From the department of “keeping the world safe for Italian wine”…
Yesterday, Fabien Jacob, a good friend and one of the top wine professionals in San Antonio, sent me the following message via the Facebook.
“I need your help,” he wrote. “Have you ever encounter corks that are glazed and turned yellow at the bottom of it? This is happening with a wine from Abruzzo, the wine itself is not bad or faulty but the cork is very fragile and became glazed and yellow. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.”
Nonplussed by the mysterious case of the yellowed corks, I asked Fabien to send me a photo (click the image above to enlarge) and then reached out to Giovanni, who swiftly answered (and I have translated here):
It’s a silicon film that is applied to the top of the closures in order to stop the wine from coming into direct contact with the cork. It helps to ensure that the wine isn’t affected by cork taint.
It has been applied to both the top and the bottom of the cork. In this case, it has yellowed because the bottle contains [wine made from] Montepulciano [grapes] or similar, a grape variety that that has a strong tendency to tinge. The film has been applied to the top as well but it’s still transparent.
Tonight I’m giving a seminar on social media and wine for the San Diego association of women wine professionals. I can’t think of a better example of how social media makes the wine world a better place.
Grazie, Giovanni! Evviva il bromance!
CLICK HERE FOR ALL EPISODES.
Above: Alfonso’s video camera captured winemaker Stefano Illuminati (of the Dino Illuminati winery, Abruzzo) speaking “Montepulciano” at Vinitaly a few weeks ago.
If Merlot (mehr-LOH) is the easiest European grape name for Anglophone consumers to pronounce (and is consequently America’s favorite variety), then Montepulciano (MOH-te-pool-CHEE’AH-noh) is the most confusing and one of the most challenging.
The last time you were on a date and you wanted to impress your dinner companion, did you impress him/her by ordering the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (VEE-noh NOH-bee-leh dee MOHN-teh-pool-CHEE’AH-noh)? Or perhaps you eloquently illustrated how Montepulciano is at once a place name (the name of a township in Tuscany where Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is produced) and a grape name (the name of a variety grown and vinified primarily in Abruzzo but also elsewhere in Central Italy)?
I know that you didn’t order the Merlot!
Above: Dino Illuminati, Stefano’s father and the winery’s namesake, is one of the wonderful avuncular characters of the Italian wine world — larger than life and always bursting with life and energy. His 1998 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo blew me away when I tasted it a few months ago in Chicago (photo by Alfonso, Verona, April 2011).
The bivalence of the topo- and ampelonym Montepulciano often leads complacent wine directors to include bottlings of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in their “Tuscany” and “Sangiovese” sections. This oversight often tragically eclipses the many wonderful expressions of Montepulciano that come from Abruzzo (anyone who has ever tasted the 1979 Montepulciano by Emidio Pepe knows just how incredible these wines can be!).
Do Bianchi isn’t exactly the blogosphere’s leading resource for dating advice. But, then again, Tracie P probably wouldn’t have given me the time of day if I didn’t know the difference between my Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and my Vino Nobile di Montepulciano!
The Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project got a greatly appreciated shoutout from Eric the Red last week on the Times dining blog. Thanks again, Eric! Remember: friends don’t let friends pronounce Italian grape names and appellations incorrectly! ;-)
Lately, there’s been so much chatter in the blogosphere about the Obamas’s culinary fondness for Blue Hill in NYC and Five Guys in D.C. that I thought I do a post on a story that’s making waves today in the Italian blogosphere on what Obama will be eating at the G8 Summit in July.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi recently changed the location of the summit to L’Aquila in Abruzzo to raise awareness of the tragedy of the April earthquake there.
According to a report widely circulated today, Berlusconi’s personal chef Michele Persechini will serve a “triptych” of pennette: al pomodoro, al pesto, and ai quattro formaggi — red, green, and white, as in the colors of the Italian flag (no translation necessary here, I imagine).
Above: That’s where Obama will be staying in L’Aquila. “It’s barracks for Obama,” reported the Guardian a few weeks ago, noting that some world leaders may be disappointed about the venue change. You gotta love the Brits’s sense of humor!
In Carlo Verdone’s 1981 film Bianco, Rosso, e Verdone (produced by Sergio Leone), Verdone plays three Italians who each make road trips to their places of birth so that they can vote. (That’s the Roman character, Mimmo, in the image above, left.)
My favorite is the Italian immigrant Pasquale who’s lived in Germany so long that he’s become Teutonified but hasn’t lost his Italian identity. He doesn’t speak for the entire film, except for in the very last sequence when he finally votes and “vents.” You don’t need to understand Italian to watch the clip below: Pasquale’s monologue is nearly unintelligible even for Italian speakers. It is a hilarious but true portrayal of Italian voters’s frustration with their country’s politics and its politicians.
The score is by Ennio Morricone: I love the music in this sequence, its references to the Italian national anthem and the line played by the mandolin.
If you’re planning your vacation in Italy this summer, think about Abruzzo…
After breaking away from the phalanx of wine professionals with whom I was traveling on my last day at Vinitaly in April, I had the great fortune to taste with Abruzzo winemakers Sofia and Emidio Pepe. The next morning, the earthquake struck the region in the hours before dawn, taking the lives of nearly 300 people and leaving 28,000 homeless.
You may remember Eric’s post “Aftershocks” which appeared on The Pour in the days that followed the tragedy in L’Aquila. As Eric pointed out, even though the Abruzzo wine industry wasn’t affected directly by the earthquake, the long-term impact will be drastic because 10-50% of the wine produced there is sold and consumed locally.
Above: I have always loved Emidio Pepe’s Montepulicano d’Abruzzo, made in a totally natural style. “Emidio Pepe may be even more of purist than Valentini [another one of Italy’s iconic natural winemakers],” wrote Burton Anderson in his landmark book Vino. “He crushes his grapes by foot” and “possesses not a single piece of modern equipment in his rustic winery.” Drinking these stinky elegant wines is like listening to Thelonious Monk’s “Ugly Beauty.”
Abruzzo is a pristine region of immense natural beauty. Its hills are dotted with wonderful medieval villages where life was never contaminated by the industrial progress forged during fascism.
L’Aquila (where the epicenter hit) was so named (“the eagle”) by 13th-century emperor Frederick II of Swabia who was one of the greatest falconers of his time. Dante condemned Frederick to his Inferno for being an epicurean.
If you’re considering/planning a trip to Italy this summer, think about Abruzzo.
In other news…
You can find info for Nous Non Plus shows in San Francisco (tomorrow), San Jose (Friday), and Los Angeles (Saturday) here. Hope to see you at the shows. Tracie B will be Tracie B there too! (well, just in LA)