Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Everyone Wants a Piece of the Peninsula

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Everyone Wants a Piece of the Peninsula

Article excerpt

Wine offers many pleasures, one of which is effortless movement. You can visit places that make the wines you love, but you can also sip yourself to where these grapes once grew, or use a mind-expanding mouthful to conjure somewhere unrelated but more appropriate to your mood. Chablis, say, need not transport you to damp and landlocked Burgundy, even if the vines flourish there, not when those stony white wines suit sun, sea and shellfish so well.

Still, I'd never been to Istria--a triangle of land across the I Adriatic from the upper calf of Italy's boot--either in vino a or in veritas, until I tried a selection of wines from Pacta Connect, a Brighton-based, wine-importing couple obsessed with Central and Eastern Europe.

The tapas restaurant Poco on Broadway Market in east London has fiercely ecological credentials--it uses lots of locally sourced and sustainably grown food and the space is a former bike shop--but this fierceness doesn't extend to entirely virtuous wine-buying, thank goodness. I'm all for saving the planet: waggle the eco-spear too hard, however, and I'll be forced to drink nothing but English wine. Trying each other's wines, like learning each other's customs, is vital to understanding: there's no point improving the atmosphere if we all just sit around inhaling our own C[O.sub.2] at home.

The world is full of wine and it is our duty to drink variously in the name of peace and co-operation--which are not gifts that have frequently been bestowed on Istria. I have sought enlightenment from Anna, the Culinary Anthropologist. A cookery teacher and part-time Istrian, she has a house on the peninsula and a PhD in progress on its gastronomy. So now, I know that Istria is a peninsula, even if its borders are debated--a result of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy all wanting a piece of its fertile red soil and Mediterranean climate. …

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