Sunday, December 04, 2016

Bruno Giacosa Retrospective - A Life in Wine


Bruna (L) and Bruno (R) Giacosa, the oracle of Neive, in 2004
Bruno Giacosa has spent a lifetime making great wine. But, like the fog that cloaks the many hills of the Langhe, to many he is shrouded in an enigmatic blanket: cryptic, recondite, even Delphian. But to us mere mortals, impenetrable. Or so it seems. I have come to think of Mr. Giacosa as a man who talks with his wine, a brujo of Barolo and Barbaresco. Why should we expect any explanation or commentary from him? Are the wines not enough? Does a Rembrandt or a Mozart require a labyrinth of interpretation for their life’s work? Some would say, yes, and there are all manner of academic and commercial industries that have sprung up in service of such explanations. But I think we would be disappointed should we expect this master of Nebbiolo to take the stand in his defense. The wines are – and they stand vigil for him and the energy of his life, which we can experience and enjoy, drop by drop.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Life on Mt. Etna - After the Gadabouts Are Gone

It’s wet and foggy. And some of us are scared. The long days are now a thing of memory. We are steeped in darkness. And all the while the mountain rumbles, all through the night. And all those souls who visited us this summer and autumn, where are they now? Back home in their beds, their comfortable lives, with their brightly lit screens, telling the world what a great place it is here. But they’re not here. Harvest has come and gone. The warm, long days have come and gone. And the Etna worshippers have also come and gone. And now the work for the future begins on this desolate mountain, spewing fire and ash, all through this dark, cold winter of our discontent.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Trump's America Beckons: A Challenge for Italian Wine in the Age of Disruption

In two weeks, on December 4, 2016, Italians will vote on a referendum to change their constitution. If electors vote to approve the bill, it would activate constitutional reform in Italy, some say the most extensive since the monarchy ended. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “’If a ‘no’ vote wins, everything remains as it is,’ Mr. Renzi said in a radio interview this past week. ‘In this way, Italy will remain a system that favors instability and backdoor dealings.’” If “no” prevails, Prime Minister Renzi is threatening to resign. If he does step down, most likely a caretaker government will be put in place. Once again, Italians will be denied the right to vote on their leaders. As one Italian friend told me, “We haven’t voted for our government in almost four years, and even then we had a hung parliament,which resulted in this unholy alliance between the center-left and the center-right. We feel powerless. At least you, in America, had the option to vote for your leader – we haven’t had that option for some time now.”

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Fanfare for the (un)Common Somm(elier)

Brian Huynh of Gemma in Dallas - photo by Brad Murano
Over the past week, once again in Texas, in restaurants, a wine list was thrust into my hands. “You choose, find us some wine,” my table guests requested. Oh boy, here we go again. The young sommelier at Gemma in Dallas, Brian Huynh, came over to the table to say hi. I imagined him coming over and first upbraiding me for voicing my opinions on this blog, but that isn’t what happened. Instead he smiled and asked if there was anything he could do to help us enjoy our evening. Indeed, there would be questions, but I asked him to fetch us a bottle of Smith Story Rosé of Pinot Noir from the Rheingau in Germany, while we sorted through the menu and made our selections.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The First 40 Years of the Golden Age in Wine

This past week, I happened to come across a copy of the Wine Spectator. I’m an online subscriber, so I don’t often see the print version. But this was the 40th anniversary issue. And it got me to thinking about the last 40 years, and all the things that have transpired, in my world and in the wine world, in that time.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Beyond the Aurelian Walls - Ex Archium

From the Archives - Wednesday, November 24, 2010

So you’ve had your Roman holiday. Seen the sights. Taken in the Vatican Museum, the Baths of Caracalla, the Borghese Gardens. Touched the Pietà. You’ve driven on the deserted streets of Rome before the sunrise, past the empty and brooding Colosseum. You’ve had her, Rome. Now what?

As all roads lead to Rome, all roads lead out of Rome as well. Spin the dial, any direction will do.

East? Marche, Abruzzo.

South? Campania, Basilicata, Calabria.

North? Umbria, Romagna.

West? Sardegna, Maremma.

Does it really matter? If you are a trophy hunter, it does. You’d have to go to Tuscany or Piedmont. Maybe the Veneto. Find a stash of Barolo or Brunello, dig in the cellars, among so many Bentleys, parked, waiting to be driven around the table.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Safe-cracking a memory vault in search of the unicorn wine

"Able was I ere I saw Etna"

Memory is an odd bedfellow. Even without the vicissitude of time or trauma it can be a transitory butterfly, flittering about and dropping from time to time upon the landing strip of the brain. Did I really catch that train to Calabria? Did we really eat the stomach lining of a monkfish? Did I really drink that wine?

