a long time but, been away due to the addition of sulfites to wine. Then, however, came the natural wines where addition of sulfite was seen as detrimental. Not all natural wines have it, of course, nor even all bottles from the same batch. It appears also that the taint may disappear over time.
It has been described as the smell of a mouse cage, sometimes a bit like popcorn (doesn’t sound as bad). It is alos pointed out that it is not a direct smell, you do not smell it by sniffing at your glass (I am not entirely in agreement), but, it is a retronasal smell, meaning, you do not immediately perceive it on introducing the wine in your mouth, rather, you may even swallow it, and the odor, or aroma, will appear over time. You can also dip your finger in the wine and rub on your hand – when it has dried, the smell will appear.
Three different compounds cause the mousy flavors : 2-ethyltetrahydropyridine, 2-acetyltetrahydopyridine , and 2-acetylpyrroline. These compounds are metabolites of two amino acids, lysine, and ornithine. The metabolizers are either yeasts of the brettanomyces family, or bacteriae, either of the lactobacillus or the oenococcus strains, or, even worse, both. Apart from the amino acids, ethanol, or ethanol (acetaldehyde) and certain metal ions must be present. It is possible to demonstrate the synthesis of these compounds in a controlled manner .
Oddly, it appears the 2-acetylpyrroline is also the substance that gives the pleasant flavor to basmati rice , . It would of course not be the only example of a substance that will, in some circumstances smell pleasantly, while in others be foul – remember that the passion fruit flavor of NZ Sauvignon Blanc comes from a thiol, compounds that normally gives associations of rotten eggs et c.
According to some sources, upwards of 30 % are insensitive to this taint .
The reason the odor is not immediately perceptible is that the wine is acidic, and the compounds in this environment are not volatile. Only in the mouth, as the wine’s acidity is balanced by the alkaline saliva, will it appear .
The taint may also disappear over time (meaning several months), but why that is, is not understood.
Oddly, some find the aroma appealing [idem]. The present writer does not.
For my last wine tasting, I presented, amongst others, a wine made from the rather rare Loire grape variety, pineau d’aunis, called Adonis. I had tasted this two months earlier and was extremely pleased with it, very fresh, with a slight white pepper edge to it – it had been suggested as an example of a “nervous wine”.
At the tasting, all the bottles were afflicted with mouse taint. Since the bottles were of the same provenience, this might indicate the short time span during which the taint might appear – more observations are needed.
During later years, it appears the cork taint has been gradually disappearing: it is not as common as it was ten years ago. A chlorine-free treatment of the corks may be the reason, and that is for the good. What to do about mouse taint?
The great Morgon wine maker Foillard would be considered a nature wine maker, if I understand him correctly: I have never found mouse taint in any of his happily imbibed bottles.
Prevention is advocated. A meticulous hygiene in the cellar and during bottling is of the utmost importance. I suspect it may not be enough. The action of both yeasts and bacteriae will be blocked by a judicious addition of sulfites (or SO2), but that is not palatable to nature wine makers.
I find a small amount of sulfite more palatable than mouse taint. I would ask what we lose by using small amounts of sulfite – if it is mouse taint, volatile acids, and premature oxidation, I would be all in favor. My reference is the completely fictitious halachic verdict of the Rabbi Hillel: “If the wine tastes good, drink it; if it tastes foul, do not. All else is commentary”.
Getting back to ”Drops of God”, or should that be ’god’? Gods, in the plural, even. The Japanese ‘kami’ appears to be more of a ‘spirit’ than a ‘god’.
One of the peculiarities with Shizuku, and his minions, but also of the nemesis, Isse Tomine, is, that wine appreciation apparently is synesthetic – the aromas of the wine induce highly complex sensations that have at times little or nothing to do with the wine, as such. Odd or romantic landscapes, wide forests, wood elves, flying horses appear, persons from the drinker’s earlier life … or ‘Queen’. No surprise that Isse and Shizuku both gravely claim that, origin, composition, production, and so on, has nothing to do with understanding the inner nature of the wine. This understanding is, however, open to a very select few, while others (tellingly called, at times, “mortal kind”) may briefly gain a feeble, reflected sensation, of this “inner nature”. The defunct Yutaka was a past master of this, including spreading the blessing of his understanding – a sort of Japanese Robert Parker but much more poetic (and without the smelly dog*).
