Thursday, March 29, 2012

Savoring a 60 year old virgin

Last day at Vinitaly and I was making one last run through the Sicilian pavilion, trying to soak up any last minute molecules from all the Sicilians who populated the space for the last three days. A winemaker friend, Stefano Salvini, sees me and says, “We just opened the 1952. Let’s stop by the booth and see if I can give you a sip.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Vinitaly 2012 Notebook: Mother-in-law's tongue, cervi merda and other whimsical notions

Lingue di suocera
It’s been a long three days at Vinitaly 2012. A few pictures to highlight some of the things we have seen. One day to go and then it’s on to the vineyards for a few days in the field, or as Ron Washam likes to say, on and on and on and on and on and on and on the wine trail in Italy.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Col Fondo, not Sur Lie"

That was the kind admonishment from the galleries as my young friend Paolo Bressan was showing the wine from his winemaker friend Christian Zanatta’s Cà dei Zago farm. The young winemaker was a few minutes in coming, but when he arrived, with the sun on his face (“We just finished pruning”).

A short entry as day two of Vinitaly is crashing upon my pillow. All this to say many great wines tasted and too many to mention here. But looking back over the first day, an emotional one for many reasons, the simple mission of the young winemaker sticks in my mind. Let him tell the story.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

D.O.C. is D.O.A.

From what I can gather the D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. is no more. A document was signed by the Director General ad interim, Stefano Vaccari back in November but I imagine it will take time to become "official" and more time to become "recognized." Sure the Italians have just printed up pretty new neck bands for the bottles with the letters D.O.C. and D.O.C.G, but they were also still printing Lire notes between 1999 and 2002. D.O.C., D.O.C.G. and I.G.T. are being replaced with D.O.P. and I.G.P., but will remain for a while. The Italians will surely continue to observe them as a “national subunit” of the European system that has replaced it. Young sommeliers get ready to memorize more lists.

Not much to say except to ruminate on the number 73, which appears to be the end of the road for the run up the Italians did to get their D.O.C.G.’s lined up. Little good it seems to have done as they appear to have been folded into the D.O.P. listing. Sure they will have the pretty neck bands. And somewhere I have a 5 lire coin in my drawer worth nothing but a memory.

The party had to end sooner or later. So let’s not waste too much time crying. Just peruse the lists, remember them, pass your test, and move along.

I am heading to Vinitaly tomorrow and there is a rumor buzzing that there will be an important announcement about all of this, with a surprise. As soon as I get wind of it, I assure you I will “report” back here on this site. It will probably be sometime after the fair and when I am on my way to another wine event in Bordeaux En Primeur 2012. Life is one giant slog from wine glass to wine glass. Forgive me for they know not what they do.

In the meantime I will also post, as Wi-Fi (and time) permits on any pertinent information from Vinitaly 2012

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Pondering things Italian in West Texas

“They invited us to Buffalo Gap in April when the Italians will be here, but we didn’t know which wines to bring,” said Jim Evans, winemaker for Lone Oak Winery in Burleson, Texas. “Well, I don’t think that will be a problem, Jim, seeing as you make Viognier, Syrah and Merlot. And our Tuscan wineries that will be here make wines from all those grapes,” I volleyed.

We had made the hour or so trek from Dallas to Burleson as my better half was interviewing the winemaker and owner for a luxury magazine. I was going along for the ride and was interested in tasting their wine. Lone Oak winery was getting a lot of attention from as far away as San Francisco

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Death of Donnici

Who knew? It was just a little impoverished corner of Southern Italy. It wasn't Tuscany or Piedmont. Suckling or Cernilli wouldn’t have noticed. Rivella never cared in the first place. But when I looked at the documents last night it was a pivotal moment in Italian wine history. Italy and the patrimony of her grapes were being assimilated with international varieties. It was as if the current US Congress had arranged it, cloak and dagger, under the cover of a moonless might. It was an insidious but overt maneuver. And nobody even noticed. A brilliant score for the soulless bureaucrats in Rome and Brussels. And it was the death of Donnici.

Who cares? It was an insignificant DOC, established in 1975, in the heady days when all sorts of wines were being awarded the DOC status. The party lasted until the end of November 2011, 36 years of excesses, and falling off the wagon. What a ride it was. But ultimately someone in Rome decided to throw Donnici from the train.

Donnici, always the lesser sibling to Cirò, which is also under attack by the Rivellistas and the Cernillistis, bent on taking Italy into a world in which they will assimilate and disappear. It’s bat-shit crazy, watching men my age tinker with 2000+ years of Italian wine history as if it they were choosing music for their iPod’s. Someone will pay, somewhere down the road. After Rivella and Cernilli and I am dead, most likely.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The emotional roller-coaster life of a wine

I’ve been sitting in his wine closet for close to 20 years now. In the dark. Freezing. Once in a while he comes in, turns the light on and picks another one. The other, always the other. What must I do to get out of here?

I have spent the best years of my life in this small, dark room, with the others. Sometimes for weeks, he doesn’t come in; we don’t know if he has abandoned us totally. And then all of a sudden, he opens the door, turns on the light and squeezes in a few more of the others. This is sheer torment. When will I get out of here?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Modern day Cirò: Sleeping with the enemy?

Mama don't let your (Gaglioppo) babies grow up to be Cabernets

Photo by Vincenzo Forciniti
In my early morning ramblings along the lonely corridors of the internets, I have been buzzing around the debate about what a wine should be when it comes from a certain place. Along with that the notion that a wine from a certain area, like the Old World, should emulate wines in the New World. And the equally seductive position that wines in the New World aspire to being more like wines in the Old World. All of this can get very confusing, even after years of reading, sipping and thinking. Carving it down to the essence has become my preference, mainly because it simplifies things and makes time for other activities, like enjoying wine.

I sense there is a battle going on in Calabria over the nature of wine. Some of the young producers have traveled a little, maybe just to Tuscany. But my sense is they want something more for their region, their wines. The thrill of America still beckons in the background. This may be something as simple as blending 5% Cabernet into their Gaglioppo, but that little 5% can cause many late night arguments.

Sunday, March 04, 2012


I recently had an epiphany. It started at the San Francisco airport, in the new #2 terminal. We were heading back to Dallas after a memorable week of writing, work and inspiration in Napa Valley. We had arrived a little early and hadn’t had time to do anything on our drive from Napa to SFO but stop at Acme Bread in Berkeley so we could bring home some sourdough loaves to our loved ones.

Little did we know when we got to SFO that the new terminal had an Acme Bread counter. We hadn’t needed to stop in Berkeley at all. It was one more indication that the airport folks had read my mind. In fact there were all kinds of signs. A burger place that used meat from cows raised and slaughtered humanly. An organic place. A wine bar with real wines, not some bar “concept” with crappy industrial and trophy wines. A sushi place with honest sake.

Landing back in DFW, there would be none of that. Just a bunch of tired, worn-out chain restaurant concepts. Low on the totem pole of food and wine consciousness. Yuck.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Wine cannot cure all ills

“So they took their departure, leaving me still staring, and we resigned ourselves to wait for their return.” -Robert Louis Stevenson (The Silverado Squatters)

It has been a week since we were coddled back in the arms of our home state. A week back in Texas and the realities that awaited us when we returned. Some weeks are good ones, some weeks are better forgotten.
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