Saturday, October 5, 2013

Pizza and Penelope

We found ourselves heading down the street tonight to watch Penelope - the play "re-telling" the efforts of courtship from the final four suitors of Queen Penelope's hand while her King, Odysseus, is off fighting in the Trojan War and trying to make his way back to her.  The play is kicking off the Vancouver East Cultural Centre's 40th anniversary season and I figured it was time that Boo and I made the short walk to take in a show. Considering how close we live to the Cultch, it's a shame that we don't patronize it more often.

Since Via Tevere is right on the way, we took a chance that we might be able to get in - even though that can be next to impossible without an interminable wait on a Friday night. As suspected, there were no tables available but, luckily, we were able to grab a couple of seats at the bar.

1436.  2011 Barone Ricasoli - Brolio (DOCG Chianti Classico - Tuscany - Italy)

Via Tevere has a decidedly limited wine list; so, I generally like to bring a BYO bottle (despite their relatively onerous $25 corkage fee). We weren't sure that we'd get in tonight though and, accordingly, we decided to simply choose a bottle off the restaurant list rather than tote one around with us all night should we not be able to get in. (I'm sure that would have been a great explanation at the theatre as to why we had a bottle of wine with us. "Truly, ma'am, we're not trying to sneak a bottle into the performance with us.")

I wasn't familiar with the Ricasoli bottle that we picked but the winery website says that Ricasoli is the oldest winery in Italy, the fourth longest-lived family business in the world and the second longest-lived in the wine sector.

With the Ricasoli name having been linked to wine since 1141, I think they just might have had a bit of time to master the art of winemaking. Indeed, the site claims that "Chianti was born" in 1872 when "after more than thirty years of research and experiments, Baron Bettino Ricasoli wrote down the formula in a famous letter addressed to Professor Cesare Studiati at the University of Pisa: '...I verified the results of the early experiments, that is, that the wine receives most of its aroma from the Sangioveto (which is my particular aim) as well as a certain vigour in taste; the Canjuolo gives it a sweetness which tempers the harshness of the former without taking away any of its aroma, though it has an aroma all of its own; the Malvasia, which could probably be omitted for wines for laying down, tends to dilute the wine made from the first two grapes, but increases the taste and makes the wine lighter and more readily suitable for daily consumption..." Chianti production rules have since been modified as Malvasia is no longer used but Sangiovese remains the primary grape - with other red grapes only permitted to be added to the wine to a maximum of 20%.

Although labeled as a Chianti Classico, this could almost be seen as a Super Tuscan in that the wine consists of 80% Sangiovese with 15% Merlot and 5% Cab Sauv.

We thought the Sangiovese certainly showed through on the palate. I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of Chianti as a wine at cocktail parties and this one didn't wow either Boo or I. We both agreed, however, that the wine was far tastier once our pizza arrived. (Mind you I'm pretty sure that Via Tevere's pizza can't help but make everything taste better.) No doubt the wine would have been more enjoyable if we'd had a little action on the nose as well. For me, it's unfortunate that the restaurant has opted to serve their wines in tumblers rather than wine glasses. Tumblers may be a long-standing tradition in Italian trattorias but I tend to think that might be based on those trattorias serving a humble village wine rather than the more modern - and expensive - wines being produced nowadays.

Tumbler or not, we finished our 'za and our Chianti and moved on the The Cultch. Penelope is largely centred around men behaving badly - in between each of the four suitors having an opportunity to woo the Queen - but I have to say that the scene of the alpha male suitor performing the five greatest love stories of all time was enormously entertaining. Who knew "re-enactments" of Napoleon & Josephine, Rhett & Scarlett, Romeo & Juliet and JFK & Jacquie could be so sidesplittingly funny? You say, "but that's only five great romances?" The fifth was going to be our protagonist and Penelope. Smart guy.

Pizza. Chianti. Cultch. Laughs. I definitely need more nights like this.

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