Old Pepe, in his way, not only can apprehend this inner nature, he is even able to see what his adepts should experience but has not already managed; when he is in a good mood, he will point in the right direction, and is, I suppose, a ‘guru’, or, a ‘sensei’, though a rather reluctant one.
He is rarely in a good mood.
Many years ago I read a fairly uninteresting book, “Zen in the Art of Archery” by a German professor of philosophy, Eugen Herrigel. I remember that, in that book, the archery teacher, being also a ‘guru’ or ‘sensei’, was proclaimed to have deeper insights into the mind of his adepts than they had themselves, apparently just by watching them perform archery. Very mystic. Very spiritual. A definite link between the archery teacher and our alcoholic cardboard box dwelling Pepe, who discerns the inner workings of people by having them describe a wine while drinking it.
Almost 30 years after Herrigel, a guy named Pirsig wrote a book called, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” – he himself admitted that it had nothing to do with Zen, and precious little to do with motorcycles, nor their maintenance. I remember picking it up, hoping it would be a spoof on the ‘Archery’ book which I found at the time (early 80s) fairly stuffed-shirt, but, not even that. It dealt with what the author saw, quite incorrectly, as the rationale of electro convulsive therapy in psychiatry. And Aristotle, apparently. Oh yes, and quality in writing, and various other things – I remember it as a slow and dreary read, but, it is considered an icon of US writing.
Getting back to the divine drops.
This recurring dictum, that there exist a ‘correct’ way of ‘understanding’ a wine, one and one only, and that this will apply to the same wine for years and years – it is, to my feeble mind, unadulterated bovine excrement. The end-result of prolonged rumination. No, it is not possible to say that there exist a way of describing a wine that is correct, and universal. Or, that, vice versa, a description can be given such that it will identify one wine, and one only. Perception is both personal and cultural – this fact is blithely passed over when Shizuku, in Bordeaux, to a group of French wine makers, describes a certain botrytized white wine in terms of a certain Japanese festival, very obscure to a European, and is greeted with enthusiasm – rather, he would be met with incomprehension. What festival? Why? How?
One example: Some people are very sensitive to, and very adverse to, the smell of certain strains of Brettanomyces – typically, these give a ‘barnyard’ smell, ‘stable’ has been mentioned. Others are less sensitive, or, find it rather appealing (up to a point). There does not exist a ‘correct’ level of Brett and an ‘appropriate’ reaction to it. In fact, in the end, you can reduce it to, “If you don’t like the wine, don’t drink it”.
I remember a tasting, where out of 9 participants, 6 discerned strawberries in the nose of an old Gevrey-Chambertin, while 3 experienced tar or woodsmoke. Who was ‘right’? Well, none, of course. Nor was anybody ‘wrong’.
The “Drops of god” manga perpetrates a view that is very alien to me, to wit, as already stated, there exist a ‘correct’ perception of a wine. It is not a good introduction to wine, in my opinion.
I will continue reading it until the bitter end – volume 44, I think. So far, I have not bought any wines on a recommendation from the manga.
L’abus de modération nuit gravement à la santé –
*) I refer to the movie, ‘Mondovino’. Apparently, the great wine critic, had a small farting and smelly dog whom he adored. Ever since, I have re-appraised my opinion of Big Bob. Because, he loves his dog, Apparently.
So, Copenhagen. In our little corner, Copenhagen takes an awesome amount of space. Much closer than Stockholm. Mucher larger than Malmö. Only drawback is, it’s not in Southern France.
Well, you can’t have it all can you? (To quote or paraphrase that great guy, Obelix, ”Why not? Is it forbidden?”).
