If you happen to be in San Francisco this week, please come out and taste with me at Ceri Smith’s amazing shop Biondivino. I’ll be there on Wednesday, pouring one of my favorite expression’s of Prosecco Col Fondo by my client Bele Casel. Please click here for details.
Long before we looked to Tuscany for high-profile bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, German-speaking Alto Adige (South Tyrol) had established itself as one of the greatest producers of so-called “international grape varieties.”
In fact, they weren’t “international varieties” back then. In an era before the emergence of the “international vs. indigenous” and “modern vs. traditional” debates, they were just grapes.
Generations before the Marquis Incisa della Rocchetta replanted his San Guido estate in Bolgheri after the second world war, grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Riesling (among others) had been grown there and raised in South Tyrol to be shipped toward Vienna and points northward.
On my recent trip to Italy, thanks to the immense generosity of my good friend Francesco Bonfio, I had the great fortune to taste one of the best wines I had all year: the 1982 Kehlburg Cabernet by Giorgio Grai, one of Italy’s most renowned winemakers and blenders and mentor to scores of current-generation winemakers.
I’ve been thinking about that wine ever since.
It came to mind when I was in Boulder in November for the Boulder Burgundy Festival.
In the “old and rare” tasting sponsored by the Guild of Sommeliers, Master Sommelier Jay Fletcher made a controversial comment when he noted how many older wines may “still be alive,” i.e., with healthy acidity and tannin, but they often lack the vibrant fruit that we look for in the world’s great wines.
“If you’ve got a cellar full of 1982s,” he told the well-heeled crowd, “I got news for you: the wines probably haven’t aged as well as you may have thought.”
This wine was an clear-cut example of the opposite: here the fruit was vividly present, with notes of fresh red fruit and gentle, nuanced hints of citrus zest.
And one of the most remarkable things about tasting it was not the fact that it was still “alive.” There are no apologies necessary from Giorgio Grai’s wines. We expected it to be great and it delivered on every level.
The wine came to mind again last week when a small northern Californian wine importer wrote me and said that he’s just met with Giorgio and will probably be bringing his current wines into the states.
Thank you again, dear friend Francesco! We’re keeping our fingers crossed and are looking forward to seeing more of Giorgio’s wines here in the U.S.