Over a wonderful lunch prepared by a longtime friend and chef, Carlo Croci, in his restaurant , Bella West, in Ft. Worth and over an embarrassment of riches brought by Piemontese winemaker Franco Massolino, the conversation veered to the past and to long forgotten memories. Carlo and I have been trading wine and stories for longer than we both would like to admit. And along the way, some great wines have passed through our kidneys.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

"Learning the Joyful Truths" - How wine elders can help today's young wine lovers - Ex Archium

From the Archives - Wednesday February 12, 2104
"I'd suggest that many young wine drinkers do not have access to the great benchmark wines, the paradigms of profundity that are alas beyond their reach financially. They never learned the joyful truths of hierarchy, or to be stirred to their depths by the greatest of wines. They presume on a level playing field in which most things are equally valid. Sometimes this bothers me too. But I think we need to love them, not scold them." – Terry Theise
Life, I’ve learned, is four parts resilience and six parts patience. If the red wine is made well and is allowed to rest in the cellar, the rewards will be greater. And as with wine, why not with the youth who are embracing the life of wine?

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What is More Important to Winelovers? The News? Or the Story?

In a recent conversation with Elaine “Hawk Wakawaka” Brown - who started out in the world of wine as an artist and blogger and rocketed to recognition as an evocator par excellence - the idea of the story teller kept bobbing its head on the rough seas of the enoblogosphere. Elaine, if you don’t know her, is a storyteller’s storyteller. People like her are the reason the fire in the middle of the circle came about, many moons ago. Connecting the heart and the soul with the mind and the mouth, so that in the sharing of the words, the listeners (and the culture) become more enriched.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

“We have become accustomed to constant change and instant boredom.” - Ex Archium

From the Archives Thursday, June 26, 2014

"The business of wine buying is being handed over to a bunch of fireflies and their life span matches their attention span. It’s no longer about good or even great wines. It’s all about the next wine. Forget about the last wine, even if it was a quixotically unpronounceable and profoundly delicious wine like Txakoli."

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Endangered Wine List in the New Millennium

Old man take a look at my life I'm a lot like you
There’s so much I want to say about what I have observed in the marketplace in the last two weeks. For one, it is the beginning of the O-N-D holiday selling season for the wine business. For another, the last two weeks we have had two, not one, but two Barones in from Tuscany and their estates in Chianti, working in the markets. And to have people whose families have been long committed to wine and Chianti, at that, has been a sobering experience.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The staggering weight of a 1000 year old family tree in Chianti

In a world in which there are so many more pressing issues, the fate and the future of Chianti is not even in the top 100. It’s in a quiet little pastoral zone, off the beaten path, making a product that isn’t essential, which doesn’t register high in the contemporary world and the upcoming generation. Chianti is a relic of the 20th century, a fashion that has been forgotten, and a wine that appears to be totally out of touch with today’s tastes. Inotherwords, the timing is perfect for its resurgence on the world wine stage.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Etna and Eggplant in the National Press: What I shot and how I cooked it

Eric Asimov (L) with Salvo Foti (R) at Quattro Archi in Milo on Etna
In the last month or so, my life of wine (and food) has ventured outside the constraints of the blogosphere. Consider this my brag blog post, for those who don’t read the NY Times or the Dallas Morning News on a regular basis. In today’s era, the ranks of newspaper readership have dwindled, or so we have been led to believe. Then again, who’s reading wine blogs anymore either? I know I’m reading less and enjoying it more, blog wise.

The Etna (and Vittoria) pieces were written masterfully by my friend and colleague (and Sicilian crash tester) Eric Asimov. I was the assigned photographer for the series. It was a once in a lifetime trip and we went to see a lot of folks we both have known for some time.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Italy that found me

There is a place in Italy where all my memories distill into one. And I was there recently, standing on the balcony of a room overlooking the Adriatic Sea, watching the sunrise. For a west coaster it is an odd thing to see the sun rise in the east. And to look out over a place where there are so many memories, and in a time of my life where there have been so many sunrises. It was a bit disorienting. Italy isn’t something simple, something one can pull out of a tour guide and follow the steps like so many people do when they go to Italy. But this wasn’t just anybody’s Italy. This was the Italy that found me.

Yes, after so many airplane flights, and so many arrivals into Rome, picking up the luggage, finding transportation and getting to my destination. Italy, I keep finding out, isn’t something I have been looking for. It is something that has been looking for me.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Stalking the Wild and Indigenous in the New and the Old World

From Parmigiano to Hoja Santa to Pecorino in less than 24 hours

Hoja Santa Harvest - inspected (and approved) by Jacques Pepin at Paula Lambert's Mozzarella Company
After harvesting what seemed like an endless amount of eggplants, okra and Hoja Santa, it was time to come back to Italy for the other important harvest – grapes. For a week or so, I’ll be hovering around Marche and Abruzzo with camera(s). This is my first trip back after narrowly escaping death in Sicily this past June. For those who don’t follow this blog religiously (and why should anyone us follow any wine blog with fervor these days?) suffice it to say I have been given clearance by the medical profession to travel overseas. The past six months have been most challenging, with the accident in Sicily and a series of throat afflictions that eventually led to a tonsillectomy a month ago. All this as background to recovering and getting back on the wine trail in Italy.

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