Want your wine to last? Drink good wine (Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino)

Above: The 2004 Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is one of the most stunning and memorable wines that Tracie P and I have tasted so far this year.

One of the most frequent questions I get when I lead consumer and educational wine tastings (and I’m leading one next week in Houston, btw) is the following: what’s the secret for conserving wine in the bottle once you’ve opened it? (and the corollary how long is the wine good for?)

My number one answer and secret? DRINK GOOD WINE! And the most important element in the wine for its longevity once opened? ACIDITY! (I know that my wine sisters and brothers will agree with me on this one — just think of the 1978 Barbera by Angelo Gaja that we opened a few years ago at Alfonso’s pad).

As a whole, Americans have been trained by the Military-Industrial Complex to drink wines with LOW acidity, high alcohol, and concentrated jammy fruit — wines that have a short shelf life and wines that won’t last long once opened. (Sorry to sound like a broken record!)

But when you buy and spend some time with wines with healthy acidity, you’ll find that the wines will last longer — much longer — once opened. Wake up, America! It’s time to smell the coffee good wine!

Above: With much lighter tannic structure and body, the acidity in the 2008 Rosso di Montalcino kept the wine alive for no fewer than 3 days — no refrigeration, no pumping, no nothing… just the cork that the bottle was born with.

Truth be told: when Tracie P and I opened a bottle of 2004 (not an easy vintage in Tuscany despite what some would have you believe) Gianni Brunelli Brunello di Montalcino Riserva the other night, we drank the whole bottle between the two of us at the dinner table. It was a Saturday night, we were staying in, and this bottle — with GORGEOUS, stunning acidity, brilliant fruit, and lusty alcohol held in check by pancratiast tannins — was simply irresistible. (This and the bottle below were given to us in Austin by the lovely Derryberry and Shaw families of Austin, the former bottling as a gift to thank us for Tuscany recommendations, the latter a gift from my virtual friend Simone whom they visited in Lucca.)

But when we opened a bottle of 2008 Rosso di Montalcino by Gianni Brunelli to pair with some ciceri e tria (chickpeas and long noodles) that Tracie P had prepared on weeknight/schoolnight, she had just one glass and I had two. Not only was the wine fantastic that night (and great with the creamy chickpea gravy) but a third glass was great even the next day… and a fourth and final glass vibrant and juicy even the following day.

Not rocket science… just common sense and great wine… :-)

Laura Brunelli recently visited the U.S. and Notable Wine wrote a great post about it here with video. Also, a must read: Avvinare’s remembrance of Brunelli is one of my favorite posts on her excellent blog.

Nebbiolo: Grape Name Pronunciation Project


Video by Tracie P.

Aldo Vacca from Produttori del Barbaresco was in town last week and he graciously agreed to appear in the seventh episode of the Italian Grape Name Pronunciation Project. (You can read about Aldo’s Texas adventures here on Alfonso’s blog).

Thanks again to everyone for submitting videos and audio recordings of grape names. I promise I will post each and every one of them!

No trip to Austin, Texas is complete without…

A visit to Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon to see Dale Watson

Dale is such a sweet guy and when he heard that Céline Dijon was in town from Paris, he kindly posed for photo op with her.

The joint was packed but some how, some way, we still managed to find a seat at the bar (we always do).

Here’s a little taste of the groovy stuff…

They’re with the band! ;-)

Scenes from our SXSW

It’s not easy to understand what SXSW is until you’ve actually experienced it. That’s the scene last night on Sixth Street, which is literally lined (all year round) with music clubs. During the festival hundreds and hundreds of bands come here and there is music non-stop from the morning until the dawn — and then it starts all over again.

Our high light last night was Chateau Marmount, an awesome electronica band out of Paris.

They’ve been killing it on their first American tour.

German band Torpedo Boyz rocked the Kraftwerk.

Tracie P took this pic of me with our A&R man Humphrey Bogart and Céline. I’ve known Humphrey since I was a freshman at UCLA in 1985 and he’s been with our band Nous Non Plus since the early years (1998).

My Italy: 150 years of Italian Unity

Yesterday, in one of the most tumultuous moments of its history (between the general discontent of its people, the governmental crisis, and the situation in Libya, its historical client state), Italy celebrated 150 years of Unity.

My friend Simona, author of the excellent Italian gastronomy blog Briciole, published this FANTASTIC post including the video above. I highly recommend it: she’s composed a beautifully woven timeline for Italy’s last (and first) 150 years as a united country and she’s translated a number of the quotes from the video above (you’ll find quotes by a number of historical figures that have appeared here on my blog).

Chapeau bas, Simona!

Above: The Italian Alps, as seen from the vineyards of my friend Giampaolo Venica, September 2010.

