Sunday, 27 December 2020
Saturday, 26 December 2020
Thursday, 24 December 2020
Cecchi at different price points
Chianti is a region of central Tuscany in Italy; the wine region was first defined in 1716 and over the years, changes have been made to blending requirements and area limits initially to increase production to meet demand and then later to improve quality.
In 1932 the Chianti area was divided in seven sub-areas: Classico, the largest, plus six others.
Classico includes the original Chianti heartland and only "Classico" wines may display the black rooster (gallo nero) seal on the neck of the bottle, indicating that the producer is a member of the Chianti Classico Consortium.
Like many classic Italian reds, Chianti is high in acidity and as a result very much a food wine.
Both these wines are made by Cecchi, a family-owned company based in Tuscany dating back to the late 1800s.
The M&S Chianti is a well-priced Sangiovese-based Chianti with some Colorino and Cabernet Sauvignon for colour, structure and aromatics; it is very gently oaked.
The Villa Cerna is a much more ambitious and accomplished (if more expensive) wine; the Cecchi family purchased the Villa during the early 1960s and then proceeded with its restoration and the construction of the wine cellar.
2017 M&S Classics Chianti Riserva, Chianti, Tuscany (£8) focused black fruits, black and sour cherries with spice, dried herbs and a food-friendly rasp; fresh and savoury with fine, gentle and well-integrated tannins. Very good winemaking.
Thoroughly enjoyable and Good Value.
Match with beef ragù or pizza margherita.
Tim Atkin describes it as bright, aromatic and savoury - his full review is here.
It also gets a nod from Decanter.
Wednesday, 23 December 2020
Tuesday, 22 December 2020
The Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux is a sub-region of Bordeaux located on the hillsides overlooking the right bank of the Garonne.
It has a winemaking history that goes back a thousand years, covering around 1,100 hectares with 80 producers. The wines are typically elegant, fleshy and silky with red fruits and spices. Supple, rounded and full of finesse, they have a good ability to age.
A good rule of thumb in Bordeaux is to buy vintage over terroir; that is to say, a less expensive wine in a good year can outperform grander names from an off-year.
2016 was an excellent year in Bordeaux, so make sure to stock up on wines from that year; drinking nicely now with some time in the decanter, if you can wait, put them away for a few years to reach maturity.
Château Mille Anges 2016, Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux (£13, Goedhuis & Co) Merlot-Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon blend from an excellent vintage.
Very fresh, very structured with bright, juicy red and black berry fruits, cherries and damsons, coffee grounds, spice and herbal cool mint; very fine, well-integrated tannins. Supple, pure and very adept. Focused, precise and elegant.
Benefits from aeration and will repay some cellaring.
Match with red meats or fowl.
Thursday, 17 December 2020
This is 100% Sangiovese but a younger version, aged in French oak for three to six months. 2018 was not an easy year, being too cold and wet, yet it lent itself to making very good Rosso.
This is a different style of Sangiovese grown in Montalcino, with its own specific peculiarities and personality. It has a similar flavour profile to its Brunello stable mate but with a younger, fresher, more approachable feel and without such a tight structure. The wine is characterized by a great aromatic freshness both in the aromas and in the mouth.
Juicy red fruits, leather and spices, elegant, fresh and vibrant with classic Sangiovese raspy acidity; intense, fresh, and fruity with aromas of blackberry, cherry, and plum, which are well integrated with tones of vanilla and tobacco. Ample yet gentle, very concentrated and harmonious.
Drinking nicely now with a little aeration and will also age.
Positively demands food, such as game, roast meat, medium cheese, chicken piccata, veal marsala, pasta Bolognese or home-made pizza.
Tom Cannavan makes it his wine of the week here: Wine of the week: Banfi, Rosso di Montalcino 2018 | wine-pages (wine-pages.com)
Castello Banfi Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino 2015, (Majestic £49.99 per bottle / £44.99 mix six, Fine & Rare, L’Assemblage, Christopher Keiller Fine Wines)
From a great Brunello vintage, the Poggio alle Mura vineyards surround the ancient Poggio alle Mura castle in a picture-perfect setting. The castle, also known as Castello Banfi, and the estate were purchased by the Mariani family in 1983. The planting of the vineyards in the area around the castle began in 1992, with the first vintage of Poggio alle Mura in 1997.
