Bertani 1986 Amarone della Valpolicella, that’s what friends are for

December 13, 2010

Tracie P was just reminding me of a time in my life, not so long ago, when I needed a little help from my friends. Well, last night one of those friends, Yele, needed a little help from me and Erickson… I mean, you can’t drink 1986 Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella by yourself, now, can you?

What a mind-blowingly amazing bottle, with such bright acidity in a wine more than two decades old! Drank a lot of great, old wine in 2010 but this bottle is a real stand-out: it had that unforgettable “nerviness,” that “backbone” of acidity that Italians use in their canon of wine descriptors. I would have always reached for the 88 with Bertani (also a great and unforgettable wine, tasted most recently in February 2009), but the 86 was better IMHO.

The best part, though, was that wide, familiar, contagious grin on Yele’s face when we were perusing the cellar at Third Corner in Ocean Beach, California, and he pulled me away from the 02 La Turque to show me his find. That’s what friends are for, right? 01 Musar white was stunning as well and the grandfathered retail sales program and corkage policy at Third Corner always make a splurge like this so much more palatable.

Keep smilin’, keep shinin’
Knowin’ you can always count on me, for sure
That’s what friends are for
For good times and bad times
I’ll be on your side forever more
That’s what friends are for

In other news…

Just had to share these images from clients and friends Dan and Chrissa who invited me in for some holiday cheer when I dropped off their Do Bianchi Christmas Six-Pack.

Chrissa’s wonderful zuppa maritata (named, btw, not because it is served at Italian weddings, a folkloric etymology, but rather because it is a “marriage” or pairing of ingredients).

Dan’s homemade pork sausage for the meatballs.

Chrissa’s homegrown escarole for the soup.

Chrissa’s lemon cake. Damn, those two can cook!


Oops I did it again: pizza and Bertani 1988 Amarone!

February 24, 2009

Oh baby
It might seem like a crush
But it doesn’t mean that I’m serious
‘Cause to lose all my senses
That is just so typically me
Oh baby, baby

Above: Charles Scicolone can often be found at La Pizza Fresca in Gramercy (Manhattan), where they allow wine luminaries to bring their own bottles. The list there leans heavily toward modern and the prices are prohibitive. The pizza is good (although not as good as the pizza I recently tasted in San Antonio! I’ll be posting on that shortly so stay tuned).

Franco is going to kill me. I did it again: while Tracie B and I were in Manhattan for the last show in the NN+ tourette a few weeks ago, I paired pizza with an absolutely, undeniably, unquestionably, and egregiously inappropriate wine.

Two inappropriate wines, actually: Bertani 1988 (yes, 88!) Amarone and Cantalupo 1996 Ghemme Collis Breclemae (above).

One of the most important things I learned in college (and one of my favorite mottoes) was “This statement is false.” (It is a classic example of the Russel paradox. The other important thing I learned was that no movie is set in the future: “If the story has been told,” film professor Tinazzi used to say in Padua, “then it has already happened.”)

Above: Charles always orders the Margherita but I am always partial to the Puttanesca there. I never ate anchovies on my pizza until a pizzaiolo wrote the name of my band using anchovies on a pizza many years ago when I was on a summer tour in the Dolomites playing cover tunes (yes, I toured in a cover band in Italy). Evidently, Elvis Presley used to eat salt-cured anchovy fillets to soothe his throat while on tour.

What bearing does the above have on the present post, you ask? In the wake of the brouhaha that followed Dr. V’s post in which he quoted me as saying pizza could not be paired with wine, and my subsequent apologia pasoliniana, I feel compelled to confess that what I did was wrong: one should never pair two such elegant wines with the acidity and saltiness, not to mention the high temperatures, of pizza. At the same time, and here’s where the paradox kicks in, the experience was decadent, sumptuous, utterly delicious, and thoroughly enjoyable.

Above: Tracie B had a pizza bianca with broccoli raab. Also in attendance were friends Frank Butler (who generously brought the Bertani) and Michele Scicolone, who recently launched her excellent blog (definitely worth adding to your feed if only for the recipes that she shares). Charles has also become an avid blogger and I’ve been enjoying his blog and Facebook as well.

Charles’s 1996 Ghemme was earthy and had a crazy eucalyptus note, still very powerful and young, an amazing expression of Nebbiolo (and very definitely Piedmontese despite what Henri Vasnier said the other day on Brooklynguy’s blog). I’ve tasted this wine a number of times over the years and it is just beginning to come into its own.

The 1988 Bertani was sublime: a great vintage by one of the appellation’s greatest producers, very traditional in style, powerful and rich, yet already attaining the ineffable lightness that Amarone begins to achieve in its late adolescence.

Were these wines wasted by a paradoxical pairing? In other words, did we ruin the wines by pairing them with foods that detracted from their aromas and flavors? My feeling is that no, we did not: we experienced them in a new and different way than their traditional pairings. After all, the traditional pairing for an Amarone like that is pastissada de caval, horse meat stewed until stringy in red wine. Where would one find a horse to eat in Manhattan?

Oops, I did it again… Thanks Frank and Charles for bringing such incredible wines!

In other news…

If you’re into Loire and Chenin Blanc, check out Tracie B’s post on our visit to Chaume and her take on Chaume vs. Sauternes.


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