Sunday, March 28, 2021

A Tale of Two Tastings

Options for tasting wine in the last year have been somewhat curtailed by the events that we’ve all encountered. In-person tastings have not resumed, trade shows have been put on hold, and even larger get-togethers are on hiatus for now. So how does one keep their palate sharp in times like these?

I’ve found two ways to help one through these sparse times. This is how I’ve fashioned a survival strategy, of sorts, to get through these dark days.

First off, the zoom tasting.

I’ve not done a lot of these, but one I did recently really blew my socks off. It was put on by Marina Thompson and her partner, Daniele Cernilli. Or, Doctor Wine, as he goes by in the virtual world. I met him a few years back in Puglia at a Radici event. As is my habit, I observed him. He was quiet, reserved and a good taster. What I found, in my exposure to him over those days, was a thoughtful, professorial person who was professional and disciplined.

Marina sent the wine samples and arranged to get them from Italy to the USA. That was in no part an easy task. They all arrived intact and in order. Much thanks to her and her team.

On the day of the tasting, there were very few glitches. The tasting went off easily and in good time.

A word about time. Cernilli managed the wine tasting and the speakers adroitly. He made sure no one went into a rabbit hole explaining their wine, corralling them back to brevity. I really appreciated that, as I had another tasting I needed to go to – the live one. But that will come.

I tasted some really good wines and came away very, very impressed with the event. I’m not going into the particulars and the details of that tasting because another participant, Charles Scicolone, did yeoman’s work in that regard and one can visit his site (Links: HERE and HERE) to know what we tasted. I was more interested in the globular aspect of the tasting: How well it worked, how all the components fit together, the presentation and what I learned from it. If there was any one thing I would have liked, it would have been to have a little interaction with the other participants/viewers. That might have happened as I had to leave a few minutes before the event ended. There were some old friends in the group I would have liked to say hi to. But that’s really not a criticism as much as a lament. We all want more contact these days. Anyway, I was glad to be included and happy to taste some really nice Italian wines, which I’ll write about, down the road. So, there you have it, for now.

The other tasting(s) entailed series of protracted outdoor lunches at a local Italian restaurant that has a generous BYOB policy (and a kick-ass wine list, too!). I’ve gotten to know a virtual friend during this pandemic and he has a little more time on his hands than usual. So, we meet every ten days or so, each bringing a couple of wines from the cellars.

There’s something about tasting a wine over three or four hours (admittedly a luxury in these times) and getting to know the wines. Time is really a funny concomitant in this period. Everything has slowed down. And because of that, one can reflect. (OK, kids, you can skim over this part, where the boomer waxes nostalgic). The wines have been quite interesting to try, I don’t even know where to begin. Suffice to say, these are the kinds of wines I used to taste when I first got into the trade and the world was a friendlier, easier place to get a foothold in, at least for a white male. No apologies, that was the way I was born, but I do realize it isn’t all that easy for everyone. Nonetheless, I got to taste wine alongside Michael Broadbent and Steven Spurrier and Robert Parker, and Jancis Robinson and Karen MacNeil and Ian D’Agata. And many more. But that was then. And now, this has been like a rebirth of sorts, to actually taste great wines that for most of the wine loving world, is far out of reach.

Now, some of those wines come from my closet, so it isn’t like we’re opening up bottles of Le Pin and Screaming Eagle. But some of my wines have gotten to a nice age to open. So, time rewards the patient ones.

But that’s not really the kernel of this part of the story. What has happened was that there was made time, and a place, to open the bottles that needed time and needed a place, and people, in which to be enjoyed. A little (or a lot!) of conversation, some good food, and the mostly pleasant outdoor weather that a place like North Texas provides, even in Winter (the long freeze in February not withstanding). My tasting-partner(s)-in-crime have shown rare generosity in sharing their bottles from years of gathering and saving.

It has also pointed to me the importance of sharing wine, whether it be among our screens, or around a table. And to give of our time. In the last year, we’ve all lost people in our lives. This is an opportunity to plant new seedlings and get our lives back in the groove. And for that I’m very grateful for this time.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
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