"Good wine makes good blood" A reflection on wine and Italian culture from CBC’s Italian office ….

The vino sciolto (or vino di casa – House wine) that you get in our local restaurants, collected from the local wine producers and best consumed fresh, tastes great and should cost very little. It’s only when you want to impress that you would choose something from the Wine list, for a wedding or big dinner where the bigger DOC wine names would come out and be teamed with the menu….

Have you seen the film a Walk in the Clouds – those ladies crushing the grapes, making offerings to the 4 winds, having their wine blessed? How about that other great scene in the film French Kiss, where Kevin Kline asks Meg Ryan to smell different bottles where are kept essences of lavender, raspberry, blackcurrant, oak, almonds etc, before she tastes the wine. A whole new world of taste comes into play, as she begins to recognise the different influencers of taste because they are also grown in the land and earth in which the grapes are grown. I don’t think that good taste is enough, I think you need to take it further… Taste and smell, memories of this…

For those of you who have visited Italy, there is a very strong inbred identity in Italians with the “region” where they are born – and this identity extends to their preferred cuisine and choice of wine. The family will all get together and spend a significant part of the day preparing food, eating it and talking about what they are going to have for their next meal, while enjoying locally produced wine – where the aim is indeed to enjoy and certainly never to drink wine on an empty stomach! They are proud of the regions that produce wine; cheap Table Wine is one thing, but the experience of drinking locally-produced wine which their father-in-law, cousin, and/or best friend has actually grown is much more enjoyable and quite anither thing! It’s part of being in the family…

The true and wholesome cuisine of Italy (which is nourishing and tasty) is to be found in the home of the smallholder, as opposed to what you find exported abroad or in the tourist restaurants of popular Italian destinations. Emphasis is on good quality, tasty, locally produced food and wine, all which best consumed as fresh as possible. Each region has its own specialities depending on terrain and local climate. The difference in temperature between the Italian Alps and the “African” climate of Sicily calls for different food and different wine. Carbohydrates and bulk needed in the North (and Grappa!), hot and spicy food in the South to dilate the blood vessels and cope with the heat! (And Limoncello if you to the Amalfi Coast!).

So Italy is not a united nation when it comes to its cuisine and each region’s wine has its own place, each region’s wine is the fruit of the terrain, climate, and the family businesses who have been continuing wine producing traditions for centuries. So Table Wine is cheap and may be drinkable but local wine and the link that it has with one’s life, family traditions and heritage is another.

Food and wine just go together in Italy. I have not come across people talking about wine on its own – it’s always associated with food. So for me when it comes to talking about wine, I find it quite hard to think of good tasting wine on its own (with no association with where it comes from) and without being associated with a particular dish. Talk to/Listen to any sommelier in Italy and they will deliver a poem on which wine works better with which type of cheese, ham, pasta sauce, fish, meat, pudding etc. The success of a lot of the UK TV programs that I have seen has been with showing the chefs go round the country, seeing the locals making their wine and sourcing and cooking their food, which is in itself a greater visual and salivating experience!

My husband was a big help in these ideas, he liked the wine we tried Pig in a Poke Old Spot Red by the way! We tested it with a plate of Bucatini alla Amatriciana – tomato and pancetta based sauce + fresh chillies.

Innovate – don’t just regulate – to resolve the banking crisis – an SME’s view

Thanks to Robert Peston for the heads up on Twitter and for Britains banks: too big to be safe’ on BBC 2. Some very interesting insights from the Deputy Governor of the Bank of England who thinks,

“something has gone wrong with the very heart of capitalism”

The Problem
Faced with financial catastrophe, we used taxpayers’ money to tamper with Capitalism. We averted disaster but by doing this we prevented a Phoenix rising from the ashes – the evolution of a strong, modern, competitive, streamlined, investor and consumer-friendly banking system from a devastating Global crash. We saved some huge old dinosaurs which could still fall, taking Global Economies with them and hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

The Solution and the Opportunity
So is the solution to create that Phoenix now? Set up a modern, competitive bank which benefits its investors first? ‘Antidote bank’ to start curing Lord May’s infected banking system, as talked about by Charles Arthur in the Guardian and others. The beginning of a new, strong, modern banking system? The opportunity to create a system that generates wealth for all its stakeholders and enables, supports and encourages a share of this to go to the developing world? A system that allows orderly failure as in other markets.

Features and Benefits of Antidote bank
* Clear edges for national regulation but effective links for global trade.

* A safe reserve and healthy, competitive links with the rest of its market.

* Pays less to its employees but offers world acclaim, the opportunity to innovate and work with the Leonardo da Vinci’s of our day.

* Use of technology for the benefit of all stakeholders, lots more free banking, store my money unless I say you can invest it, if I do decide to invest – a dhl style tracking system following my money and a share in what it makes …

* Facebook style accounts with individual opportunity to donate some of your personal charges/ interest to chosen causes?

* No financial support from government or taxpayers – survives and thrives on its merits or falls alone without taking the rest of the market with it.

So who are the Leonardo da Vincis of our day? Entrepreneurs and innovators who could rise to this challenge?
Those clever people at Goldman Sachs?
Bill Gates?
Steve Jobs?
Richard Branson?
Nelson Mandela?
Bob Geldof?
Stephen Fry?

So who will invest in and use Antidote Bank?

Everyone will consider it!! For the reasons above.

The Outcome
So Antidote bank is up and running and its ‘game on’ capitalism. Engage employees, investors, consumers – and the other banks will follow suit or lose out. A new system takes root. The best type of regulation is free competition.

Does this sound too simple? We need to create and innovate, not just regulate……. //platform.linkedin.com/in.js

Chaz Brooks is sleeping rough

Chaz Brooks is sleeping rough. They say times are tough at the moment, don’t they? On Saturday January 29th Chaz will be joining other hardy volunteers and sleeping rough OUTSIDE Guildford Cathedral. It will not be pleasant and will probably be raining or snowing. Chaz is doing this to raise funds and attention for the plight of homeless young people in Guildford and the event is organised by the YMCA, Surrey Chamber members.

Chaz is anticipating the night with some trepidation, but says. “I’m really looking forward to the sleepout at the Cathedral. It’s fantastic that the YMCA do this to raise awareness of the problem of youth homelessness in Guildford. I will be spending a winter night under the stars, but YMCA boss Pete Brayne has assured me that it won’t snow, that Girls Aloud will be bringing round hot cocoa, that Gordon Ramsay is doing the breakfast and that Bob Dylan will be coming to sing songs round the campfire.”

We think he is either lying or deluded.

Lots of people have kindly already donated to “keep Chaz on the streets” and you can do so at: http://www.justgiving.com/Chaz-Brooks