From the “Om mani padme om-erta” dept.
The single most asked question I get, on a regular basis, is still “How do I figure out Italian wines?” I have to deal with it in work, on this blog, in educational situations, in sales, and in almost any situation I get into when the subject of Italian wines is brought up among normal people. I say normal, because in the wine geek world, those folks are more interested in how many DOCG’s there are or the difference between Cannubi and Bussia. But that’s rarified air for folks who are just trying to unlock the key to understanding Italian wine for their purposes, those being immediate drinking pleasure. So this isn’t an academic exercise, although many folks in that arena struggle with this as well. Maybe that’s why the book, Italian Wine for Dummies, is the one many of us recommend to folks who are trying to simply sort it out.
But there has to be an even simpler answer. Not everyone is going to read a book. Too bad we can’t go the route that Mimmo Siclari chose, selling cassettes of Calabrian crime songs from the rear of his car. And as risky as that was, and it was, much more of a risk than I am attempting, the stakes are even higher with regards to cracking the code on Italian wine.
Fair question. Not the easiest of answers. In fact, looking back, a question that I have been dwelling on for years and years and years. As Ron Washam says of me, “on and on and on and on.”
Good news, there is no culture of omerta in trying to get straight answers about Italian wine. There just are no straight answers. Period. But that’s not all bad news. Humor me, let me elaborate.
Huh? “What did they put in his Soave,” you are asking yourself?
It’s really very simple. In the words of Lao Tzu, “An over sharpened sword cannot last long.”
I might be thinking about nothing. In fact, that exactly is what I am doing, because there is too much with Italian wines, too many grapes, too many wines, too much wine, too many choices, too much information and way too much psycho-babble about it.
So what if I don’t remember the difference between Matelica and Castelli di Jesi? Or the attributes that make a Chianti Rufina what it is compared to a Montespertoli? Will it matter really if when I am trying to remember how Kerner came about that I remember it was the result of crossing Riesling with Trollinger? Maybe I remember it was not Trollinger but Schiava? Or Zottelwälscher? All the years I have been around when someone recalled the story, not one time did anyone remark that the person who developed the wine named it Kerner after the poet Justinius Kerner. There is the bend in the road that I am interested in. And more people I come across relate to that state of being.
The wine in question was from Tuscany but followed the bordelaise style; that is, with Merlot and Cabernet injections into the cepage. I told her I really wasn’t sure they could find the exact wine but I could help them find a wine that would be similar. Two things could happen.
They could call back and ask me what my suggestion would be. And I could bring them to a level of enjoyment that they experienced with the wine they are looking for if they could not find it. Or…
They would opt for not taking a substitute. They might opt to want to recreate exactly the wine experience they had when they first had it in Italy. Ah, that is a fine trick indeed.
Or in the words of Lao Tzu “It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full.”
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