My friend Simone, a young and gifted wine professional from Lucca, wrote me to remind me this morning of a poem dear to both of us and as vibrant and topical as it was when Petrarch wrote it (probably) during the siege of Parma in 1344-45 (the fact it was composed in Parma will not be lost on those who fear and loathe the rise of the Italian Separatist Party). It’s one of Petrarch’s most moving political poems and I spent hours and hours pouring over every line, every syllable, and every scansion as I prepared my dissertation on Petrarchan prosody. I’ve scanned and reproduced the Robert Durling prose translation below (Petrarch’s Lyric Poems, Harvard, 1976), which I also highly recommend to you.

On our recent trip to Italy, every time Tracie P and I gazed at the Alps, I couldn’t help but think of the lines (see the fifth stanza below), Nature provided well for our safety/when she put the shield of the Alps/between us and the Teutonic rage.

The incipit of the song is immensely powerful and could not be more a propos today — whether in the sphere of Italian politics or viticulture.

    Italia mia, ben che’l parlar sia indarno
    a le piaghe mortali

    My Italy, although speech does not aid
    those immortal wounds

The song’s congedo is even more moving… Your divided wills are spoling the loveliest part of the world.

04 Roagna Barbaresco Pajé INSANE

I didn’t get to taste every wine at the Dressner magical mystery roadshow yesterday in Los Angeles, but I did devote ample time to Luca Roagna’s wet-dream flight of his family’s crus (above). The 05s were showing nicely but the 04 Barbaresco Pajé was INSANE, with bright acidity, wonderful wild berry notes and the earthy tones that define Barbaresco when vinified by one of the great ultratraditional houses of the appellation (IMHO). Killer wine.

I was also geeked to taste Arianna Occhipinti’s new “négociant” project: Arianna (above) has begun supervising growing practices and vinification for other growers. The 2010 Tamì Grillo was awesome, salty and crunchy and delicious, with bright, bright acidity, remarkable for
Sicily where winemakers have trouble obtaining acidity in their wines. Very groovy.

Many more LA stories to come but now I gotta get my butt back to Texas for some rock ‘n’ roll!

Dressner pre-Oscar Italian party in Hollywood

When Lou (center) wrote “Examine and fondle real winemakers tonight at Lou!” yesterday on his blog, brother Anthony (left) and I were intrigued. Within minutes, we had devised a plan to crash the Dressner pre-Oscar Italian party in Hollywood.

It took a little coaxing but I finally managed to get Lou to step out from behind the bar for this photo op with Elisabetta Foradori (right), who only recently joined the Dressner Impeccable Academy of Natural Wines, Arts, and Sciences (she also appeared, you may remember, in the debut episode of the Italian Grape Name Pronunciation Project).

I was completely stoked to see Saša Radikon (right). Sasha is such a cool dude and his family’s wines entirely rock my world.

I also got a chance to talk to Alessandra Bera and Francesca Padovani, both of whom make fantastic wines (in Canelli, Piedmont and Sant’Angelo in Colle, Montalcino, Tuscany, respectively).

For many of them, it was a first trip to Los Angeles. I’m so thrilled to see these wines and winemakers here and it was WONDERFUL to hear Italian spoken last night at my favorite wine bar in the world, Lou on Vine.

You can taste all of their wines and many, many more at the Dressner magical mystery traveling road show event today in the City of Angeles.

Cancer awareness day

Cousin Marty, whom we love very much, is beginning his cancer treatment today. (Donna Vallone baked him that cake on Saturday, when Marty went to Tony’s for one of his “pre-chemo me” dinners, as he likes to call them.)

In his honor, I’m devoting today’s post to cancer awareness by asking you to check out the “Blue Cure” campaign authored by my colleague and friend Gabe Canales (below).

Gabe, one of the top publicists and marketers in the country, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in his mid-thirties and he’s now leading a campaign to raise awareness of the disease among young men. Check out his site here.

Today’s post is also devoted to the victims of the recent tragedy in Japan (I’m currently working on a benefit concert to be held later this month in Austin at Vino Vino — more on that later this week).

@Marty Tracie P and I and the whole family are thinking of you and sending you lots of love today.

Tortellini porn and a teaching again (this time in Houston)

Above: Sometimes a tortellino is just a tortellino. Other times, a tortellino can be downright concupiscent.

Posting in a hurry today as I board a plane for Los Angeles where I’m working on a wine list for a new Italian restaurant there — a project I’m really excited about (more on that later).

In the meantime, I just had to share the above food porn, snapped recently at Tony’s in Houston. Tony, the Tony’s team, and I have been having a lot of fun with Tony’s blog.

And I’m thrilled to announce that they have asked me to teach a series of classes on Italian wine at Caffè Bello, the outfit’s location in “the Montrose,” Houston’s überhipster, artsy neighborhood.

The tastings/seminars should be a lot of fun and we’re launching Tuesday, March 29, with “Italian 101: major grapes, top regions.” (I haven’t finalized the syllabus but the weekly series will be similar to my “Italy: Birth of a Wine Nation” tastings.)

Gotta run… more later…