Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Well-Kept Wine

Whether we’re talking Italy or America, it doesn’t matter. Someone has an opinion about the way one should treat a wine. I rather imagine this comes from deeper seated ideas about life, love and one’s place in the scheme of things. If one is the center of their universe or if one is watching the spectacle from a corner seat, there is plenty of variation. And entertainment value.

I am in Franciacorta today. The harvest is wrapping up; the wineries are redolent with the smell of grapes having wild monkey sex in the fermentation tanks. This is the moment. Tonight’s the night. Or in the case of Franciacorta, tonight, and sometime maybe 6 years from now, is the night.


Such an odd intercourse between the making of wine and the selling of wine. The winemaker takes us to the open tanks, we stick our noses in and the prickly seething of the wine-to-be offers a moment of passion that will eventually settle into sparkle.

All the time, while this miracle is happening all across the Western World, somewhere in that world someone is planning the future for some of these wines. The wine list maker, a god in their own universe, is decreeing this one and that one, as if one were judging a beauty contest. Their very own Wine-Jurassic Park.


On the phone the dazzle from the bubbles still coursing their way through, one client asks me, “Do you have Tignanello? Do you have Sassicaia?” I am not even in Tuscany and yet these interlopers want to charge the stage. I ask the person why they would need such wines for their list, when it was first described as a casual, world-cafĂ©, embodying the not-so-serious side of wine. Maybe a Grenache from the south of France, perhaps a Vermentino from the Maremma. A playful Torrontes from Argentina, or a sunburnt Primitivo from Apulia. How did these muscle-bound Tuscans cock-block their way past the line outside this disco?

“But no, why not? I need wines like this, my clientele needs them.” They do? Or do you like your women skinny and tall with long, shiny white legs, and so think all the rest of us do too? Perhaps some of us do not want this particular red wine, the dream of an old man, now. Maybe that wild yeast Vermentino calls to a new young set? I don’t know. I question the conventional. Always. Why not? Who's listening anyway?

On another call a young wine buyer, born and raised in France, texts me about a white wine from a small producer in Fiesole. Unable to accurately reply, I try again with my Vermentino from Maremma plea. This time someone is actually listening to me. “Ok, I will try it, you are the Italian wine ___, as if to display a sign of respect for my ancient experience. Thank you, my young French friend. You understand something my once-upon-a-time-in-America Italian cannot manage to conjure up. That people like me might actually know a thing or two about where people are going in wine in America. But no matter. The wine is bubbling up. The well-kept wine. And if need be, it can keep for another revolution.

Or we can simply uncork it and enjoy it ourselves, in the company of those who are going forward into an uncertain future. But a future, nonetheless with flavor and passion. And with the veil of presumption cast upon a river where there is no such thing a catch and release.



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