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Fabio Capello, Friuli, the Frescobaldis and an unfortunate hand ball…

Tuscan wine royalty the Frescobaldi family were in London last week to open their first restaurant outside Italy. And what better place to do so than the capital’s department-store-to-the-stars, Harrods, writes Guy Woodward

When the Knightsbridge emporium decided to open a wine-oriented Italian restaurant, it approached Italy’s Ministry of Agriculture for advice as to potential partners.

Frescobaldi first branched out into restaurants a decade ago, and now has three eateries in Rome’s Fiumicino airport as well as one in Florence. Given that the historic Tuscan producer was also listed among the purveyors to the English Royal Court as early as the reigns of Edward I and II, and later of Henry VIII, it was the obvious choice, as Luca Zaia, the Italian Minister for Agricultural Policies, said.

‘Were I Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi brothers, instead of presenting my sons I would state, “Here are my jewels.” My jewels are precisely treasures such as the Frescobaldis, an international business card for our country.’

After such a billing, it seemed fitting that Harrods’ grandiose owner, Mohammed el Fayed, should grace us with his presence.

But I wasn’t expecting the England football manager to be there. It transpires, however, that Fabio Capello is a wine lover – and friend of the Frescobaldis, who invited him along. What he hadn’t bargained on was me inviting myself to sit down next to him at lunch.

Capello was charm personified. It turns out he has a penchant for the wines of his native Friuli, notably the Sauvignon Blancs of the Collio, which he feels are far more balanced and harmonious than those of New Zealand.

By contrast, he finds the whites of Alto Adige overly ‘aggressive’, notably on the nose.

Capello was a little more reticent when I moved the conversation on to football, but he did lament Ireland’s galling loss to France and Thierry Henry’s sneaky handball. ‘Two years of work, and you go out to a mistake,’ he mourned.

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Written by Guy Woodward

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