Poggio alle Mura 2015 was aged for two years in French oak and released five years after harvest, so this is a well-rested wine.
Coffee and tobacco, dark berries, cassis and plums with spiciness and some minty eucalyptus; fresh, well-balanced structure with soft, ripe tannins. Full and persistent.
Drinking nicely now but will also age.
Match with Tuscan veal or grilled lamb chop rubbed with rosemary.
Monday, 14 December 2020
Ruby is the entry-level port style, the most approachable, affordable, youngest and easiest-drinking. It does not have a vintage (i.e. it is not from a specified year), but is generally aged for 2 - 3 years before being bottled.
While vintage and tawny ports need decades to mature, ruby is a wine for drinking young rather than laying down.
The grapes for all types of port, usually a mixture of indigenous Portuguese varieties with thick skins that can withstand the heat, are grown in the Douro valley and trodden by foot in lagares to gently extra colour and flavour. Part-way through fermentation, neutral spirit is added, taking the alcohol level up to around 20% and retaining plenty of unfermented sugar for sweetness.
The wines will then be separated into those intended for long aging as vintage or tawny ports and those for drinking young as ruby, Regardless of the final style, all port is strong and sweet; ruby's characteristics are fresh, fruity, youthfulness.
Port is one of the great wines of the world. And yet it is somewhat falling out of fashion, along with other sweet-yet-complex wines like Madeira, sherry and German Riesling. This makes it so much a better bargain for those of us who do appreciate it.
It is not just a Christmas wine, but Christmas is a great time to drink port.
With flavours of ripe dark fruits and spices, ruby works best with cherry and chocolate torte or Christmas pudding. Or just keep a bottle on the go for after-dinner sipping.
If you want an introduction to the ruby style or just a good bottle of something sweet, complex and inexpensive, the Taylor's is a benchmark ruby and especially good value whilst on special offer at the Co-op (until 1 January, 2021)
For the bargain-hunting wine geek who appreciates the mellow harmoniousness that only aging can bring, the Lagarada is an interesting curio; a bin-end from Oakley Wine Agencies in Colchester with around a 50% discount, it is mature in a way that ruby port is perhaps not intended to be. But all the more interesting for it.
Taylor's Select Reserve Port (£10.75, The Co-op) a blend of tinta çao, touriga nacional, touriga francesa, tinta barroca and tinta amarela; ripe, up-front black fruits, liquorice, cherries and vanilla spice with eucalyptus; warming figs and raisins with cinnamon and cocoa; fresh, supple, substantial and long.
Barao de Vilar, Lagarada Ruby Port (bin-end from Oakley Wine Agencies, also at TJ Wines) lifted, dried red and black fruits, minty eucalyptus and aromatic roasted spices; fresh, supple, complex, substantial and harmonious. Being a bin-end, there is now a little bricking of the colour, the flavours are more evolved and the tannins are mellowing.
Sunday, 13 December 2020
Torres Salmos pays homage to the monks of the intrepid Carthusian order, who arrived in Priorat in 12th century, and began to cultivate vines there. In 1835, a violent crowd destroyed the monks’ work and ransacked the monastery and the monks fled. Phylloxera completed the virtual destruction of winemaking in the area, until it began to be revived again in the 1950s, but its recovery really only took off in the early 1990s.
Saturday, 12 December 2020
Tim Atkin's top wines from Castilla y León
Wednesday, 9 December 2020
I'm something of a novice to sake, but with a growing family interest in Japan generally, I decided it was time to find out what all the fuss was about.
Sake is brewed (but not like a beer), has the alcohol content of a fortified wine (but is not fortified), is gently sipped (but is not a spirit) and has delicate wine-like flavours of fruits, flowers and herbs (but is not a wine).
Sake is made from grains of rice that have been polished to remove the bran and is served often, but not always, warmed in a tokkuri then poured into a small cup called sakazuki.
Once you start to learn about Japanese heritage and culture, you very quickly find out that elegance and ceremony play a large part in the overall Japanese aesthetic.
