Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Fine Line

An Italian Wine Blog
It doesn’t happen that often. You’re planning a meal at home and choose a wine. The wine turns out to be the wrong choice. No big deal. You find another and move on. That happened to us recently.

The problem? The initial wine wasn’t one I would normally select. A 15.1% Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay. The wine aged exclusively in French Oak (75% New Barrels) is not available to the public. It is only available, as a gift, to select members, restaurants and fine wine shops.

I was intrigued. So I opened a bottle and tried it. Within minutes I was repulsed by the imbalance of the wine. I am a California native – there are Californian wines I like. The other night I opened a 2006 Rafanelli Cabernet with a steak. It was perfect with the food. The wine was rich and oaky and delicious with the meat.

Not so tonight. I had a little goat cheese that had been infused with lemon grass. It seemed to help the wine. But the wine tasted like iodine and rubber. I poured it out and moved on.

Next up, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano from Tenuta Trerose, 2007, 14%. Look, I don’t agree with the Vino Nobile DOC whereby Cabernet and Merlot are allowed. In this wine, 5% of each. But the 90% of Sangiovese made the wine. It was as it should be, showing typicity and restraint, even @ 14%. Balanced. Nice wine with the meal. Which also was steak.

All told, I have been drinking more red wine lately. With red meat. And even though I am not a big red meat fan, especially in the hot summer months, there is a time for everything. This week was time for such wines.

It’s not that the Chardonnay repulsed me as much as the hype that preceded it caused me to wonder what was wrong with me if I wouldn’t t like it. That was before I tried it. Once I popped the cork, it was pretty much over, regardless of the score it received. Which brings me to another story.

Yesterday, while walking around one of my favorite Italian wine stores a fellow was looking for some high scoring Brunellos. I remarked to the owner that all his wines were “high scoring” or they would not be in there in the first place. And then I went over and talked to the gent looking for the high scores. I explained, clearly, that Italian wines cannot be described as one would a Cabernet or a Merlot; there are other options. He seemed to be amenable, merely using his opening line because that was all he knew, that was the parlance he was comfortable with. But he was relegated to that sole expression, be it Cabernet or Merlot or high scores. It was just what he knew. And once I talked to him, gave him a person to take the confusion and fear out of the situation, he was pretty cool. We had him putting all kinds of wine into his basket when it was all said and done. Victory. No thanks to the publications that push high scores like meth dealers.

Sometimes, all this babble is just that. What folks are looking for is a wholesome, delicious experience that they can take home and share with their family. Something palatable, hopefully with some flavor and pleasure inside. Maybe even delicious.

Italy can do that. Just don’t rely on the score givers to give you an insight into what those wines are. Find a human, a person, whether it is in a retail shop or a restaurant, and talk to them and get them to listen and then you can find all the fine bottles there are to discover on the wine trial in Italy.


tom hyland said...


Good advice, especially when it comes to Italian wines, which are more refined in general than a California Cabernet or Merlot. The editors of famous wine magazines know that high scores are easy to understand- it's been that way for some time and probably will stay that way.

Alfonso Cevola said...

thanks, Tom...

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