Each year, first or second Friday in October, in Copenhagen is the Culture Night. You buy the Culture night pass (a pin you attach somewhere visible on your clothing) and then you get to enter lots and lots of museums, art galleries, and other more or less unexpected places, getting a view behind the normally closed doors in normally unobtainable institutions. Shops open long hours.
We had decided a long time ago to make the Culture Night this year after a very very long hiatus.
Things had changed: There was a downloadable app. Years ago, there was only one or two places you could get grub late – now food is ubiquitous. No Irish folk music performances, unfortunately (I like Irish folk music). Lots of swing/rock dancing but, unfortunately, mostly in faraway places.
So, we check into a hotel in downtown Copenhagen and hit the town. Art galleries. Art museums. Artsy craftsy shops still open (Would you like a glass of wine? For this is Copenhagen, remember). Institut Français – you can be tested for your aptitude in French. Yes? No. Not at 10 PM after four glasses of wine. The buses and Metro are free for pass holders, so we take a coach for the Zoo which is also open, and proves a huge letdown – the only animals we see are huge numbers of Homo sapiens stumbling about and trying to find the next set of animals going to get fed. Bummer. We get hungry. We want food. We stand in line for a bus to take us back into city center, and ramble down Köbmagergade. Not a street with a lot of options, so, we go left and hit Möntergade, continuing into Gammel Mönt. Have a look at that great and oh so dependable but, unfortunately, a bit expensive, restaurant ’Restaurationen’, and continue half a block when we spot ’R’. Hadn’t thought of that place. ’R’ is a wine bar run by the same people who run ’Restaurationen’. Are we too late? There are lots of people in there. Let’s go in … awe, full to bursting with people. Two possible seats in the cellar … nah, not in the cellar. We are out of … oh. These guys are leaving. OK to sit here? YES! We are first accosted by the wine list. ”The wines by glass are on the black-board” and there are 35-40 of them. Food, not so much, but, the wine list is highly droolable … not least in the ”white wines” department. Comte Lafon. Raveneau. Dauvissat. ”So, what can we offer the young couple?” says a waiter of a certain age with quite selfevident authority (he is, by my guess, 15-20 years younger than we are). ”Drinks for starters?” – For starters, 3 oysters and a glass of Chablis. DKK 149. Very good oysters, the Chablis is the entry level William Fevre 2013, no oak, as he points out. Thankfully. Putting innocent village level Chablis on oak is a crime against humanity, OK? Cool, sharp acidity, very good. Oysters nice and plump, served with slices of lemon and vinegar, but, really, not needed. The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Three oysters does not quell a professionally honed hunger, though: on with a terrine of beef with … on the blackboard is a Chambolle Musigny 1998! Wow! Yes! Errr … no. So sorry. Lasty
glass done been sold. We were however offered a Nuit-St-George 1er cru Vielles Vignes (he pronounces that ”villy vinyes”) 2008, same price (DKK 155 for a glass). Good choice: raspberries, strawberries, with an earthiness I recognize from previous NSGs (particularly those of Mr Chicotot in the village of that name – I mean, the name of the village is Nuit St George, not Chicotot). Terrine is served with cornichons, mustard, and a bottle of a very good olive oil with elegant grassiness and a certain note of vanilla.
Excellent. The terrine is not a big piece so, cheese? Yes, some cheese. With a syrah … ? The waiter’s facial expression says it all. No, not syrah. Your advice? Ah. A Riesling Beerenauslese 1996 from Dr Thanisch? Well, yes … Cheese are appropriately mature, the comte possibly on the salty side. Honey with chili served on the side and, this forms an excellent bridge to the Riesling.
The venue is pleasantly crowded, noise level reaches at the most dB 82 (don’t you bring a sound meter when you go to a restaurant? Really? No?), smoke free of course. Waiters very good, a couple of middle age men who have a very good working
knowledge of what they do – do not be fooled by some mispronanciations of French terms. This feast came to a bit more than DKK 1300. You could however go in four guys and share a bottle of Bojopif from Lapierre or Foillard and fingerfood for considerably less (about DKK 550). On the other hand, you could do a little vertical of Salon (oldest 1988) for considerably more. Whatever. This place is a small treasure. Highly recommended.
