Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Italian Beachcomber

Happy St.Thomas, St.Croix, St.John and St. Valentine's Day

Work took me this week to the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. Croix and St. John. My assignment was to evaluate the condition of the wines in the warehouses for the family I work for. They recently invested in a company down there.

The first day we flew from our base on St. Thomas to St. Croix. Balmy weather in February, around 80 degrees F. The warehouses were temperature controlled.

What I found, not only in the warehouses, but on wine lists on the islands were Italian wines I would have never expected to find in the Caribbean. Not to say these wines don’t go with some of the regional cuisine. In fact, one night we had an Arneis with our meal and the other night we sipped on a surprisingly crisp and dry Pinot Grigio.

Wines like Gaja, from a 1997 Sori Tilden to a 2004 DaGromis (Barolo). From the Alto Adige, I came across a plethora of Lageder wines at an advanced stage. If these wines had been left at the winery, I reckon they would have been fine, but stranded out on an island, I didn’t hold out much hope for these once proud whites.

From Tuscany I saw Solaia, Ornellaia, Il Poggione, Avignonesi, Del Cerro and wondered at the applicability of these wines with the fresh fish that are brought up from the ocean. A rare surprise was the 1999 Barbaresco Riserva Raba from Cortese. I would love to have rescued a case of that wine. The ever reliable Produttori del Barbaresco 2007 was also there, something which I find would be very fitting for the area.

What struck me, when I was looking over the wines in the warehouses and perusing the wine lists, was the disparity between what sat in the warehouses and what was often presented on the lists. You could find the trophy wines on the lists, but where are the trophy hunters these days? The pre-Wall Street bubble burst locked these wines onto the lists, but the world has changed. People are looking for values, but also wines that drink well with lighter, less hedonistic foods. Even folks on holiday are looking closer at their options, both economically and from a health-related point of view. A sashimi salad with a glass of Arneis seems more fitting than a SuperTuscan and a 20 ounce slab of meat. The world has changed, but the islands are still locked in a place that time seems to have passed.

People on the islands talk about “island time”, where everything slows down and things of a critical nature seem less impending. But when it comes to the race against time, wine isn’t on island time. It’s has its own chronometer, one which must be observed.

Is it the end of the world? No, rather it is merely a reset. But as I was looking at some of the marooned wines like Amarone and Sangiovese, I felt bad for the farmers back in Italy who put their heart and souls into those bottles.

A half bottle of 2001 Recioto is probably drinking well right now. Probably it would be better suited in February to drink it in front of a fire while watching the snow fall. But they have drawn the beachcomber card. They say everything has a destiny, karma, even inanimate objects. The fate of these bottles seems they have washed up to shore and wait their time in the sun.

In other remembrances...
This would have been a big birthday today. The gal I fell for years ago and who passed on 12 years ago, dear Lizanne. Just a small recollection of her short time on earth. She is still missed, will always be. She was pulled away from us too soon, a cruel reminder of the fate we all cannot wriggle out of. Happy birthday, my funny Valentine...

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Brooklynguy said...

Hey Alfonso - lovely, as always. It's true, imagine had the farmer known in 2001 that the wine they would make from those grapes would end up in a warehouse in the Caribbean...

The karma and destiny of inanimate objects, deep stuff.

safe travels. And like every year, i am moved by your remembrances of Lizanne.

safe travels, amigo.

Unknown said...

Very nice article. Can you write about French Wine in future?
French Wine

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, BWG - hope to run into you when I'm in the city in May

Thanks William - actually I write occasionally about French wine, like here:

Avignonesi said...

Hi from Avignonesi... it's bittersweet to read where our wines have landed. And an interesting comment about the pairings. Thanks for the mention. Try to get your hands on a bottle of our Vignonla Sauvignon Blanc: enjoy it on the beach: it won't disappoint!

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