A guide to serving sake:
If the sake is to be served warm and you do not have a tokkuri, simply place the bottle in a bowl of water from the kettle until it reaches around 40 degrees centigrade (2 - 4 minutes for a tokkuri, longer for a full bottle).
Ginjo, daiginjo, junmai, and namazake sakes should all be served cold, so these should be served straight from the fridge.
If you don't have a sakazuki, small mugs, especially espresso cups, are a close substitute.
Traditionally, the server should fill the cups of the guests and should allow their own cup to be filled by one of the guests.
It is considered rude - or at least very informal - either to fill your own cup or to hold a conversation whilst your cup is being filled. Once everyone has been served, say "kanpai" ("cheers") and it is now fine to drink your sake.
It then remains the host's responsibility to keep guests' cups filled up during the evening.
Sake is not a drink for aging; it should be kept for no more than a year and, once opened, consumed either the same day or within a few days if stored in the fridge.
Akashi-Tai is a 4th generation premium brewery in Hyogo prefecture.
Akashi Tai Honjozo (Tokubetsu) Sake - 15%, £20 - £23 for 72cl, rice milled to 60%; Master of Malt / The Whisky Exchange
A versatile sake to serve warm with grilled fish, grilled meats and seafood or mature yellow cheeses; flavours of sweet red grapes, oatmeal and sharp green apples with beeswax and sea salt.
This is a good sake for either an introduction or an everyday sipper.
Akashi Tai Junmai Daiginjo Genshu Sake - 16%, £37 - £40 for 72cl, rice milled to 38%; Master of Malt / The Whisky Exchange
The "grand cru" of the range with an extra-long brewing process to be served chilled; delicately aromatic with floral and herbaceous aromas; flavours of lemon, melon, bitter orange and sage with a full-bodied saline-minerality.
Match with tuna tartare with chilli, ginger and sesame, grilled sea bream, calamari or pork medallions.
For more details on serving sake, see this guide: How to Serve and Drink Sake (with Pictures) - wikiHow
Tuesday, 8 December 2020
Bordeaux is one of the largest and most varied wine regions in France; beyond the illustrious classed growths of famous chateaux, it makes pretty much every type of table wine at a range of price points.
This tasting, led by Lydia Harrison MW, demonstrated that Bordeaux can do rosé and crémant pretty much as well as any other area in France.
She summed up Bordeaux fizz as less expensive than Champagne and not yet aspiring to be at the level of Champagne in terms of price or quality at the top end. A good Bordeaux fizz, such as the ones here, will beat many a similarly-priced Champagne.
Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux, 2018 (£10)
Crémant is just 1% of production in Bordeaux, but growing rapidly, in part on the back of the popularity of Prosecco. Like Prosecco, Crémant de Bordeaux is slightly riper with more fruit and less autolysis given its shorter secondary fermentation period, making it inexpensive to produce and an easy-drinking fizz.
Crémant blanc makes up just over two thirds of production in Bordeaux and it can be made from a range of grapes, including both white and black-skinned varieties.
Calvet is a large regional producer; making good, typical and inexpensive wines. This crémant is a blend of Semillon and Cab Franc.
It has musky melonskin aromas, florality, lively acidity without being austere, rounded fruit with lemon, sherbet and white peach flavours as well as secondary pastry-brioche flavours.
If you want to know what a Bordeaux crémant should be like, this is as good a starting place as any.
Calvet Crémant de Bordeaux Rosé, 2017 (£12.99)
Cremant rosé is just under a third of production, but also growing rapidly. It must be made from black grapes only and in this case the blend is Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
This is a 2017 Brut, so fully dry and with a little more age than the crémant. It is slightly more expensive and you can feel the step-up in quality; it is a more complex and serious wine.
The grapes undergo a short cold soak maceration to give a very pale pink colour and a cool fermentation to preserve the fruit aromas. It gets slightly longer aging to give it more sophistication.
There are fresh, elegant redcurrant fruits, a leesy-creamy texture, fresh red summer berries, florality and some pastry notes.
