Does Rosso di Montalcino need more personality?

In the wake of an aborted vote to change the Rosso di Montalcino appellation, Brunello producers association president Ezio Rivella (above) has broken the silence and explained the reason for wanting to add international grape varieties (Merlotization) to the currently monovarietal (100% Sangiovese) wine.

Speaking to his new public relations mouthpiece (ItaliaTV, which calls itself the “channel for internationlization”! HA!), he recently recounted how the producers association is “preparing a marketing plan [UGH] that will help us to relaunch Rosso di Montalcino as an independent wine — a wine that has its own personality.”

(I watched the video and translated some excerpts sans ironie over at VinoWire.)

Although I will commend ItaliaTV for its production value (decidedly better than Carlo Macchi Productions, who managed to capture Rivella saying that 80% of Brunello was illicitly blended with unauthorized grape varieties), I am repulsed by the fact Rivella continues to promote his personal agenda and program for internationalization and Merlotization in spite of the growing chorus of opposition voices (who succeeded at least in forcing the gerrymandering Rivella to postpone the vote to change the appellation).

I’ve been drinking Rosso di Montalcino since 1989 and I am here to tell you that honest producers never made it as a “leftover from Brunello.” They made it from younger vines grown in good (as opposed to top) growing sites; they made it as a more approachable expression of Sangiovese and their land, not intended for long-term aging; they made it to drink everyday (as opposed to special occasions); and they made it so folks like you and me could enjoy fresh, food-friendly, utterly delicious Sangiovese for around $20.

If that’s not personality, grits ain’t groceries and the Mona Lisa was Ezio Rivella

Roberto Stucchi: Chianti “shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab”

Above: Roberto Stucchi, one of Italy’s leading winemakers, among the first, historically, to bring “Californian” technology to Tuscany after studying at UC Davis (photo via B-21).

Our recent VinoWire coverage of the Chianti producers association decision to allow IGTs (read “Super Tuscans”) at the body’s annual vintage debut event and its subsequent sea change (retracting the option for participating winemakers), really touched a nerve.

Over in a thread on my Facebook, wine writers Robert Whitley and Kyle Phillips (who argued for the inclusion of IGTs) squared off with Italian wine taste-makers Charles Scicolone and Colum Sheehan in a gentlemans’s however testy exchange on this sensitive issue. (Click here to read the entire thread, which includes comments from a number of interesting wine folks.)

In the spirit of Italian par condicio, I wanted to share the comment below by leading Chianti Classico producer Roberto Stucchi, who reported his notes from the meeting where it was decided not to allow the IGTs:

    I was at the assemblea [assembly]. There was little discussion about the IGT wines at the Anteprima [the annual debut of the new Chianti Classico vintage, held in Florence each year in February] at all. A few criticized it, but that’s it. The main topic was the reorganization of the C[hianti] C[lassico] appellation, and the one thing that came out very strongly was the rejection of the proposal of a “light young C. Classico” to help in this difficult economic time. The majority (but there where no votes) spoke in favor of reviving the riservas, and re-qualifying [re-classifying] the whole appellation. Also a mostly favorable opinion on the idea of sub-appellations by comune [township], but with very differentiated ideas about how to do it.My opinion about IGT at the Anteprima: why not? Many are pure Sangiovese. And unfortunately some Chianti Classicos are Bordeaux-like.

Here at Do Bianchi, he noted:

    As a C[hianti] Classico producer that has always worked only with Sangiovese, I’m not scandalized by the proposal to present IGT’s at the Anteprima. After all many are entirely from Sangiovese grapes.

    I find a lot more questionable that the rules have gradually increased the amount of non-traditional grapes allowed in the blend (now that’s a slippery slope to me).

    The Chianti “Bordelais” lobby keeps pushing to increase this percentage, the last proposal was to allow up to 40%. (It failed for now.)

    I need to make clear that I’m not at all against growing other varietals in Chianti; quite the opposite, I think that the Classico appellation should allow wines from other varietals to be called Chianti Classico, with a varietal appellation added.

    It’s just that CC alone shouldn’t be fattened by Merlot or Cab. It would be nice if things were more transparent, with things clearly stated on the label.

    I love CC from Sangiovese for its elegance, finesse, food friendliness, and for how the light penetrates it and gives it brilliance.

