Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why this might be our last Vinitaly in Verona: A Dear Giovanni letter to Veronafiere


Dear Veronafiere,

We have been coming to Verona and Vinitaly since 1967. We have watched it expand over the years and have endured the labor pains of growth along with many other long persevering Italians, as well as people from around the world. But we are seriously considering not coming back to Vinitaly in Verona.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wine to Come: Observations from the Langhe on the First Day of Spring.

Photo: European Space Agency
A well-dressed group from around the world milling around an open courtyard in the Langhe on this first day of spring. A motion to move inside to the winery for a presentation. Above, the moon, already moving, in a short coup against the sun. Winter, trying one last time to forestall the onslaught of growth of the new season. And so this was the augur of the new day.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

"Vineyards Barolo lovers should seek out, without getting bogged down in tar and roses."


When I recently took a week off, it was to take time from work so I could get caught up on a few writing projects. One that I am particularly proud of, Barolo's Greatest Vineyards Ranked, was just published on WineSearcher.com. (It's circulating quickly on Social Media).

During the process I came to terms with collecting Barolo and how to go about it simply. It’s now my working template for future Barolo acquisitions.

Read about it on WineSearcher.com



wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, March 15, 2015

"Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century"

On a nippy winter night, while having a quiet meal in a dining room in Venice overlooking the Grand Canal, the subject of Dubai arose. A city of two million souls in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is something of a fantasy, a miracle and a conundrum. Without a doubt, it has captured the imagination of many Italians I work with.

Around our table that evening, the Italians likened Dubai to another city that has, over many hundreds of years, also enchanted many a traveler. At our perch, in the still of a winter night, it taxed the imagination to draw parallels between Venice and Dubai. Perhaps it was the wine, or that we had all had a long day. But upon further conversation, the notion that Venice was the Dubai of the 13th Century was parsed, aided by further bottles of wine.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

On the Wine Trail in Italy in other places – Solid advice for Italians looking to enter the US market and a primer on Italian wine for young sommeliers

In the almost ten years that I have been writing this blog, there has been, more or less, a natural development of it. My blog voice, I’ve been told, has a tendency to be idealistic and often somewhere in the cloud between reality and “the way I really want it to be.” I realize some folks actually come here, from time to time, for solid information. So, let me share several pieces that might help those who are looking for those things.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

The Master Class

Opportunities abound for learning about Italian wine and culture. All it takes is time. There is no fast-track. No amount of cramming, memorization, jumping the queue, none of it will make up for the one thing we all hate to give up – our time. There you have it, the little secret. Not that knowing it will all of a sudden land you on the steps of some amazing gate that changes your life. No, your life’s time will take care of that.

I say this because this time of the year there are all manner of hopefuls taking tests and preparing to enhance their career, their life even, with certifications, post-nominals and status. To those who have that constitution, I say, travel safe. Because you might find after you’ve sailed solo around the world in pursuit of your goal, you got want you wanted. But you didn’t find what you were looking for.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Comfort me with Nebbiolo

The waking world is fraught with disappointment, large and small. From the land mine of the news cycle to something as simple as overexposure to tannins. And so it was, last week, bundled up in my warm little cabin on the side of a hill in California wine country, that I eagerly awaited a night away from the fears and the pains of everyday life.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

An Italian-American mantra: "My grandfather made my life possible today."

To Kalon "I" Block
Coming home from a week at the 11th annual Symposium for Professional Wine Writers at Meadowood Napa Valley, I missed my plane and caught a later flight, and was wired, tired but also inspired. To wind down, I crashed on my ancient green couch and veged out on TV. PBS is running a series on Italian Americans, so I watched a segment.

