As a major trading port, Bristol has been reaching out across the world for centuries – and a wine tasting I went to this week really brought that home to me.
It was organised by the Bristol-Hannover and Bristol-Bordeaux Twinning Associations who are celebrating their 70th anniversaries this year, having started just after the 2nd World War in an effort to reach out and support other devastated European cities.
The tasting itself was on board a replica of John Cabot’s ship, The Matthew, that, in 1497, sailed from Bristol and across the Atlantic to become the first Europeans known to have landed on the North American mainland (although Norse sagas suggest that their sailors may have done so several centuries earlier). The original ship was lost but the replica was built here in the city in the 1990s and repeated the original voyage to commemorate the 500th anniversary. These days, the ‘new’ Matthew is used for educational purposes, appears in films and television programmes and is a major tourist attraction in Bristol Docks. And, of course, it can be hired for events – including the wine tasting I mentioned earlier.
And the fact that the tasting was hosted by Mimi Avery, on behalf of the historic Bristol company that bears her name (it was founded in 1793), also fitted the ‘reaching out’ theme. Mimi’s grandfather, Ronald, was one of very few British wine merchants to actually visit foreign vineyards and meet the growers while her father, John, travelled widely and introduced many New World wines into the UK that have subsequently become iconic.
But, let’s not forget the wines:
of course Mimi found some interesting bottles from Bordeaux to show us. And, although Hannover is not a wine producing area of Germany, we tasted some attractive examples from elsewhere in that country. But, perhaps Mimi’s most innovative thinking went into our aperitif: a Prosecco which reflected John Cabot’s Italian heritage (he was previously known as Zuan Chabboto, although his name has long been anglicized).
So, all in all, a fascinating and most enjoyable evening and a perfect example of how generations of Bristolians (and adopted citizens, such as Cabot) have reached out across the world.