Feb 2010

My job is to taste wine and food. Yes, yes, I know (everybody says it): it’s a tough job but somebody has to do it. As such, I am invited to dine out and taste fairly frequently. I have decided to share my uncensored notes on these occasions with you for the following reasons: 1) it will give you an insight into what the life of a wine taster-wine writer is like and 2) it will give me an opportunity to write about wines, foods, oddities, Italy and people in an informal way.:

February 2010
This month’s music pick is Marco Mengoni. (See December 2009 Diary) He does a version of Psycho Killer that is better than David Byrnes’s. His album is in the Italian charts. You can download some of his music on I-Tunes.
Coming up next month: off to Venice for a restaurant, wine and fancy food show. Also a trip to a Franciacorta producer and some blind tasting with oenology students at the University of Verona.

February 25

A Pet Lawyer is a Joy

There is a Willie Nelson song that goes: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys.” In times of depression I re-write those lyrics: Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be writers. For the last ten days I have had trouble breathing. I have had to take in great ragged breaths to get air into my lungs. Being a writer (and therefore, no stranger to anxiety) I realized that the cause of this respiratory ailment is: Publishers Who Do Not Pay.

I went to a lawyer today. Thank God he is one of those periphery friends that a person acquires as life goes by and, therefore, will not charge me a huge sack of money for the letter he will write on my behalf. Giuseppe, the lawyer, talks about lawsuits in the casual way a wine taster talks about Cabernet. After our meeting I return home and realize that I CAN BREATH.

February 22

Conference on Sangiovese di Romagna and wine marketing on the web.

The title of this section says it all. After the conference we caught the train back to Verona.

February 21

Sangiovese di Romagna – The 2009 vintage

(For tasting notes on 2008 vintage of the following wines, a description of the restaurant San Domenico in Imola and some swell photos of the Drei Dona dogs and horses see February 2009 Diary) We travel to Faenza in Romagna to taste wines from the 2009 vintage. Sangiovese di Romagna is – unfortunately – often overlooked by wine consumers, who sometimes fail to realize that the silky texture and cherry-near-the-pit flavour they appreciate in wines like Chainti Classico and some Brunello di Montalcinos comes from the Sangiovese grape variety. I would urge anyone reading this to try an good Sangiovese di Romagna. What follows are the notes of the wines I tasted today that I particularly like.

All the wines below are from the 2009 vintage and are listed in order of my tasting them.
Thea from Tre Monte Vibrant fuchsia-infused cherry red. On the nose a soft weave of ripe fruit revolves around a firm, fine acidity. A warm plumy fruit on the palate. An idea of dark chocolate. Long satisfying finish.

Montebrullo from Costa Archi Again the fuchsia sheen over dark ruby . A pleasant burnt undertow. Nice, mid-length finish.

Domus Caia from Stefano Ferucci A minerally element on the nose that carries on to the palate. The finish is more astringency than fruit at this point. I would like to try it after it has more time in bottle.

Gallegati from Corallo Nero Bright. Vibrant a bitter cherry fruit. Long fruit filled finish – an amalgam of cherries and raspberries and a tough of tar. Nice.

Pietramora Fattoria Zerbina A soft, deep rose sheen over rich ruby. On the nose a tight weave – silky texture – cherry-like fruit, a touch of minearlity. Very silky on the entry then it expands on the middle-palate becoming almost velvety. A fine ripple of ripe cherries, a light touch of prunes. Lively, uplifting mineral zestiness.

Nonno Rico from Poderi Morini Dark, deep color. Near opaque. Fresh. A bolt of acidity is ringed by firm fruit flavour. Earthy. Very ripe cherries, a gentle plumy undertow.

“Jolly label,” says Michael.

Pruno from Drei Dona A Christmasy spicy fruit shot through with uplifting steely notes. The fruit is on the plumy side. It develops a velvety texture on the finish. Long. Satisfying.

