A Taste of Italian Wine : Following the Mamovy Trail
A Taste of Italian Wine : Following the Mamovy Trail
Gargle if you may and launch it into a bucket but I prefer to drink the stuff.
Whether an esteemed vintage from a famous cellar or a mass-produced carton of the cheap stuff I'll try it all.
Italian wine is rightly worshipped all over the world for it's quality.
It could be taken as a tasty complement to a romantic meal, a celebration of life, love and happiness or simply enough to have you fall face first in a ditch after you've spent the taxi fare on that last bottle.
For me on a warm summer afternoon I was savouring a relaxing glass of white wine after a day walking around Desenzano on Lake Garda in Northern Italy.
A fine town and a fine wine but then it can boast several wonderful examples of the grape.
My chosen wine had a subtle zest and a fresh aftertaste redolent with reminders of the Italian countryside bathed in sunshine where the grape matures.
Maybe I was distracted and attracted by all the eye-candy passing by as I sat at my 'table for one' in a square.
An animated atmosphere
Lots of beautiful girls strolling along the streets, wandering around the shops looking effortlessly gorgeous and sitting in the restaurants and cafes that seemed to be everywhere.
Wow! They were even more spectacular than nearby Peschiera, absolutely lovely lassies, "Yowzah!!!", I say "Va Va Voom!!!!" and......
Yeooooooow!!!!!!!!! Brrrrrrruuup Brrrrrruuup!!!!!! Doooooooodlleee!!!!!!!!
Yeeeee Haaaaaa Yeeeeee Haaaaaa!!!!!!!
Wah Wah Wah ooooOOOOHHHH!!!!!!!! Bam Bam Bam!!!!!
It's Clunk's latest invention;
"What did he say, what did he say?" asks Dick Dastardly,
"He says this contraption is guaranteed to catch one of those lovely girls" replies Willie,
"Catch the girls?? snarls Dastardly, "Catch the girls??"
"Wroooooop Bub Bub Bub Wheeeeeeeeeoooooooo!!!!
Cha Cha Cha hurdle gurdle fraaaaaahahhhhaaaa woooooo!!!!!
Zimmmmm Zimmmmmm uuuuuuuurghhhhhh ha ha ha!!!!!"
"What did he say, what did he say?" asks Dastardly again,
"He says it's a super-charged Ferrari"
"A Ferrari??" screams Dastardly, "A super-charged Ferrari to catch lovely girls??"
"Yes" quakes Willie as his head disappears into his collar and he crawls away leaving his greatcoat shaking in his wake.
"Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh!!!!" chuckles Muttley
(Well! you have a go trying to spell that laugh of his)
"Come back!! We're here to stop that pigeon!!!" rages Dastardly
"Of course" trembles Willie, crawling back into his free-standing coat with epaulettes,
"We're going to grab him, nab him, crash him, smash him!!!!" continues Dastardly, "We're going to stop that pigeon!!"
"Yooooooo Hoooooooo!!! jeee jeee jeee quorrrrrrkk grimmmmbeeeeeee woaaargh woaaargh!!!!"
"Shuttup you idiot!! roars Dastardly as he rounds on Clunk, "Just build me a machine to stop that pigeon NOW!!"
"Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh Snnggeehhhhhh!!!!"
Without a half-decent Ferrari handy I realised my limitations. I left my cartoon friends to their mission and just went on my usual wander exploring the ins and outs and ups and downs of the town.
I have explored the ins and outs of many towns in the region and checking out the local wine supplies.
For example, Bardolino is rightly famous for it's celebrated wine festival at the end of the summer.
But I happened to be there in the early summer when the almost, but not quite as famous, Chiaretto Festival was taking place.
I was there with a friend and we bumped into another friend who as it turned out had acquired an extensive and in-depth knowledge of the festival that day.
In other words, he was drunk to the eyeballs and beyond:
"I have had one of each" he explained,
"One of each what?" we asked,
"One glass of wine at each stall" he answered,
"How many stalls are there then?"
"Well we've got some catching up to do" we said
"Yes! I have been here since one o'clock" he revealed
"You've been drinking since one o'clock" I said, "What a woos!"
"Yeah!" my friend agreed "We'll get through them quicker than that"
The wine was certainly delicious and I was nominated as personal waiter "Gerr'im in Stevie!!!" I was told, so I made the walk to the stalls to get the drinks in.
Easy enough at the start as we had grabbed a bench near Stall No.1, but after a few more the stalls got further and further away from our seat and my legs got further and further away from my brain.
