|Etna Nov 11 - Photo: VolcanoDiscovery.com|
Little old Texas, always a few years behind the trends, has been doing a fabulous job of catching up. One of the rising stars on the pizza (and wine) scene is Bufalina in Austin. Bufalina has a limited (but pristine) menu of pizza and a noteworthy wine list, which focuses on wines from Italy, France (yes, France) and California producers who hail from the natural wine school. Proprietor Steven Dilley is building a reputation as one of the most serious pizza meccas in Texas, if not beyond.
Yesterday, while in Austin for business, I was invited by Ian McCaffery (the local distrib) to Bufalina for a wine trade tasting with Frank Cornelissen. One of the high priests from the sacred mountain of Etna (to any good Sicilian boy like me) and chance had it that my ongoing Etnean fixation would be further fueled without having to go to the mountain.
With that he handed me a glass of Munjebal Blanc 9, a blended skin-contact wine from Carricante, Grecanico Dorato and Coda di Volpe. Frank had finished the 2013 harvest and was on a two week jaunt across America, his importer Zev Rovine’s pop-up version of a wrap party. Very rock-star like, but as with most things that emanate from Etna, this was ultimately a grounded version.
OK. Where were we? The wines.
Frank’s importer, Zev Rovine, was on hand, to curate the process. The other wines they brought were the Contadino 10, which is an entry level red blend, two Munjabel Rosso wines, the 9 and the 8, and the Susucaru 5 , a rosé.
All of the wines were showing well on this day. Steven was tending the pizza oven and sending out steaming Margherita and another pizza, Bianco with Taleggio and sausage. I thought of the smoke rings that Etna is blowing out these days, as the pizzas winged their way oven to the tasting table.
Some of Austin’s wine gentry crowded the table for sips and bits. Lewis Dixon from La Cruz de Comal, was on hand with his limited production, hands-on, natural wines for Frank and the crowd to try as well. I caught a glimpse of the two winemakers deep in conversation and mozzarella. Amazing how compelling pizza and wine bring people together.
words ringing in my mind when he showed me his hands. “You cannot make wine by sitting at a desk and punching a button. You need these!” We were on our way then, as well, to get pizza from the forno. Ha!
One fellow took a sip of one of the wines and declared, “Is this wine done? Has it died?” Frank, far from being offended, replied, “There comes a time one must die, or else, what is the value of life?” As I said, some wines lead into other trails. I find all of this stimulating, as I’m standing in a pizzeria in hip East Austin, with an amazing list of wines, probably the best I have ever seen in a pizzeria in Texas. All this while Etna sent us Friar Frank.
I couldn’t help but think about all the activity on the mountain right now and ultimately the effect it has even on souls as far away as Texas. The sparks fly, and fall to the ground. They become the living soil, and the vines pull some force, their energy from it. The grapes turn into wine, and we all share in the cool liquid, what was once molten. I think of it as a miracle. Sent to us from a mountain that is simultaneously terrifying and wonderful.
Thanks to Steven Dilley and his crew at Bufalina, Zev Rovine, Ian McCaffery and Frank Cornelissen.
written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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