After a good night’s sleep I woke up feeling morose and with a considerable head cold. Had breakfast in the hotel, not bad (fresh pressed orange juice), but, still, working under a head cold. Went out for some window shopping, and planning to meet Mrs C’s brother and his wife (of whom I should tell you some time) who, however, were a bit, not to say fashionably, late. Being in the neighbourhood, we decided to have lunch in Café Sommersko. In Copenhagen, as I have explained somewhere else, a café is not necessarily a place where you just drink coffee. Normally, it’s a restaurant with a certain bistrot appeal, even if, this has to be said, no bistrot in France I have been to is quite like a Copenhagen café. Anyway. Place was rather full but not to bursting, we were seated, and menus proivded. These were of the ”chèvre chaud/soup du jour/ Caesar sallad” variety – we were in fact struck by the similarity of them to those of ”Dan Turell”, another Copenhagen make-believe bistrot we have visited quite often. We order a sallad each, and a glass of wine from the very short list of open wines. Water can only be had in bottles, of which there is only one size. Mrs C has chosen a Soave, I an Alsace Riesling from Gilg (never heard of). Waiting time is considerable. When wines arrive, mine is definitely on the warmish side not to mention sweetish, or, sweet. Not what I would have chosen for a Caesar sallad. The Soave is correct, though. Some more waiting and sallads are brought to table. My Caesar is simply not good. The chicken is grilled so hard that it is close to burnt, and dry. The shellfish of Mrs C’s salad is lacking in veggebobbles,
A visit to the men’s room indicates that this is a toilet designed for guys with the desperate need and poor aim induced by renting too much beer on a Friday night, while the lady’s room (this is hearsay) lacks toilet paper, and is filthy according to Mrs C. The caffe latte I order as a finale takes further time. Bad food, long waiting time, slightly disintertested waiter. Simply put, this place is not recommended. If you have better experiences from it, fine, let me know. It used to be a preferred hang-out for the young and beautiful some 15 years ago, perhaps we are not young and beautiful enough? I am not going back in the immediate future. Perhaps a beer at the bar?
The Danish word for butterfly is ‘sommerfugl’, which literally means summer bird. Nice word innit?
‘Summerbird’ is also the name of a group of stores selling fairly high grade chocolate, and this particularly Scandinavian treat, ‘flödeboller’
– it mean cream buns, it was a Danish invention from the start (or so the Danes claim), using whipped cream, which has since been replaced with egg white, whipped with sugar and stabilised with gelatine. They are covered with chocolate and the all-knowing wikipedia translates the name into the unwieldy Chocolate-coated marshmallow treats. Not a very good translation: the egg white filling is much lighter than your ordinary marshmallow. In ”Summer Bird”, they have taken the making of the treats into an elegant fine art, using various kinds of chocolate, adding fruit to the filling, or liquorice or … They have also reduced the size, and rather than on a plain tasteless biscuit, they reside on a thin marzipan wafer. The shop is slightly elegant, and you are urged to try their wares, such as almonds coated with white chocolate and liquorice. If you have a sweet tooth, this might be the place for you.
So, my lady has gone on a late morning constitutional to the Rauba Capéu (“steal hat”, in Nissart) and I had taken it upon meself to clean up, do the dishes, make things clear with the lock smith (don’t ask), and possibly buy socca for lunch.
As soon as I was going out to deal with the lock smith, I realized there was not going to be ready made socca for lunch. The convenience store across the street had most likely fresh figs, and goat’s cheese, and … I laid my plans.