Château de Bonhoste Rosé NV, Crémant de Bordeaux (£15.85)
The final pink fizz was a further step-up in terms of quality; the property is run by a 5th-generation brother-and-sister team who, as well as winemaking, also offer accommodation (in giant wine barrels), run escape-room games in their cellar and have an HVE sustainability certification.
It is a right-bank blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot; it is darker, more weighty and complex with red fruits, redcurrant, cranberry and red plum aromas, florality and summer-berry compote and a toasty creaminess.
The higher quality here comes from lower yields and more rigorous selection of premium grapes
It is fresh enough for an aperitif, but weighty enough to stand up to party food and canapés.
Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Rosé (£8)
Rosé is 4% of production in Bordeaux.
This wine is 100% Merlot, with a cool fermentation to retain the fruit and a small amount of residual sugar for easy-drinking. It has a screwcap to preserve freshness and to make it easy to use as a picnic wine.
It is very pale with strawberry-raspberry summer fruits and some green herbs.
It can match with lighter foods such as sushi or grilled chilled and the residual sugar means it will work well with spicy foods.
Château Tour De Mirambeau, Reserve Rosé 2019 (£12.40)
Based just the other side of the river from St Emilion in the Entre Deux Mers region, this is a family-run firm with five chateaux; high-density planting on good soils leads to lower yields and greater concentration.
The winemaking approach is sustainable, with trees and hedges planted as well as maintaining beehives to enhance the local ecosystem and giving healthier vines.
The property also practices biodynamics, said to result in a lower pH and therefore higher acidity.
This is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon; it is textured, creamy and mineral with delicate yet vibrant red fruits and white pepper. The red-plum fruit is fresh with good structure and intensity; the Cabernet gives aromas of capsicum and tomato leaf.
This is a good cooler-weather rosé that can handle food, such as soft cheese, quiche or cold cuts.
Sunday, 6 December 2020
Grab Thai Go is a new range of sauces and noodle meal kits made by a team in Thailand to recreate the smells and flavours of Bangkok. New to the UK market, the kits offer a fast alternative to creating genuine Thai dishes. Little preparation is required and full instructions are provided, just add your meat, seafood, fish or vegetables and within 15 minutes you have a meal.
Saturday, 5 December 2020
Chardonnay is quite possibly the world's greatest and most versatile grape; it makes everything from fizz to dessert wines - and all points in between.
Easy to grow and easy to say, Chardonnay was everyone's favourite white in the '90s; until we all went off it and moved on to kiwi Sauvignon.
Burgundy is the benchmark style for moderate-climate oaked Chardonnay; Chablis is leaner and Australia / California much more full-on.
These two southern French Chardonnays are essentially Burgundy lookalikes - but without the price tag.
Louis Latour Grand Ardèche Chardonnay
Maison Louis Latour is a Burgundy producer also making Burgundy-style wines outside the region; this Grand Ardèche Chardonnay 2018 is treated the same way as the wines grown and made from the prestigious vineyards of its more famous cousin.
Friday, 4 December 2020
Thursday, 3 December 2020
Domaines Paul Mas at Waitrose
France's southern Languedoc region is a source of well-made, well-priced wines; the region lacks the classic heritage (and price tags) of more lofty areas and has therefore attracted outsiders to come in and show what they can do on good, but less expensive, plots of land.
With plenty of warmth and sunshine, it is something of a winemaker's paradise, needing fewer pesticides and allowing vines to live longer than cooler, damper areas further north.
Corbières is Languedoc-Rousillon's largest Appellation d'origine contrôlée area for wine, making up nearly 50% of production. Almost all of it is red, often from Carignan, a grape of Spanish origin whose fortunes have improved in recent years as winemakers have worked on reducing yields to concentrate on quality over quantity.
Carignan is ancient late-ripening grape that needs heat to ripen and can, if not controlled, produce large quantities of dilute plonk. Here it is blended with Grenache, another widely planted, hot-climate grape that is low in acid and tannin.
Together, these two varieties produces a full and supple wine with a streak of freshness that drinks nicely on first opening. It has a little age and will continue to improve for another year or two.Château Capendu La Comelle Corbières (£6.99, Waitrose) blend of Carignan and Grenache; juicy, slightly baked red and black berry fruits, vanilla spice, earthiness and some southern garrigue; fresh and harmonious with very fine, supple tannins.
