The week that was (22 June 2017)

- Last week, I mentioned Max’s article in GT regarding natural wine. I, rather optimistically, asked if we were done questioning it. If you read the feed at the bottom of Ed Charles’ post on FB, the answer is no. But I’m done. Drink what you like. Drink what you enjoy. Don’t judge others for their choice (this one, perhaps, is directed more to the natural wine consumers than the others, it’s time to get off that high horse, if you want people to stop judging your choices, you need to also stop judging theirs).
- That said, I do not plan to stop banging on about the importance of great soil: for our fruit and veg, for our wine and for our future. Did you know that soil is one of the greatest sequesters of carbon? Covered, protected and loved, good soil could be our saviour.
- This article on Chateau Le Puy, in Bordeaux, was beautifully written on the topic. “A true biodynamic farm must be a polyculture, made up of not only diverse crops but also untended wild areas, where beneficial birds, insects and mammals live. This biological diversity theoretically creates symbiotic relationships on the farm in which pests and diseases are kept in check naturally rather than through artificial means … Worms, microbes and bacteria weave passages in the dirt permitting the roots to plunge deep into the limestone bedrock, which he said contributed elegance and finesse to the wines.”
The wine is made in Bordeaux, a region perhaps due to its worldwide repute (read marketing clout), has very few options in the biodynamic, minimal intervention genre. Rather than a holier than thou diatribe, this one just harked back a time now gone: “’My grandfather was too stingy to buy chemicals,’ Mr. Amoreau said. His grandfather, he said, was influenced by André Birre, a mid-20th-century agronomist, who urged farmers to look after the health of their soils and recommended methods not unlike biodynamics.”
It also gave me another wonderful word to join terroir in my repertoire of French words that are missing in English: “Digestibilité begins with deliciousness, but it also indicates wines that are easy to drink without weighing heavily in the gut. It’s an immediate, unmediated pleasure that nonetheless may be complex and contemplative.”
- All this may also help answer the question as to why we don’t have tasty cucumbers. “I can’t shake the thought that keeping our senses awake to which foods are the most edible is a basic part of being human. This sensory awareness is how omnivores stay alive. A watery cucumber causes little damage, except to make a salad bland. But what happens when we stop recognising bad food when it is right in front of our noses?”
- Meanwhile, back in Oz, it appears the ACCC have done what they do best and created a new ruling that puts many of Australia’s dairy industry at a loss. The proposed change to the country of origin laws state that dairy farmers can not say 100% Australian made if they are using imported cultures (read, almost all cheese and yoghurt makers - for .003% of production). Instead, while their cheese may be 99.99% Australian, from the flock to the cheese making, they are required to nod to the next tier, 95% Australian made. This, when you can put “made from Australian and imported ingredients” on a vegetable you have imported, sliced and put it in a bag. I am guessing this is what they're trying to clear up, but the baby and the bathwater come to mind. And, while we're on labelling, how about some compulsory ingredient lists on wine bottles? 
Postcards from Pantelleria:
It is said, in Sicily, that they only live in the present due to their tumultuous past. It’s not hard to conform to the mentality. After five days in London, where I did not once visit an ATM, a slightly disconcerting entrée into the cashless world we are embarking on, I am comforted to find in Sicily cash is still king.  
I am staying on Pantelleria, where the sun shines and the wind blows, but thanks to the incredibly fertile soils, the wine is delicious, the capers salty sweet and the oregano better than I have ever tasted. The tiny island, a volcano in a previous life, is out in the middle of the Med, closer to Tunisia than Sicily.
While the land looks tough, there is water in the soils; after a sunburnt day, the plants draw on her reserves, sparkling fresh with dew each morning. The houses are huddled close to the earth, just like the olive trees that grow with their branches clinging to the ground, they are no higher than your waist.
Rugged, gritty and moody; the olives are joined by caper bushes, wild oregano and grape vines. The fruit trees cower behind rock walls, built with the black porous stones of the island; the houses, too, are built with these stones, their gentle whitewashed domes (designed to trap the water) contrasting the dark walls. There are no street lights, and no moon right now; there are so many stars. In the sunlight the Med is azure, alive with fish and urchins. I have to be careful not to tread on these urchin families as I pull myself out of sea after each dip (just about my biggest worry right now). In the sky the swallows play - like the stars, the more you look, the more you see.
I hear Pantelleria was not always this sleepy. In the ’70s and ’80s it was the summer playground of Armani, Carole Bouquet, Depardieu and their entourage of glitzy friends. To accommodate the glitterati, hotels sprung up, high above the houses, as the locals with dollars in their eyes, left their small Tunisian-inspired homes to cater for the masses. Unfortunately, swept up in the excitement, many also left their plots of land - where 90% of the island was under cultivation, it is now estimated at a mere third of that. When the tide turned, the hotels were deserted, they now stand empty, lonely sentries to parties long gone.
That hasn’t dented the Pantesca spirit, the people are warm and welcoming, as is so often the case with a land ravaged by the weather. When I got lost on my first night, trying to find my way back to my home, a gentleman with his wife at his side said if I did not find my way their table was set for three. At the next, the guy actually got in his car and drove with me to find my way.  
It also appears the party spirits have not left either. Each winter, over the two months from January 1, they hold a nightly party, rotating private homes, where they dance until the sun comes up. Every night. Until 6am. For two months. I like it here. I think I might stay for a while.