. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: July 2007

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Cabernet Night

This is a true story about a typical case of, as Notorious B.I.G. used to say, "getting high on your own supply."
The excuse was a visit from Luigi on a summer Saturday night. Luigi is a jack-of-all-trades (master of many) who helps me out with various aspect of my work. He also happens to be a close friend. - Saturday was our version of boys night, so we met at my shop, where I decided to take a bottle right from my wall; the Castello dei Rampolla Vigna d'Alceo was calling me, and I most definitely answered that call. I opened the bottle at 9:00 pm, and as soon I uncorked it, a strong perfume of black cherries began to perforate all the air around the bottle. Even before I had poured it into the glass, the cherries were supported by some leather and spice; great nose very vibrant and young, even though the bottle had already reached its 10th birthday.
1997 was a hot year, but in Tuscany it was close to perfect, lest we are reminded of the hype behind the release of the 97 Brunello. This Cabernet base "Super Tuscan" shows a strong bouquet and a heavy weight connected to the climate conditions but still maintaining a great tannic structure and enough acidity to make it very drinkable. Luigi offered a perfect comparison: "it's like an agile fat man".
Castello dei Rampolla is a winery situated in Panzano, in Chianti, and has been part of the Di Napoli Rampolla family since 1739. But, it wasn't until the early 70's that they started to vinify and bottle their own wines.
The winery is organic and biodynamic and the harvest is done by hand; today Maurizia and her brother and Luca Di Napoli Rampolla are in charge of the operations.
One hour in, the tannins became firmer, the dark cherries became less sweet and hints of rosemary and white pepper start to show - the finish was getting longer and longer.
The wine was so good that Luigi and I decided to open another bottle. But we wanted something different. Luigi wasn't sure that we could match the Vigna d'Alceo... but the Ridge Montebello Cabernet 1977 did the trick.
If I had to compare the two, I would say that the Ridge was more elegant and traditional then the Rampolla, probably because 1997 was a very hot year in Italy and the wines tended to be more fruit forward. Both had the same dark cherries and leather as flavor base, but the Ridge was a bit more austere and linear.
Amazingly, after 2 bottles for as many people, we were still making sense and able to appreciate the wines until the last sip, which - as usual - was the best one.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Most embarrassing wine moments

As it goes in every profession, in the wine business, we have our fair share of embarrassing moments.
Personally, I can remember my first time with the Rabbit, a "heavy duty machinery" corkscrew that I notice sitting in a lot of womens' kitchens; I was at a friend's house and obviously, I brought some wine. When I asked for a corkscrew, she pointed at a stainless steel case on the counter, and there it was - the Rabbit (my guess is that it's called as such for the look of it's handles, which comprise a crude representation of rabbit's ears).
So, I put it on top of the bottle and with a firm movement I went back and forth like I was playing a slot machine.
The cork was magically gone - and not just from the neck of the bottle, but also from the opener. I looked on the floor and on the counter, under everything in the kitchen... there was no trace of it. This, of course, was because I had pushed the cork into the bottle instead of pulling it out. I discovered the embarrassing misfortune when I tried to pour with little to no success, inducing my friend to raucous laughter. I remembered about that episode last night when my friend Piers, in an attempt to re-cork a magnum, used a regular bottle cork, and watched it easily drop into the bottle.
Tastings are also places prone to embarrassments. I remember a guy that said something really funny while one of us had just sipped from his glass, and watching the unfortunate man's eyes open wide in the attempt to not laugh, then seeing the red wine coming out of his nose. A particularly unpleasant but highly comical scenario. Still in the tasting department, I have to mention another slip-up; me mistaking the Sella & Mosca Tanca Farra, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cannonau from Sardegna, for an American Pinot Noir during a dinner with Dino Tantawi of Vignaioli Selection, and Chris Cannon of L'Impero. Oops.
There are also tasting goofs that occur more frequently, and are of a more pedestrian nature... there's just nothing you can do to prevent them. For instance - numerous times I've swallowed into the wrong canal and started to cough like there was no tomorrow, while trying to give my feedback under the embarrassed and often concerned look of my interlocutor. Wine and windpipe do not mix.
I think I can go on for a while in this department being that I haven't mentioned any embarrassing moments related to excessive consumption, but I would like to hear your experiences, as well.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

Friday, July 13, 2007

We are reaching the bottom!!!

In today's news from Italy, the Guardia di Finanza, one of the Italian Police forces, seized 24,000 Hectoliters (572,000 gallons ca) of white table wine that was supposed to be sold fraudulently as Prosecco and Pinot Grigio IGT delle Venezie!!!
7 people have been indicted for making simple white table wine and bottling it as an IGT (indicazione geografica tipica) or as the refreshing sparkling wine from the Veneto Region. The thought... it's just unbelievable. It's like doing a cheaper version of something that is already very inexpensive.
The grapes were coming from wineries that were struggling (from Piedmont, Veneto, Tuscany and Friuli Venezia Giulia); all of a sudden, they were turning in high profits, and with a complicated system of fake invoices and other documents, they were able to pass off the lowest grade of Italian wine for a little better than the lowest grade of Italian wine!
Yes, that's right - we're not talking of Sassicaia or vintage Bordeaux being counterfeited and passed off yielding high profit for the forgers. We're talking about people who were cheating on wines that are sold for only a few Euros at the wineries.
But! The amount of wine seized by the police was enough for 3,200,000 bottles. even if they could have made a profit margin of 1 euro per bottle, it's still a very good return for one year. But I have a feeling that the margins are much higher than that; I know for a fact that you can buy several thousand gallons of wine from Chile or Argentina and have it shipped to Italy for less then 50 Euro cents per liter. Then you'd be missing only the cork (a plastic cork can cost as low as 20 Euro cents), the label and the bottle (which can add other 15 cents for a total of 0.85 Euros!). Now if the same wine is sold as loose table wine, it has a value of about 1 to 1.5 Euros per bottle, depending on the quality. But if the same wine is marked Pinot Grigio IGT delle Venezie or Prosecco, it can be sold for 2 to 7 Euros, depending on quality. - In the end, that fraud could have brought in over four million Euros in profit. Absolutely unbelievable.
This one example (one very big example) of the truth in the phrase, "you get what you pay for," considering that those table wines are the bottles that end up on NYC store shelves for less than 6 dollars. Buyer beware!
Buona Bevuta a Tutti