Wednesday, 2 December 2020
Tuesday, 1 December 2020
Ivan Mikhailovich was not Jewish but Ukrainian, and grew up speaking Ukrainian; other nationalities in this patchwork borderland (the literal translation of Ukraine is "borderland") include Hungarians, Poles and Jews and the land has been ruled over at various times by Mongol, Polish-Lithuanian, Russian and Austro-Hungarian empires.
After the conversion of Ukraine to Christianity in 988 and the emergence of Kievan Rus', the country was annexed into the Russian empire in the late 1700s and briefly achieved a short-lived independence during the chaotic aftermath of the 1917 Russian revolution (with Kamianets-Podilskyi as its capital). By 1922, it had become the Ukrainian SSR after being ceded to Soviet Russia under the 1921 Treaty of Riga; this brought some level of stability but not prosperity.
The Soviet genocide of 1932–33, now known as Holodomor ("death by starvation"), left millions dead as a result of a man-made, intentional famine which rejected outside aid and saw confiscation of all household foodstuffs and restriction of population movement.
This was the Ukraine that Ivan was born into and worse was yet to come.
1941 saw the start of Great Fatherland War with Germany; a brutally pragmatic non-aggression pact had bought time for Germany to win victory on its western front and for the USSR to prepare for the inevitable. Aged 14, Ivan was captured and transported as forced labour to the Austrian hamlet of Höflein, a few kilometres north west of Linz with around 100 residents.
He was well-treated there, like one of the family; properly clothed and fed, he was worked no harder than anyone else. In some ways he was the lucky one; he had been captured to work as a farm labourer to allow the sons could go off and fight on the front. He survived, they didn't.
After the war, Ivan was given various options - stay, return or go to a third country such as the UK or USA. He chose to return home to Western Ukraine where he met and married Ganna Ivanivna Gatsmanyuk. She was five years older than he and had been previously married, but was now a widow after her husband had died in the war. There was also a baby daughter, Alexandra, whom he brought up as his own and who as an adult moved to Odesa, a port on Ukraine's Black Sea coast, where she had two sons, step-grandchildren to Ivan.
Ganna lived in Vrublivtsi, a settlement of a few hundred house on the banks of the Dniester only a few kilometres from Kitaihorod but over an hour's walk away.
The communists authorities were notoriously suspicious of anyone who had been abroad and returned; the ostensible fear was that they may have been recruited as spies, but a more practical concern was an ability to question communist propaganda about Soviet lifestyles vs those in the West.
There is no evidence that Ivan suffered from Soviet officialdom as a result of his time spent on enemy territory and it was perhaps ironically this experience of life abroad that gave him a broader perspective about the world generally, given the narrow confines of his subsequent rural life.
"Village" in Ukrainian refers not so much to population size as to lifestyle; Ukrainian villages are, effectively, groupings of smallholdings, detached houses built on plots of land of various sizes with vegetable gardens, orchards, flower beds and pot stills for samohon (home-distilled spirit, aka moonshine).
The local currency here is largely barter; you might trade some fruit for eggs, milk for a lift into town, a cut of meat is the butcher's fee for slaughtering your livestock.
A typical smallholding size is around 1,000 sqm and with electrification being a key aim of the early Communists' modernisation programme, most village homes had electricity by the 1920s and 1930s for cooking and a radio; however, cold storage, running water and flushing toilets remained a rarity for many decades.
Civic amenties amounted to a post office, a small general shop, a church (the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin) and a bus stop on the main road to Kamianets-Podilskyi around 2km from Ivan and Ganna's home. Entertainment, such as it was, probably consisted of name days, birthdays, religious festivals and perhaps just sitting around in the yard in good weather.
The farmland of Vrublivtsi was collectivised under Stalin into a kolkhoz (collective farm) and Ivan worked as the kolkhoz vet, making him likely the most highly-educated person in the area. At home he tended his vegetable garden and orchard and kept small amounts of livestock; several rabbits and chickens plus a pig and a cow for as long as he was fit enough to do so.
