Sunday, April 22, 2007

You'll Like This Wine, It Doesn't Taste Italian

It was Friday afternoon and there was a meeting with a broker, more affectionately known as the “wine criminal”. He has been given this name because he has shown wines that seem to be priced way below the market, hence there might be something about them that might involve practices outside of the law.

And while folks such as Piero Antinori say: “ancient roots play an important role in our philosophy, but they have never held back our spirit of innovation”, I don’t think this is quite what he had in mind.

Anyway, we were doing our part, listening, tasting, being led by a young supplier and his agent. We were attentive, but not as naïve as I felt we were perceived as being. Not a problem, I don’t mind being “mis-underestimated”.

Sealing the Deal
What really made my day, though, was when the broker opened up a bottle of red wine and said the words,” You'll like this, it doesn't taste like an Italian wine.” My response, “Great, all the better to go with the food at Italian restaurants that doesn’t taste Italian.”

I am not making this up. I will only say that this is not the way to my heart. And while I am not a snob, I am assuredly looking for authentic Italian experiences in wine.

Later that night I finished up the week at a very fancy and highly regarded Italian restaurant. Great pizza, innovative cooking, we had a carpaccio of pesce spada (swordfish) that was downright there-on-the-island good.

Pizza and Primitivo
A red wine was suggested to go with the pizza. A Primitivo from Puglia was opened and poured. I have liked Primitivo and wines from Puglia, since my first trip there 30 years ago. In those days we carried a one liter bottle and filled it up along the way. In 1977 a liter of red cost about 46 cents. Negro Amaro or Uva di Troja, maybe an occasional Primitivo. Decent, wholesome, tasting of a region, with lots of sun. Not a problem for me. But on this night the Primitivo tasted of manipulation, especially in the finish. Too creamy, too smooth, it also didn’t taste like an Italian wine.

You'll Like These Wines, They Do Taste Italian
So rather than live in a world where things Italian don’t taste Italian, here are two wines we have been tasting, alongside made-by-hand meals.

Cantele Primitivo
A simple wine, clean yes, but tan and healthy. People treat Puglia like some sort of Appalachia, but that is incorrect. Puglia is far from the center, a lot of tourists never make is that far south. Fine with me, and the Pugliese too. Fruit of cherry, rustic like a well-worn rocking chair. The press likes it. Good for them.

Ver Sacrum- San Savino
Holy Spring, the Latin translation. No wood, thank you. Montepulciano in purezza. From the Marche, an almost New World growing zone. This vineyard could be in Santa Barbara, California. Fortunately, in this climate the winemaker manages to make a wine that is Italiano in purezza. Fruit is rich, yes. Alcohol is high, but somehow it manages to maintain its balance. More info here.

So while I am not the kind that writes wine notes exclusively, I am of a mind to find an alternate, a wine or two that do “taste Italian”.

Italy makes many wines, many styles. Just try to find ones that taste like they come from somewhere. Open them up, pour them into your glass, close your eyes and breathe in. If it smells like you are in Italy, take a sip and give thanks. You have landed.

With Gianni and Paolo Cantele in Lizzanello,Puglia

Comments here:Italianwinetrail[at]yahoo[dot]com
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