The funniest thing happened on my last trip to Italy.
When I sat down last week to taste with Marina Savoia, one of the owners of the Coali winery in Sant’Ambrogio in Valpolicella, something didn’t add up.
The excellent wines were traditional in style, very old school but clean and focused. I liked them a lot.
There wasn’t a barrique to be found. All of their wines are aged in larger formats, casks that have been reused vintage after vintage, the way the old line producers there do it.
But when I picked up a bottle to reposition it for a photo, I noticed that the glass was extremely heavy and thick. And the punt was deep. The vessel had the classic “Napa Valley” shape, often used by producers of “important” wines that have American appeal for the American market. It didn’t align with the people that make these wines, the style, or the place where they are raised.
I asked Marina Savoia, above, why the odd choice of bottle format? After all, in my experience, producers like her and her family often like to use older, more classic formats, and they are keen to reduce their carbon footprint by using the lightest glass possible — the antithesis of the Super Tuscan craze of the aughts.
The answer was simple, she said. There were simply no other formats available. And she and her family were forced to use the one you can see in the photo at the beginning of this post.
Across Italy, winemakers are telling me that bottles are becoming harder and harder to come by and the cost is rising rapidly. Putin’s insanity-fueled bellic campaign is to blame, they tell me.
For sparkling wine producers, the problem is compounded by the rigid rhythms of vinification and aging. They can’t just let their wine sit another year in cask, like a producer of Valpolicella Ripasso, for example. When it’s time to bottle, it’s time to bottle and that’s it.
The major concerns, of course, are availability and costs. Demand is high and supply is lower than it’s ever been. The price hikes were are going to see next year will be owed in no small part to this critical issue.
And the fallout is also manifesting itself in surprising ways, as in the case of Marina’s wines.
You can’t just a book by its cover. And increasingly, you can’t judge a wine by its bottle.