    What really bugs me is when an overly concentrated and heavily oaked muscular wine pretends to be a Sangiovese.

Above: I found this photograph of Roberto (from the 1980s, I believe) on a Russian site.

2001 Grattamacco and why Sangiovese makes all the difference

Speaking Italian well has its perks: when Italian bigwig producers and enologists come to Texas, I generally get an invitation to dinner and am always seated next to said bigwigs.

Last night, I was the guest of Tunisian-born pharmaceutical giant Claudio Tipa and his enologist, Milanese-born Maurizio Castelli, called a “Tuscan legend” by my friend, top wine dude and author, David Lynch in his Vino Italiano.

I’ve never been a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grown in Tuscany, but I’ve always had a weak spot for Grattamacco. Despite the fact that it’s way out of my price range, I’ve had the good fortune to taste many older vintages over the course of the years.

Contrary to what one might expect, Claudio and Maurizio were very much alla mano, as the Italians say, easy-going and fun to talk to and I thoroughly relished Claudio’s account of the day he told erstwhile Okie oilman and fascist importer Bob Chadderdon to go to quel paese. I was also fascinated by what Maurizio had to say about his work in Georgia, the obstacles of making wine in a war-torn country, and the grand potential of that region to become a world-class producer of fine wine.

Grattamacco has remained true to its roots, as conceived by its founder Milanese industrialist Piermario Meletti Cavallari, in 1977: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sangiovese aged in large recycled cask.

While other Bolgheri producers have ripped out their Sangiovese, Claudio stood by the original owner’s vision when he purchased the estate’s hill-side vineyards in 2002. It’s the Sangiovese that gives the wine its trademark acidity and in my view, what makes it taste like Tuscany.

The 2001 was stunning, with earthy tones and bright, nervy acidity. The 03, 04, and 05 were honest expressions of the vintages (far from spectacular IMHO) and the 2006 showed immense promise for its future. (From what I’ve tasted so far, a lot of people made great wine in Tuscany in 06.)

I also really liked Claudio’s 2008 Montecucco Rigoletto, an entry-level wine from his flagship Colle Massari. It was everything I want a Montecucco to be: juicy and grapey, with bright, bright acidity and balanced alcohol. The Ciliegiolo was the star of this blend with Sangiovese and Montepulciano, giving the wine that classic cherry note on the nose that reminds you that Montecucco is a sibling of Morellino and not Montalcino.

The Colle Massari Vermentino was also very good, unctuous and aromatic, honest and real. Chef Todd Duplechan’s foie gras Boudin wasn’t bad either.

Did I mention that Italian majors have all the fun?

In other news…

TGIF: Thank G-ja it’s Friday! I’m so tired of working and am very much looking forward to the weekend with that super fine lady of mine.

Buon weekend, ya’ll!

Sunrise with a Brunello master: Sangiovese is safe in Montalcino

One of the most thrilling experiences of my recent sojourn in Tuscany was a sunrise ride through the vineyards of Il Poggione with the estate’s winemaker Fabrizio Bindocci (above). I’ve known Fabrizio for seven years now and I consider him a friend and a teacher. Born and bred in Montalcino, he is one of its top winemakers and one of the appellation’s greatest defenders and protectors. In recent years, he has spoken — passionately, eloquently, and very publicly — in favor of not changing Brunello appellation regulations to allow for grapes other than Sangivoese.

And I don’t think that Fabrizio would mind me calling him a toscanaccio: he has the sharp wit and the sometimes acerbic tongue for which Tuscan men have been famous since their countryman Dante’s time and beyond. I try to visit and taste with him every year and I’ve never known him to mince words.

I love the wines he bottles, for their integrity and for their purity, for what they represent and the people who make them, and for their honest and utterly delicious aromas and flavor.

Of course, my $48K question to Fabrizio was will the modernizers of Brunello succeed in changing the appellation regulations and obtain their desired allowance of international grape varieties in the wine?

Brunello as a monovarietal wine, i.e., 100% Sangiovese, is safe, he told me. And he doesn’t fear that the new and decidedly modern-leaning regime in the Brunello producers association will attempt to change the Brunello DOCG to allow other grapes. The body, he said, is currently studying verbiage for the soon-to-be unveiled “new” appellations under the EU’s Common Market Organisation reforms. (This summer, authority to create new European wine appellations passed from the individual states to the European Commission in Brussels.)

