Thursday, September 24, 2015

I see you too ... the London Dry Gin reimagined as a Spaniard

A crisis of identity? 

I happily drowned in a sea of gin tonics during my time in Spain. Budgeting for a healthy stock of gins and tonic waters meant meals were often reduced to eggs, lettuce, and rice, but we have to make sacrifices for what we love, don't we. And thus went my education - or rather, obsession - with the gin tonic. This one, Gin Sea, a London Dry Gin-styled gin distilled in Galicia, Spain by a well-known sommelier, Manuel Barrientos. Bright, fresh, with a slight herbal bitterness on the finish - makes a gin tonic that's incredibly clean, with enough complexity to keep things interesting. Garnish with a lime wheel and sprigs of fresh thyme.

What does it mean, for a drink to be from somewhere? Is it the provenance of the ingredients that decide its origin? The production method/traditions? In the end, what we don't give enough credit to is simply the tastes and preferences of the distiller - the creator, if you will. Alcohol, in particular, is not natural, despite what the marketers want you to believe. No, it's a product that is the result of human intervention and manipulation, to create a drink that fits a certain taste. Hopefully, we would want that taste to be good ... to be a representation of what the creator (distiller, winemaker, etc.) thinks is of high quality ... before we assign labels to it. The romantic old world notion of a drink's origin actually meaning anything is gone. Dead and gone, let's get that clear right now. We are now in the world of creators, who create drinks in their image first.

Of course, there are those who remain champions of the old ways, those peasants in Burgundy, the country gentlemen (and women) of the Moselle ... but what a minority. What a dying breed of heroes. Few now are cut from that cloth, and you know what? Consumers have a responsibility in this masse rejection of tradition in favour of 'commercial' products. Products with mainstream appeal. Dead, soulless, meaningless drinks that tease you with promises of profundity, but eventually reveal themselves to be cheap distractions. And consumers eat that shit up. They want wines and spirits that are easy to drink - that horrible, horrible phrase born of the mass commercialization of alcohol beverages. And the traditionalists, the old-timers? They trudge on, supported by an increasingly smaller group of enthusiasts who may not have profound knowledge, but certainly possess great appreciation for the drink. How do we reverse all this?

I like Gin Sea a lot. I like this project a lot, and as I've said before, idealism counts for naught if what you're producing tastes like shit. And this gin is delicious. So maybe to answer this question of identity, that's really all we have to consider for now - that someone is doing something unique and of high quality.

The rest, well ... we'll leave discussions about what origin means to the marketers.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

the demi-bouteille of Château Fourcas Hosten

On my last evening in Bordeaux, I wanted something rustic. That old-school French cooking. I found it at La Tupina.

Wood burning grill ... game meat hanging ... thick tablecloths and heavy cutlery. I really, really love France. And French people, for that matter. It's the little things they do, that marks them so differently than the Spanish, or at least the Catalans. I don't want to be picking on them, but for example - a Spaniard restaurant will always assume you speak no Spanish, and give you an English menu. They won't care if you (try to) speak Spanish, nor will they deign to attempt any English. I've even had people laugh at me for my admittedly poor castellano. The French, in contrast, welcome you trying to speak in their language - they appreciate the effort. Why is that? We're all just trying our best, aren't we? I'm in your country, I want to at least try to learn a bit of your language, not fumble around with poorly translated English menu items.

We, however, shouldn't generalize. After all, when we are in a foreign country, we have an obligation to understand and respect local customs and traditions. If the Spanish choose to act un-civil and boorish to visitors, well, that's their prerogative. The staff of La Tupina were a delight, recommending me to start with the classics: frog legs mounted on a parsley and garlic sauce, followed by grilled duck breast. All I had to think about was what to drink.

2004 Château Fourcas Hosten, AC Listrac-Médoc. I know, I know. A half-bottle?! In my defense, I just finished a long day driving around Sauternes, and I had an early appointment the next morning at Château de Fargues with Philippe de Lur Saluces - not the kind of rendezvous one shows up tardy and disheveled for. So I contented myself with a simple red Bordeaux, just approaching maturity. This wine was a joy. Lustrous red in colour, fully open aromas - dark fruit, minerally and fresh. Tight-knit tannins showing its as yet unreached plateau, but with an already elegant and fine texture. Utterly satisfying, and proving yet again that 2004 is a vintage that will dance at 20 years of age.

It's the little things that matter during this job search too. At the risk of sounding boorish myself, it's important to remind yet and again that it's my duty - my obligation - to stay true to the things I gained during the MBA, and its value. It's hard, most definitely. But as even this half-bottle of simple Bordeaux showed, there's a character in all of us that takes just the right circumstances to reveal itself.

What a magnificent 4 days in Bordeaux.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

finding happiness in Bordeaux

Exactly one year ago, I was in Bordeaux, France, to visit a few châteaux in Pessac-Léognan, Sauternes, and Barsac. I was thrilled beyond imagination. I was also very, very hungry. You see, for the duration of my summer internship in Zaragoza, I committed myself to working hard at the office, exercising, and sticking to a diet of egg whites, sausages, toast, and lettuce. Something about not being a sponsored student, and having to make that money stretch for another 10 months.
But the internship was over. I was in France. I was hungry. On the recommendation of my Airbnb host, I went to a local joint, Le Petit Commerce for fish. Lots of fish, starting with a tuna tartare ...
... whole roasted dorade ...
... and because I couldn't be drinking a Sauternes alone ... I had found happiness in Bordeaux.