Thursday, August 26, 2021

By the Bottle: Darrell Corti

Wine lovers on wine and the vinous life.

In my mind, Darrell Corti embodies that often-quoted motto from Joseph Campbell, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” He is one of my heroes. We share California as our native state and Italy as our place of ancestral descent. He knows almost more about anything, food, wine and otherwise, than I or many of us will ever be able to comprehend. Underlying all of that is a kindness and an openness that imprint Darrell as incomparable. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me to have him on our series, and in our world.

What wines do you have standing up right now?

Most of the samples that I have received. During the summer, wines with deposit are really not interesting.

What’s the last great wine you drank?

What do you mean by great? Expensive? There are not many really great wines around, but a lot of expensive ones!

Are there any classic wines that you only recently had for the first time?

Again, what do you mean by “classic?” I can imagine what you mean, but perhaps there are not so many “classic” wines around. Classic to me, may not be “classic” to someone else.

Describe your ideal drinking experience (when, where, what, how).

It is most of the time when enjoying a wine. Situations can change, but the wine remains.

What’s your favorite wine no one else has heard of?

With the amount of curiosity around today, there is probably not many wines unheard of. In fact, I would be surprised since most wines that are around now, would never have been considered 10-20 years ago. Just look at Georgia, Armenia, Israel and all of the forgotten varieties that are now being resurrected. Also, the antique vinifications that are now becoming the hot, new thing.

What wine should everybody drink before the age of 21?

According to the law, no one under 21 should drink wine. But then there is always the possibility of tasting some at home, or sneaking a taste of some elsewhere. Stupid law!

What wine should nobody drink until the age of 40?

Stupid question! The earlier one starts drinking wine, the better the memory bank is for the 40s!

Darrell Corti (L), Andre Tchelistcheff (C)and Lucio Gomiero (R) in earlier days

Who in wine — winemakers, winery owners, writers, retailers, collectors — active today do you admire most?

Too many and a lot of them have now gone to their reward.

Do you count any wine as guilty pleasures?

What is guilty about it? It is a pleasure. And what is wrong with pleasure. The only guilt is that sometimes there is too little wine in the glass and the bottle should have been a magnum.

Has Covid19 changed the way your approach wine?

No! It may have made life a bit more difficult and tedious, but hasn’t changed my approach at all.

Has a wine ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

I don’t remember. Too much wine.

What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a wine recently?

That some of what is called wine today is smoke and not a lot of roast. Troppo fumo e poco arrosto.

What moves you most in a wine?

The way it smells and tastes. Most of the time, wine doesn’t respond to this anymore. It is more smoke (see above.) Sometimes, its history and fame precedes it, and one’s expectation is destroyed by the reality.

What do you really wish you understood about wine?

How some wines can be so well thought of and other not. It seems the more pleasure it gives, the less fame it has. And for the most part, this is for all wines, all over. Sometimes the blah, blah, blah about a wine is just that.

Which styles do you especially enjoy drinking? And which do you avoid?

I try not to drink wines over 14.5% alcohol. I don’t sell them if table wine. It is amazing to see how many at this level are still being made. Wine should be made out of ripe fruit, not over-ripe fruit unless there is a reason for doing so. With climate change, we may all be drinking the equivalent of port, sherry and Madeira under the guise of table wine. When table wine at a high degree of alcohol used to be made, it was an exception. Now it is the rule. Something has to give! Either grapes should be picked a little under-ripe for freshness or we have to add water to the wine in a glass. Sometimes, not a bad thing to do. Most wine at one time or another was watered, now we think that high alcohol wine is the way wine should taste. Utter nonsense.

How do you organize your wines?

A question I don’t understand.

What wine might people be surprised to find in your racks?

I have no idea.

What’s the best wine you’ve ever received as a gift?

A bottle of 1982 Petrus.

How have your drinking tastes changed over time?

Of course. I used to like very different wines in the 60s-80s. By the 90s, I like fresher, less tannin, more elegant wines, and continue to do so. Possibly, I appreciate fine white wines more now than perhaps previously. But definitely less tannic, structured wine. A cabernet with the first descriptors being “chocolate” is a real turn off. We have lost the scent of Cabernet, something very difficult to do.

Disappointing, overrated, just not good: What wine did you feel as if you were supposed to like, and didn’t? Do you remember the last wine you set aside without finishing?

Honestly, most of the wines I taste nowadays. Perhaps it is just being bored with what should be very good and usually isn’t. Big names and small, wine has forgotten what it is: a beverage, not a piece of art. Although, some wines are a work of art. But as Prof. Webb at Davis used to say: “Winemaking is a craft, raised to the level of an art.” Sometimes, it feels as though the craftsman is missing and the busker is more important.

What wine do you think everyone should try?

Try everything! You never know where you might find a jewel.

You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three people from the wine world, dead or alive, do you invite?

You really want to get me into trouble!

What wines are you embarrassed not to have drunk yet?

None. But especially the ones that begin life at three figures and then go to five or six. Wine is a beverage, not an art object. Once you’ve opened the bottle, what is left?

What do you plan to drink next?

Hopefully, a good wine that might be new and show what its crafter wanted to show and I like it.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Paul Wagner said...

Very funny, and truly captures the essence of Darrell. Thanks

Elaine Corn said...

Photo by Elaine Corn

Alfonso Cevola said...

thank you Elaine. much obliged.

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