Latest posts by Martin Moodie (see all)
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Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, hush now, don’t you cry
Too-ra-loo-ra-loo-ral, that’s an Irish lullaby
–James Royce Shannon
Oftentimes the simple pleasures in life are the greatest. Here at my Interim Moodie Davitt Busan Bureau I have discovered a couple of them in recent days that worked as well as any elixir in beating those cursed COVID blues.
The first find came in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning as my wife Yulim and I arrived at our Air BnB in Songdo Beach. It had been a long, long day. The nine-hour flight from Hamad International Airport to Incheon International had actually been very pleasant, thanks to the brilliant facilities and hospitality onboard Qatar Airways 858, a Boeing 777-300ER replete with the superb Qsuite (complete with sliding door for privacy).
With a 2.30a.m departing time, for once I chose to turn down the attractions of the excellent wine list, save for a single glass of the wonderfully refreshing Lallier Grande Réserve Champagne.
What followed wasn’t so straightforward. Something like two hours clearing medical screening and related immigration protocols at an airport entry point that summed up just how on edge the Republic of Korea is about the pandemic. And then, as documented in my earlier Blog, a seemingly endless five-hour drive in the back of a van to Busan, with the arrival to our apartment preceded by a very early morning stop at the Busan Railway Station COVID testing unit.
Despite the ungodly hour, when we finally got into the Interim Bureau the moment called for a drink, ideally an ice-cold glass of Champers or a crisp Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, neither in stock at the Interim Bureau. A decent Chilean red (US$49) bought in the Kyung Bok King arrivals store at Incheon seemed way too heavy a choice. With the cupboard barer than Mother Hubbard’s what to do?
Eureka! With Yulim seemingly having packed the entire contents of our London house into our suitcases, I had only been able to include one bottle from my extensive collection of wines and spirits.
What should it be? Tough choice but one – for reasons of sentiment, respect for its producers, and sheer personal taste – resonated more than any other. It was Writers’ Tears Copper Pot, a triple-distilled Irish Whiskey from Walsh Whiskey in Carlow, Ireland.
This is a superb dram, smoother than an Irish television host’s patter, brimful of lovely honey and vanilla notes, partly reflecting its aging in flame-charged bourbon barrels. And, as the excellent Master of Malt website notes, “No writers were harmed in the making of this whiskey”, and I can tell you that this writer and his wife were left not only unharmed but positively uplifted with this gentle gem.
We may have become the first people in the world to drink Writers’ Tears accompanied by peanut butter on snack biscuits (yes, my wife packed the kitchen too). But no feast prepared for a King could match the magic, nor the moment, of this combination.
Cut with a splash of bottled Busan water, the aromas alone (of the whiskey not the peanut butter) banished both the weariness and the blues; with the smooth, warming flavours of this Irish liquid lullaby sending me into a long, peaceful and much-needed sleep.
Once we were given the COVID all-clear a day or so later, it was time to seek out a vinous accompaniment. Not easy, as I have discovered on previous visits, in this sleepy part of Busan. The Korean imported wine market is growing fast (driven mainly by women) but at around US$250 million last year is still limited, especially outside Seoul.
A scouring of the local supermarket turned up a tiny and unappealing selection on shelves dominated by the Korean staples of (excellent) soju and beer (the country has one of the world’s biggest per-capita alcohol consumption rates).
Help was at hand, however. A modest convenience shop offered an eclectic array of imported wines, mostly low- and mid-priced, some of frankly dubious repute and provenance. My eyes alit on a bottle of Chemin de la Pinède blanc, a Pays D’oC from the south of France near the city of Nîmes, a city in the Occitanie region. A KRW12,000 (US$12) price tag suggested a modest wine; the back label description of a combination of Grenache Blanc and Viognier suggested an interesting one.
And so it proved. The wine was beautifully balanced and with a lovely peach character from the Viognier. Fresh acidity, crisp as a newly ironed shirt. If I created a value for money index for wine this would score in the high 90s. I liked it so much that I went back the next day and bought the rest of their stock (that should last me to the weekend) including the same wine’s rosé and red versions.
Cheered up by Writers’ Tears and buoyed by a visit to the D’oC. How about that? As I said, simple pleasures. In a world gone wrong they matter more than ever.