A few minutes cleared up the business with the lock smith (they’ll be over on Monday, at 2 PM, you’ll be pleased to know), so, it’s over the street I go. Yes. Figs. Let’s take 8, just in case. Then, fresh goat’s cheese – industrially made but, hey, I am easy! Then, a bottle of liquid honey … OK. I pay my groceries, goes into the bakery (there are three: the one we do not go to, the one we have ceased to go to, and the one we do go to). It lost a bit of its soul when the lady working there with the pink hair moved to Antibes, but, the quiet little blonde lady is there and acknowledge me as a “client fidèle” with a small smile which is as personal as she gets. They are out of the multi-cereal so I’ll have to settle for ‘tradition’.
Back home, I rinse the figs, cut off the stalks, and make a deep cross in each, inserting a piece of goat’s cheese. I whisk on a few drops of cherry balsamico and liquid honey, then some grains of coarse salt. I put the figs in a casserole previously smeared with olive oil, and it all goes into the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for 20 minutes. This gives me time both to make a small cucumber-and-tomato salad, and assemble the IKEA lamp we brought from Sweden (Swedish men are ecologically selected for being dab hands at assembling IKEA furniture). The result looks strangely like something out of a SF-movie, and will change between being a globe and a collection of high tech antennas by the pulling of a piece of string (the lamp, not the figs).
So Mrs L returns, having bought fresh mushrooms in the market place (Cour Saleyah), and a further supply of figs. Ready to eat, on the balcony, windy but warm, and with a view that in itself is worth a small fortune. A glass of rosé – by the Comte de Chevron ViIlette, in honor of the Rugby Club Toulonien – not an exact match but, it will have to do.
Ah, it’s back to our little corner of reality.
Note: Our bakery is Michel Tabarini at 220, ave Californie, 0620 Nice. Recommended.
Second note: WordPress blog editor is free and it is a piece of shit when it comes to placement of pictures.
I had already booked a cheap flight for the royal capitol of Sweden, and discarded the possibility of taking a taxi – a shared taxi to the airport
would cost MORE than the flight – so, waiting for the bus to take me, wandered about looking for a convenient glass of beer. Not to be found, to early.
Not yet beer o’clock (so SORRY, we open at 15 …).
After philosphizing over a latte and the latest issue of Decanter, increasingly realizing it holds very little information of value to me, and trying to see what makes it obvious, in any group of girls, who is the alpha female (failed), found myself going to the airport. Check in very smooth – almost too smooth, ”what’s your name?” ”Lindgren, do you want my ID?” ”Nah”, and it was done. Security measures on the other hand quite sharp (is that sonar they use on the shoes?).
Free seating on Kullaflyg and self is deceptively fleet of feet so got a good window seat – only to find the aisle seat occupied by a hunkish person who sat down, spreadlegged, arms crossed and encroaching my personal space, then falling (apparently) asleep, leaving close to 100 kg huddled hedonist trying to make himself comfy.
Desperate times: I ordered the long longed for beer, a Höganäs African Pale Ale from one of the most microscopic micro breweries imaginable (been there, not to be missed next time you visit Höganäs – after you cross the parking lot and have a burger in Garaget. Recommended).
The African Pale Ale is, essentially, an IPA, but the hops are African varieties, hence the name. Very dry, very fresh, very aromatic, passion fruit, grass … The accompanying mini-wrap was, in comparison, exactly as uninteresting as most airplane grub tends to be.
So I meet my wife, who is in the city for a conference, in the hotel lobby, I deposit my luggage in our room, and it’s out to eat. Duvel Café has been a recurring way station for yours truly since … 1990s? I am uncertain. Has been a place with a certain flair, despite being hallowed to beer, that rustic drink. As the name could indicate,
specializing in Belgian beers, often with a ”This week’s (or month’s) special beer” on a blackboard, and in the menu, some tips what beer to drink to which plate.
Not any longer, apparently. The menu is pre-printed (bad sign), and the number of beers listed is smaller than I remember. The inner dining room is, however, cosier, the walls a dark green color,
and the waiter is pleasantly personable in a sort of bistrot, informal, manner. A certain wait, but, glasses of fizz (Diebolt-Vallois, entry level) are produced (but not poured at the table) and the menu card presented.
