Meeting Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon

Meeting Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon

by Hugh Thompson

I’ve never been to Wimbledon to see the tennis, but four days before this year’s tournament was due to begin, as meteorological and political storms buffeted the UK, I found myself in the home of British tennis, shaking the hand of the current Wimbledon champion and world number one tennis player, Novak Djokovic. As a big tennis fan and (bad) tennis player, it was quite a moment for me.

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Novak Djokovic (left) and me

We were there with Jacob’s Creek wines to celebrate the link between food and memory and how the recollection of certain meals and dishes stays with us through our life. In time these memories become one of the things that makes us who we are – Jacob’s Creek call it their Made By Moments. It’s something we also celebrate here at delicious. magazine with our regular Tastes Like Home feature, where people share the dish that reminds them of a family member or loved one. It’s one of our most popular features and often involves a touching tale of remembrance.

Novak sportingly shared two heart-warming stories: one was his first date with his wife to be, Jelena. He was showing off a little to impress her but ordered steak tartare instead of grilled steak. Rather than be upset with him she found it endearing and they laugh about it now. The other was the childhood memory of a Serbian tradition – Christmas bread Česnica (ches-nit-sa) which has a coin hidden in it. If you got the coin in your slice you had good luck for a year. He claims he never got the coin, although he has done very well for himself without it.

Actress and Celebrity MasterChef winner Lisa Faulkner was our host for the night and the meal itself comprised several courses which all held important memories for some of the guests there, from wedding anniversary scallops with crispy pancetta to Lisa’s mum’s tarragon chicken and a sticky toffee pudding which was a father-and-daughter favourite.

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Lisa and Novak tasting the zucchini lasagne ‘with a twist’

One of the dishes was Novak’s choice too. As an athlete he has to watch what he eats (no red meat, no gluten, no dairy, no refined sugar) and he’s recently opened a restaurant, Eqvita, in Monaco “to help share the transformative experience of plant-based food”. He suggested a zucchini lasagne, the recipe for which must have been lost in translation. Made of cashew ricotta, pistachio pesto, raw red pepper marinara and courgette slices and salad, the recipe didn’t come with instructions so somebody improvised and layered everything up, then baked it like a regular lasagne. At the time I didn’t quite understand the brief look of confusion that came over Novak’s face when he saw his dish. He said it’s not meant to be cooked, tasted it (a tiny bit) and then moved on to the next question. Looking at the picture of the real thing, raw zucchini lasagne might have been a better name. I have to say the cooked version tasted pretty good and I wouldn’t have guessed it had no cream in it.

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Zucchini lasagne in his Eqvita restaurant in Monaco (left); how it looked on the night

This being a Jacob’s Creek event, there was of course plenty of wine (not for Novak though, alcohol is another no-no). We started with a lovely chilled sparkling chardonnay-pinot noir which was just what was needed after travelling through the rain. Next we had a chardonnay tasting, where the Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Ben Bryant explained how they created fresh, lemony tastes by using grapes from higher, cooler vineyards, reducing the sweetness of the grapes and moderating the alcohol content. Further layers of flavour were added by maturation and subtle use of oak. He also explained that the Reserve range is made from grapes from a single region, while the Classic range is a blend of regional grapes. We also had a pleasant reserve barossa shiraz, some sauvignon blanc, then finished with more sparkling chardonnay-pinot noir, which I had now taken rather a shine to.

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Tasting the classic (left) and reserve Jacob’s Creek chardonnays

It was a wonderful meal and a great place to hold such an event. And, despite, er, tasting quite a few wines, I’ll have fond memories of meeting Novak Djokovic at Wimbledon.

The ‘Made By’ film series forms part of the new Jacob’s Creek ‘Made By’ global campaign which celebrates the people, places and passions that go into crafting every bottle of Jacob’s Creek wine. The Made By Moments films, plus outtakes and behind the scenes, can be viewed online at youtube.com/user/JacobsCreekWine

(photograph: Lucy Boler)

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