Then with dinner:
2008 Il Tornese from Drei Dona (a Chardonnay and Riesling blend). A nice firm round marble of fruit on the palate suspended in a burry finish acidity. Attractive and versatile. A nice weight on the palate.

2005 Ari from San Patrignano Silky texture. A fresh appealing knobbly blend of blackberry, bitter cherry fruit. Satisfying finish.

1997 Pietramora from Zerbina. An involving fruity warmth. A very inviting wine. Gives smooth, sensual pleasure. An amalgam of ripe cherries, plums with a firm undertow of tar. A fine wine.

Scatto Matto 2001 Zerbina. Ambrosial. Vibrant orange-tinged bursts lift and excite the honeyed fruit. Vibrant is the word. The wine is alive on the palate.

(Last year we had Fattoria Zerbina Scatto Matto 1998 – Pineapple vibration. An impeccable balance. Honey would be too simple to say. Fresh, youthful. It could go on for another 20 years. )

February 14

Giuletta of the Spirits

We go to see the one-woman show: Giulietta. It is based on the Federico Fellini film of the same name. The actress, Monica Ceccardi, is simply superb.

February 13

Photo and Aperitif Opportunities

We spend 4 hours following a Sicilian photographer, 2 good looking models, a make-up lady and 2 Soave consortium reps (Lucia and Anna ) as they set up shots for a publicity campaign devoted to Soave. Why? Because Aldo (the director of the consortium) had wanted Ugo (who is a regular in our life and therefore a regular in these diaries) to act as go-between between the troop and the two bars he had chosen as backdrops for the photos. Ugo is in Berlin for the film festival so Michael has stepped in as osteria consultant. The two osterias by the way are the Mezzaparte in Piazza Erbe and Osteria Sottoriva (a.k.a. Franco’s)

February 12

We go to see M.’s new film. M. Is a young Veronese with a rich and indulgent father.

“It’s a horror film” says Michael

I think: This is good news. If M. has actually picked a genre, maybe this means that the film will have a beginning, a middle and an end – in that order.

M. gets up in front of the audience to introduce the film.

“The film should be 2 hours long,” he says. “But when we were editing we realized that there was something wrong with the audio in the first part and everyone sounds like Yoda. So we are only going to show the last hour. Think of it as being like Kill Bill Vol. I and II.”

At the end Geppy (who crops up in many of these Diaries) says: “If it had been 2 hours it would have been really hard going.”

“Of course,” Geppy says. “M. is young.”

“How old is he?” I ask.


“That’s not young,” say I.

“Maybe not in America but it is in Italy,” says Geppy, with a wry smile.

February 11

Ah, Sweet Youth

I receive a missive from the Social Security Administration that lists my income from the time I was 20 years old. Yikes! I am a long way from Social Security Time but the purpose of this kind letter was to suggest that I should be selecting the cardboard box in which I plan on spending my declining years. I pour a glass of the Drei Dona’s Graf Noir and try it with my lunch: a macaroni and spinach casserole. It doesn’t work as well as it did with the bean-based dish of yesterday. But the wine has a softness which functions with the soft mildly cheesy pasta-based dish.

We spend the afternoon extemporizing new lyrics for Desmond Dekker & the Aces’s hit Isrealites. Substituting the word Durell-e-o-lites. Ah, we are easily amused.

February 10

Bean Burrito-ish thing and a Fine Wine

2000 Drei Dona Tenuta La Palazza “Graf Noir” (made form primarily Sangiovese, Negretto Longanesi and Cabernet Franc) A very rich, softly diffused ruby with a warm near brown sheen. A fine supporting acidity surrounded by very ripe berry fruit – cherry, raspberry, wild berry fruit. A silky texture that caresses the mouth. (Forgive me but that is what I felt.) A fine, soft weave of fruit (cherry, very ripe plums) and an almost minerally zest. Long, flavourful finish. Satisfying. After tasting the wine I decide to have a glass with lunch. I feel slightly guilty about setting the glass down beside my bean burrito filling served on an Italian piadina, which is the closest thing to a tortilla I can find at the supermarket. The conventional wisdom is: great red wines with red meat. But! I am surprised at how nice the bean filling merges with the wine.

