I had bought a case of the 1997 Chamonix Chardonnay from Franschhoek after coming across it at a Decanter Magazine tasting of South African chardonnays when I had been impressed by its relatively austere, dry character, which I thought resembled a good white burgundy. And the case served me very well, so when I found this bottle lurking at the back of the cellar, I thought I’d give it a try. It was just starting to oxidise now, still dry, still drinkable but just a little too rancid butter to be enjoyable.
Our tour leaders, Saša Špiranec and Ivona Grgan, promised, in Istria, a wine and food gourmet paradise. Our first stop, dinner at Nenad Kukurin's restaurant Kukuriku on a terrace in the hills overlooking the bay at Opitija (www.kukuriku.hr), lived up to its billing. Istria is the heart-shaped peninsula sitting in the north-western corner of Croatia, and being so close to Italy, it’s not surprising to find a strong Italian influence here. Kukuriku is the epitome of sophistication, its food based on the principles of ‘mar e monte’, i.e. sea and mountain.
Miss Croatia, the personable and not wholly unpulchritudinous 21-year old Ivana Vasilj, is learning how to hold a wine glass. Like me, she is in Ilok in the far eastern corner of Croatia on the border with Serbia. I’m there for the wine while in her case it’s because she’s being sponsored by Juraj Mihaljević, owner of Principovac Wine Cellars, for this year’s Miss World contest in the US.
Tiramisu in smart Las Condes is the place to see and be seen on a Saturday night in Santiago. By nine, the trendy Italian hotspot is heaving with beautiful people washing down pizza and seafood with not quite so beautiful piscola, an unholy alliance of coke and pisco, along with beer, pisco sours, coke, Canada Dry, and the occasional bottle of Montes Cabernet Sauvignon or Casa Silva Carmenère.