“You’ve got the best job in the world,” a friend wrote to me the other day. This year has started off pretty well, I’ll say that. I don’t remember a time when I have tasted so much high quality Italian wine in so short a period, except for during Vinitaly.
Maybe the wines are getting better, maybe I am just appreciating them more. Ever since the last trip to Tuscany in October, some kind of shift, in the way I look at and relate to Italian wines, has taken place.
I am sensing the place of the vine more in the wine. Something that one cannot always capture in a restaurant.
The picture above was taken on a walk in a neighborhood nearby. At first I wondered if this could really be true. Everybody loves pizza, everybody loves getting a massage. How about combining the two? The pizza dough and the viscera, both getting a work over. I could see endless possibilities for the wine list.
How about some Lacryma Christi, or some Bramaterra, a little room for Leverano, maybe some Gravina. Of course we’ll need some Squinzano and some Squillace. Mamertino will need to be represented, as will be Lacrima Di Morro d’Alba. Some Enfer d’Arvier and Bagnoli di Sopra should be included. Also some Valgella, as well as covering our Asti. We’ll have to Ghemme, as well as Primitivo, not to forget Matera from the Masseria. That should be enough DOC wines for this happening little Pizzeria.
The wines that my friend saw us tasting were from Vineyard Brands. Originally started by Robert Haas as a Burgundy and Rhone importer, once in a while they veer off into Italy. Caparzo and their other estate, Borgo Scopeto is in the portfolio. La Doga is a new Maremma winery along with Castello di Corbara from Umbria. Castello di Corbara is a wonderful project with Franco Bernabei overseeing the winemaking. Over at Borgo Scopeto Vittorio Fiore consults, but on site is a gentleman who is pure Tuscan. Pronounces his c’s like an “h”. He's what holds the soup together over there.
Borgo Scopeto has a Relais up the hill from the winery. Very hoity-toity, very fonzerific.
The Borgo Scopeto Chianti Classico has an advantage. The folks who own the property understand the finer things in life. They also appreciate the basic simplicity of a wine reflecting its locale. Open up a bottle of the wine and you are transported to Castelnuovo Berardenga. The gentleman, whose name I cannot remember, while fluent in French and appreciative of the tradition of French winemaking, is a guardian of the terroir of this land. The wines must have that energy, or they will be like so many of the manufactured Chiantis that abound.
Like so many of the Italian restaurants in so many places around America. Give it an Italian sounding name, dazzle 'em with b.s. We, in America, tart it up, put up a web site and throw in a little spin and before you know it folks are grilling lettuce and called it a Bar-B-Q Caesar salad.
Last night at dinner with my friend Enrico, he put it well. Speaking of a little place in Abruzzo, he said, “I’d be happy with a La Sosta to go to, once in a while.” La Sosta, I first went there nearly 20 years ago, and today it's still as wonderful and simple, hasn't pimped itself, hasn't fallen into the balsamic booby trap.
When are we going to “get on the good foot” for Italian wine and food? We need a James Brown of Italian wine.
Maybe we could draft Roberto Bava for that role. Certainly he has the music down. And the wine.
Roberto, are you listening?