Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Jordan: Be good to your bad side.

Jordan is both dry and wet: many restaurants do not serve alcohol but some do. Hotels do, at least the international ones. In Amman we found a liqor store with an appropriate slogan in the window: "Be good to your bad side" which sums up the schizophrenic attitude to alcohol in this surprisingly affluent and tolerant land.

We had the impression Jordanian wine is nearer to California in character with bold flavours. Lebanon comes into the French ambit, so Jordan rather resembles Israel and indeed there are tantalising cross-border resonances with Israeli-(formerly Jordanian) West Bank collaborations both above and below the radar and Jordanian vineyards in places mentioned in the bible.

One of these is Mount Nebo from which Moses looked out over the land of Israel. He was not allowed to set foot there of course so Mt. Nebo is as far as he got. From Mt. Nebo we saw wines made from Perlette (a table grape) and Chardonnay,

Chenin Blanc and Rousanne

Emperor (another table grape once popular in California) and Shiraz

Merlot and Sangiovese,

 Verdicchio and Pinot Grigio,

Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc,

 and Sangiovese. Quite a wide choice.

We only tasted the Saint George Sangiovese and a couple of whites (a Sauvignon and a Chardonnay), so cannot say anything about the others but their very existence was a pleasant surprise to us,

Wine is nothing new here though as we discovered in Little Petra. Here were cellars carved as everything else is out of the rock.

A ceiling with mosaics including the unmistakable figure of a bacchic cherub playing the Pan Pipes. The Nabateans embraced Roman civilisation and Petra was one of the staging posts with trade coming from China on the Silk route to the Mediterranean through Gaza and other ports all the way to Northern Europe. Clearly wine was one of the commodities making its way along parts of this route.

A tip in case you are planning a trip to Petra; don't miss Little Petra. It has everything Petra has without the animals (horses and camels mainly), hucksters and crowds. It is also free whereas Petra's entrance fee is 50 Smackeroos with no reductions for students or young people such as us.
A vine in the garden of the National Art Museum, Amman
In this oasis of peace and culture it was difficult to think that Syria was just next door with Iraq on the Eastern side.

Back in London we found Syrian rather than Jordanian wine at Troubadour in the Old Brompton Road. Amazing! Apparently, according to the wonderful Atilio, it is good too!

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