Two children were born in the 1950s, with grandchildren arriving in the 1970s and 1980s.
The older girl moved from the village to the nearby town of Kamianets-Podilskyi into a professional job and living in a newly-built apartment in a low-rise development on the edge of town. It sat one one edge of a loose square with a grassy central yard, benches and a small playpark. Behind and beyond the flat were village-type houses, detached dwellings with outside toilets, kitchen gardens and livestock.
The sound of cockerels crowing in the morning served as a daily reminder and literal wake-up call of how close you were to a peasant lifestyle, which the roughshod communist naming of the street could not hide. It was Ulitsa Frunze - Frunze being the Soviet re-naming of Bishkek (the capital of Soviet Kyrgyzstan), itself named after Mikhail Frunze an associate of Lenin who had been born there.
Following his sister's lead, the younger boy moved to the capital Kyiv where he studied engineering, listened to music (western pop whenever he could get hold of it), married and settled down to start a family.
Eventually, there were four grandchildren (as well as two step-grandchildren), all girls and all living at some point in Kyiv. The oldest granddaughter went to study English at Kyiv State University, later followed by her younger sister who, after taking a business degree in Ternopil, moved to the capital in the post-communist era to work in the very western discipline of advertising and marketing.
By now, the Berlin Wall had come down, the Soviet Union collapsed and Ukraine had finally won its independence. Shortly afterwards, the country agreed to give up its nuclear weapons under the Budapest Memorandum in return for guarantees of security for its territorial integrity and political independence.
For all the political progress, the unwritten rule in education remained that male students took the more rigorous English translation course which would equip them to be KGB officers or technical translators whilst female students had to settle for the English teaching course, designed to turn them into schoolteachers of a language that, at the time, they hardly dared hope to speak in one of its native countries.
It was whilst living in a student hostel, that the oldest granddaughter met an eccentric British language student on her 19th birthday. He had travelled with a party from his university in the UK for a term's placement and, being a foreigner, was placed in newer, better accommodation that was not available to native Ukrainians.
The ring-leader of the party, a student with connections in the year above and an inside track, had then persuaded the group to move en masse from this accommodation block into something more authentic where they would actually get to meet local Ukrainians and be able to practise their language skills.
The hostel was made up of two wings on several floors with rooms of four bunks. If you were lucky, only two or three of the bunks would be occupied, giving a bit of space - or, importantly, room for a foreign visitor for a couple of months who might be persuaded to write you a letter of invitation to the UK.
The process of getting the UK was not straightforward; there we no direct flights from Kyiv and embassies for this newly-created country had not yet been established either. Travelling overland meant a train to Prague and from there a scheduled coach to London. But the embassies were not keen on the idea of letting someone in if they did not have a clear way out. So, after getting your letter of invitation from a UK student, you then had to have it countersigned at the British consulate in Kyiv for authenticity and travel to Moscow to get a UK visa from the embassy, then visit the French and Belgian embassies (in that order) to get your transit visas.
You didn't necessarily need to be on friendly-enough terms to expect a welcome and accommodation on arrival; just getting the authorised written invitation would enable you to get a visa and you were bound to find some low-level work somewhere that didn't ask too many questions so you could improve your English, stock up on western products like jeans and trainers and come back with a wallet full of valyuta - foreign hard currency that would hold its value during the Weimar-style hyperinflationary years.
Such was Kostya's plan; invite the eccentric language student to shack up with him and his buddies, then work the charm offensive to get the invitation.
Social life in Ukraine in those days generally meant eating and drinking with friends, or friends of friends. So as a show of good faith, Kostya took his long-haired new best friend to meet his girlfriend who was helping her roommate celebrate her 19th birthday.
The rest is pretty much, as they say, history: Kostya's plans to be invited to the UK went completely awry as the hostess and his guest took a liking to each that quickly developed into a relationship that had both of them contemplating the prospect of marriage within weeks - albeit unbeknownst to one another.
