November diary 2018
Off to the Carroarmato
It was a slow night at the Carroarmato. Annalisa joined us and we began lamenting the loss of the good old days when wine tasters still had ability to taste older vintages. I love to do so: the exhilarating pleasure of feeling a wine unravel on the palate, sniffing a wine that still gives pleasure but also shows you the ghost of what it once was. These are sensual as well as intellectual pleasures.
I told her that I had run into a fellow studying for his WSETs (Wine and Spirit Educational Trust exams) a few days after another session of old vintages. I started to tell him about the wines when I was stopped by the sad look in his eyes and sorry shake of his head. In a bolt of understanding I realized that he felt sorry for silly old me. He said: (as if explaining to a child) “I prefer young fruity easy drinking wines. That’s what consumers want now.”
It was now time for me to muster pity for him. He did not realize that the world of wine is vast and that it is possible to appreciate more than one style. Imagine a person saying: “I only listen to heavy metal” or “I only read non-fiction” or “I only eat white food!”
An Example: As I type this, on my desk is my stack of frequently played albums, which includes: Henry Purcell’s Fantasias, Natalie Coles’s Snowfall on the Sahara, and Dolly Pardon’s Love Songs. I like them all and will happily listen to them again and again.
Some years ago, a company based in Germany that imported fine wines (particularly Italian ones) asked me to come to Hamburg for a special tasting of older vintages. On the journey from the airport I asked the PR lady which other journalists were attending.
She replied: Jancis Robinson and you.
I blinked twice to make sure that I had heard correctly, then said: Okay I get Jancis Robinson – but why me?
The company had asked all their Italian producers to name someone who knew how to taste older vintages and who would appreciate the opportunity to do so, and my name kept coming up. How gratifying.
But enough of this. Among the wonderful wines tasted with Annalisa was a 1986 Pouilly Fume from Remy Pannier. Bright. A steely note over a rolling line of soft caramel on the palate.
November 16 Villa De Winckels (www.villadewinkels.it ) for Valpolicella Superiore Tasting
I love Villa De Winckels. The place itself is lovely and the tastings that the owners organize are always top notch. Forty-one producers showed their wines. The four that gave me the most pleasure were: Dalforno 2012 (a buzz of tannin astringency shapes the rich fruit), Marion 2014 (elegant fullness), Vicentini 2013 (fresh, firm fruit) and Giovanni Ruffo 2013 “Le Ceste” (rich yet elegant, full yet supple: this is a real yin and yang of a wine).
I asked Giovanni’s daughter how many bottles of it were made and she replied: “1231”.
“We don’t make many wines,” said Giovanni. “But we try to make them the best we can.”
Here is a photo of Agostino Vicentini, me and my notebook.