. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: December 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Eye for an Eye...

Lex Talionis is a Principle of the Hammurabi code of law, it's the rule under which the offender will be punished mirroring the damages inflicted, also known as law of retaliation.
The code was carved in stone between 1592 and 1550 BC when King Hammurabi ruled over Babylon. It was also a law in the Old Testament, in the Mosaic laws and as well in the Itties code of law.
In the New Testament the Christian interpretation of the biblical passage has been heavily influenced by the quotation from Leviticus (19:18, see above) in Jesus of Nazareth's Sermon on the Mount. In the Expounding of the Law (part of the Sermon on the Mount), Jesus urges his followers to turn the other cheek when confronted by violence:

"You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:38-39, NRSV)

Now if already at that time there was a urge to end such practice it was because of the endless ring of violence those rules creates.

So why today we don't feel that way?

As most of you already know Saddam Hussein was killed by hanging Saturday morning in Iraq, I don't want to discuss on whatever he deserved it or not, what I would like to analyse are the consequences that act will bring.
I don't think that today the world is a safer place nor do the Iraqis (just today over 70 people died in several riots and car bombs attacks).
Diplomatically the execution created lots of embarrassments within the western coalition between the States praising for achieved justice and the EU calling it "barbarian act". On the other hand for once Israel, Iran and the USA are stating the same comments and it sound like we made a favor to our next worst enemy Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while Russia is concerned about the possibility of an escalation of violence.
Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said:

"The situation in Iraq is heading into a worst-case scenario. The country is slipping into violence and is on the verge of a large-scale civil conflict. Saddam Hussein's death can further aggravate the military-political situation and increase ethnic and religious tensions."

Reading the news from around the world it looks like every leader in the world agree on the fact that the Hussein punishment will not stop the violence in Iraq, a country that holds the biggest oil reserve in the world, sited in the most unstable region of the world, and actually will increase the conflict possibilities.
So why he has been killed?
Was him more powerful behind bars or now as martyr?
These questions don't really have anything to do with justice and the way was carried in Saddam's trial; my point is that now there is even a deeper line between the ones that believe in his innocence and the ones that doesn't, which in the Western World translate in hours of television debates and dinner table discussions but in the Middle East usually translate in violence.
I know once again I didn't stick with the grapes that so much do for our mental and physical health...and once again I must apologize because I diverted from the subject of my blog, even though a conflict in that region will also effect some great wineries like Chateau Musar and Massaya from Lebanon and Domaine du Castel in Israel and many other more that would have born and never will.
I wish you a "ripe" and peaceful 2007
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Day in NYC

It's Christmas and for a weird reason it seems like the clock went back in time.
I'm watching the Thomas Crown Affair on cable (the original one with Steve McQueen) and sitting on the table next an empty bottle of Bollinger Grande Annee Rose 1999 that served us last night, outside is warm and loudly silent.
I still have in mind the fresh berries flavors of the Champagne that melted greatly with the Skate fish we ate last night. I enjoyed it very much, the perlage was fine and elegant, on the palate the notes of cherries blended in with wild strawberries and minerality.
Joh Jos Prum Riesling Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese 2004 was the wine of choice for our lunch, which was based on Wild Smoked Salmon and Spaghetti with Bottarga. The wine was light in alcohol, that made it more suitable to begin the long day, the sugar residues were balanced by the acidity and the bouquet of fruit was completed by petroleum notes typical of the Mosel Saar Ruwer region. It went really well with the Salmon; the wine enhanced the delicate smoky flavors of the fish leaving the palate cleaned for the next bite and worked also well with the Bottarga, the contrast between the sweetness of the wine and the strong fish and salty flavors was interesting and worth to be tried.
As my lazy day progresses, timed by old movies and occasional naps, I found my self ready for dinner with a nice 3 liters of Sant'Helena Tato, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Friuli Venezia Giulia waiting to be poured. Full and fruity at the beginning was showing a little to marked vanilla notes lacking in complexity, after some time the herbaceous notes of the Merlot and the peppery flavors of the Cabernet had develop making the wine more elegant and complex.
That was my Christmas day quiet and relaxing with great food and wine like an holiday should be; how was yours?
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Seven Fish Dinner Urban Myth?