There is a special shellfish menu from which we select ”a handful of shrimps with lemon mayo” and ”grilled red prawns”. With this, a glass
of Sancerre. The wine is a bit New Zealand, meaning, passion fruit and pineapple in the nose, but solidly Loire in the almost aggressiv acidity. Goes OK with the shellfish. These days, NZ and Loire SauvBlanc are getting closer – or, those we get here in Sweden, do at least – some NZ SBs are crisp, grassy, and gooseberry like a Sancerre while some Loire SBs are shockfull of tropical fruit like they harked from Marlborough. But I digress.
Shrimps are shrimps and grilled prawns are grilled prawns. The mayonnaise served with both of them appeared identical and industrymade. I got three prawns, having ordered the
starter measure (you could have them as a main dish), with some sallad. Not bad. The shrimps were served on ice and were quite adequate.
As a main dish, I selected osso bucco, an old favorite. According to the menu to be served with saffron risotto and gremolata. My wife chose the duck’s breast with truffled mashed potatoes, and, failing to find a suitable Italian, we decided on Chapoutier’s La Bernardine, Chateauneuf-du-Papes, if I remember correctly, 100 % grenache. Vintage was 2011, and in hindsight I should have asked to have it caraffe’d. Silly me, I am certain our waiter would have complied.
Now, osso bucco is not a dish that lends itself to elegance and refinery. What appeared on my plate was a couple of very well done slices of calf, with marrow, in a tomato sauce, quite tasty. My only complaint was that the saffron risotto could have done with some more saffron – apart from that, the risotto was creamy with rice
slightly al dente as I like it – and that I could not find the gremolata. A handful of watercress and a few grilled cherry tomatoes were, to my mind, surplus to requirement.
My wife was less than impressed with her duck’s breast – not anything wrong with the cooking, nor seasoning, but finding the presentation lacking in elegance and, above all,
vegetables. She also thought we had to wait too long for our food. Wine was as expected from Chapoutier, good work, not terribly exciting, but, good, though too young (hence my blooper
in not asking for a carafe). So, champers, starters wiv wine, and main dish also with wine comes to a grand total of SEK 2450 (including tips to the nice and friendly waiter).
Not cheap for what is essentially, today, a sort of brasserie, and not the idiosyncratic beer-oriented almost fine dining we remember. Of course, the bottle of wine is a heavy influence on the bill, almost SEK 1000. You could go there, have a bowl of mussles and a glass of muscadet at a much smaller price, and peraps enjoy yourselves more.
Not a place to avoid, as such.
So then we went out to find someplace where we could dance. Unfortunately, the only place we found music that appealed to us was on the sidewalk outside a Pizza Hut.
Well, there are precedents for dancing on the sidewalk, and the denizens watching the theatre of life passing them by even applauded, as we hope, appreciatively.
The morning after the night before, having the brunch-like breakfast of Radisson Blue Waterfront safely tucked under our respective belts saw us hit the town for some heavy duty shopping and encounter with the son and his young lady. When you shop, you shop (quote by Rue Paul) but, then you get hungry, amirite? Even after a brunch-like breakfast.
We decided on a restaurant in the Kungsgatan, called Rigoletto Bistro – and, the name has nothing to do with the opera, and everything to do with it replacing a movie theater with the name Rigoletto. It has a terrace, to wit, a row of tables and chairs a bit too close to the traffic (which is intense) for comfort, so, I opted
for a table indoors. Marble table tops, lots of red and brass in the interior, a black-board with today’s special – yes. Very much the Swedish idea of a French brasserie/bistro.
Service fast and friendly, orders quickly taken (lamb w red wine sauce and deep fried balls of mashed potatoes with goat’s cheese which the waiter pronounced che-VRAY). Nice presentation and a glass of warm and rustic Languedoc wine, based on grenache and syrah from Domaine Paul Mas. Also very nice bread, by the way. A special mention for that.
