Welcome to a ridiculously rambling post about my day with Frank in London.
"This morning is gone, the only thing I have is the future." Thus spoke Frank C. at the wine-centric restaurant Brawn, on a pre-natal street not far from the Bethnal Green tube stop.
I don't know him for long, but that was vintage Frank answering a question from a local writer about whether his wines made on Mt. Etna were the tastes of history. I had come in a day early so I could swim in his wines for the day, as our visits had that 24 hour overlap. It was also my first stop at Brawn, a restaurant which should have pig in its middle name, but nevertheless there were some delectables, like wonderful English asparagus, artichoke (not from England!) and those afore mentioned sprats in a horseradish sauce which had more than a dash of personality.
Munjebel Blanco 2007 #4: lanolin, iodine, fresh orange blossom with a hint of orange color
Munjebel Blanco2009 #6: tannic, waxy, orange blossom
Contadino 20006 #4: intense red, kirsch, even redder than I thought, tanned leather and zip.
Contadino 2009: Love this, very fresh, some puppy breath-like reduction on the finish but lots of delicacy up front. It's electric and a dash of tomato.
Munjebel Rosso 2005 #3: this was made under the unlined anfora regime. Let's just say it wasn't my favorite.
Munjebel Rosso 2006/07 #4: love when I have a note that says, yum. This is a blend of the two vintages. It has that characteristic waxiness that I get on FC's wines. Seems very stable and there's something heavenly, other-worldly, an intoxicating perfume, elegant, gentle.
Munjebel Rosso 08/09 #6: "One day I'll call Munjabel, classico," said Frank. This at first spoke of an over-ripe nose but then orange, mandarin. begonia and leaf. Loved the balance and it had a spot on neato finish.
That night there was more Frank, but this time I crossed the Thames to Artisan and Vine in Battersea. Talk about Bridge and Tunnel. But sweet spot! Kathryn O'Mara put together a super cute, should be pub and I guess turned into a gastropub wine spot, a blessing for the neighborhood.
That night several wine writers were around I'd been eager to meet. Fiona Beckett was one, Simon Woods another. The back room was filled with a number of the curious. As I was. At one point in the night I returned from a trip to the loo and realized I had left at the wrong time. Simon had made some observation that he appreciated the idea of the wines more than the wines themselves and he wasn't sure if he wasn't tasting more of Frank in the wines than Etna.
If I ever had any doubt it was when the olive oil and grappa came out. Something that struck me in Frank's wines, especially in the Munjebel, is the waxy, orange blossom component coupled with a grit, like charcoal. I had the feeling that this charbon-like quality might have come from the basalt soil, which I've become fascinated with of late, thinking it might be one of the unsung great elements of terroir.
I taste the rich, sharp delicious olive oil? I got the same thing. Even more shocking, because I sure wasn't looking for it, the qualities came out on his astounding unapologetic, fierce, focused grappe. Mt. Etna speaks louder than Frank. Loudly. Clear. Strong.
Get this: Whole Foods on Kensington High Street has the biggest selection of real wines in the city. And they had Contadino on sale! For some reason Peter Hogarth tried to talk me out of it, then I looked over my notes and saw the kirsch, tanned leather exotic scribble? Had I lived there I'd have stocked up.