I’d had it. One more over-oaked, alcohol soaked Tuscan wine and I was going to go bonkers.
It was then that I decided to visit my friend Roberto Bava. We don’t do business together, but he has been to my home and I have visited him in Asti. We are friends. I needed to visit a friend, simple as that.
I sidled up to his booth at Vinitaly, where he welcomed me. We talked about ideas, about the world, about whatever moves us. I needed that. After three days of pummeling my palate with wine I just wanted to take a break.
Roberto doesn't lack for energy or ideas. He is like an Italian version of Marshall McLuhan, or Seth Godin. Heaven forbid if Bava and Vaynerchuck ever join forces, although the two are universes complete on their own.
Bava sat me down and showed me his latest sparkling wines, Giulio Cocchi, Alta Langa DOC. We tasted four: the Bianc ‘D Bianc, the Toto Corde, the Rosa and the Oro.
The Bianc ‘D Bianc is a vintage Chardonnay in the Metodo Classico. My scorched tongue was starting to come back from the trail of broken tears, the result of two days of intense tasting of red, mainly Tuscan. I felt this lithe spirit begin to coax me back to the realm of the living. Juliet of the Sparklers.
The Toto Corde, a vintage blend of 30% Chardonnay and 70% Pinot Noir, was a step further in the rehabilitation of my palate which was ascending from the Dantean hell of wine tasting one often experiences in the trade halls at Vinitaly. Not Prosecco, no, no. Not Franciacorta, either. And not Champagne, this Alta Langa appellation for sparkling wine is regenerative and restorative at the same time. The veils were being lifted.
A plate of crackers with fois gras appear. No heavy cheese or home made salumi. This was my tongue's Betty Ford mini-clinic moment. I was feeling better. The depth of the Toto Corde with the snack was one of the perfect matches I had during Vinitaly.
Along the way, Bava and I are chatting about anything and everything. We just pick up the last conversation we had and head forward.
He doesn’t need me. Or the company I stand with. This is freedom for both of us. We don’t want anything from each other, just camaraderie and sharing of ideas. Making the world safer for Italian wine, as Dr. Parzen likes to say. Two friends, talking about wine, life and the future.
The third wine, The Rosa, a Pinot Noir in purezza, brings in depth and a baritone aspect to the tasting. Bava is a musician, sings in the choir at his church in Asti. He cannot live without music. And his wines are trios and quartets and whole orchestras of his life’s work. We’re working on a quartet in this moment.
The last wine, the Oro. 1999 vintage. 80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, with a twist. The Chardonnay is appassito, a riper harvest left to dry and concentrate the flavors and the sugar. Not sweet, but an older style of sumptuousness, often found in wines made in the days before micro-ox, spinning cones and heavy toast barrique.
Gorgeous wine, and dear to the wallet. But we plunk down the dollars for a Selosse- this is a similar experience. Oh, it isn’t Champagne? Yes, it isn’t. And it Bava makes no apologies for its provenance. Does Umberto Eco express regret for where he comes from?
Not finished with me, Padre Bava had purged me of the torments of the Tuscan barrique torture. Now he would issue my absolution. But first I had to do my penance.
Bava is passionate about cacao and chocolate. He has a network of monks living and working in South America to reclaim patches of land that have been laid bare by Conquistadores, both ancient and modern. And in those lands, these monks have planted cacao. He took me through three levels of Paradise through his OIOIO line of cacao, the 45% Criollo Java Cream, the 65% Sabirano ( from Madagascar) Macis and the 70% Otonga (Ecuador). What next?
Before sending me on my way, refreshed and ready to take on the Piedmont Hall, Roberto pours me a little sip of Barolo Chinato.
How does one go back to making the rounds on a Sunday like this? I have been washed and purged and my palate has been re-anointed.
Thank you, my friend, thank you.