Two double espresso and we are very satisfied with our lunch, even if the menu card is pre-printed (I have this thing about that). We will return, Madame held this restaurant to be better than Duvel, even, something I might not totally agree on until I have seen their offerings in the evening.
Meanwhile, somewhere else, the previously mentioned young lady was taking part in a 10 km course for ladies. We were going to go out and cheer but missed her. Tough.
Rather, later in the afternoon, we visited her and her young man in their new apartment – new, in the sense that they had another, less convenient, and have now moved to a house built in 1925 on what was then the outskirts of Stockholm, and is today inner city … OK, not quite inner city. We were treated to various Danish beers from
a microbrewery, Skovlyst (meaning, roughly, ”pleasure in the forest”), with appropriately forest-connotating names and all delicious – my favorite being the oat stout, with aromas of liquorice and star anise. Compared to my airplane beer, less dry, with a hint of sweetness. Try it, you might like it.
Smak So, on for the evening libation. We had found a restaurant with aspirations and ambition, working on the today current ‘tapas’ like theme – you select several smaller dishes.
Here it was augmented by smaller servings of accompanying wine or, in one case, beer. A fine wine list exists, but we preferred sticking to their concept and order the wines recommended.
– I rather liked the venue. Festooned with gobelins, decorated with stucco, and the ceiling dampened to ameliorate acoustics, it gave a festive frame to the evening. Possibly a bit on the dark side, and, even with the dampeners, slightly loud-ish. The menu is a marker for your seating, and just pick and chose. Each small serving is marked with the ‘taste’ – ginger, wasabi, estragon … and to the right is the accompanying beverage. There are a total of 20 options, 5 of which are ‘sweet’.
A vegetarian menu with slightly fewer options also exist.
– Looking through the wines (and the solitary beer) I noted that, uncharacteristically, the whites dominated.
Further, the white wines were with few exceptions marked by a high acidity – riesling, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc … and producers were solidly mainstream – Laroche, Henri Bourgeois, Brown Brothers, with little adventurousness.
The reason for the festivity was the birthday of the young man – he claims to be 40, but, needless to say, he does not fool me. Champagne as a pre-prandial – Diebault-Vallois again, this time the entry level blanc de blanc, nice apply notes, crisp and appetizing. Orders taken, we sat down to wait, and, indeed, wait we did. This was my main
complaint about this restaurant. After 2 hours, 4 of the seven dishes had been served, and, the wines for the dishes were served two by two, meaning, one glass stood unattended while the previous dish with accompanying wine was consumed. This means that every other wine was, on drinking, room temperature, which is not how I like
crisp, acidic, whites. Some changes would be appreciated here, I think. The dishes were very nicely presented, thought had been taken for the esthetics, I do like that. The tasting glasses of wine were all priced at SEK 60 – they contained c 6-7 cl I’d guess, but, I may be wrong – did not bring a measuring glass. Not all pairings were to my taste (notably a Thai BBQ pork cheek with lots of chili with an Australian Shiraz) but, our guests were very pleased with the food, as was my wife. Me, perhaps not so much.
Service was professional but not particularly personal or involved, perhaps because we were in the last sitting, starting at 20:30. The price tag for 7 courses, four persons, with wine (in small quantities) and a glass of champagne came to c 4 500 SEK – this is in fact not a large sum, given the setting and the concept.
Did I like it? I am in two minds. I did not like drinking room temperature white wine, and, on the whole, I found the wine selections slightly dull. Some of the dishes could have done with a re-evaluation of the seasoning, e g a cock’s liver mousse with a carpaccio of wagyu, called ‘Ginger’, which barely tasted of ginger but was
in my opinion too salty. The liver mousse, in fact, did not need the carpaccio, it was very good in and of itself, while the saltiness was due to a too generous sprinkling of the beef with flake salt. I’d like to see a rethinking of wines and logistics, because, this night, service was too slow. Kitchen, I think, has some very clever cooks and some good ideas, some less good.
