I had to sit and go through the pictures in my phone last night to try and recall all the things that I have done over
the past two weeks, there seems to have been so much going on!
It all started two weeks ago on the weekend, I had had a hectic week and wanted to have a quiet night in when my
friend Stavros said “do you want to go and eat something tonight?”. I replied “I’m pretty shattered so I think I will
just get an early night”. He came back with the answer I simply can’t turn down….”Oh, there is a parade in town
tonight and there will be an umpapa band, as it’s the day of the Madonna”.
Now, when my business is all about social media and sharing with you all the wondrous things that take place in
this beautiful part of the world, how could I not rush down there with my camera in hand to see the “umpapa”
The festival took place over two days and is a celebration of the Madonna (Mary). It’s also a celebration of
Spring/May and when you live in the heart of a farming community spring is one of the most important and
beautiful times of the year. Tuscany is simply stunning at the best of times, but spring takes it to a whole new level
with the vines in full bloom, all the farmers hard at work to prune the vines and then green harvest everything. The
entire place seems to be buzzing with people working on the land and of course there is the incessant sound of me
sneezing every five minutes because if my hayfever! The chemist is starting to give me funny looks as I keep going
in to buy antihistamines every other week.
The rest of the week I spent growing the wine catalogue of Jackson and Seddon which is the part of my job I
absolutely love. I found a few of small producers and booked in meetings with them all, the opening line of my
email is always “do you export to the UK at present?” If the answer is no, then I book in a meeting. I want the
wines in my wine club to be exclusive in the UK, I want the people that are members of the wine club to feel like
they are part of something exclusive, because they are. I started in the rather famous region of Montepulciano
meeting with a small producer that only produces 25,000 bottles of wine a year, 100% organic and have been since
2008. The wines were great as was to be expected but the real prize was their Vin Santo as their current vintage is
1999. They age it in small barrels and the flavours are off the scale, layers of dried fruit and smokey caramel, it
was truly special, which it needs to be for €55 a bottle!
The next visit was to a 100% organic producer that makes only 20,000 bottles of wine a year. They make over
seven different wines which is insane if you think about how small the yield must be of each variety. There were
two stand out wines for me, their Vermentino which was so different to anything I have tried so far in Tuscany, it
was like biting into a Granny Smith apple, so clean and crisp – it’s a wonderful wine. The second is their 2011
Rosso which tasted like/better than some Brunellos I have tried on my travels, I was gob smacked. So both of
those wines are going into the catalogue, but the most beautiful part of the visit was when I asked Alda why they
moved to Tuscany. Her reply will stay with me for a long time as she said “we wanted to live the final chapter of
our life in this beautiful place”. I mean, if that doesn’t tell you just how much people love this part of Italy, I am not
sure what will.
The next week kicked off with us smashing the halfway mark of our target on our indiegogo campaign, which was
a huge achievement for me, as only four weeks before I was worried we wouldn’t get enough to ship a pallet, but
now we are looking at shipping two pallets.
Living in Tuscany and only knowing the basics of Italian I still struggle with going to places like the garage to get
the car looked at, especially when you realise the word for the horn of your car is ‘claxon’ and Google translate
tells you it’s “corno” and as anyone knows that has driven in Italy, it is simply suicide to drive here without your
horn working. I am sure I could have explained by pointing and saying “beep, beep” then saying “caput” and a
raised of the eyebrows. Either way, just to be safe I took my new partner in crime Samuele with me. We booked
the car in for the following week with a guy affectionately know as Pistola and explained the two things that needed
fixing on the car. Sam then asked if I wanted to meet two friends of his who make things from olive wood. I
jumped at the chance as I love all things made from this beautiful wood. I have a set of rosary beads from a shop in
Cyprus that I bought with my Mum so they hold a really special place in my heart. I am not religious in any way,
shape or form but there was a little shop in Limassol, Cyprus that just always intrigued me. So one day I dragged
my Mum in and we were approached by a monk who told us that the beads were made from olive wood and if you
smell them they smell of olives. So when Sam and I walked into the workshop of his friends and that smell hit me
it made me quite emotional. The two friends of Sam’s are wizards with a piece of olive wood and they have said
they can make me a backgammon board….so watch this space.
Last weekend I headed back to Marche for an organic and biodynamic wine show in a beautiful city called Macerta.
It’s an old historic city that sits on a hill between two rivers, the entire old town looks like a giant fort as you drive
around the one way system. The wine show was ideal as it had a lot of producers under one roof and a great deal
of them do not export to the UK. The following day we got in the car and headed out to meet some producers, all
aided by our friend Carlo who had asked if he could take us to meet some producers he knows in the region. The
first was a rather beautiful woman who had also had her moment of TV fame by taking part in the Italian version of
‘Farmer Wants a Wife’ and she was the farmer. The next has to be one of my top highlights of my time in Italy.
We met a wine producer called Nico, and what a champion he is! He also has an uncanny resemblance to Robin
Williams. We met for lunch and tried his wines, which were sublime. We were then treated to a trip to his
vineyard and on the way he muttered the immortal words “do you want to try some wine made by a friend of
mine?”. You just know you’re in for a great day when you hear those words.
We stopped in to see his friend Elisabetta who was more than happy to show us her cantina and blow our minds at the size of the place.
Even Carlo was shocked by such a huge set up in a tiny rural part of Marche. This place is going to be big news one day.
So many enthusiastic wine makers who are all happy to bend the rules to make stunning wines.
The one stand out moment for me was when Elisabetta said that they don’t use the classic metal cages to close their bottles of fizz, they tie them with string the same way her grandad used to tie the bottles of tomato he used to make!
In summary, the business is looking really good heading towards the end of the campaign. I have a
few more wines to add to the catalogue, some great wines coming from the Marche region and my horn is working
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