The bottler-members of the association are evidently considering a new appellation, putatively called “Montalcino Rosso,” that would allow for more liberality in creating blends raised in Montalcino. This would seem to represent a palatable compromise — my words, not his — between traditionalists who want to preserve Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino as monovarietal wines and modernists who what to cash in on the de facto Montalcino brand (again, my words, not his).

Daybreak in the vineyards of Montalcino during harvest is a sight that everyone should see before leaving this earth. There is a light that brings a transcendent clarity to the mind and the soul.

As the sun rose over this immensely beautiful place, I couldn’t help but think of Dante and the roles that light plays in his Comedìa as metaphor of knowledge and love.

I was relieved on that morning to discover that (it seems) Brunello has emerged from its selva oscura, its dark wood. (Observers of Italian wine will appreciate my paronomasia.)

Midway in the journey of our life
I came to myself in a dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.
Ah, how hard it is to tell
the nature of that wood, savage, dense and harsh
the very thought of it renews my fear!
It is so bitter death is hardly more so.
But to set forth the good I found
I will recount the other things I saw.

The world according to Soldera

Above: Gianfranco Soldera, legendary, enigmatic, and paradigmatic winemaker, a Trevisan farmer turned Milanese industrialist turned Montalcinese winemaker.

Anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to be invited to visit Gianfranco Soldera’s estate, Case Basse, in the southwestern subzone of the Brunello appellation will surely share my impression that his winery, vineyards, and contiguous botanical garden come together to form what is undeniably one of the most impressive estates in the world.

When he began looking for an estate to purchase in the early 1970s, the Piedmontese wouldn’t sell him a decent plot of land, he told me the other day when we visited. So he decided to to buy a parcel in Montalcino on the advice of a friend who had told him you could pick up a piece of land there for a boccon di pan, a mouthful of bread, in those days.

Above: The botanical gardens at Soldera’s Case Basse include a swamp (to create a maritime influence) and a white flower garden (to encourage nighttime pollination). “Ah, the white flower garden,” remembered wistfully my friend Dr. Lawrence O, the other day when he spied my visit on Facebook. Lawrence has visited there, of course.

When you talk to winemakers in Langa (Piedmont), many of the current generation still look to Soldera as a doktorvater (like Beppe Rinaldi, who told me that he often seeks advice and guidance from Soldera when the elder visits Barolo).

In many ways, it’s as if Soldera, when faced with the fact that he couldn’t make wine in Piedmont where he so obstinately desired to do so, decided to construct his own microclimate within the Brunello macroclimate. As he explains very openly, the remarkable botanical garden on his property (manicured by his wife) creates a unique ecological balance of plant and swamp life, including the “white flower garden,” so famous among wine insiders, intended to encourage pollination at night because the bright peddles attract the insects in darkness.

Above: “You find no vineyards with larger berries nor smaller clusters,” said Soldera proudly of his fruit. The attention to detail in his vineyard management is truly stunning.

Soldera has famously stated that he makes “natural wine.” Whether or not that’s the case is something I’ll leave that to the experts in the thorny field. He does seem to meet all the card-carrying members’s requirements: manual vineyard management, no chemicals in the vineyards, ambient yeasts in the cellar, no temperature control, lowest possible sulfuring. While I was in his presence a few weeks ago, he scolded one very famous winemaker in absentia for using cement vats for vinification, noting that wood is the natural vessel for winemaking. He also scolded another very famous winemaker for suggesting that it was okay to use a starter yeast when he had trouble initiating fermentation in his cellar.

But is it natural, I wonder, to build a botanical garden using mountains of manure (however organically prepared) in a place abandoned by sharecroppers because nothing would grow there anymore? I’ve leave that one to the exegetic forces of the rebbes and erstwhile Talmudic scholars in our field.

One thing we can all seem to agree on is that his wines are among the best in the world (and accordingly priced). I had the good fortune to taste the 2008 (extremely good) and 2006 (exceptional vintage, one of the best I’ve ever tasted) out of cask with him in the cellar. And at dinner we drank the 2003: an infamously and remarkably difficult vintage for any winemaker in Italy yet a harvest for which Soldera delivered lip-smacking acidity and gorgeously nuanced fruit aromas and flavors in his Sangiovese. These wines are simply life-changing, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring… It’s true…

Above: Soldera with Roberto Rossi, chef/owner of Il Silene, arguably the best restaurant in southern Tuscany. The drive up to Seggiano is worth it if only to taste Roberto’s olive oil. The food and service were amazing.

