Sunday, May 28, 2017

Italian Wines – Multifaceted, Bright, Complex and Confounding

I see it all the time – like Groundhog’s Day – people are interested in Italy, the cultures, the food, the fashion, the design, the statues. But Italian wine is just too darn complicated!

We are entering into the time when more people will travel to Italy for vacations, for tourism, for cultural renewal. I heard it last night in a little café, people talking about Venice, Pompeii, Rome. I saw an older couple in a department store buying comfortable clothes for their “trip to Italy.” And when they get there, when they sit down to eat, they will, most likely, drink Italian wine. So why do they get so hung up about Italian wine here in America?

As I’ve said before, for one, they are on vacation. Modern day life, the hectic pace, the pressures, the commute, is on pause. They are looking to have a good time, to relax, maybe walk a little more than usual. And it is beginning to look like summer in places like Rome. So, it is a bit warmer. And people get thirsty. Here comes the Frascati! Oops, another bottle of Prosecco! Sure, why not, let’s have another bottle of Chianti (or for the sticklers in the crowd, Chianti Classico!). It all seems so simple, in Italy.

It is. You drink what’s in front of you. Inotherwords, local. Sure, I’ve had bottles (too many) of Sassicaia in a Roman trattoria. And yes, even the occasional bottle of French Champagne (mon Dieu!) in a Venetian palazzo. There will always be those moments. But…

…then there is the everyday life. And even on vacation, one gets into a routine, and in Italy wine is part of the meal, or as friend and colleague Eric Asimov says: “Wine is food.”

Too often there is the tendency to always be on the prowl for the “good stuff,” wine that equates with peak experience, as if one were looking for wine to give them an orgasm (or for some of the folks I have run into lately, maybe an erection). And yes, I can see how a Silverback might be looking to amp up his life, preferring Cialis and Solaia over Mortadella and Lambrusco. But the “good stuff” of Italian wine isn’t exclusive to those peak experiences everyone is desperately in search of all the time. That would be like the stoner who, after a life of being stoned, all the time, really isn’t stoned anymore. It’s just an equilibriatory state, no longer altered, as it is now the norm, at least for the stoner.

And so, it is the same with those who look to Italian wine to assuage their sense of self in relation to the world within their bubble-shield. It could be that it is also a proto-protectionary posture put in place, a first line of defense to shield oneself from the complexities of Italian wine. “Give me a big wine, not that sissy stuff!” Yes, I have heard that too many times, from people who would probably benefit more from drinking a Valpolicella or a Rosso Piceno, than that 95 point Brunello, which is too young, too tannic and too damn shiny. 

As I say to people who are going to Italy and want to “see it all!” I propose them these simple thoughts: How bad can it be? You are in Italy.Step outside your hotel, go left, go right, go straight. For God's sake, you're in Italy!

And likewise, in the simplest (or the flashiest) Italian place in America, I also propose: How bad can it be? You are dining out, something 95% of the people on the planet rarely, if ever, have the opportunity to do. You can have whatever you want on the menu. And too, so you can with wine. This is not a WSET test; you aren’t sitting for your Master Sommelier pin. You are reposing, refreshing and replenishing. Ask your server, look something up on your phone (you can’t put it down anyway), get a recommendation from an owner. Or if there is someone at the table who knows even the tiniest little thing about wine (Italian of otherwise) ask them to spread their wings of knowledge and bestow the table with their brilliance. It’s not that complicated.

Now - world peace, or nuclear armaments, feeding all the hungry mouths in this world, stamping out poverty - that’s complicated.

But that’s for a whole 'nother group of primates with prehensile phalanges to address and carry on about.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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