One option might be to try their lunch?
Lately, I have noticed people taking an interest in the Japanese art form of ’manga’. The word has changed connotation over time: Hokusai’s views of Mt. Fuji of which many are familiar with the “Great Wave” (while, perhaps, not realizing that Mt. Fuji is in the background) was called a ‘manga’ in the late 18th century. Today, it is comics, and there are various sub-changres (seinen, shoen … don’t know what that means, really). And wine mangas.
2004, the “Kami no Shizuku” first appeared. The title is in French translated into (lit.) “drops of god”, where ‘god’ stands for ‘kami’. In the universe of this manga, a well-known Japanese wine critic, Yutaka Kanzaki, in his will, stipulates that a contest shall be between his son Shizuku (to whom he is estranged) and his (hrm hrm) ‘adopted’ son Issei Tomine to find out who is worthy to receive the inheritance of his cellar containing wines worth millions and millions of yen.
The contest consist of twelve descriptions of wines, called ‘apostles’, in a flowery and very poetical mode, apparently the Japanese original is extremely difficult even for a person proficient in Japanese. The contestants are then to find out what wine is implied by the description, and present it, and render their own description of the wine. Their efforts are to be judged by Yutaka’s old drinking friend (and self-proclaimed alcoholic) Robert ‘Pepe’ Doi, who lives in a cardboard house in a park, where he keeps his wines buried in the flower beds.
The contest would appear weighed in favor of Isse Tomine, dubbed “The Prince of Wines” (Yutaka being ”The King”), and a world authority on fine wines, while Shizuku has, as a part of his estrangement with his father, refused to drink wine and is currently (as the story opens) engaged as a commercial seller of beer,
in a brewery.
In a way, the story is slightly reminiscent in its build-up, of a computer game. Each new wine is a new level. Shizuku gains new allies, new tools he can use, while, over time, realizing his enormous potential in the olfactory department – he can literally sniff the difference between two wines without opening the bottles. He also gets to solve various other problems, usually by finding an appropriate wine. This appears to be central: for every problem, there exists an appropriate wine. Lost interest in swimming? Chablis Le Moutonne. Your lover has died? A Gevrey-Chambertin. You will die in 6 months from an incurable illness and you are 19 years old? Yes, even to this ‘problem’ there exists an appropriate wine … though none so complicated as fnding a suitable wine for Korean cooking a, no wine goes with kimchi (spoiler alert: yes there are a few).
The arbiter, Pepe, is in his way a version of “the hermit on the mountain” – cf. Katsuichi-sensei in Usagi Yojimbo, or the guy who knows how to make the perfect broth for noodles in ‘Tampopo’. He is also fabulously rich, despite living in a cardboard box.
Shizuku, being described as one “who will be attractive to girls” is strangely uninterested despite having had very obvious come-ons from various nubile ladies – somewhat like a wine-drinking Spirou, or, possibly, Tintin (though I have never seen any girls try to go down on Tintin). Isse, on the other hand, has a rich life in terms of sexual relationships, though never with full frontal nudity (nipples are not to be shown in a SFW manga, so, they are oddly hidden by strands of hair or similar). I suspect something cultural is behind this – I mean, the protagonist is celibate, the antagonist is not.
Where the series stands today, the two combatants are in fact head to head, with ten wines identified and described.
Yutaka died in 2004, and, in the French version, oddly, wines of vintages after his death are beginning to appear. Various other oddities – even today, after more than ten years, Shizuku has not grasped that the world famous model Sara, whom he is friends with, is, in fact, Isse’s half-sister. An early competition within the competition, that the winner of the last apostle should have the use of Yutaka’s mansion-like home – this died out after two apostles, and, to this day, it has not been disclosed where Shizuku lives, if anywhere. A person who early in the story appeared to be important (the “Le Pin” lady) and who apparently was extremely well-known to, and revered by, Shizuku’s boss, Mr Kawagate, has since simply disappeared out of view – perhaps she will reappear but, I don’t hold my breath.