I email Michelle (Lovric, oh she of the novels set in Venice – see April 2009- which includes a picture of her plastic rat-gun – and July 2009 Diaries) who is a great cook and a vegetarian. I tell her vegetarians should take note of this wine. It certainly has great potential for bean–based dishes.

I write to the South African organization saying that I will judge at their tasting.

“You don’t want to travel right now,” says Michael. “But you will when August rolls around.” He is right.

February 9

Tasting with the Durello-ites
Venue: L’officina di Gustolocale in Vicenza
This is an event in aid of Lessini Durello. A DOC zone located in the Lessini Mountains (near Vicenza). The team at the Soave Consortium also handles the Durello Consortium. I bring an “I Love New York” plastic bag filled with trinkets from my recent trip to NYC for the Soave/Durello crew. I love these people. All are young and energetic and filled with enthusiasm. Believe me when I say that this attitude is NOT at all common for typical consortium employees. The small Durello DOC makes both still and sparkling wines from the Durella (yes the grape ends in “a” and the wine ends in “o”.) Michael and I went to the first Durello symposium – 11 years ago? 14 years ago? It was held at the Bolca Natural History Museum, a very fine archaeological museum in the Lessini mountains. (Should you be in the area and have an interest in fossils or are travelling with children…a visit would be well worth the effort. See fossilized sharks and palm trees! All found right here in the Lessini!)

We taste two flights of 5 wines each blind. (Do I have to tell you that blind means without being informed of the names of the wines in our glasses?) There is a ringer in each set. I get the ringers. But I have to admit that I did not identify the provenance of both of them. One was a Champagne with an apply quality that sometimes says “Chardonnay” to me. But it lacked the zippy acidity of a really top class Champagne so I would not commit myself to more than “Chardonnay. It turned out to be a Champagne on the cheap side.

Let me say this. My identifier for low level Durello is: fizzy aspirin. For good Durello the identifier is a zippy, sweet-lemony-tinged flavour and clean finish.

The first set of 5 were made with the Charmat method. This means that second fermentation (the one that adds the sparkle) takes place in tanks.

I will not tell you the names of the wines we tasted. I will give you highlights (or lowlights) from my notes. “A puff of lemony fruit that narrows to a sappy finish.” “Selzer.” “Lemon Fizzies” (Do your remember Fizzies? They were tablets of sugar and artificial fruit flavours that frothed up when dropped in water. )

The one I liked best was made by the Cantina di Soave. My note reads: Fresh, a smooth visceral sheen. A fine, grapey astringent quality.

The second batch of five were all made with the Champagne Method. This means that the second fermentation takes place in bottle.

My favourite was a 2003 Marcato Durello Pleasing. Fresh nuts mingle with bright, lemony fruit on the finish. A vibration of acidity. A fine swirl of soft fruit. Drinkable (and that is really what we are aiming for).

After 10 minutes the salinity comes to the fore in a pleasing way.

Michael says: “It was a jolly evening. Because there are so few of them, the Durello-ites are all pretty nice.” Durello-ites: remember you heard it here first.

We spoke with young Enrico Marcato, who is travelling with a missionaries zeal to promote Durello. “I go to the States around four times a year,” he says. Having just returned from Germany, he will, in a few days, be heading out for New York, Texas and other points, ending up in Miami.

I have to say it is thrilling to have been here and seen for myself the development of Durello wine. For years I had an active dislike for it. “Fizzy aspirin,” I would mutter contemptuously. BUT… in the last two years I have found sparkling Durellos that are light and charming and imminently drinkable.

However, when some Durello producers try to put Durello in the class with Champagne, I smile indulgently.