Wine and Food Diary of Giles MacDonogh THE FINER THINGS IN LIFE

A Golden October in the Kitchen

Written by Giles MacDonogh

A Golden October in the Kitchen

Posted: 3rd November 2020

At the beginning of month there was a proper ‘Oktoberfest’ here as I harvested my grapes. They were not easy to get at, as the vines are ‘trained’ à la romaine up a bay and an olive tree. I had to detach the blue-black bunches with a lopper, fish them out of the roses and gather them up into a yellow plastic tub.

Once I had warmed them up to below blood heat in a big pot, I added a kilo of sugar. It is the process known as ‘chaptalisation’ after the baron Chaptal, sometime Interior Minister to Napoleon, so we’ve been doing it for at least 200 years. The sugar made up for their obvious lack of ripeness and gave the yeast something to feed on. There is plenty of yeast flying around and I was grateful to see a few bubbles appear after two or three days, signalling the beginning a slow and not very tumultuous fermentation.

Once the bubbles became rare, I decanted the liquid into a big glass jar and loosely stoppered it. Not only did I want to allow the fermentation to begin again when it got warmer, I intended the odd, intrepid fruit fly to visit the wine. Fruit flies bring the bacteria that turn bad wine into useful vinegar. Our grapes would not be good enough to make anything else. Such is wine, in its rawest, earthiest manifestation. Once upon a time people drank this. Thank God we have not been reduced to that yet. Only time will tell.

October wasn’t such a bad month. Although we had been sad to see one child leave for university, the other one came home and I actually went out to FOUR restaurants! There was the Seashell in Lisson Grove – London’s premier fish and chippie.

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Giles MacDonogh

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