The saga of 2006 Nebbiolo continues…

produttori del barbaresco

Above: I snapped this photo when I visited what may be my favorite winery of all time, Produttori del Barbaresco, in March of this year. Are the 09s destined to be bottled as crus?

Yesterday, in the wake of the publication of Antonio Galloni’s superbly written and recently published notes on 2006 Barolo, friends Thor and Scott brought to my attention the fact that Aldo Vacca of Produttori del Barbaresco has decided not to bottle his 2006 crus.

Aldo’s been traveling in the U.S. and while I haven’t spoken to him directly about this, various emails and links thrown about led me to a thread in the unforgiving landscape of WineDisorder.com, where a kind gentleman named Bob wrote the following:

    Attended a Produttori event last night. Asked Sr. Vacca about the 2006 standard. He mentioned a couple of items that went into the decision re: no riservas. One was the concern that the standard bottle would be be too unbalanced with not enough fruit to match the structure. Too lean for the style that they try to produce. They take the standard bottling very seriously at the co-op. Also, given the embarrassment of riches in recent vintages, he felt that the co-op could go a vintage without the range of riservas for one year. He mentioned experience with previous vintages like 1995 (riservas made because none since 1990, but standard was perhaps too lean) and 1998 (standard might have been too lean, so riservas not produced after a few vintages in a row that were) that informed their thinking in 2006. Also, there was first lot of standard released locally in Albese before the potential riserva juice was blended in. All lots since then have been blended, including what’s in international markets now. Co-op’s current plans include riservas in 2007 and 2008.

And so the saga of 2006 Nebbiolo from Langa continues…

In other news… that’s what friends are for…

poggione

Got to drink the above last night thanks to my friend Tom. Wow… Did I mention that I love Il Poggione? Both wines were simply stunning. Thanks, Tom! You R O C K!

And in aesthetic news…

chicago

Chicago is such an interesting city to look at. Whenever I visit the city, I can’t help but think of how it represents an encyclopedia of and monument to America’s industrialization and its twentieth-century pre-imperial glory. It was a beautiful day in the city yesterday when I arrived. Snapped the above walking from the L Train to my hotel.

Gotta run now… Meetings, meetings, meetings… Thanks for reading, ya’ll!

Mamma mia! Here I go again (my new gig)…

Today finds me on my way to Chicago, city of my birth. I’m headed to the Windy City for the launch of a new gig, the Boutari Social Media Project 2010. For the next year I’ll be traveling around the country, tasting wines from 6 estates in the Boutari family of wineries, and talking to folks who pour and pair Greek wines with their favorite foods.

What better place to start than Greektown Chicago?

I’ll also be in San Diego over Mother’s Day weekend pouring Greek wines on Sunday May 9 at Jaynes Gastropub (5-7 pm). More details to follow…

Back in November 2009 when I was first approached and asked to write a proposal for this project, I never thought it would come to fruition. And now here I am about to board a plane… I’m truly honored that my proposal was chosen and that I’m about to embark on what I believe will be a ground-breaking adventure. Trips are also planned for New York, Miami, and Houston.

Mamma mia! Here I go again!

Stay tuned…

A big tree and a little tree in Montalcino

Above: Alessandro Bindocci (above) and his father are “on a roll,” wrote one of my favorite wine writers, Antonio Galloni in the April issue of The Wine Advocate published today. I took the photo of Ale in September 2008 at Tenuta il Poggione.

Alfonso does a series of posts on his blog about “big trees” and “little trees,” in other words, mothers and fathers and daughters and sons who work and live in the Italian wine industry. Alfonso’s worked in Italian wine for some time now and let’s just say that he’s seen a few big trees go and a few little trees sprout up.

One of the things that Tracie P and I thought and talked a lot about on our February trip to Italy was the relationships between mothers and fathers who make wine and their children. In some cases, the children aren’t interested in furthering the legacy of their parents, in other cases they are. Sometimes the conflict that arises thereof can lead to bitter quarrels. Other times there is a harmony — not always perfect but ultimately sturdy — that ensures the continuity of the parents’s legacy.

In March when I went back to Piedmont, I asked Enrico Rivetto’s father what he thought about his son’s newfangled blog. “I think he’s crazy,” he replied. “But, then again, my father thought I was crazy when I told him we should make a single-vineyard Barolo.” However reluctantly, the elder Rivetto supports his son’s blogging project.

My friend Alessandro Bindocci is a blogger as well. His father Fabrizio the winemaker at Tenuta Il Poggione (one of my favorite Brunello producers and my long-time friend), can’t even send an email. Alessandro can monitor vinfication using his blackberry.

I was thrilled to read Antonio Galloni’s glowing words for Fabrizio and Alessandro’s wines on Ale’s blog this morning.

