Friday, October 31, 2014

A Serene Patch of Merlot in a Noisy World of Pinot Noir

His is a world very few of us get to enter. Yet the Count lives, some would say he thrives, in his world. I say it this way not to disparage his world. I know not his world. I only know him through his wine. And his wine is Merlot.

One might say, “Merlot? In these times? How 20th century.” And you might be right. For we live in another time for another wine. Right now it might be the time of Pinot Noir. But when the Count redid his vineyards he didn’t know about Sideways and the effect it would have on American tastes. The Count is a Venetian. He lives in an ancient villa, dines every Friday night at Harry’s. Not the Harry’s we tourists know, but the Harry’s for the Venetian insiders. The Count is definitely a Venetian insider.

Not that those circumstances make him aloof or even removed from the everyday world all of the time. He is, in his own words, “simply a farmer.” I am not sure there is a simple explanation of the Count. He is after all, human, and that makes for a complex situation at the very basic of levels.

We met in Austin, to spend part of a day showing his wine to clients and tradespeople. Austin in late October can be very beautiful. The weather was slightly warm but not uncomfortable. There was a hint of Fall finally coming to the Hill Country. The mosquitoes were having their last hurrah. And the wine was Merlot.

“I don’t think of it as Merlot. I think of it as Vistorta. Perhaps that is an aspiration that will be reaches in my son’s time or in my grandson’s time,” the Count said. Part of his family lineage reaches to France. Bordeaux is not a wine to copy as much as a part of the multi-cultural reality of the Count’s family. Old Venetian families are complicated.

Indeed, the wine is a study. Spending the better part of a day with vintages 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 (the 2008 is not ready), and listening to the Count talk about the climate of each vintage, the conditions of each wine, describing them as he would one of his children. “You get to taste some piece of time when you were different, when things were different.” I thought back to my brief wine-making period. Some of those wines are almost as old as my offspring. I answered him, “It is as if the younger you is having a conversation with the older you tasting a wine one made 30 years ago. The odd thing is, the younger you made the wine but now the wine is older, like the one who made the wine.” Yes, the wine talks back to the winemaker.

“I suppose,” he said, “but I am a farmer. I don’t live wine 100% of my time. I have my corn and alfalfa and other things as well to consider.” The Count says that soil is what holds everything together. This earth, our messy little blanket of dirt.

And the wines? Well, if you want fanfare and fireworks and bombastic displays of fruit and alcohol and oak, you had better look elsewhere, maybe down the road to where they make Amarone. The Count identifies with Friuli when it comes to wine. No doubt he is a Venetian in many other respects. But Amarone is not in his arsenal.

I’ve followed these wines for many years now. They utilize the Merlot grape, but it has as much bearing on the wine as it does to the wines in Pomerol. That is to say, all or nothing at all. These wines are not so much to be tasted and analyzed as to be encountered. They are provocative but in a passive manner. They don’t shout. They compel one to lean in, teeter and check one’s self for balance. Every vintage is a different face. These are not easy wines to understand. To merely call them Merlot makes for an even more confounding path towards realizing why these wines have come into being. And in a Pinot Noir world, it is ever so much more challenging to present them to souls searching for simple answers in their wine.

And so it is - these wines from a Count with a farm in Friuli and an ancient villa in the Serene Republic.

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1 comment:

obwnknobe said...

I have been a fan of this wine for many years

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