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UPCOMING EVENTS – Come and say hello and enjoy a tipple with us at:
It’s #pinotgrigioweek at When in Rome. But, just for clarity, it’s not Pinot Grigio Week anywhere else, just at When in Rome.
Why do we feel the need to celebrate? Well, remember the good old days when British politicians were sensible and competent, but a bit dull and bland? For better or worse, nobody claims that any more, but Pinot Grigio, on the other hand, still suffers from a similar reputation – partially deserved – in the UK as a pale, characterless wine. And we want to change that!
Whilst it’s true that Italy exports more Pinot Grigio to the US than it actually produces, and also that the grape, originally from France, has to be picked earlier in Italy’s warmer climes – and is therefore at risk of losing flavour – if you know where to look, you can find some fabulous Pinots in Italy.
And, at the risk of blowing our own producers’ trumpets, we know where to look. Our Pinot Grigio is spritzy and crisp with distinct notes of apple and pear and all the acidity you’d expect from its early harvested grapes. Thoroughly drinkable at any time, spectacular as an aperitif and also great value because it comes in a box. At When in Rome, you really can have your Pinot and drink it.
With a bit of historical license, you could argue that neither the UK nor Italy would exist without Dolcetto. Our own Queen Anne, during whose reign the Act of Union that created the UK was signed, was a huge fan of Dolcetto from Ovada. Perhaps, without her favourite tipple, she’d never have had the patience to sit through the four months of bilateral negotiations that lead to the Treaty’s signature (David Davis take note!). 140 years later, in Italy, Austrian-imposed tariffs on Piedmontese wines like Dolcetto provoked the province to declare the war against Austria that ultimately led to Italian Unification.
Nothing guarantees peace like unification, just as nothing guarantees a great evening like a fabulous box of wine. Like our Dolcetto, for example, which is an easy–drinking, dry red with a texture as smooth as a bambino’s bottom. Full of young fruit and almond notes, with a pleasantly bitter aftertaste, it pairs perfectly with antipasti, meat sauces and roasted poultry.
Our Dolcetto is produced by Gabriele Gaggino, whose vineyard is set in the stunningly beautiful Monferrato hills of Piedmont, just outside Ovada, and was founded back in the early 1920’s by his great-grandfather, Tommaso. Gabriele is uncharacteristically modest for a Piedmontese wine-maker, though no less passionate for it. He’ll talk you to death about his production techniques, and loves chatting about tractors too (don’t get him started on innovative gear mechanisms). He’s also the first to admit that, while his wines are probably the best in the region, there are many other great winemakers in Piedmont. Truly a man of peace, just like his Dolcetto.
This wine will be available exclusively to our Glitterati subscribers from Tuesday 22nd August. Discover more and sign up here
On a good day, Italians call their country “Il bel paese”, the beautiful country – so named for its mild climate, unique cultural heritage and beautiful landscape. On a bad day, they might call it something much less poetic, and that will often be thanks to one of two things: taxes and bureaucracy.
For the wine industry, it’s rarely the former. In fact – unlike the UK, where Her Majesty’s Government takes £2.88 per litre just for the privilege of allowing wine to pass Dover – there is no tax on wine in Italy at all. But whilst New World wine makers can make whatever they want, wherever they want and sell it in whatever container they like, what goes on in Italy’s 900,000 vineyards is subject to strict legal norms known as Disciplinari di Produzione.
At When in Rome, we often get asked why our wines have one grape name on the tasting card and another name on the box, at least when the wine first arrives in the UK. It’s thanks to the Disciplinari. For example, a Barbera or a Verdicchio might be made from the right grape, in the right region and by the right winemaker, but if it’s sold in the “wrong” container, it can’t be called Barbera or Verdicchio, just red or white wine. At least not until we’ve had a chance to persuade the local bureaucrats that our new fangled boxes are, in fact, a really sensible way to transport and sell their wonderful local wines.
Like everything in Italy, the idea of rules governing wine production is as old as the vine-covered hills. Under the Romans in 154 BC, growing grapes beyond the Alps was made illegal, forcing the poor, thirsty inhabitants of Gaul to send ever more slaves to Rome in exchange for wine. The modern rules in Italy that make it so hard to call box wine by the right names date from 1963, and – infuriating as it may occasionally be for a company like When in Rome trying to change things – they’ve done a very good job in protecting the public and improving the industry.
So for now, at least as far as Italian bureaucracy is concerned, it’s box wine evolution rather than revolution thanks to the Disciplinari. Having less rules, we don’t really have a word for Disciplinari in English. But then again, in Italian they don’t have a word for hangover, so who’s smarter than who?
You know the drill by now. Bank Holiday Weekend is fast approaching. It’s time to squeeze a weekend’s worth of canvas, clothes, food and booze into the boot of your car before heading off for a weekend under the stars.
On Friday morning, me and my rabble will head down the M5 – along with four other families – for our annual half-term pilgrimage to Dartmouth for a weekend of sunshine, relaxation, BBQ’s and al fresco drinkies. We’re even taking the kids out of school to avoid the traffic.
Some of us camp and a couple of families, ours included, will caravan it. We took the plunge and bought a second-hand van a few years ago. Bad curtains and carpets aside, I for one couldn’t wait to sleep soundly in a double bed. We love it so far.
Some things don’t change though. Jamming everything into the car (and now van) still stands.
But now, instead of stashing wine bottles inside wellies and sleeping bags – or giving them to the kids to hold – we pop a sturdy box of When in Rome (it’s Nero d’Avola or Falanghina for me) in the boot and stick a refillable bottle under the front seat. Job done.
On our first trip this year, I was delighted to discover that a When in Rome La Mezza (2.25L) box fits neatly inside our van’s fridge. Result. I was so excited I bought a box of Merlot for my Aunt and Uncle (it’s their favourite) who headed up to Scotland in their van last weekend. They were over the moon.
Camping-wise, the La Mezza (3 bottles) box also fits neatly into an electric-hook-up fridge. But if you’re short on space – or have scaled up to a La Grande box (5L / 6.5 bottles) – and need to chill a bottle of white, just decant it into a refillable bottle and pop it in the fridge.
For me, there’s nothing better than kicking back with a nice chilled glass of vino once you’re all set up and the kids have gone feral. In anticipation, I’ll pre-chill my box of Falanghina at home before popping it into the caravan fridge to keep it cold.
After all, don’t all the best things in life come in boxes? Caravans, chocolates, jewellery… and wine!