|Sara Maule of Nino Negri at Caracol in Houston w/wine director Sean Beck|
First, go to as many public (or trade) events as possible to talk with the winemaker and taste their wine. Just like anything, practice is paramount. Taste everything you can. Make notes and find a way to catalog them. In Houston, two wine buyers, Antonio Gianola and Sean Beck, have taken their wine notes to a high level. In the case of Antonio, he has a photographic memory. He keeps his notes in small booklets and refers to them when needed. Sean, who oversees wine programs at four restaurants in Houston, now takes his notes on an IPad. He uses key words so he can search back on them when he is looking for some specific wine. These two gents have set an example worth following. And while not all of us are blessed to have a memory like Antonio or an insatiable curiosity like Sean, again, the key word is practice.
|Sara Maule (L) pours Vigna Fracia to Mai Pham (R) at |
Houston Wine Merchant (w/Antonio Gianola in background)
|Photo - courtesy of Italian Wine Central|
Rarely does anyone pronounce my name correctly in America. I’m not so sensitive to it, but if you are a wine lover or a wine professional, pronouncing the names of the wine correctly is a big deal. The first place to go is the Italian Grape Name & Appellation Pronunciation Project by Jeremy Parzen. Jeremy finds and video records actual producers of the wines. Very fun and instructive, and of course, very proper Italian spoken.
|Photo - courtesy of Michael Horne's Dall'Uva|
|Still from Geoff Kruth and Guild Somm's "The Wines of Barolo and Barbaresco"|
If you want to get visceral and do some actual work in the fields, there are opportunities. One special one coming up in a few weeks is part 2 of the Scuola pratica di antica viticoltura Etnea - School of applied traditional Etnean viticulture that Salvo Foti and Maurizio Pagano hold on Etna. The course is divided into three modules, January- Module 1: Preparation and Regeneration/March- Module 2: Rebirth/June- Module 3: Preparing for Fruition.
|Salvo Foti and Maurizio Pagano lead the Etna viticultural sessions|
What the hands on experience offers is the visceral connection. You are in it, on it, it’s all around you. You are steeped in the terroir and that leaves a lasting impression. Etna isn’t the only place, but this is full immersion in a way one can only dream of.
This is just the tip of the many opportunities one can have to learn more about Italian wine. Consider these few suggestion from my list of shortcuts to getting to understanding Italian wine better.
So often I hear people lament that they just cannot understand Italian wine. My response is “Does the fact that you look at a piano or guitar and don’t know how to play it confound you? If it does and you want to know more, then you must embark upon a course in which you learn to play the instrument.” Italian wine is similar. It’s isn’t as confusing as it is complex. It takes time and it requires patience. And practice. But the rewards are great.
- Italian Wine Central
- Italian Grape Name & Appellation Pronunciation Project
- Parla Vino? How to Pronounce Italian Wine Names
- Geoff Kruth and The Guild of Sommeliers video series
- Scuola pratica di antica viticoltura Etnea - School of applied traditional Etnean viticulture
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