"Come back, come back!!! Walk properly!! Do as you're told!!!!" my motor-neurons were screaming,
"Stay online and keep a straight line!!!"
"I think we missed out No.3!" I said to my friend,
"No we didn't!" she replied,
"Are you sure?" I asked
"Yeah! We've done No.3!"
"OK! but you liked No.2 the best", I tried, "Let's have another"
"Nope! Get me No.9"
"But we're on No.8"
"We've done that one"
"No we haven't"
"Yeah we have!!" came the final reply, "Get me a No.9"
Following the Mamovy Trail
The hangover the next day hadn't dampened my enthusiasm or my trousers and I headed off to Verona to discover what local concoctions it had to offer. In the area between Lake Garda and Verona lies the Valpollicella red wine region so it promised much indeed.
Another world class wine the Valpolicella can be fruity and medium, a light cherry flavour with a hint of liquorice and slightly bitter aftertaste. Personally I would prefer a Bardolino red as it has a smoother velvety texture without the bitterness normally associated with red wines.
However on my budget I'd mostly been drinking 'Soave' white wine at only €1.50 a bottle but I think I needed to expand my taste.
It has been slightly maligned as a wine in rarefied circles but I like it.
Travelling through to Verona on the train I saw endless field of vines along the way.
Yes! millions and millions of grapes hanging around waiting to be squashed, bottled then quaffed all over the world.
All around the area there are miles and miles of vine-yards, 'mamovy' in other words.
In Scotland we have a word 'mamoba' which stands for 'miles and miles of bugger all' and usually refers to some remote parts of the Highlands.
But I'm in the 'Mamovy' region in Italy and it's no wonder you can get cheap wine under €2 with so many grapes waiting to be crushed.
Cheap as chips
As I said you can grab cheap cartons of table wine by the trolley-load down at the local supermarkets.
Not for the connoiseur you understand but ideal for emergency supplies when the budget is running low.
As I had been working on a campsite my budget was in the sort of post credit-crunch austerity package kind of deal.
Cheap wine is just the thing for campsite drinking games as you have a plentiful supply of expendable wine from the local Lidl and you don't mind knocking it back in one.
But drinking games can be fun though whatever the outcome. They're perfect for an evening because if you emerge as a winner you have that victorous satisfaction but if you lose then you got miroculous with the plonk anyway.
So it's a win-win situation.
A common game is 'drink while you think'.
Dead easy, you just go round the table and everyone has to mention a famous celebrity. But the first letter of the surname mentioned by the person before you becomes the first letter of the first name of the celebrity that you have to come up with. You catch my drift?
So if someone says, "Tom Cruise" for example then I would say something like "Christian Slater" then the next person would perhaps say "Steven Seagal" etc etc.
"Steven Seagal" would be a paricularly good one actually because of the double "S" which means that throws it back to the previous person and you can catch them on the hop.
The trick is that while you are thinking of a name you have to drink your drink. So the slower you think the more you drink. But I took exception to a courier from New Zealand though when she hit me back with "Mighty Mouse".
"That doesn't count" I protested;
"Cartoon characters are OK" someone said,
"I know" I agreed, "But adjectives aren't"
"Well, 'Mighty' isn't a bloody name" I continued, "It's an adjective",
"Still counts" the gang said, "Drink it down"
So I lost the argument on that one although I was sorely tempted to try "Brilliant Beckham" or "Pock-marked Pitt" to throw it back at my opponent. Her New Zealand accent was really strong too and she came up "Beert Reenils"
"Who the hell is Beert Reenils?"
"Yew know Beert Reenils, he wiz in 'Smokee een the Bendeet'"
No it wasn't some unknown Dutch actor after all, it was the one and only Burt Reynolds filtered through the southern hemisphere.
But sometimes with these games if the drink was tasting good then you lost the competitive edge and just got roaring drunk. And by then folk can't understand you either:
"Who'sh nexsht then?"
"Right! Wha'sha letter"
"M?.... OK! Murrilin Minshin"
"Ah, screw it! Mickey Mowsh then"
Threshing it out at Oddbins
I'm beginning to sound like a wine snob or alternatively a middle-age soak.
But it might stand me in good stead back home.
On that night I go into Oddbins or Threshers searching for that perfect wine for my dinner party;
"Good evening sir, can I help you?" asks the assistant,
"Yes please! Can you recommend me a good red wine" I reply,
"Of course sir, French or Italian would be best"
"Fine by me mate, how about Italian then"
"Certainly sir and a wise choice indeed if I may say so?"
