When Chambers Street Wines did a recent offering of onesies from the famed Veronelli Collection, I thought I would read the shop’s e-blast just for fun (it’s one of the best wine shop newsletters out there imho, with great and often funny writing, and lots of juicy info). But when I saw a 1988 Aglianico del Taburno from Cantina del Taburno, it tugged at my heartstrings. And frankly, it was just too much to resist.
Luigi Veronelli was one of the greatest food and wine writers of the 20th-century, a pioneering editor and publisher of guide books, recipe books, and long-form gastronomic prose. And he was also one of the century’s most prolific (ante litteram) influencers. Many Italian wines we consider benchmarks and icons today were anointed as such by Veronelli over the course of his more than 40-year career in publishing. (Few remember that Veronelli’s “breakout” book was his best-selling I Cocktails published in 1971, a mixology recipe book; fewer still will remember that his 1957 edition of the Marquis de Sade’s Historiettes, Contes et Fabliaux was banned by Italian authorities at the time, marking an early financial disaster for him).
I never got to meet Veronelli before he died in 2004. But his writings and work as a publisher have shaped my own career in food and wine media. And I was deeply disappointed when I couldn’t attend any of the tastings of lots from his wine cellar when the wines began to be auctioned off a few years ago.
The fact that the bottle in question was from his own library made the purchase even more tantalizing and so I bit.
When we opened the wine last night, we expected it to be near dead. Often with wines like these, they offer a very brief moment of flavor when they are opened but then quickly fade away. My friends and I imagined it would be light in color or even brown. We also figured it would be cloudy with sediment (I had stood the wine upright for two days before opening in hopes of reducing the cloudiness and/or excessive amount of solids that you often find in wines this old).
But to our immense surprise and delight, the wine was very much alive, with delicious fruit and nice acidity. In the end, we didn’t even reach for our backup bottle of young Aglianico as we ate tagliatelle with lamb ragù and lasagne alla bolognese at our favorite Houston BYOB.
What a great wine!
It reminded me how every bottle you open, young or old, is always a gamble, but when it pays off, the results can be exhilarating, as was certainly the case last night.
The other good news about this bottle is that wine shops like Chambers Street Wines have now found a work-around that allows them to ship to restrictive “non-ship” states like Texas. This bottle, along with a mixed case of other bottles I ordered, found its way to me via a third-party shipper. The bottomline is this: as long as the wine is not shipped directly from an out-of-state retailer, it’s totally legal to ship wine to Texas. It just has to be purchased by the recipient before it shipped and then handed off to a courier who doesn’t sell the wine itself.
Arcane and backwards but such is the world we live in. It’s great news for people like me who want access to retail offerings from specialty shops like Chambers, one of my favorite in the country.
So little time and so much to tell. I’ve got to hit the road with my buddy Paolo Cantele: we’re heading to Dallas for a dinner tonight, Tulsa tomorrow for another tasting, and the Boulder for the last tasting of our road trip. See details here if you’d like to join. Thanks to everyone from the Houston wine community who came out to our super fun event at Vinology. That was awesome. Thank you!