Italy has a long-standing classification of wines (DOC/DOCG), and it is characteristic to this image, that young, new, latter-day Italian vintners will scorn the rules, and sell their – sometimes very experimental – wines as landwine, in some cases at prices double or treble those of the neighbouring DOCG. One might ask oneself with some reason, if this is truly very sound. Is the stainless steel-lagered, filtered & pasteurized wine, pressed from a jumble of hybrid winegrapes, really that much superior to the tannin-rich, very strong red liquid, with plenty of tartaric acid deposit in the bottle?
I leave the question to the Italian wine open, but I do have my opinion on the lambic beers. Lambic, to start with, is beer of “spontaneous fermentation”, meaning that no yeast needs to be added. Of course it does need yeast, but this derives from the environment in the brewery. Not just old Saccharomyces cerevisiae, but all sorts of strange beasts as Lactobacillus, Pediococcus, Kloeckera, and of course, Brettanomyces, the bane feared by every winemaker.
The uprooted bureaucrats that fit behind the desks at the European and other commissions, eat Nestlé, Unilever, Kraft, Danone products, and lunch at Mc Donalds; they want to control the whole way of the European food chain, starting from the growers of the grains, eaten by the chickens that shat the manure, used to fertilise the soil on which barley and hops grew, later to be used in the beer you order at the bar. If there’s a food scandal, it’s the lower end of the suppliers’ mass that suffers. The big concerns never do: there won’t be a Big Nut sold less at the next dioxine or ruminant-meat crisis. People that go to the local goatfarmer, know his goods are prime quality, but if some silly virus rages, his goats get slaughtered first, whilst the news on the telly yells again about some outbreak, and a suspicious sneeze from a local farmhand.
It cannot be a surprise, then, that those same confounded bureaucrats regard with horror the old breweries, their manner of working, and the woodwork within. They want to see stainless spotless steel, washable paint, and colour-coded ducts as from a space-shuttle launch pad. A bubbling vat of beer, foam streaming from the bunghole represents the ultimate in barbary to them. Yet nobody has ever been proven to fall ill from the brews of those breweries, while the same desk genii, will ooh and aah, if they see the same thing on an Atlantic island outside the Eurozone, and would call it quaint and characteristic.
Do you know what I distrust? I distrust what happens in Zuun. There’s a beer factory (probably fully EU-approved) there, that no-one but employees have seen from the inside, producing beer that has less and less affiliation with what’s apparently still lagering at the showcase at Henegouwenkaai, the lambicblending centre that InBev’s visitors get to see. You understand, if all the beer is hiding behind a forest of welding, ducts, faucets, and pressure gauges, then I’m missing the contact with the living beer. And so, in my opinion, do the people that are supposed to manufacture it. And then, I get distrustful. I’m probably a person, bearing the curse of a bygone age: the one of common sense.
So, if you visit our country, go to the beautiful Pajottenland, and to Anderlecht, to find those lambicbrewers with those exotic-sounding names: F. Boon, Cantillon, De Cam, De Troch, Drie Fonteinen, Girardin, Hanssens, Lindemans, Mort Subite, Timmermans, oh, and why not, Belle-Vue. Look, taste, and let your nose, your mouth, and above all, your heart tell you what is right, and what isn’t.