Thursday, January 31, 2013

Water from the Same Well

I’m sitting in a full capacity plane, with the passenger in front of me as fully reclined as he can be. I have turned the air vent on full blast and pointed it at his balding grey head. Behind me the passenger is a regular Ricky Riccardo, bongo-bongoing his tray table to some long forgotten beat of youth. I am a magnet for bad behavior on an airplane. But the most offensive gesture is coming from the seat to my left. The woman next to me has ordered a glass of red wine. She gazes at the label as she pours every last drop, every molecule of it, into her high density plastic tumbler. The red wine is death-star purple in color. The putrid stench emanating from it reminds me of a cheap balsamic vinegar which has been laced with ascorbic acid and Welch’s grape consecrate. It makes me want to puke. She caresses the bottle, reads every word on the label, decodes the UPC number. And then goes back to her romance novel.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Has Italian Wine Been Hijacked By Angry White Men?

As I dig deeper into the psyche and soul of what makes Italian wine tick, I keep running into this wall. The more the wines of Italy evolve, the more it seems there are people who want to control the progress. Hey, there’s a lot at stake. First there is the money. And then there is the pride. But power, that’s the theme I keep bucking up against. It’s all really an illusion, because those who fight to keep the power have already lost the control. But still there are those players who look into their magic mirrors and see no blemish, no gray, no error. Our father who art invincible. And these are the players who are preventing Italian wine from becoming greater than it is.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Free the Sheep!

For the past several years I have taken a vacation in Canada. During these times I have found the laws up there pertaining to wine and alcohol distribution and sales to reflect a neo-prohibitionist angle. Taxation, different laws in different provinces, and a general non-uniform approach to the process of selling, distributing and enforcing the laws around wine, beer and spirits. It made me think the laws in the lower 48 states weren’t as bad as some of my friends like to make it out to be. But I discovered an even more archaic practice in the area of distribution and sales. There was this product I wanted to buy real badly.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The 1st Best Italian Wine Tasting of the Year

January is traditionally a time I go to New York. The holidays are over, the year has been put to bed and then it is time to meet with suppliers and see where we have been and where we are going. My first trip this year started with something I have wanted to do for years – taste the Italian wine portfolio of Neal Rosenthal with the man himself.

One of my colleagues deals directly with Neal and so we had a half day in New York. The plan was for Neal to meet us at the airport and head straight to his warehouse.

I got in first to La Guardia where Neal was waiting by the curb with his venerable old Volvo. He flashed his famous smile; we spoke a few words of Italian and headed to work.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Giving up Brunello for Lent

Just when you thought Montalcino was settled down, they go and show everyone that this is the dysfunctional wine center of the earth. From the scandals of the early 21st century up to the singular assault on the stocks of the Soldera winery, it seems that things are just not right in that town.

I’m not really surprised. Montalcino isn’t different from many little towns in Italy. There is a lot of fear of change and a lot of entropy, make it hubris, which keeps them and the wine they make from really making it to the top. Let’s face it, Brunello can be great, but not with a small-minded approach. I’m not talking a slick Madison Avenue approach to marketing, but this small town, old fashioned mentality that refuses to look further than their own nose, well, let me be clear: it makes it easier for me to say the first thing I am giving up for Lent this year will be Brunello.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Bringing Home a Young One

Se campu e non peru non vojgghiu u vidu jcchiu' festa du celu.

© 1967, Avco Embassy Pictures Corp
We all want it, don’t we? It seems that way, from all the pounding we get from television, movies, music, and society. That rush from the hunt, finding it, and taking it home to explore the mysteries of yet another gem. We’re an “I want what I want when I want it” world now. And we want it fresh and young and pretty.

Doesn’t matter if you are man or woman, it’s in our nature, trying to beat Heaven at its own game, making it count while we’re here. All those old ones, left to rot and smolder in their cellars, freezing, dark, no music, no joy, those days are over. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s January after all.

Something about the way Matt Kramer said it in his Drinking Out Loud column on the Wine Spectator, “Is It Worth It To Age Wines Anymore?” resonated. I go into my little walk-in closet and look at all the things I thought would be important to drink in 10-20-30 years and I often find myself walking out and going to another rack of newer wines; fresher, lighter, unencumbered by the dust of time. Oops.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Breaking the Code of Silence on Italian Wine

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.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Being the Best "Me" You Will Ever Be – Again and Again and Again

There exists in all of us, a certain wiring that whatever stage we are at, we seem to think the decisions we make are the best we have ever and quite possibly will ever make. It happens at 4, at 14, at 34, at 54 and appears to be a mechanism that affects our decisions, our choices, our attitudes and the things we think, make, love, hate and aspire to. We seem to think we always the best me we will ever be. A recent article in the NY Times, Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be, examines past being and memory, and was the catalyst for this post.

In Italy, in the world of wine, there have been some decisions made that knowing now the why, makes for interesting conjecture.

Why did Soave become so popular in America? Why did the wine marketers seek to produce a lighter, smoother, softer, fruitier wine than what had been and is now being made again? Why was that wine so much more popular then, than the “real thing” is now? Who in Italy aspired to make a wine (and lots of money to go with it) that would provide for an almost irreversible outcome? Soave from the 1970’s is like the tattoo a young person got one drunken Saturday night and it just won’t go away.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

New Year's Miracle - 4 Years Strong

Some things are just too wonderful for words. Friends and colleagues, Giulo Galli and his wife Stacey, celebrated the fourth birthday of their son Leo in Italy. Leo is now a healthy little boy and and is embracing a world that four years ago he was fighting to stay in. He entered it a little soon (see the archived post after the break) but he is a fighter. And it looks like he is all boy. I hope all you wished come true Leo. And keep an eye on your dad, keep him off the motocross tracks for awhile, OK?

Happy New Years & Auguri Tutti!