Monday, October 18, 2010

Austro-Hungarian Tasting: The Setting

On Tuesday, October 12, 2010, The Institute of Masters of Wine held a tasting of the wines of Austria and Hungary.  The tasting, formally titled Austro-Hungarian Seminar, was held at the residence of the Austrian Ambassador to the United Kingdom (18 Belgrave Square, London) and was hosted by the selfsame Ambassador, His Excellency, Mr. Emil Brix. 

Belgrave Square, the location of the Ambassador's residence, is one of the largest squares in London, comprising a full 10 acres.  It was developed on a plot of land previously called Five Fields by the owners, the Grosvenor family and has "... a fine range of terraced houses in the classical style on all four side surrounding the centre garden."  The square was laid out in 1826 and development was fully completed and occupied by 1848.  The Austrian Embassy has occupied the building at 18 Belgrave Square since 1871(or 1868 according to other sources) and for 30 years was the only mission of a foreign government to occupy space in the square.  The first Austrian Ambassador -- representative of the large Austro-Hungarian Empire --  to reside at 18 Belgrave Square was a Count who lived there with his Countess and 15 servants.

Upon ringing the doorbell, the door was opened and I was ushered into a foyer where my coat was taken from me.  I was then usherd into a further room where the reception area for the tasting was situated.  After my credentials were established, I was issued a name badge and ushered into another room to await the summons to go upstairs to the area in which the actual tasting was to be held.  The overarching sense that was conveyed by the architecture, plethora of paintings, and furnishings was of old Europe.  I felt as though I had stepped back in time; and I was transfixed.

It seemed very fitting; old world wines in an old world setting.

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