I have enjoyed the immense fortune of meeting and tasting with one of Italy’s greatest winemakers, Giorgio Grai, on a few occasions.
But I have also been blessed by the even greater fortune of tasting older vintages of his wines, like the 1985 Bellendorf Alto Adige Riesling Renano (Rheinriesling) that my friend and mentor Francesco Bonfio opened for our table last night in Siena.
Just look at the color of that wine!
It was fresh and bright in the glass and as it warmed up, it revealed layered, nuanced notes of minerality laced with white and stone fruit. To taste it blind, you would have thought it were ten years old.
There isn’t a winemaker in Italy today who doesn’t owe something to Giorgio Grai, an icon in his own time. And in an era when Italian wine is increasingly dominated by international monochromatic tastes, young winemakers continue to look to him as the benchmark, one of the authors and architects of Italy’s wine renaissance.
As much as I cherish the memories of my few, brief encounters with him, the wines speak even more loudly in my mind. They have left an indelible impression that has informed and shaped my palate and my perception of Italian wine’s greatest expression.
Thank you, Francesco. I am eternally grateful.