Anyone who’s ever had the good fortune to be invited to visit Gianfranco Soldera’s estate, Case Basse, will tell you that Soldera keeps no secrets and he liberally shares his often salty opinions with those whom have been invited for an audience. (You’ll be surprised to find out that he has a website.)

Our conversation spanned many generations of Italian winemaking the other day when I visited him and you can imagine the controversial topics we covered. But the thing that stuck with me was what he said when I asked him what he saw for the future of winemaking in Italy.

“Commercial winemaking has come to an end in Italy,” he said referring to the recent Brunello controversy and rumors that the historic Barbi estate has plans to sell its property to Italian wine behemoth Zonin. “The nature of Italy cannot support industrial farming and commercial winemaking has run its course historically,” he told me. However many grains of salt there may be in the world according to Soldera, there’s certainly a grain of truth in this morsel of wisdom.

Above: Sunset at the Case Basse estate.

Another winemaker told me the same thing later on in my trip. Stay tuned to find out which one…

Sangiovese: origins of the enonym (grape name)

Yesterday on the Twitter, Alfonso asked me about the origins of the enonym Sangiovese. (I bet you’re wondering about the significance of the “allegory of music” from an illuminated Renaissance manuscript to the left but more on that below.)

First off, in all of my readings, I have found no one and nowhere that point to sangue di Giove (blood of Jupiter [Zeus]) as a philologically tenable origin of the grape name. This is what philologists call a folkloric etymology, most likely due to the quasi-homonymic (and Romantic) rapport between the enonym and purported etymon (the literal sense of a word according to its origin). While divine blood plays a central role in Christian myth and liturgy (another element that most likely contributes to the folkloric etymology), it is not found in the Roman or Italian cults that honored Jupiter during the vinaliae (wine festivals) of late antiquity. (For the record, blood does play a role in the myth of Zeus, when the “blood from the birth of Zeus begins to boil up” in a “sacred cave of bees… said to be found on Crete.” See this profile of Rhea, who gave birth to the deity.)

Most scholars believe the most plausible etymon to be sangiovannina, a term which denotes an early ripening grape in the dialect of Sarzana, a township that lies on the border of Liguria and Tuscany in northwestern Tuscany. (Hohnerleien-Buchinger, 1996, cited in Vitigni d’Italia, eds. A. Scienza et alia).

It’s also possible that Sangiovese comes from sangiovannese, an ethnonym denoting an inhabitant of San Giovanni Valdarno, a town in the province of Arezzo. (I actually think this is the most likely answer to the conundrum; here’s a link to the Sangiovannese soccer team website.)

Others yet point to the etymon jugalis (Latin yoke), giogo in Italian, possibly derived from a vine training system. (There is a precedent in the enonym Schiava but I believe this an unlikely linguistic kinship.)

In my research last night (conducted in the golden hour, when the day’s toil is through, and Tracie P and I relax before dinner), I came across a wonderful journal devoted to Romagnolo (the dialect of Romagna). It’s called Ludla (click to download the edition I found), or spark in Romagnolo. In it, I found an article on the origin of Sanzves, the Romagnolo inflection of Sangiovese. Here’s where it gets really interesting…

It’s important to remember that the enonym appears for the first time in Tuscany in the 16th century as Sangiogheto (Soderini, 1590) and today, most ampelographers concur that Sangiovgheto or Sangioveto are geographically aligned with Tuscany while Sangiovese is more closely related to Romagna (on the other side of the Apennines).

The author of the Ludla article proposes that Sanzves might be derived (however remotely) from Mons Jovis, a site near the town of Savignano (where the Romagnoli believe the grape to have originated, another possible linguistic kinship), today known as Giovedìa, where Jupiter (Giove, in Italian) was worshiped in late antiquity.

The bottom line? It’s very likely that we will never know the true origin of the enonym. But that’s not important.

The images that adorn this post (allegories of musica and rehtorica) are culled from a Renaissance codex of De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii (On the Marriage of Philology and Mercury) by Martianus Capella, a pagan writer of late antiquity whose work formed the basis for the study of the liberal arts in western civilization. Philology is literally the love of words and Mercury is the mythical embodiment of commerce or intelligent pursuit.

