August 2011

August 2011

Those wanting loads of wine tasting notes and experiences can slide down to July – or any other month for that matter.

Italy grinds to a standstill in August. On August first many shop owners roll down the metal grids that bar their shop fronts and tape small signs stating that they are going on vacation for two or three weeks.

This has to do with the country’s pagan past, although some Italians try to pin the work stoppage on the Virgin Mary and others think it has something to do with workers’ rights.

In 18 B.C. the Roman Emperor Augustus decided to gather up all the rituals and celebrations devoted to the harvest gods and place them in the month that bears his name. What better tribute to himself than officially establishing a continuous eating, drinking and orgy binge?  In the fifteenth century the Roman Catholic Church began to absorb pagan rituals into their own rites by tying them to an existing Christian celebration. The fifteenth of August had been designated, since the sixth century, as the date of the Virgin Mary’s assumption into heaven. Hence, the harvest festivals metamorphosed into a celebration of the Virgin Mary. The fifteenth is now a national Italian holiday called Ferragosto. A special mass is performed at the churches but the basic desires of the Emperor Augustus are not overlooked. Whether they are church-goers or not, all Italians know that Ferragosto is to be celebrated by eating to excess and drinking in the company of friends and relatives.

Verona’s centro storico is a ghost town. Stanley and I can walk for thirty minutes in the morning and not meet a soul. In the afternoon we may meet a few confused, wandering tourists and middle-aged Italian men who are on their own, as thy have sent the wife and kids to their second house by the sea or in the mountains.

Here are some of the things we see on our walks:

August 10: The only tasting I did was my tasting lesson with my student Matteo.  I am preparing him for his Wine And Spirit Educational Trust professional exams.

Today he brought: Non-vintage Ribolla Gialla Spumante  from Az. Agr. Ronchi Sa Giuseppe Bright. Firm perlage. Pale yellow with gold highlights. Clear rim, pale yellow core. Vaguely tropical notes on the nose (pineapple, kiwi). On the palate: green gage plums, medium acidity. Light to medium body. Creamy texture. The palate follows the nose.  Decent commercial wines.

I presented a 2003 Zamuner Rosé and we agreed it was a decent commercial wine.

With dinner (a hot dog. Yes, I know I am supposed to eat gourmet chow all the time so as not to ruin my sensitive palate but…its summer!!) I drank a glass tankard of Zamuner rosé. Yippee. There is something wonderfully decadent about drinking sparkling wine from a tankard.  I did it the first time with my husband and his mother at a swish pub in Birmingham (England, not Alabama). I urge you to try it: slip your delicate hand through the mug’s sturdy handle and quaff Champagne (or other fine sparkling wine).  Ah…