It prompted me to think about the arc of my family, in that both my grandfathers came to America for different reasons. One, my mother’s dad, Attilio, was trying to escape the most abject of poverty. He was married and left his wife (a “white widow”) and young son. Eventually they joined him, and after four more children were born, they separated. He went on to other pastures.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

France by way of Italy

Avignon - 1985
When I was coming up in the wine business, there was this invisible wall between France and Italy, put there mainly by wine snobs who thought France was the epitome of all that wine was meant to be. In those days I would often hear things like “Oh, you are an Italian wine-lover. I never thought all those grapes and wine were worth much of a fuss.” and “Who needs to look any further than France, with the wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone, the Loire and Alsace?” I would be made to feel like my love was a second-class affair, that I could never rise to understand and appreciate wine with my limited Italian prism like those with expertise in French wine.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Disneyfication of Barolo - The Queen of Jelly and Her Cannubial Bliss

For this observer, Italy is a source of endless fascination. They take rugged, sun scorched stone and turn it into a timeless beauty. They take a land that has for years been revered by the people living on it, and turn it into a parody of modern day life. I love it. There are no barriers, no boundaries. Good taste lies down next to the tasteless. The sacred sleeps with the profane. Italy is humanity’s perfect mirror of our evolution, for better or worse. And now, in the land of Barolo, in the historic Cannubi vineyard area, again, the mirror is pressed to our face. Our existential selfie, once again, is revealing what we value, what kind of a people we are.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Amarone at a Crossroads

This past week I have been in the Veneto as a guest of the Valpolicella Consorzio. The occasion was Amarone Anteprima, an annual event showcasing the release of the latest vintage of Amarone, in this case the 2011. During the week I tasted hundreds of wines going back to 1998, and visited scores of estates, large and small. And while this has been a brief week of exploration into the wines of Valpolicella, of which Amarone is a main player, it has served to give me a deeper understanding and appreciation for this often misunderstood and misinterpreted wine.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Confessions of an Invisible Man

When talking with my friends in Italy, I realize how little down time I take. Somewhere in August of last year (or maybe it was the year before) I got into battle mode. After that, free time disappeared. Not because of any mandate from above. This was totally self-imposed, getting myself into the position where one is always working, always in uniform. For what? To make the world safer for Italian wine? We all know the world is far from safe, and a little more (or less) Italian wine isn’t going to move the needle so much. With that in mind, in the last few weeks I have been stealing time for myself.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

No Country for Old Wines - The Paradox of Young vs. Old

Just hours on the ground here in Italy. I’m spending what’s left of the weekend in Venice, which tonight is the most serene of republics. January is a time when the tourists go elsewhere, like Cuba or Thailand, when Venice is usually damp and cold. But there is a warm front and the weather, though misty, isn’t bone chilling.

Over a bottle of Grand Cru Champagne and some cicchetti (small plates) my host and I talked about everything under the sun. Bordeaux, Paris, the price of West Texas crude oil, the house of Saud, anything and everything. The subject of aged wine came up. My friend has a deep cellar and long experience with the great wines of France and Italy. “I think right now a Barolo or a 3rd growth Bordeaux, about 15 years old, would be just perfect to drink,” he said. The idea of drinking older wines vs. enjoying them younger, it's something that I have been going back and forth with lately.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Burgundization of Barolo - An Imminent Sea Change in the Langhe

This past week in New York, I sat down in front of a microphone with Levi Dalton. And talked. And talked. Not so easy for this born-again introvert. In particular, Levi asked me what changes I’ve seen in the Langhe over the last 30 years. That podcast is available here. And while my interview deals more with my Pollyanna version of history, it feels, on the ground in the Langhe, like an impending change is on the horizon.

A week or so before, he asked a similar question to Antonio Galloni (that podcast here), who has been going there since 1997. Antonio expressed concern that the wines and the social climate of Barolo (and Barbaresco) might be shifting towards the more exclusive and limited (and expensive) world of wine in which Burgundy finds itself. Not at all the least because both of these wine producing areas are rather small compared to Bordeaux or Napa Valley. But the tendency for wealthy collectors to gravitate towards the rare and unobtainable is something we probably won’t see going away, unless there is a worldwide pandemic. At which point, who will care about wine of any kind?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Italy declares war against … radical Prosecco

The heart of Europe is marching in Paris today in solidarity against the horrendous atrocities witnessed in the City of Lights this week. Italian politicians are waging their own smaller war – against Prosecco on tap.

And while this might seem minute in comparison to more important events unfolding in Europe, this is our smaller march on the wine trail in Italy today.

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