Sunday, April 27, 2014

Old Wines for Young Sommeliers

From the “what would I put away?” dept.

There’s some chatter lately about the young and the old in the wine world. Not having totally destroyed all my memory cells from earlier days, I’d like to share some thoughts about which wines I would buy if I were 30 years younger. Keep in mind; 30 years ago I started to put away wine. Those wines are now like tattoos to me. Some of them have become great friends; some of them I wonder just how they got there. The good news about a poorly chosen wine for collecting, you don’t have to wear it on your chest for the rest of your life. You pop the cork and send it on its way.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why We Root for Godzilla

Human beings fear the monster. But we also love the monster. The monster, personified by Godzilla, has an enduring magnetism for many of us. Why do we love the monster so?

In between tastings of Lamole Chianti Classico and Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare and over a period of days, the image and idea of Godzilla has been slowly resurfacing, much like the monster does in the movies when he comes back up from the depths of the sea. Lurking, seething, totally unfiltered and unrestrained, Godzilla is the ultimate badass. Moreover, Godzilla is old-school, and Godzilla gives each and every one of us tacit permission to embrace old-school ways.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Resurrection of Italian Wine

It is truly a miracle to consider what we humans do to the land and the resilience that land exhibits. We pour chemicals on it, stir them up and grind them in. Then we put more poisons on the plants that grew up from that chemical baptism. When the leaves send their shoots and the flowers send their fruits, we then trim them, shave them and cast them to the ground.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The World’s First Chianti Classico Gran Selezione

Pietro Losi's 2007 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 
When I was in Tuscany earlier this month, inevitably the subject of the Chianti Classico classification came up. Roberto Stucchi at Badia a Coltibuono is at the spearhead of trying to move the Chianti Classico Consorzio towards a more comprehensive ordering of the different terroir of the classic zone. That is a slow dance, taking many years, but one which Roberto and many other people are very passionate about. Alessandro Masnaghetti is moving the discussion further with his mapping strategy, which gives a visual person like me the possibility to imagine the differences without necessarily having to reorganize the discipinare. In all, good things happening, albeit at a snail’s pace. That’s said, if a snail can still traverse the path the meaning is that the waters (and the lands) haven’t been poisoned.

In a discussion with Valeria Losi and her dad Pietro of Querciavalle they have positive impressions about the Gran Selezione. They are excited about it. “We have always had a Gran Selezione, which we call Millennium.” I remember this selection starting with the 1997 from the Losi estate. “To us it makes sense, because we are already doing it,” Valeria Losi noted.

Indeed, Losi has also, from what I can gather, released the first Gran Selezione in the world. First in that it comes from the oldest harvest yet bottled as a Gran Selezione, in this case the 2007.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

#Vinitaly2014 - New white wine, old red wine, Renzi's hashtag (#campolibero) and new bathrooms

 Baron Alessandro de Renzis Sonnino - Vintage Raleigh, low carbon footprint and kid gloves
Vinitaly 2014 was a little different than the first Vinitaly I went to in 1984. In 1984 there were fewer pavilions and producers. One could see the whole show in about two days, back then. Now, four days doesn’t even begin to cover it. But any longer would be too much.

This year was difficult. Two days before the show started, my throat started to get sore and closed up. I had a slight fever and muscle pain. Mind you, I had been in Italy for some time, first as a judge for 21st Concorso Enologico, the international wine competition sponsored by Vinitaly. After that I went to see producers in Tuscany, trying to get a jump on only having four days at the show. By the time I had done that I was exhausted. But then the real reason for why I came to Italy started, that being the Vinitaly show (and all the satellite shows nearby), so I did what one does, I willed myself to get through Vinitaly.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Loneliest Man in the World

Sixteen years ago I was walking out of the Vinitaly wine fair with a friend and colleague. Crossing the street, we spotted a well known importer looking at the ground. A local fellow had a shell game going on and he had stopped to look at it. My friend touched my arm to get my attention to look in that direction. He pulled me to the side and spoke in a lowered voice. “That man over there, see how unhappy he appears. He looks like the loneliest man in the world.” 

Sunday, April 06, 2014

The Dramas of Life

Here in Italy, as in everywhere on Spaceship Earth, there are the daily dramas. We all have them. For each and every one of us, our personal dramas are often of utmost importance. After all we are the center of our universe. Our life is most important to us. Multiply that by 7,000,000,000 in this moment and probably another 7,000,000,000+ in time. A caveman searching for food for his tribe. An explorer discovering a new route to the Pacific Coast. A winemaker finding a better way to make Sangiovese in Tuscany. Nothing is missed. We are like ants, covering every minute detail of our lives as if the universe wasn’t the large expanse beyond which we could never imagine. And it is probably correct to think often in that way, for to veer into the abyss would surely lead to madness, or worse.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

What’s it all about, Alfio?

After an intense few days in Verona for the Concorso Enologico International, Vinitaly’s wine competition, where I sat as a judge, I made my way from the Veneto. I’m conflicted about many of the wines from that region, mainly because so many producers have decided to make a wine with so much power and fruit. Poor Valpolicella, it has really been upturned. At a reception for a book on Corvina, many producers in the book showed up with their wine. One very famous one walked in with several bottles of his Valpolicella. After an hour or two, someone poured me a taste. I looked for the spit bucket, the wine was undrinkable. It was like drinking a fence post, harsh and stiff. And they charge how much for this perversion?

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Frank Zappa: On Sicilian Wine and Snotty Sommeliers

As sometimes happens in the eno-blogosphere, magical connections are made. Unbeknownst to me Frank Zappa went to Sicily in 1982 to look up his Sicilian family. I know this because a friend of mine in Verona, Patricia Guy, told me about a recent documentary about Zappa’s visit. In light of the changing of the seasons, the move (over in Italy) this past Sunday to daylight savings time and this 1st day of April, I “channeled” the spirit of Frank Zappa to ask him about Wine in Sicily and snotty sommeliers. Surprisingly enough, Frank took time out from his post-life activities to respond.