Allegrini 2018

Elizabeth II, also an icon of “noble” passion for the countryside and love for its fruits

From agriculture to wine, and Italian wine in particular, WineNews traces the anecdotes that tell of the Queen’s connection to our world

A timeless icon also of the “noble” passion for the countryside, the one with the flavor of yesteryear, and the love of agriculture and its fruits. Starting with wine, and Italian wine in particular, which, in 70 years of her reign, she helped introduce to the world, when our labels certainly did not have the celebrity they have today, becoming the most famous wine lover and a testimonial who was certainly also knowledgeable, since under her crown nothing was left to chance. Not even in the wines served at court, from royal weddings to ceremonials for heads of state, but also in the bottles she received as gifts or that were uncorked in honor of her many visits to Italy. If, as has been said about her death, a worldwide mourning, it is impossible to put together journalistically a piece on Queen Elizabeth II, because of the many things she did and the long time she was a protagonist in our history, WineNews has gone over for the national press agencies, in a special way, the anecdotes that tell of Her Majesty’s connection with our world, that of food and wine. On the basis of which, there is an interest in nature and its beauty, to be preserved for our future and handed down to new generations, including through the media of the moment, which, on the other hand, is very modern, and makes her, finally, not only the latest universal icon, but also “pop”, making her forever immortal.
It was November 20, 1947, when Elizabeth II of England married Prince Philip of Edinburgh in Westminster Abbey, and at the sumptuous wedding banquet Biondi-Santi’s Brunello di Montalcino was served, along with great Champagnes and French wines. The same label was again on April 28, 1969 at the Italian Embassy in London, when at a dinner in honor of the Queen, Italian President Giuseppe Saragat personally chose Brunello Riserva 1955, the bottle that “Wine Spectator” listed as the only Italian wine among the best of the 20th century. If these are among the most famous anecdotes related to wine recalled by WineNews that testify to the record Queen’s passion for Italy, which, in 70 years of reign also passes by Italian wines, in her long life Her Majesty has also been a producer, and in the last year-end festivities she launched her “Vintage Prosecco – Christmas”, sold at the Royal Estate in Norfolk, Sandrigham, produced by Vivo Cantine di Campodipietra in Salgareda, Treviso.
The indispensable tea, certainly. But the last great Queen, the longest-serving on the British throne, measured even at the table, and perhaps this was one of the secrets of her long life, is in fact also remembered for her passion for drinking well. From the indispensable favorite cocktail as an aperitif, made with Gin and Dubonnet, to the glass of white or red wine at lunch, to the flûte of Champagne Bollinger, Krug, Veuve Clicquot or Lanson, at dinner. Also in the Buckingham Palace shop there is Buckingham Palace Gin, made from herbs hand-picked largely right in the Queen's garden.
Speaking of the Royal Family, in 2017, on one of their latest visits to Italy, King Charles III, a producer with his Highgrove House estate, and his consort Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, in her role as president of the United Kingdom Vineyard Association, the association of English wine producers, had met with some of the most important producers of Italian wine, in Florence. It was a meeting impossible to miss for the Frescobaldi family, which has had a relationship with the Royalty of England for more than 700 years, as historic suppliers of wines to the British monarchy, and of friendship, from the visit of the heir to the throne of England to Montalcino in the 1980s, in the company of Marchesi Bona and Vittorio Frescobaldi to their participation, in 2011, in the royal wedding of the century between Prince William and Kate Middleton in 2011, among the very few Italian guests of the Dukes of Cambridge, bringing as wedding gifts fine bottles of Brunello di Montalcino Riserva di CastelGiocondo, ça va sans dire. Not forgetting, the other royal couple, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who, before their engagement, had the blog “The Tig”, named after Tignanello, the Antinori family’s iconic wine.
But first of all, it is Elizabeth II who loved Italy very much, and our country has returned her affection and devotion. In “Elizabeth. The “Italian” Queen. The Long Love Story that Ties the Windsors to Our Country” (Rai Libri edizioni, 2021, pp. 256, cover price 20 euros), Ilaria Grillini reconstructs the privileged relationships the Windsors have had with Italy,
from George V to the Queen Mother, from Charles and Diana, to young Harry and Meghan. An unpublished chapter in the history of the British royal family among anecdotes and curiosities and some lesser-known gaffes of the Duke of Edinburgh thanks to the recollections of nobles, politicians, representatives of institutions, entrepreneurs, but also ordinary people. Numerous testimonies were collected such as those of Anna Maria Cossiga, Maria Pia and Lillio Ruspoli, Harry’s Bar patron Arrigo Cipriani, Stefano Andreotti, Princess Stefania Raffadali, Gloria Vanni Calvello and Duchess Maria Grazia Salviati, Maestro Roberto Capucci, former Prime Minister and several times Minister Giuliano Amato, and former Mayor of Rome Francesco Rutelli. “Among all the Italian regions beloved by the Queen without a doubt Sicily has a leading role”, writes the author, “almost a tradition for the British royal family, whose love for this island is really lost in the mists of time. In January 1816 it was the then just 20-year-old Princess