It would be several years before the eccentric student, by now a graduate and on the cusp of becoming a young professional with a presentable haircut and his first suit, would visit Ivan Mikhailovich in Vrublivtsi. A direct flight to Ukraine was now possible; from there he would take an overnight train to Kamianets-Podilskyi and finally a lift with one of Ivan's daughter's local contacts was arranged to get him to the village for a couple of weeks of R&R in return for a little work on the soil and occasionally fetching buckets of water from the pipe half a kilometre a way.
In his late 60s, Ivan was now a widower and could no longer manage to keep a cow, so his livestock consisted of a pig, chickens, rabbits and a series of dogs, all called Reksik, as well as growing fruit and vegetables that he would smoke to preserve for the winter.
The visit took place just before his granddaughter's wedding; Ivan was unable to travel for the UK leg of the ceremony, so a celebration was organised by the mother of the bride in Kamianets-Podilskyi with extended family travelling in from Siberia, Kyiv and Lviv.
A few months later, on an unusually mild day after a long, hot UK summer, Ivan's oldest granddaughter married her scrubbed up Russian-graduate fiancé at a town hall in the north of England and began a new life that would see her move to London, Vienna and finally Cambridge.
Her native Ukraine's hard-won independence remained under regular threat, increasingly so in the 21st century: 2004 saw the President poisoned and the resulting "Orange Revolution", 2014 saw the Euromaidan revolution which deposed Kremlin stooge and convicted criminal Viktor Yanukovych.
Russia, fearful of a democratic, prosperous, pro-EU Ukraine on its border, responded first by seizing control of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula and then by invading eastern Ukraine and installing pro-independence puppet leaders. The play was brutal but simple: turn Ukraine into a failed state that would halt EU and NATO expansion. Thus, it would inevitably fall back into the Russian sphere of influence and overturn the Western rules-based order - in that part of the world, at least.
The threat of democracy could not be allowed to seep into Russian kleptocratic despotism and this low-level aggression would act as a further warning to anyone looking to meddle in Russia's backyard. After the economic chaos of the Yeltsin years, Russia was back; if this time it was neither a global superpower nor a reformed quasi-democracy, it was at least a regional dictatorship, fuelled by oil wealth, that could act however it pleased in its "near-abroad".
The USA and UK (as co-signatories of the Budapest Memorandum) failed to live up to their obligations of preserving Ukraine's territorial integrity; noble-sounding words of outrage and solidarity may have been spoken for domestic audiences, but meaningful actions were not taken in practice. Indeed, Russians and Russian dirty money continued to flood the Londongrad laundromat.
By now Ivan was in his late 80s; like many elderly, widowers, he had become a creature of stubborn habit and refused to leave his home and move in with his daughter, despite the freezing temperatures in winter and the physical demands of a self-sufficient agrarian lifestyle.
He lived to be 88 and eventually died on January 16th, 2015. He is buried in the Church of the Intercession of the Holy Virgin in Vrublivtsi, next to his wife Ganna.
In life he was not a physically large man, of below-average height with the wiry build of someone living off the land; photos of him in middle age show only a slight filling out. Whether it was his education or early life experiences, he retained to the end a sharp mind with an interest in the world around him beyond his village and country. A curiosity matched with self-modesty and a strong-willed nature, to the occasional point of stubbornness, was his gift and legacy to his descendant generations.
He lived to see all four of his great grandchildren and, with some modernisation, his home became something of a summer retreat for them during the long school holidays.
Where 21st century Kyiv has become a self-confident, middle-class sort of city full of cafes, bars and supermarkets with deli counters, wine aisles and freshly-baked bread, the roads in Vrublivrsi remain rough tracks and the lifestyle has changed little in a century, if not longer; a few weeks in summer spent there is akin to glamping, with only the occasional nod to modernity; there is a phone signal (in the right part of the kitchen garden) and down by the river Dniester, an hotel has been built with facilities for day-visitors.
The lifestyle is rural, but far from idyllic; it is hard physical work at the best of times but there are fresh fruit and vegetables, home-made cherry wine, and both a physical and spiritual connection to the land for visitors prepared to roll up their sleeves and work the soil.
In a different world, it would be an international tourist destination. For now, it remains just another small, remote western Ukrainian village, a millennium old but facing an uncertain future with an aging, dwindling population.