Friday, June 06, 2008

For Scotty

Cruising on through to the end of the week here in Wineland. It’s been a busy week, with Monday and Tuesday taken up with judging at a Wine Competition and Thursday and today traveling through Texas. So this post will be a weekly round-up as we surf on into the sunset and take a few days off.

Story told around lunch about a server in a restaurant who came up to the owner and said she had a client who had come in to get a wine for Scotty. The owner, a longtime friend, related this story. He struggled to understand what the server was asking for. “His friend was in Rome and told him to get a bottle of that white wine they had all enjoyed when over there on vacation," the server said.

And who said Italian wines were complicated?

Heading south from the Colli Albani, I had an email from a blogger. He had just returned from Campania and I had some questions for him about the wine show he went to, called VitignoItalia.

Q- Is it worth going to?

A- I think Vitignoitalia is worth going to. It's a fairly focused event. The original intent of the congresso was to showcase wines from local vines from all over Italy. While there were some producers from regions like Tuscany, Piemonte and other central-northern areas, the majority were from the Mezzogiorno. The key tasting events were geared to grapes like Greco di Tufo and Aglianico, the local heroes of Campania and huge favorites of mine. It's a 3-day event, but for various reasons, it's probably better to go for two days.

Q- How does it compare to Merano and other regional events?

A- Like Merano, it is very poorly organized. On my blog I complained that Merano combined the best of Teutonic charm and Italian efficiency. Vitignoitalia is more genial, which reflects the local culture, but its tardiness in opening and general disorganization was frustrating for the exhibitors and the wine public alike. The space, at the Mostra d'Oltremare, isn't the most conducive to an easy flow of people and goods, but it beats the Kurhaus at Merano by a country kilometer.

The Mostra d'Oltremare is a fair distance from the main hotels downtown or on the Lungomare, which means you stand a very good chance of getting ripped off by taxi drivers. An annoying but eternal fact of life in Naples.

On the positive side, the fiera was pretty focused -- I learned a lot from tasting, for example, a whole row of exhibitors' Grecos -- there were many sections highlighting one grape or one small DOC or DOCG. And because many of the producers are truly small-scale and from peasant families, the "authentic," non-industrial character of the wines shines through. And not just wines -- many typical products were on display and for tasting, including cheeses, olive oils, pastas and so forth.

Q- Would you go back?

A- A qualified yes. I would go for two days, not all three. And I'd focus my energy on trying new producers' wines, not hanging out with people I knew already.

Q- Wine wise- what kind of energy do you take away from it?

A- Campania and the south in general are in ferment. Things are changing fast. The wines are infinitely better than they used to be, since there is today a greater and greater emphasis on quality, not volume. Farmers who used to sell their grapes to big, bulk wineries now make their own wine, and it's often astonishingly good. And of course prices are far more realistic and internationally competitive than in places like Tuscany, Piemonte and Veneto. The price quality ratio in the Mezzogiorno is generally great -- better than South America, I think, when you put more emphasis on quality than on the lowest possible price.

Q- Any other comments?

A- What can I say? I gravitate more and more to the Mezzogiorno's wines. I wrote, at least two years ago, "Salvezza viene dal Sud" (Salvation comes from the South). Believe me, now that I've actually been there a number of times, I believe that more, and with more justification, than before.

The Mezzogiorno's wines are catching up with the food -- which is far and away the best in Italy.

For those of us who couldn't make it, but wanted the lowdown, thanks!

And lastly, a few days ago I had a fairly dismal report on the state of Italian wine sales in the US. Happily, as I have made the Texas round-about, I am seeing a healthier and more robust economy in these parts. Maybe part of it is Texas bluster. Then I look in the restaurants and see full rooms and jammed parking lots. So what do I know?

That’s my weekly round-up from these parts. Back on Sunday.

Real Time Analytics