Charlotte of Wales, daughter of George IV and Caroline of Brunswick and future bride of Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who arrived in Catania”. The first official trip by a member of the British royal family, in the middle of the 20th century, was that of Princess Margareth not yet 19 years old in 1949, a long tour made in Italy between Capri, Sorrento, Venice, the Cathedral of Monreale with its splendid mosaics and the Palatine Chapel in Palermo, Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore as a guest of the Borromeo princes, and Genoa visiting the Marquise Cattaneo Adorno in her Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini. It was, however, until 1951 that we had to wait to cut the ribbon on Elizabeth II’s first public outing in Italy, accompanied (always three steps behind) by Prince Philip. First stop was the Capital, with a visit to Pope Pius XII, later in private conversation with then-President of the Republic Luigi Einaudi, vigneron in the Langhe of Barolo with Poderi Luigi Einaudi (ed.), and then to Villa Sparta on the hill of Fiesole, owned by Elena of Romania. Rome where there was no shortage of parties and receptions in honor of the royal couple, and balls such as the unforgettable one organized at Palazzo Colonna. Over the years, official trips and more followed. Favorite destinations included the cities of Naples, Florence, Turin, the countryside of Barumini, Sardinia, to visit the splendid Nuraghe of Su Nuraxi, but also the island of Vulcano in the Aeolian Islands, where, Ilaria Grillini recalls, “for breakfast they were received at the Hotel Les Sables Noires by the owner, Marchioness Mirta Capomazza di Campolattaro. Rich, tasty and dietary the menu of spaghetti, eggplant parmigiana and the inevitable cassata, all washed down with wine from Etna and Malvasia delle Lipari”.
But also flowing through the volume are the menus of gala dinners and luncheons (including Lobster Mousse, Montglas-style Veal Loin, Risotto alla Torcellana, Fried Scampi, porcini mushrooms and artichokes), alongside descriptions of the clothes worn during official meetings (“the Queen, very chic with blond mink stole hugging her shoulders, elbow-length gloves, and the ever-present ton sur ton cap”), gifts received (such as a silver bull weighing over 2 kilos from the city of Turin), and memories of unfailing participation in the historic and prestigious Piazza di Siena International Horse Competition. Grillini recalls “the mad cheers” and also cites British newspapers, in particular, the “Daily Mail” after a trip to Turin (reporting that “thousands of people, with little boys hanging from trees, greeted the Queen and Prince Philip”). Also rich in interviews and testimonials. And a few curiosities: with Queen Elizabeth at the table, garlic, spicy dishes and spaghetti are banned, as well as berries (“they could remain between her teeth”, a risk considered even by the “Times”), but with Her Majesty who loves Dubonnet liqueur, as evidenced by the explicit request that came in 2000 to the Teatro alla Scala in Milan from London by fax, among the drinks that had to be present in the dressing room of maestro Riccardo Muti where “The Queen” would have gone after the concert. Unforgettable memories of Princess Gloria Vanni Calvello Mantegna of the Princes of San Vincenzo of the royal couple’s breakfast in 1980 at Palazzo Gangi in Palermo, the “set” for the grand ball of Luchino Visconti’s “The Leopard”: “the Salone degli Specchi”, she recounts, “had been set up with round tables, half set, so that the Queen’s back was not turned. And among the rules of court ceremonial was to start eating after the Queen and to stop when the Queen stopped. Philip was very nice and friendly, although he would occasionally forget to stand a step behind the Sovereign and then, as soon as he noticed, he would go back and settle down behind her. She was perfect in her role, not detached, but not too expansive either”. A “timballo del Gattopardo” was prepared for the occasion, with swordfish, melon gelo and Marsala.
And also flowing through the book are memories of Queen Elizabeth’s 1992 journey to Palermo shortly after the Capaci massacre and that seemingly simple and touching gesture of “laying a wreath at the site of the bombing next to that of President of the Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, gathering in prayer for about ten minutes. A small bow of respect for the victims and then departing in the direction of the port of the Sicilian capital”. Italy again in 2000, with a solemn banquet held in his honor at the Salone delle Feste of the Quirinale in Rome by President Carlo Azelio Ciampi with his wife Franca, with 2,700 ricotta ravioli hand-packed by Quirinale chef Alberto Gozzi and his brigade, porcini mushrooms and vegetables grown on the Castel Porziano Presidential Estate, and all washed down once again with Brunello di Montalcino, but also with Ferrari’s Cuvée 2000 as the final toast after dessert with Rhum Baba, and with Trentino bubbles so liked by His Majesty that they were even served in the residence of the Italian Ambassador in London to Ciampi himself on an official visit to London in 2005. While Brunello, Collio wines and Moscato d’Asti had also been protagonists in the glasses at Villa Wolkonsky, residence of the British Ambassador to Italy, in Rome, at the lunch offered by the Queen to Ciampi.
Until the last (lightning) visit in 2014 guests of President Giorgio Napolitano (in the lunch with Herb Risotto, Roast Lamb with potato millefeuille, Sformatini of caponata and steamed green beans, and Bonet for dessert) and with a basket of food and drink from all the royal estates as a gift for Pope Francis.
For these reasons, too, Queen Elizabeth will always remain in everyone’s heart.

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