Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Working together

Last night was a very special night. Not romantic or fun-filled or any other way you might define special. It was special because for the first time Leif held a wine tasting that was his alone. Rather than being contacted by another tour operator to contract through them, he had a villa contact him directly and ask him to hold a private wine tasting for some of their guests.

Living the dream.
And so began the realization of a dream that started with a school report on Italy when he was about eleven and continued to grow when he moved to Italy and learned everything he could about wines and wine-making and took its first shaky but determined steps last night. He has finally become known to enough people who respect his skills to work for himself. And I was his lovely assistant.

Naturally it wasn't as simple as showing up at the villa and talking about wines. We ended up catering the event ourselves which is far more complicated.

See, there's always this little give and take that happens during the discussions to finalize details. It started with the call to be the sommelier for a wine tasting, followed by assumptions on both sides about the scope of the project and the audience and ended with Leif and me riding our bikes around Florence three hours before the event buying (and transporting) a dozen fragile wine glasses and heavy (I know, I carried them on my back) plates, plus wine, salami and cheese. Then renting a car to take everything to the tasting because it's in the hills and it wouldn't be finished until after 10pm.

I bet you thought I was going to say that we rode our bikes to and from the event loaded like pack horses with all the things we needed. While it would certainly be impressive to say that (we did the same ride when I was his assistant guide for the Swedish bike tour, It would be impressive), it would have been crazy to try. And I'm not that crazy. Yet. He did drive the little yellow Fiat Panda like an Italian on the switchback roads up to the villa so there was some element of know how much I love those switchbacks.

We were told to prepare a wine tasting for twelve Germans. What we didn't find out until part way through the tasting was that they arrived at the villa directly from the airport right before we started. Without dinner. We were prepared to remind them that this was a wine tasting, not a wine drinking....but how do you politely tell someone who's hungry that all you have to eat are snacks, and only enough to compliment the wine? I should have known something was up when the villa, who up until that day had been saying we were responsible for everything about the event except for the space it was held in, started bringing things down to fill out the table. Jams and honey for the cheese, breads and olive oil. They fluttered around me the whole evening saying "The dishes look empty" and I kept saying that I had to keep something back for the third and fourth bottles of wine.

It was like a swarm of locusts had landed on the table. When we were finished all that remained of the food were some slices of bread, a few lonely pieces of salami and a tablespoon of honey. The tablecloth was littered with long thin threads of salami casing, bread crumbs and dirty plates. The bottles were drained of every drop of wine. The Germans finally started to look less frantic about eating. One woman stopped me and asked anxiously "We can get more to drink, yes?" Not from us she couldn't, but I didn't say that out loud. I just told her to talk to the woman from the villa and I was sure there was something they could drink. She looked relieved.

Then there was the inevitable (I guess) tussle to get our brand new, beautiful wine glasses away from the Germans and replace them with smaller, less beautiful glasses from the Villa. It was a little more difficult than it should have been because they had moved outside to the pool and were sitting in the dark drinking and talking. We must have looked slightly crazy walking around, getting our faces up close to everyone's glass to see if it was ours or the villa's. Then nicely but firmly taking ours away and handing them a new glass to drink from.

I have to say that Leif handled the whole situation beautifully. He managed to keep most of the twelve Germans on track and interested in hearing about the wines they were tasting. He made sure that even those who wandered off to the corners of the room had the option to try every wine. He got most of them to forget their hunger long enough to try food and wine combinations and really think about what they were tasting. And when he had identified the real wine lovers in the group he talked to them and let the rest listen if they would or wander off if they must.

I'm sure that at this point he would like me to list the wines and foods. There were four wines; Chianti Classico, Morellino, a Super Tuscan, and a Brunello. They were accompanied by some classic Tuscan bread and salami and a young, slightly spicy pecorino cheese along with the olive oil, marmalades and honey. He would probably say a lot more about the wine than I just have, but then that's why he's the professional and I'm the lovely assistant. I make sure everything runs smoothly and he does the wine.

How he managed to keep the pace of the event perfect in the face of his guests hunger is beyond me, but he did it. They gave each wine the attention it deserved and at the end of the evening we left them happy and content with their first few hours here in Tuscany. He has cemented a relationship with the villa that should prove to be good for our future and now we have started to gather the tools (glasses and plates) for our own wine tastings. We both went to sleep last night with smiles because we are one step closer to an independent future. Very exciting stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment