Monthly Archives: April 2011

Pomp & Circumstance – Sometimes It’s Appealing

I confess I was up early and spent two hours watching the Royal Nuptials. I loved it. It brought me back 30 years to that night in camp when we all got up at 4:00 AM to watch Prince Charles marry Lady Diana. Of course I’m no longer that blushing tween but I do still have some of that. Also, after going to a funeral service yesterday for a dear friend’s father, it was nice to watch something light and fairytale like early today, especially when so much of the news is so dire.

I, like everyone else who pens a wine blog, is likely thinking of British sparklers to celebrate the occasion. I’ve only had ones from Nyetimber, which were delicious but quite pricey. I did find an entire website dedicated to English wine producers. Years ago this would have been unthinkable. While the growth of their industry may signal terrible signs of global warming, it is fitting that good sparklers be made in Britain in my view.

I must say while I can’t call myself a monarchist per se, I have always admired the family for its decision to stay in London during World War II, a period of history that fascinates me. I was glad to see I am in good company.
Even someone of Simon Schama’s caliber was the commentator on the BBC earlier today. Speaking with my father about the wedding, I realized that British history has been a big part of my life since I was a child. My father is thrilled by the Brits and their long and valiant history. In fact, when I was a child some of the first dolls I received were those of Henry VIII’s wives. At the dinner table, I was expected to be able to recite the Kings of England at a certain point. I loved learning about their history, 1066 and all that.

On another note, I was reflecting on the use and purpose of wine blogs. For some readers of this blog, I’m sure I’m not polemical enough or even particularly critical. I’ve never felt that to be my role nor do I think I should tell wine makers what to change in their wines.

I think of my blog and dare I say, most blogs, as a place to learn something about a subject that you want to learn more about.

Yesterday at a wine tasting, a friend/client asked me if I ever sold wine directly. The answer is yes for a brief period of time, wholesale and retail. He asked because I was proposing he meet a producer with a certain portfolio of wines that in his view can’t make it in the US market. I wasn’t offended I understood that he meant you need to understand the market and how something can fit into it and why it may or may not work. I agree with him that you need to understand a market or a country to see why it makes certain decisions.

I think there is a certain lack of seriousness in our business at times and a lot of hot air about what could be done better. Sometimes it is absolutely justified but often it is merely a rant, which can be tiring and sterile.

As I started this post about pomp and circumstance, I am obviously fine with that at times but I do believe that a little more humility should be injected into people’s discourse and perhaps a better educated foundation in terms of wine study.

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Time Out For Tribeca – Off The Rez

Sometimes I’m sure it seems from reading my blog that I’m always out at a wine event or tasting/thinking/writing about wine and food. The truth is yes, wine is never very far from my thoughts but my interests are considerably more varied. One of my big interests is the movies, another is basketball and a third but not less important is Native American culture. When I was in my 20s I was fascinated by many aspects of Native American culture. At that time I also dated a pretty serious basketball player. All of this was brought back last night at the Tribeca Film Festival where I saw this amazing movie, Off The Rez, co-edited by Nancy Novack and Keiko Deguchi.

Nancy has been my friend since I am 11 years old. I’ve followed her career since her first days as a dancer in high school, her love of the Beatles and her performances throughout the years. I’ve seen many of the movies and TV specials she has edited including a segment of Spike Lee’s documentary on Katrina, an unbelievable movie about breast cancer, a fantastic series on Broadway for PBS and so much more.

Nancy is beautiful and talented and thanks to her, I got to see this movie about a young half Native American basketball star. This girl and her family are so inspiring I swear I wanted to go play ball after the movie. The tale is one of perseverance, inspiration, hard work, triumph, defeat, family, love, separation, etc, etc. It had everything. If you don’t get to see it during the festival, I highly recommend you catch it on TV on TLC. I believe it airs on May 14 at 900pm. This is one not to miss and is suitable (some swearing does take place) for the whole family.

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Milano Mon Amour – San Colombano DOC

All this talk about which areas of Italy have DOCG and DOC denominations can make one’s head spin. One province however, has a very limited number of DOCs wines and no DOCG wines to speak of in fact. That province is my former hometown of Milan.

Not surprisingly, the area around this big city is not considered a perfect area for viticulture. However, just 40 kilometers away, there is an area that has been producing wines for hundreds of years, the Colle di San Colombano.

San Colombano d.o.c. wine is the only DOC wine produced in the province of Milan. It was designated a DOC in 1984.

I first discovered these wines when I lived in Milan and would go to the food festival around the town of Lodi called the Rassegna della Lodigiana.

I loved discovering new areas around Milan, new restaurants and traditional dishes and lo and behold wines.

Wines from San Colombano are generally made from Croatina, Barbera and Uva Rara for the reds in order to be part of the DOC. Some international varieties have been planted in recent years as well. For the whites, a number of grapes have been used in addition to the indigenous variety Verdea.

The soils in this area are quite minerally and have calcareous and sand mixed together. The wines they produce are easy drinking wines that complement the local food perfectly.

The grapes for production of San Colombano DOC wines must be cultivated exclusively in the Comune of Miradolo Terme and Monteleone in the province of Pavia, Graffignana and Sant’Angelo in the province of Lodi and San Colombano al Lambro in the province of Milano.

The wines were present at Vinitaly but I didn’t get a chance to taste through them, sadly. Some of the most well-known producers are Az. Agr. Guglielmini Giuseppe, Az. Agr. Nettare dei Santi di Gianenrico Riccardi,
and Az. Agr. Pietrasanta Vini e Spiriti.

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Italy Names Three New DOCG & Three New DOC Wines

There is no stopping the Italians these days in terms of the numbers of wines being recognized with a DOCG and DOC designation.

On April 21, just in time for the Easter holiday, three new DOCG and DOC wines were confirmed.

They are ‘Frascati Superiore’ , ‘Cannellino di Frascati’ and Montecucco Sangiovese for the DOCG or Denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita.

As well as ‘Roma’, ‘Maremma Toscana’, and ‘Falanghina del Sannio’ for the Denominazione d’Origine Controllata or DOC designation.

I for one am very happy. Frascati and especially Cannellino are very close to my heart as my dear friend Teresa lives in that area of Lazio and I have many fond memories of eating ciambelle (donuts) with Cannellino. Montecuoco, and Maremma Toscana are of course also close to me in that my first and third Italian lives are Tuscan to the core and the Falanghina del Sannio is something that I have been learning about in recent years at Vinitaly.

For a complete list of the DOCG’s, check out an entry On the Wine Trail in Italy. No one writes wine posts like Alfonso, the IWG.

Today is a holiday in Italy, Pasquetta. Everyone is generally having a big lunch somewhere “fuori porta” or out of town. I have many fond memories of Easter in Italy and Pasquetta.

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Patriotism Alive and Well in Italy’s 150th Year

One of the most interesting things I noticed during this visit to Italy was the plethora of Italian flags hanging on people’s balconies. Generally speaking, in my experience, Italians are not the most nationalistic of people, except when it comes to the Azzurri – the national soccer team.

That being said, this time was different. On two occasions, I was awakened by people singing the national anthem with their children, in two distinct parts of the country. My friend Stefano and his 2 1/2 year old daughter were doing a rousing version in Stefano and Anne Caterine’s home outside of Monza in a place called Vedano al Lambro. Stefano sings in a choir but in all the years I have known him, I have never heard him sing the National Anthem.

On another day, later in my visit when I was at Susanna Crociani’s agriturismo Cantastorie with friends, my dear friend Teresa’s 6 year old son Gabriele broke out into song and guess what it was? L’Inno di Mameli, of course.

Goffredo Mameli wrote the anthem in 1847 and the music was composed by Michele Novaro. This was at the beginning of the Risorgimento wars and immediately became a very popular revolutionary song.

In all the years I lived in Italy and all the years I have been a frequent visitor, more than 20 years, I have never had anyone sing the anthem to me. I found it quite touching. Susanna said that she thought Roberto Benigni’s performance at the San Remo Festival had something to do with it. It is quite fitting in this 150th year of Italian Unification. Even for those who don’t understand Italian, I think this is moving because you can catch Benigni’s enthusiasm.

This morning by chance I picked up a copy of the Canti, a newly translated collection of poems by Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s greatest poets from Recanati in Le Marche.

I read the first canto entitled All’Italia . A beautiful poem and a fabulous translation. Leopardi died in 1837 before the Risorgimento and Italian unification. His desire to see Italy’s greatness is displayed in this gorgeous poem. I wonder what he would think on this anniversary.

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Biodiversity – A theme at Vinitaly

Although today is Thursday and I promised I would write about Italian indigenous varietals, I want to write about a subject that kept coming up throughout my Italian trip – biodiversity.

If in the meantime, before my next indigenous variety post, you want to learn of a new grape variety, check out Dobianchi’s post on a new project in Venice by the Bisol family. Fascinating stuff.

Back to biodiversity in Italy. Italy is among the most cultivated of European countries with over 200+ products that have the protected designation of origin (PDO) or protected geographical indication (PGI) status. There are over 500+ wines that have the DOCG, DOC or IGT designations as well.

Italy also has the highest number of unique flora and fauna in Europe. No mean feat. What does all of this mean? It means that attending to the health and biodiversity of these products is important for the Italian economy and Italy’s international reputation. It seemed to me that this year more than in the past, this was considered a strong point by the authorities, the agricultural ministry and producers. I am quite pleased at this renewed attitude.

More than ever they seemed to be seeking organic certifications. In the past, I have found that the Italian producers as opposed to the French were somewhat loathe to get the certification. Sometimes it was for the bureaucracy that it entailed and sometimes because of the stigma attached. I think that is no longer the case.

I also discovered that a number of food products in the Agrifood pavilion held the symbol Biodiversity Friend from the World Biodiversity Association. The organization, located in Verona, is attempting to make it’s voice heard and looking at the fair, it seemed to be making a difference. We shall see but everyone seems quite concerned about protecting their products. It seemed fitting to write about this right before Earth Day 2011.

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Salone del Mobile Day 3: Wine & Design Pairings From Friuli, Changes in Milan

Wandering around the Salone del Mobile events last week, you always happen upon interesting items and thought provoking works. Sometimes you also find things you can’t live without. For example, last Wednesday my friend found her wedding dress at the Salone which was a kick and of course touching (WEEPY GIRL MOMENT) and we also found a funky pairing of wines, food and different scenarios with furniture for a variety of situations.

The project was created by www.newlifecontract.com, Pane e Vino San Daniele and Fantinel.

For the work related meal, the project suggested a Collio Rosso from the Sant’Helena vineyard, paired with prosciutto di San Daniele and a chair called Alex. For a friendly convivial moment instead, they chose a Ribolla Gialla, Prosciutto and a design model called Spock. Romance instead called for a Rose’ Brut by Fantinel and a new chair called Nancy Launge.

The installation was much more complex than this short explanation but I think this gives a flavor of what one finds at the Salone del Mobile, at least in the Fuorisalone.

I think it may be Milan’s most exciting moment. I am sure that the Expo 2015 will bring large numbers of visitors to Milan. For those who haven’t been a bit of time, you will find the city very changed. In my opinion, all for the better.

One amazing thing I saw in the subway was this vending machine for books. I have never seen this before in any country. The main book store put the most sought after books in this machine and for around 10 euros you could buy a book.

What my friends all mentioned was the new bike lanes throughout the city. These bikes are also strategically located around the city for locals and commuters to use. I had first seen these bikes in Rome but they have become common place in Milan as well.

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