He fetches a small set of steps, reaches up to a high shelf and brings down this bottle of red. After dusting it off and checking the label, he presents it like a championship trophy to this unsuspecting customer;
"I would recommend this little number sir" he says, "A very notable Italian Red"
"Mmm I see, looks interesting" I nod
"Oh yes sir, the Mamovy has a very fine pedigree in the wine trade"
"Yes sir, Mamovy. It's name after the region in Italy where it's made"
He senses that something is bothering me about this bottle. I'm sure he can tell by the cynical look on my features.
"Not to your liking sir?"
"The wine sir, not to your liking?"
"Ohhh! it's not that, it's just that the word is spelled with a 'y' at the end"
"Sir is certainly a most discerning gentlemen"
"Yeah! But an Italian wine with the letter 'y' in it?"
"Of course" he replies in reassurance
"But the Italians don't have the letter 'y' in their alphabet"
He gives me a withering look as if to say, 'Please go away at once and never enter these premises again' as his eyes stare into mine.
"I think you may be mistaken sir" he replies, "I'm sure the Italians do have a 'y' in their alphabet"
"Nope! They don't!" I asserted"
"No buts! I interrupted, "Not unless it's a foreign word, like New York, you know? Or a brand name, 'Toyota', or 'Sony', 'Hyundai' that kinda thing"
"But what about the one in Italy" he persists,
"What one in Italy?"
"The 'y' in Italy"
"It's at the end sir, after the 'L'" he explains, "Surely sir must have noticed before".
Ohh, cheeky swine that he is, back on his pretentious high-horse again.
He's thinking he's stumped the ignorant git who just walked in off the street and who can't tell a Chianti from a cheap can of cola.
"Listen pal" I storm, "That's a foreign word as well"
"Is it?" he asked, "But I use it every day in here"
"Of course you do, it's an English translation"
"Of what sir?"
"Italy is an English translation of 'Italy'" he queries, "Is that not a tautology?" he smirks,
"I meant to say 'Italia'" I explain,
"Yeah really!" I snap, "And don't think I don't know what your fancy word means either chummy!!"
"Of course not sir"
"No! of course not!" I rant, "And since it ends in an 'i' it must be fuckin Italian so go get me a bottle of 'Tottologgi', and make it pronto!"
Back to square one
But after my mental meaderings I find myself still back in the square at Desenzano, sitting at my table and drinking my white wine.
After that I took a stroll up to the local castle to admire the view over the lake. I threw out some cheap bread to the castle pigeons. A few did fly over and I thought they might come down and have a gander but sadly no takers.
Suddenly I heard a roar from above which seemed to come out of nowhere.
I ducked instinctively and looked up to see what looked like a red Ferrari Convertible with double-wings attached, twin-prop engine with a strange man strapped into a seat atop the carriage brandishing a huge net;
"Stop that pigeon!!!!!!!!" orders the pilot from the cockpit
" Roooooo fweeeeeee wooooo-lalalala bow wow wow greeeeooow!!!!!!!" replied the man above.
Before I can take all this in, another engine roars over causing me to duck in terror once more.
This time it's a silver-coloured Alpha Romeo, 4th series with customised fish-tail fins and helicopter propellors top and rear.
On the front is attached huge metal jaws savaging the air with a hideous clank that boomed across the bay although no-one else seemed to hear it.
The vehicle is armed with two sidewinder missile pods on the doors and flown by a man wearing an old-fashioned pilot's helmet holding onto a dog which is hanging out of the passenger window firing a Thompson sub-machine gun.
Meanwhile the pigeon in question is looping the loop over the roofs of Desenzano to avoid the bullets and stay ahead of the determined assailant furiously swinging the net.
The airborne devices, for I can hardly call them planes, follow suit in pursuit, twisting and turning in the sky until the inevitable happens.
With a sickening 'crunch!!' they collide in mid-air and disintegrate, resulting in a scattering of debris that falls to earth.
Within seconds parachutes unfurl gently lowering their charges to the ground. All except one distant figure who is plummeting downwards at a furious speed.Then across the breeze is carried the anguished cry;
"Muttleyyyyyyyy!!!!!!! Dooooooo some-thinnnnnnnnnnnng!!!!!"
On Lake Garda it's customary for the locals to have a glass of water alongside their alcohol. This is especially recommended in the summer heat.
Perhaps it's a tradition I should have observed.
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