Wine World: Casting Pearls

Owner and wine-maker Xavier Gramona

A few weeks ago, a British acquaintance made one of his occasional visits to Pattaya. He lives up in Nakhon-somewhere-or-other and I invited him to drop in for a chat and a glass or two of vino. I’ll call him Jim, which is what everyone else calls him. Although I hadn’t seen him for several years, I was certain he appreciated good wine and decided to buy a bottle of something half-decent for the occasion. Burgundy seemed a bit extravagant for an casual chat, so I chose a reliable though quite expensive Beaujolais Villages, light enough to enjoy on its own. The Gamay grape, from which all Beaujolais is made, produces fruity rounded wines which are fragrant, fresh, easy drinking and with great appeal. I felt sure that Jim would appreciate an interesting wine, but subsequent events proved me wrong.

After the usual greetings, I asked Jim what he’d like to drink. He requested some wine so I produced the Beaujolais, which I’d previously checked in the kitchen, revealing it to be better than I had expected. I poured some into a couple of large glasses while Jim was talking enthusiastically about life in Nakhon-wherever. I held my glass and savoured the lovely Beaujolais aromas: the kind of smells that reminded me of the summer evenings of long ago; French country gardens and scented flowers. I patiently waited for a gap in Jim’s monologue so that we could taste the Beaujolais together when suddenly, he picked up the wine glass, took a swig, plonked the glass back on the table and continued his aimless chatter.

Jim must have noticed my expression of disbelief. Perhaps sensing that he had made a bit of a gaffe, he joked, “Oh, I suppose I should’ve sniffed the wine first.” There was I thought, a slight sneer to his tone. I could have kicked him and I probably would have done had I been wearing shoes. “Unlike you”, he continued, waving his hand dismissively, “I know nothing about wine”. I was taken aback by his crass attitude and airy, inverted snobbery. It always surprises me when people seem proud of their own ignorance.

It slowly dawned on me that I’d got Jim mixed up with someone else who also lives up north. Even so, the phrase “casting pearls before swine” sprung to mind. I was annoyed at my confusion and disappointed at spending so much money. However, Jim’s contemptible attitude and boorish lack of etiquette were even more irritating. As luck would have it, he was summoned to collect his wife and was compelled to make an early departure. But at least this allowed me to enjoy the remains of the Beaujolais in solitary peace and rueful reflection. I shall not be caught out like that again; I can tell you.

Later that night, I had a surreal dream in which I was in a Copenhagen ballroom, waltzing with a fox. We were both laughing helplessly because we kept treading on each other’s toes.

Gessamí 2022 (white) Penedès, Spain. Bt 899+VAT @ Vines to Vino, Pattaya. 

It would have been immensely satisfying to tell you that the name Gessamí means “fox” but it doesn’t. It means “jasmine”.  The wine has a faint jasmine aroma too. It comes from the warm and mild Penedès region of Catalonia which is in the top right-hand corner of Spain, among the rolling coastal hills between Barcelona and Tarragona. This wine comes from the Gramona Family, which has been making wine for over two hundred years and one of the few remaining family-owned estates in the region.

It’s a well-crafted wine, blended from 50 percent Muscat, 35 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 15 percent Gewürztraminer, a grape normally associated with cooler regions further north.  This might seem an unusual combination but is evidently quite common in the Penedès region. The Muscat and Gewürztraminer bring enticing floral notes to the aroma and taste while the Sauvignon Blanc provides a fresh grassy lift and vibrant acidity. The wine is a pale straw colour with a faint greenish-orange tinge and there’s a distinctive aroma of tangerine, boiled sweets, jasmine, white flowers and a dash of pepper. There’s a smooth mouth-feel too, and a finely balanced fresh acidity with a hint of bitterness. Winemaker Jaume Gramona has held the fruit perfectly in balance and the citrus flavours dominate the taste. There’s also an attractive, dry and rounded finish.

This is an organic wine, in that the grape grower avoids artificial chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. It’s also a vegan wine, meaning that no animal products were used during the fining process. Normally, egg whites or milk proteins are used to remove the tiny particles of sediment that cannot be cleared out by filtration, thus making it unsuitable for vegans who play strictly by the rules.

At just 11% ABV, this refreshing wine is light enough to enjoy on its own though I think it would make an excellent partner for assertive fish like salmon or tuna. Chicken dishes and soft cheeses also spring to mind.

Incidentally, if you want to pronounce the name Gessamí like one of the locals, put the accent on the final vowel and pronounce the “g” as a softer version of the “ch” sound in the Scottish word “loch”. You might need a bit of practice.