In the past but especially in the recent years I've been asked about the Seven Fish dinner that supposedly is part of my homeland traditional Christmas eve dinner.
I had spent 24 Christmas eves in Italy and never heard of such a thing. It is part of the Christians rules to eat "magro"; so yes we do have dinner based on fish but I never heard of a fixed amount of it that needs to be prepared. Now I thought that the fish feast was maybe a tradition from who knows what small town so I went on the Italian Google to look what will came up.
The only Festa dei Sette Pesci held in Italy was in Florence for a Chinese festivity in April!!!
Just to make sure, I activated my special research unit in Italy (composed by my father and his friends, they work much better than CIA and M16 together) to find out more about at this point the mysterious fish orgy.
The first call was for my father, he didn't know anything about it and came up with the same Tuscan restaurant that likes Chinese food, than he called Annamaria which is an expert in Italian traditions, and I'm sure the phone call chain went on for a while. After all that I'm pretty confident in saying that the seven fishes is not part of the Italian culinary nor any religious traditions.
Now my question is from were Rachel Ray and Mario Batali and other hundreds of quasi Italian chefs took the 7 fishes dinner tradition from?
Are they sponsored by the fishing commerce board if such a thing exist?
Has the fishing association hired some famous lobbyist?
I hope to get an answer to the fish affair and I hope to have some help in solving the mystery from you guys.
I wish you a fishy Christmas eve and a great holiday season.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Saturday, December 16, 2006

007 Less Finesse More Power

If you want to go see this movie please don't read this blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A little while ago I went to see the new Bond movie after several people bragged about the quality of picture.
At first I hadn't paid attention to the fact the most of the positive comments were given by women.
After I saw the movie the connection become clear.
I will actually start saying that the movie was indeed very good, the story was intriguing and the action was not taken to the extremes reached in the past few 007 films.
The advertisement content was kept to a minimum, which is a positive change in my opinion. So you might be asking yourself why I'm writing about a movie instead of the great bottle of Sori Paitin Barbaresco 1989 we drank and the wonderful food that Chris Cannon and Jane Epstein had offered and shared with us at L'Impero if I liked the movie?
The reason why is the following;
That wasn't 007, maybe 008 or 006 but that was not James Bond. The real James knows how to dress, how to use violence as last resort and, more importantly, he knew how to order a bottle of champagne and how not to get fooled by a woman.
It look like somebody had fun in letting Mr. Bond drive a Nissan and even worst a Ford Mondeo, had a blast in taking the class out of him, adding a good dose of bullying and transforming the most "Soave" man into a violent and bleeding thug. I had the chills once I heard him order a bottle of Bollinger La Grande Annee without mention of the year what so ever, the bitter answer given to the bartender declaring the death of the "shaken not stirred" (yes the real 007 did gave a damn about how his drink was prepared).
I still can't believe that he broke into M's apartment going against the most common rules of decency and respect toward his boss. Unheard of!!!!!!!! And what about the classy comment after Eva Green had drown into the Venetians dirty waters, the use of that kind of language is not like James Bond style at all, I can't really see an English gentleman saying the B word refered to a death woman.
This Bond is too "human", too sweet (he actually says I love you to the woman that will eventually betray him), he makes too many mistakes - and one of them almost cost him his nuts.
Now I have one question on my mind - why did all of that happen?
Why make a 007 that appeals to the gentle sex (all my female friends were pretty impressed by the water scenes)?
Perhaps because the female audience became big enough to not to be left out?
Or maybe it was just about time for Mr. Bond to lose his aura and become more like us.
I will eagerly be waiting for your takes on that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Healthy Grapes for Good Wines

Last time I wrote about integrity in wine production, I concentrated on what happens during the winemaking process. But integrity doesn't begin with the decision not to add chemicals to the final product,
A healthy wine begins in the vineyard.

Wines is a natural, agricultural product and when it’s treated lovingly start to finish in a healthy, natural, nurturing environment it repays us with an emotional experience, each glass is a journey across time and space, a communion between mother nature and human nature.

However, some wine these days are produced in an industrial, antiseptic, profit driven environment that strips the nature from the product and, as often as not, leaves us unsatisfied, disappointed, and with a headache! A well tended, healthy grapevine at a high quality vineyard typically yields about from half a Kilo to one kilogram of fruit. In lower quality vineyards, one plant may yield more, perhaps two or three kilograms per plant. There is a new era of mass production industrial farms that are producing as much as 9 kg of fruit per plant! Now, you might think that more fruit would mean healthier vines, but it's the opposite. When a plant produces 10 Kilos of grape the organoleptic content in the grape itself will be high water and very poor in tannins, phenols, sugars and other substances that are good for your health and create the flavor spectrum of the wine.
Now, let's follow these grapes from the industrial vineyard. After they're harvested, they're transformed into must. Then, the must, is either fermented and than manipulated to achieved some sort of flavor and then bottled, or, in case the must have to be shipped, is concentrated with a machine that separates the water from the rest creating some sort of grape marmalade, packed into steel containers and shipped to other parts of the world. When the must gets to destination is turned into wine in much the same way that a packet of powdered flavors is turned into soup by adding water. Then, tannic acid, tartaric acid, sulfites, essential oils, and other additives are mixed in. The result is a product that is sold to large distributors for about $0.75-$1.50 per bottle and about 5 to 7 dollars to the final costumer. Now, the consumer, upon tasting the wine, typically finds it “not too bad” and concludes that his purchase was a good value. But science has tricked the taste buds, much the same way that chemicals can be added to low quality fast food to make it taste satisfying when in fact it is extremely unhealthy. Ultimately, this product will never give the consumer the kind of wine experience that I love (and have come to expect) in wine a taste of the earth and air of where it was produced, the personality of the producer, and all the character (and yes, sometimes flaws) that come with natural beauty.