While we may never know the etymon of the enonym, the journey of discovery by the way offers rewards all the more satisfying to our intellectual curiosity, emboldening our knowledge and awareness of the world around us.

When we marry the love of words and intelligent pursuit, only good things are bound to happen. The same thing happens when we pair a great bottle of Brunello with a bistecca alla fiorentina (something I hope to do later this week).

Thanks for reading…

Life after barrique: “I started to love my wines again”

Here’s what winemaker Gianpaolo Paglia (below) had to say about my post on his decision not to age his wines in barriques anymore.

Thank you very much Jeremy for translating part of Ziliani’s post on my decision. I’m very glad to see that this has stirred an interesting conversation on Italian blogs about the current state of the art of Italian wines and their future. I think that we are now in the position to devote our efforts to a better knowledge of our land, our vineyards, our techniques of production, or in other words, our terroir. For the last decade I’ve been on a learning curve, of which barriques and a certain style of wine were part, now I feel I have to move further to find the true expression of my land in my wines.

It’s going to take time, because nothing is fast when it comes to agriculture, but I’m sure I’m on the right path. How do I know it? Simply because I started to love my wines again.

Wine blogs you should and can’t read react to Brunello “rivellation”

Regretfully, I don’t have a subscription to Jancis Robinson’s subscription-only blog but a friend cut, pasted, and sent me a post on Jancis’s blog by British wine writer Monty Waldin (above), who commented on the Rivellation that “80% of Brunello was not pure Sangiovese.”

    By saying that most pre-2008 Brunello was fraudulently blended, Dott. Rivella implicitly accepts that journalists such as Franco Ziliani, myself and a number of others who have consistently and publicly claimed that all Brunellos were not 100% Brunello, as they should have been, deserve at least some credit – and that we don’t ‘deserve to have our tyres slashed’, as one irate ‘Brunello’ producer told me to my face.

    We didn’t say what we said because we are anti-Brunello. Far from it. We said it because it was obvious to any wine drinker with half a brain that certain wines labelled Brunello did not always look, smell or taste as though they were 100% Brunello (Sangiovese). This was not fair to consumers, but just as importantly it was not fair to those Brunello producers – both big and small – who played by the rules, the vast majority of whom actually succeeded in making red wines with the inherent quality to reinforce the fully justified claim of real Brunello to sit in Italy’s vinous pantheon.

Another interesting pingback came from a truly dynamic wine blogger in Finland, Arto Koskelo (above), who was gracious enough to translate a post in which he reflects on Rivella’s statements (since I, for one, cannot read Finnish!).

    Don’t get me wrong, the wines may very well be excellent. But in the end the most crucial point isn’t the style of the wines nor even their quality but integrity and lack of it. If one exploits the very historical legacy the regions reputation is based on and at the same time sells it short, wine lover finds that if he gives this kind of fashion the thumbs up he ends up with one stinky finger.

Arto’s a 30-something freelance writer and wine blogger and videographer. “As you might know,” he wrote me in an email, “Finland as a Nordic country has traditionally been a beer drinking country, so we are super happy about the small impact we are making on the cultural landscape.”

A ray of hope in Montalcino (election results expected tomorrow)

Above: I photographed this pristine bunch of Sangiovese grapes in the southwestern subzone of the Brunello appellation in September 2008, just a few days before harvest began.

So many amazing bottles of wine (Italian and otherwise) have been opened for me and Tracie P over the last few weeks and I have a lot to post about, but today Montalcino is on my mind: tomorrow Thursday, if all goes as expected, the Brunello producers association will announce the name of its new president.

The good news is that presidential front-runner Ezio Rivella, who previously proposed a change in appellation regulations that would allow for grapes other than Sangiovese to be used, has publicly pledged NOT to change the rules.

My colleague Mr. Franco Ziliani, author of Italy’s most popular wine blog, Vino al Vino, reported the story last week, and this morning, he and I have posted my translation of Rivella’s interview with the Corriere di Siena over at VinoWire.

Above: Neither my friend Ben Shapiro (in the photo), who accompanied me on the trip, nor I will forget that beautiful fall day in Montalcino, our last in the appellation before we headed over to Maremma.

His words come as a relief, to me and to many observers of Montalcino and actors on the ground. The thought of Brunello with even just 5% of Syrah in it… well… makes me want to heave…

I imagine that the backroom compromise went something like this: after being elected to the consortium’s advisory council (who in turn will elect a president, to be announced tomorrow), Rivella vowed not to change appellation regulations to allow grapes other than Sangiovese in exchange for support for his presidency and a willingness to revise the Rosso di Montalcino and Sant’Antimo appellations to allow higher percentages of international grape varieties.

The fact is that most producers — at least from what I hear directly — want Brunello to continue to be produced using 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Fyi, Rivella has teamed with viticultural giant Masi to produce Brunello on the Pian di Rota estate in Castiglione d’Orcia (not far from the estate where Masi is growing grapes for its Bello Ovile project). To my knowledge, no Brunello has been produced there yet…

Stay tuned…

Italy vintage 2008: the good, bad, and delicious

Above: Tracie P made a delicious pollo alla canzanese (with potato purée) last night for dinner. After she tasted a bit paired with the 2008 Selvapiana Chianti Rufina, she said: “wow, Chianti goes with everything!” Selvapiana is one of our favorite wines, in terms of cost, food-friendliness, general deliciousness… and of course, its old-school ethos.

It’s too early to make any general sweeping observations (and no matter what the vintage, there will always be idiosyncratic expressions of any appellation depending on the grower, growing sites, and winemaker), but 2008 — from what I have tasted so far — is sizing up not to be the greatest vintage in northern and central Italy in recent memory. The legacy of 2008 has yet to reveal itself but it would seem that rain — particularly rainfall in the latter part of the vegetative cycle when the vines need aridity to avoid mildew — made for a harvest without a lot of longevity.

But that’s not bad news. Quite the opposite, actually. It’s really more a question of when the wines will begin to show well (earlier in this case) and their approachability and food friendliness.

So far, the two standouts for me have been the 2008 Langhe Rosso Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco (which we served at our wedding, if that’s any indication of how much we like it!) and the 2008 Chianti Rufina by Selvapiana, which our friend Sarah (a publicist who reps the importer, Dalla Terra) recently sent to us to try. Of course, anyone who reads my blog knows that Tracie P and I are big fans of Selvapiana.

The wine wasn’t as tannic and did not have the structure of the 2007 (which we drink regularly at home, because of its under-$20 price tag and its wonderful versatility at the table; it was my pick for Thanksgiving 2009, as you may remember).

Instead, this time around the wine was bright and showed nice ripe fruit right outta the box. It was lighter in body and sang a cheerful tune in the glass. I probably won’t stash a bottle of the 2008 to see what it tastes like in a few years (as I did for the 2007): when it hits the Texas market, it’s sure to be a a Wednesday- or Saturday-night (or in last night’s case, a Sunday-night) wine for the dinner table at home, to be drunk as soon as it’s had time to rest after arriving from our local wine monger.

The best news is that in tough vintages (as 2008 is shaping up to be), winemakers will often choose not to make their flagship wine and their top vineyards will go into their second and third label.

Above: A few weeks ago, we served the 2006 Chianti Rufina Riserva [single-vineyard] Bucerchiale, the winery’s current flagship release, with roast lamb on the patio of our new home. Rich and still very young for its age, a wonderful roast and grilled meat wine, still very tannic but approachable with some aeration, one our favorite expressions of Sangiovese. Definitely a Saturday-night or Sunday-feast exclusive (the PARZEN 7-DAY RATING SYSTEM® is calculated according to a festivity-and-celebratory-worthy algorithm).

I don’t know whether or not Selvapiana intends to bottle their single-vineyard Bucerchiale from the 2008 vintage or not and it’s highly likely that the winery doesn’t know yet either: they’ll taste and re-taste the wine before they decide how they choose to age and subsequently label it. We’ll see.

Legend has it that famed Italian winemaker Piero Talenti once said, “there is no such thing as a bad vintage. There are just vintages where we make less wine.” However apochyphal, there is more than a grain of wisdom in this axiom. Vintage is just one element in the vintage-terroir-winemaker equation.

After all, Bordeaux 2009 may be the “most talked about vintage” in the last 30 years, as Alfonso pointed out on the corporate blog that he authors, but I won’t be able to afford it!

POST SCRIPTUM Here are a couple of interesting links and recipes for Chicken Canzanese: Cooks Illustrated and Amanda Hesser in The New York Times via 1969.

Tasted any good 2008s? Please share!