As Tracie P and I talk about us making little trees ourselves, it’s a wonderful and warm thought to think that some day they may get to taste wines in the same traditional style Brunello that we love so much. By the time our putative children will be old enough to appreciate fine wine, the wines won’t be Fabrizio’s any longer. They’ll be Alessandro’s.

Mazel tov, Ale. Congrats on your superb scores from Galloni!

Tuscan wine scandal: a producer speaks out and names a name

tuscan wine scandal

This morning over at VinoWire, Italy’s top wine blogger Mr. Franco Ziliani and I published a translation of a page from a new book on the top wines of Europe by thirty-something Italian journalist Andrea Scanzi.

Aretino-born Andrea is a certified sommelier and a popular journalist. He has written on sports, music, and wine, including Elogio dell’invecchiamento (In Praise of Aging, 2007, Mondadori), in which he chronicles his “search for the 10 best wines of Italy” according to the flap jacket copy.

His current book, Il vino degli altri (Other People’s Wines) was released with great PR fanfare during the annual Italian wine industry trade fair Vinitaly. It wasn’t intended to be a scandalous book. In fact, from what I understand (and I haven’t read the book in its entirety), the book is an attempt to contextualize the great wines of Italy within the macrocosm of their European counterparts.

But his interview with Super Tuscan producer Massimo d’Alessandro of Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro — just a few pages in the book — may represent the first instance when a prominent Tuscan winemaker has spoken on the record about last year’s Tuscan wine scandal (10 million liters of wine produced by wineries in Chianti were seized by Italian officials).

The page (131) scanned and posted by Mr. Ziliani on his blog and the subsequent response from Brancaia are remarkable because the texts shed some light, however distorted, on what has really been happening in Tuscan winemaking. Neither observers of Italian wine nor anyone who’s ever spent time with Tuscan winemakers will be surprised by the mention of a famous Tuscan enologist — the first time, to my knowledge, that anyone has mentioned his name on record (even though, off the record, many Tuscan wine professionals will point to this gentleman as the architect of the region’s current ills).

Click here to read my translation and the response from Brancaia at VinoWire.

In other news…

sweet peas

Tracie P only begins to bring home tomatoes when they start to come back into season with warmer temperatures (no “winter” greenhouse tomatoes allowed zum Parzen!). Last night we had a delightfully light supper of bruschette rubbed with garlic, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil (San Giuliano, Alghero, Sardinia), and topped with fresh cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. She also gently sautéed some springtime sweet peas with country ham. The 2008 Pinot Grigio (Friuli) by Scarpetta (Bobby Stuckey’s label, under $20) paired beautifully, especially as it warmed up a little (when too cold, it’s as if you’re only drinking half of the flavor of this wine).

Happy springtime, everyone! :-)

Italy vintage 2008: the good, bad, and delicious

Above: Tracie P made a delicious pollo alla canzanese (with potato purée) last night for dinner. After she tasted a bit paired with the 2008 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, she said: “wow, Chianti goes with everything!” Selvapiana is one of our favorite wines, in terms of cost, food-friendliness, general deliciousness… and of course, its old-school ethos.

It’s too early to make any general sweeping observations (and no matter what the vintage, there will always be idiosyncratic expressions of any appellation depending on the grower, growing sites, and winemaker), but 2008 — from what I have tasted so far — is sizing up not to be the greatest vintage in northern and central Italy in recent memory. The legacy of 2008 has yet to reveal itself but it would seem that rain — particularly rainfall in the latter part of the vegetative cycle when the vines need aridity to avoid mildew — made for a harvest without a lot of longevity.

But that’s not bad news. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s really more a question of when the wines will begin to show well (earlier in this case) and their approachability and food friendliness.

So far, the two standouts for me have been the 2008 Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco (which we served at our wedding, if that’s any indication of how much we like it!) and the 2008 Chianti Rufina by Selvapiana, which our friend Sarah (a publicist who reps the importer, Dalla Terra) recently sent to us to try. Of course, anyone who reads my blog knows that Tracie P and I are big fans of Selvapiana.

The wine wasn’t as tannic and did not have the structure of the 2007 (which we drink regularly at home, because of its under-$20 price tag and its wonderful versatility at the table; it was my pick for Thanksgiving 2009, as you may remember).

Instead, this time around the wine was bright and showed nice ripe fruit right outta the box. It was lighter in body and sang a cheerful tune in the glass. I probably won’t stash a bottle of the 2008 to see what it tastes like in a few years (as I did for the 2007): when it hits the Texas market, it’s sure to be a a Wednesday- or Saturday-night (or in last night’s case, a Sunday-night) wine for the dinner table at home, to be drunk as soon as it’s had time to rest after arriving from our local wine monger.

The best news is that in tough vintages (as 2008 is shaping up to be), winemakers will often choose not to make their flagship wine and their top vineyards will go into their second and third label.