So, how can you tell whether your "not too bad" tasting wine is the product of a natural product lovingly crafted, or reconstituted wine-marmalade with artificial flavors? Well, the mass produced wine usually gives you a headache the next morning if not the night you drink it.
Another hint is after you finish the bottle. If two people split a bottle of good wine produced with integrity, usually they feel like opening another one of the same right after. Then that was definitely a good bottle of wine!

Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Israeli, Kosher and Really Good

The gem is called Domaine du Castel Gran Vin 2003. The owner and self taught winemaker, Eli G Ben-Zaken, planted a small vineyard in 1988 on a hill top near his house in the Judean Hills. The first vintage of the Gran Vin, a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, was in 1992. The first "experiment" brought very good critics and one in particular by Serena Sutcliffe (Master of Wine and head of the International wine department of Sotheby's). That review backed Eli's belief in the possibility to make a great wine. He decided to turn the old hen house and the stable in a state of the art underground cellar facility and plant more grapes in what he called the Haute de Judee. Now they have 13 Hectares of vineyards at an altitude of 700 meters above the sea level (more or less 2100 feet). They manually pick the grapes and ferment them in temperature controlled Stainless steel vats, maceration on the skin for as long as 30 days depending on the vintage. The wine than is refined for 24 months in new French oak barrels made exclusively for him by Seguin Moreau in Cognac. All Castel wines are unfiltered and meticulously made respecting the highest quality standards in wine making.
I had the wine on three different occasions so far. The first I had it with Tsvika, which actually introduced me to the estate. I remember being so surprised by it that I felt like a little kid after having discovered a hidden treasure. The nose was filled with raspberries, black liquorice and herbal hints of something in between of Rosemary and sage; in the mouth was explosive, warm, but still balanced and elegant. Firm notes of dark berries, sweet hints of vanilla, black licorice and unique notes of Rosemary and time (typical from that area are the balsamic flavors of mint and licorice and the notes of aromatic herbs, other great examples of that are the wines of Chateau Musar and Massaya both from Lebanon).
I was so surprised by the wine that I've decided to invite few wine friends over the shop few days later and blind taste them on it and because I was sure that nobody will have an idea of the origin of it, I asked them to just guess the country were the wine was made. Most of them laughed at me saying that that would be too easy. Now my guest were all acculturated winos, but I was ready to bet on the fact that nobody would be able to tell me the origin of the wine. Sure enough after few saying Perth in Australia some other looking at the eastern Italian border and the north part of California they finally gave up and remained speechless for few minutes after learnig that it was from Israel. Same thing happened on the third occasion, this time the victims are people that work in the wine business here in New York. Again nobody could tell and then believed that the wine was Israeli.
I must say Bravo Eli for the great job he is doing showing the world that also Israel should get some attention.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A nice end of the fall day on Clinton Street

I love this street because it has a unique feel different than every were else in this island. I like the fact that sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to walk up to Piada, half a block away from me,when I'm in need of some coffee or a nice sandwich, because on the way I stop many times to say hi to somebody I know. It reminds me of my neighborhood in Roma were leaving the house was almost a ritual; saying hi to the barista and talk about soccer while waiting for the espresso, than go little deeper on the discussion with the newsstand guy with the valid help of the grocery guy and so on (no kidding in Italy it takes for ever to do any thing :)
I love the diversity that Clinton Street carries, we have everything from the greasy cheap "Cucifrito" places to WD 50 were the food is science and talks to your brain; still in the food department I cannot forget Saschiko's, traditional Japanese restaurant with an impressive sake list, Cube 63, creative sushi BYOB, Falai and Falai Bakery owned by Jacopo Falai renowned Florentine chef, AKA and Frankie Spuntino. There are also eclectic boutiques like P-13, a t-shirt/herbal tonic teas/candle burning/bags and other amenities kind of shop and 20 Peacock filled with nice Italian shirts and ties. Clinton street is were the local doctor walks around with a real human skull; Dr Dave has been providing medical services since 1987, in what used to be not such an easy spot to be practicing the medical art, sometimes without charge for who ever didn't have the money to pay.
He drives an Electra glide and have tattoos all over his arms, one of them shows a sexy nurse riding a syringe, and ironically enough he also provide laser tattoo removal applications.
(Here he is in the picture with the mentioned skull!!!!)
Definitely eccentric, like the guy that in the afternoon runs up and down the street listening to his Walkman and shouting out all his frustrations to world and then, at night, seeing him working in a very respectable restaurant giving impeccable service.
I know I haven't talked about wine today but it was such a nice day over here and walking around looking at the people, looking at the half naked trees with the last few tenacious leafs holding on and just breathing the crispy air had inspire me to prize the street that so generously is being hosting me and my little wine shop.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti