I think every booklover recognises this: the magical feeling of stepping into a new bookshop, the browsing through its collection and that fantastic feeling when you open a book and think: "Hmm, I think I am going to like this one". With wine it's often the same. Even if we know that supermarket wines for 90% suck, we will continue to browse its wine department hoping to find some down-prized good Bordeaux, a lesser bottle of a great winemaker, or just something that wakens our interest, and occasionally, yes!, we are lucky.
Whenever I'm around I try to stop at Italia Authentica, a wonderful Italian supermarket in Wavre near Brussels, on the Chaussée de Louvain, where the quality of the cheese and the charcuterie is incredibly good and the people behind the counter know how to work with it (the mortadella and the salami's really very thin sliced, as they do in Italy). You can also find Italian mineral waters, beers, pasta, etc etc and in short it is a tiny but complete supermarket as you would find it in Italy.
The wine department has until now not impressed me, but one keeps hoping, and this time I took a bottle of Trebbiano Spoletino 2009 from the Cantina Novelli in Umbria home. I allready tasted some of its wines, disliked some for their blandnes, but liked its Pecorino and its neroCube blend. Trebbiano wines usually disappoint me, but, hang on, wasn't the Trebbiano Spoletino something different ?
Stefano Novelli is a man who likes the grapes of the area, experiments a lot, and tries to restore old vineyards so he can work with the old vines. This wine is made from ungrafted, century-old vines, and you can taste it ! It has a nice, intense colour, and the nose is absolutely waw! The fruit is brilliant, all kinds of summer fruit passed through my mind, but i also found resin and box (buxus), a bit like a good Sancerre. In the mouth this wine is "vivace", lots of volume but also full of joy, and sun, and herbs, and fruit, and I kept tasting and enjoying it to the last drop.
To be honest, I picked this wine up with a bit of despair, just to have something easy for my wife who likes a glass of unpretentious white as an apero. Only at the end of the bottle I remembered to give her a glass too...
Brilliant wine. For sale at Italia Authentica in Wavre (they have a shop in Liège, Drogenbos near Brussels and La Louvière too), at the webshop Umbria (also Belgium), the 2011 however, and in many other countries (check out Google). I paid 10,89 euro, a good price as it seems to be slightly more expensive on the internet.
Rare are the books that I read twice, and even rarer are the books that I reread with a goal, to deepen my understanding of them and at the same moment to increase my joy of reading. With Hilary Mantel's "Wolf Hall" and its sequel "Bring up the Bodies" I rediscovered the great fun of having a book that actually gets riper and better with every reading.
I am a historian myself and historical fiction is for me sometimes a difficult thing: I love it when it's good and accurate and I hate it when it's not. One of my professors in my first university year once told us that all historical writing is necessarily subjective, as we will never know 100% of what happened in the past, be it non-fiction and an attempt to get as close to the truth as possible, or fiction, where we add fantasy to re-create an atmosphere long gone. Two years later I studied History of Food and discovered the impact of changes in everyday life on the big lines of history, and understood how hard it is to grasp the meaning of what really happened. It is precisely here that I find in this two books an enormous added value to the so often told history of Henry VIII and his wives.
Next to a fantastic attempt to grasp the personality of that well-known renaissance-prince Henry, the books are absolutely marvellous when they depict the intellectual atmosfere of the period, when merchants and bankers spread the ideas of Luther, and the author accurately and imaginatively describes how these ideas evolve and move around. The painting of the main character, Thomas Cromwell, is though necessarily fictional when it talks about its youth, so beautifully built up, that even when i write this i feel the urge to reread the books once again and get to know him even better.
These are marvellously written, very interesting and exciting books. They are not easy though, and they demand a high degree of concentration, but this makes them great for rereading as you find layer after layer of meaning. I am looking extremely forward to the release of the next one, when I will start by rereading vol.1 and 2 before attacking it, just like I did with vol.2.
This is a gentle book. It starts as a typical, a bit dreamlike experience of an 11-year old boy who takes a liner from Colombo to England to be reunited with a mother he hasn't seen for a long time. During meals, he is seated at the cat's table, the table farthest away from the captain's table, together with a motley crew of low-status passengers and two boys of the same age (about 11).
First it seems as if Ondaatje sees the ships as a big box, continuously putting in new characters. Some of them become very close to the boy, some seem only to touch him from time to time, like billiard balls in a pool game. Some are in a far away corner of the box, barely aware of his presence of the boy. And sofar it all slowly develops into a nice and slow story about a boy on a boat. Then things start happening.
One by one the characters move and seem to be thrown out of the story. To me they were like flares that go up and disappear into the night after you followed their trail through the dark. One by one the characters disappear out of the story, and only two remain in the last chapter.
I liked this book a lot. It is not spectacular, it is not a pricewinner, but it is lovely, and the whole story seems to follow the rythm of a sea voyage, slow but not to be distracted from its course.
Good reading in turbulent times.