Above: A few weeks ago, we served the 2006 Chianti Rufina Riserva [single-vineyard] Bucerchiale, the winery’s current flagship release, with roast lamb on the patio of our new home. Rich and still very young for its age, a wonderful roast and grilled meat wine, still very tannic but approachable with some aeration, one our favorite expressions of Sangiovese. Definitely a Saturday-night or Sunday-feast exclusive (the PARZEN 7-DAY RATING SYSTEM® is calculated according to a festivity-and-celebratory-worthy algorithm).

I don’t know whether or not Selvapiana intends to bottle their single-vineyard Bucerchiale from the 2008 vintage or not and it’s highly likely that the winery doesn’t know yet either: they’ll taste and re-taste the wine before they decide how they choose to age and subsequently label it. We’ll see.

Legend has it that famed Italian winemaker Piero Talenti once said, “there is no such thing as a bad vintage. There are just vintages where we make less wine.” However apochyphal, there is more than a grain of wisdom in this axiom. Vintage is just one element in the vintage-terroir-winemaker equation.

After all, Bordeaux 2009 may be the “most talked about vintage” in the last 30 years, as Alfonso pointed out on the corporate blog that he authors, but I won’t be able to afford it!

POST SCRIPTUM Here are a couple of interesting links and recipes for Chicken Canzanese: Cooks Illustrated and Amanda Hesser in The New York Times via 1969.

Tasted any good 2008s? Please share!

Sunday poetry: Dante’s “sweetness of the drink”

The below image (a postcard, I believe) reached me via friend and comrade Howard to whom it had been sent by his friend Amos, who’s living in Florence this year.

purgatorio

The image satirically parodies two of the last lines in Dante’s Puragtory, with a slight distortion (most probably inadvertent) of the text. The author of the postcard transcribes:

    io pur canterò in parte
    lo dolce ber che mai non m’avria sazio

Most scholars would take issue with the accuracy of the transcription (canterò, future, vs. the probably more accurate canterei, present conditional) but that’s no matter nor the point here.

The line is lifted from the famous closing tercets of The Purgatory, the second of three canticles in Dante’s poem, The Comedy. Here they are as translated by professors Robert and Jean Hollander.

    If, reader, I had more ample space to write,
    I should sing at least in part the sweetness
    of the drink that never would have sated me,

    but, since all the sheets
    readied for this second canticle are full,
    the curb of art lets me proceed no farther.

    From those most holy waters
    I came away remade, as are new plants
    renewed with new-sprung leaves,

    pure and prepared to rise up to the stars.

At the end of Purgatory, Dante, who is accompanied by the Latin poet Statius, is instructed by the mysterious Matelda to bathe in the waters of the Lethe river (one of the five rivers of Hell) to erase the memory of sins committed on earth) and then to drink from the Eunoe, a river of Dante’s invention, from the Greek, the eu (beautiful or good) noe (mind), which reminds the penitent of her or his good deeds on earth.

The famous lines would have been very familiar to the author of the postcard, who has parodied Dante’s dolce ber or sweet drink of the Eunoe, the river referred to in the closing lines of the canticle, as alcoholic. The triad Statius-Dante-Matelda also would have been familiar to the author, who probably created this image in the 1920s or early 1930s, gauging from the imagery

The image of Dante is taken from 15th-century painter Domenico di Michelino’s depiction of Dante, now in the Basilica of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence:

Dante

Here are the two Dantes, side-by-side:

I believe that the other male figure in the panel could be a parody of poet and novelist Gabriele d’Annunzio, who was at the height of his fame when this postcard was printed.

The lady with the tray of glasses completes the triad. To this day, scholars don’t know Dante’s inspiration for Matelda but she is described by him as la bella donna, not just a beautiful woman as in the contemporary Italian, but rather a beautiful noble lady in the Dantean lexicon. Here’s 19th-century French engraver Gustav Doré’s depiction of Matelda bathing Dante in the Lethe:

Of course, in Dante’s text, the waters of the Eunoe do not have any alcoholic content nor do they have any analgesic properties. In fact, the effects of alcohol were associated more with sleep than with forgetfulness in Dante’s time. The lines from The Purgatory are among the most beautiful in the canticle, for many reasons. But I don’t have any more space left here to go into all of that… the curb of art lets me proceed no farther

Buona domenica, ya’ll… thanks for reading!

Micheladas on Lake Austin (Colorado River), beautiful spring day at Ski Shores

jeremy parzen

With weather like this, we couldn’t resist a drive down to Lake Austin (a reservoir on the Colorado River) and Micheladas on the water with our lunch at Ski Shores Cafe.

jeremy parzen

Ski Shores just reopened about a week ago and man, nothing beats sitting on the water’s edge… sipping a Michelada and looking into my baby’s eyes… :-)

jeremy parzen

The fried pickles weren’t bad either!

I hope everyone’s out there enjoying the good weather. Nothing can make a soul feel better than a beautiful spring day spent with someone you love. :-)