Friday, September 19, 2008

Grapefruit, Eggplant & Montepulciano

From the Archives ~ June 9, 2006

Something that’s been bugging me off and on is words to describe things that are taken from another word which has another context. About once a week I get someone in a sales group or wine shop asking me about the different Montepulciano wines, that "noble" one from Tuscany and the “other” one from some region to the east of Tuscany.

It is part of the distinct charm of the Italian state of mind to give unlike wine similar names. Or anything for that matter. Anyone who has driven in Italy and tried to find a town starting with the name of Colle, Castello, Rocca or Monte will recognize the dilemma. But, after all, it’s Italy and people have been finding their way around, eventually, to the town or the Café or the vineyard. Or not. And then it’s merely a matter of “recognizing” that wherever they have landed, either be it for lunch or a wine tasting or a day in the country, is just “perfetto” . One of my dear friends would say “ottimo”, most favorable. It’s that Italian sense of latitude relative to their compact with happiness.

What did he say? When in Rome…..

So, what’s with the fruits and vegetables? Those who speak English (and Italian) know the difference between grapefruit (pompelmo) and grape (uva). Also the English speaking (and Italians) know the difference between eggplant (melanzana) and egg (uovo). The Italians use different words than the English so there is no confusion. All clear?

But this Montepulciano business is really something that keeps coming up. The folks in Abruzzo say the Tuscans should rename their Vino Nobile and some of the Tuscans tell the folks in Abruzzo, “Hey, we were here first! Get your own name!”

Mary Ewing-Mulligan, Ed McCarthy, the authors of Italian Wine For Dummies, say it best in their book, and I quote, “The confusion is understandable, but these two wines are definitely different wines made from different grape varieties. Vino Nobile is a dry red wine made primarily from the Prugnolo Gentile variety (a type of Sangiovese) around the town of Montepulciano in southeastern Tuscany. Montepulciano d'Abruzzo is also a dry red wine, but made mainly from the Montepulciano variety, which grows in the region of Abruzzo on the Adriatic coast, southeast of Tuscany. The Montepulciano variety is believed to be native to the Abruzzo region, and it has no connection to Sangiovese or to the town of Montepulciano in Tuscany.” That’s as simple and clear an explanation as it gets! Now go and get the book, because there are other nuggets in it.

In trips to Italy I have been really fortunate to spend time in the Abruzzo region and make friends with winemakers there.

There are great memories around the open hearth with vine branches roasting fresh lamb and pork from the macelleria with bottles of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.

Oh, and the people too. One great wine pioneer, Dino Illuminati and his family, stands out in my heart . It was in the town of Controguerra that Abruzzo made Montepulciano theirs. That’s Dino’s town and he’s their Antinori or Mondavi. And he can eat for all three of them. Great guy. Bigger than life. Historical. The stuff great novels are made of.

Now do we have it all sorted out? Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo? Eggs and eggplant? Grapes and grapefruit?

What about this just to mess you up? How do the Italians deal with telling the difference with words like uva (grape) and egg (uovo) when they are growing up? Or what about that Calabrian peasant recipe that has a casserole of eggplant with eggs? You get the picture? Confused again? Good.

And that calls for a glass of wine.What shall it be? Maybe something... Montepulciano? Maybe from a Castello? Or a Poggio? Or a Monte? There is a Monti Montepulciano d' Abruzzo. But dont confuse it with the Montori Montepulciano d' Abruzzo, who also happens to be Dino Illuminati's good friend. But we're way beyond confused again. Pop the cork.

Bona Notte!

Links Italian Wine For Dummies
Illuminati Winery & the US Importer info
Elio Monti Winery & the US Importer info
Camillo Montori Winery
Macelleria Photos from Hank's Wonderful Vacation

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