. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: What an Honor!!!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

What an Honor!!!

It was in January when my phone rang, whom to my wondering ears should speak but Eric Asimov. He had contacted me in order to invite me to be part of his recent tasting panel for the Chianti Classico. I obviously and gladly accepted with a healthy amount of excitement.
The tasting was held in the New York Times' new building on 9th Avenue, beautiful and humongous structure of glass and stainless steel created in the incomparable mind of Renzo Piano. After passing security I was received by Eric's warm smile that cleared a bit of the tension I had - after all, this was quite an honor. He handed me a note book and a pen, and I had brought my palate - so we were ready to start.
The room where the tasting was held had a great view of the river and New Jersey. The table was set up for four people with 25 glasses already filled and numbered, as well as crackers, bread and bottled water. On the east wall at the end of the room I found a long and narrow table with a few plates of delicious food.
Eric was seated at one of the end of the table Ms. Florant Fabricant across from him, and Mr. Charles Scicolone and I facing each other, forming a sort of cross. After relating to us the tasting rules Eric started the tasting. I was the rookie of the table and I must say that everybody did their best to create a very informal and comfortable environment; the atmosphere was very real and there was no space to show off or to be snobbish, and although I was the least experienced in the room my word had the same weight as the others. There were no competitive behaviors among us, and it was a highly focused and professional tasting. Being the new kid on the block, I was asked a lot of questions about my training and past along with conversation about the wine and food world, between all of the swirls, sips and spits. We did a first round eliminating 4 or 5 of the wines, and then continued with the rating and comments on each of the remaining wines.
While the words were going around like a carousel I was amazed by how precise some of the comments were, included some of mine, and it was great to challenge the palate, hearing a comment about a flavor and going right back to the glass and try to see it. The great exchange of information, among the 4 of us, about every wine lead up to detecting whether the wine was more or less expensive, from a small winery or a big one, at times almost getting to the grape compositions. All that was obviously done blind, and the wines were revealed at the end of the tasting by Bernie Kirsh, the 5th element of the table AKA the tasting coordinator.
The whole thing lasted little more than 2 hours but the impact on my education was worth a much greater amount of time. Therefore, I would like to thank Eric for inviting me and Florant, Charles and Bernard for sharing with me and adding a big brick onto my learning wall, a wall that I'm convinced is not going to stop growing until I'm no longer able to breathe.
Thank you

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