Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


A Little Bit of Sacrifice

Tuesday evening I went to a wine tastin'. Actually, it was a preview to Vitigno Italia (an industry fair in Naples, though open to the public) that will happen in May 2007. David informed me of this event as he did back in May (click here to see the post about it).

Let me just backtrack by telling you that I have signed up for a"sommelier" class. It is the first of 3 levels, and it is given by AIS (Association of Italian Sommeliers) in conjunction with the state organization, Agripromos. It was amazingly cheap, as it is state subsidized. We all received a bag with 3 glasses, 3 books, and a free membership to AIS.

Anyway, what I hope to do by taking this class (besides getting to try lotsa classy hooch that I couldn't normally afford), is to refine my ability to analyze the organoleptic properties of wine (scents and smells), learn more about the wine-making process, and have at least one sip of every single Italian varietal in existence. To do the first, our teachers have told us that "ci vuole allenamento." That means we must train! That means I have to practice, people! That means going to as many tastings as I can, and studying like a good girl at home.

And what's wrong with a little sacrifice?

That leads me back to Vitigno Italia. Like I've said before, it is difficult to try every wine, and the way these people pour is not conducive to end-of-the-night lucidity. An important thing that I've learned is to dump ANYTHING that is not extraordinary. If it's not worth a second sip, don't dedicate your body's oxidizing power to it.

There were a few standouts, some wines that were odd, and lots of obscure autochthonous grapes. In the standout category, I tried an organic Brunello di Montalcino. There were tables of Banfi and compnay, but I felt pulled by the little guy, the winemaker who was pushing his OWN wine (Poderi Salicutti) as opposed to the representative of an internationally recognized wine producer. I wanted to talk to the man who is progressing against the current to run an organic vineyard. He was soft-spoken but passionate about his work. He humored me by chatting away a good half-hour, and he let me try his Rosso di Montalcino, then his Brunello (both made with the local clone of sangiovese, brunello). Many tasters went straight for the Brunello, but I wanted to see the progression from the younger rosso (undergoes one year of barrel aging and 6 in the bottle) to the refined brunello (minimum 2 years in the barrel and 4 in the bottle). Having long ingnored Toscana in search of the less publicized regions, I have quite a bit of sensory learning to do. They were well-made and true to the tradition which are 2 things I am always searching for in this world of international varietals and market-driven techniques. In other words, I had a great time staining my teeth at his stand. That's him pouring his rosso, and here's his site, if you're interested.

One of the odd wines that I tried was a Friulian pinot grigio that had been macerated on its skins. I've only heard of this process, so it was quite exciting to try, so exciting that I don't remember the producer's name. It's unusual because white grapes are almost always pressed and separated from their juices right away, not allowing any influence from the skins into the final wine product. (Red grapes intended for red wine, however, are pressed then left on their skins, in most cases, for a couple of weeks to extract color, tannins, and some additional flavor components.)

The result was...strange. The wine had a coppery hue that's typical of the actual grape, and an odor that I had a hard time pinning down. It was slightly salty and vegetal, but I find it difficult to be any more specific. (MUST PRACTICE!) This pinot grigio didn't fit into my wine paradigm and for this, it was unforgettable. Has anyone else had one of these? Alfonso? David? They are built to age, as opposed to most whites, and I would like to see if it evolves into something more recognizable.

The autoctoni that I met were: ruche' (piemonte), foja tondo (veneto), tinitilia (molise), and maybe (surely) a couple of others that I don't remember.

Campania was represented mostly by a series of raspy, wily young aglianicos that needed to be put in their places by a little bit of age. In fact, many of the big-structured grapes (sagrantino, nebbiolo, and 'dem crazy aglianicos) were opened far before their time. After all of these tannins, I found the primitivos of Puglia just a little too raspberry-ish to enjoy.

The no-show regions were Basilicata, Calabria, Sardegna, Le Marche, Trentino, and Liguria. I wanted to get my hands on some Franciacorta too (bubbly, of course), but I couldn't find Lombardia. Next time!

By the way, is it offensive to tell someone that their Negroamaro has a slight smell of the old-school band-aids that came in the tin can? I know for SURE that the Friulian producers would not have appreciated my whispered comment about their white tasting like Pace picante sauce. But band-aids? That smell reminds me of my childhood. A time when band-aids...well...came in a tin can. Maybe I should keep my mouth shut.

I'm sure for some of you out there, all of this wine-talk could easily be replaced by a long string of "blablabla," so I'll finish here and let you all get on with your lives.

Besides, I have me some practicin' to do.


Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Tracie, how long will you be a student? Great post.

12/04/2006 10:22 AM

Anonymous J.Doe said...

I think it would be offensive to tell a producer that his negroamaro smells like old school band-aids in a tin can, but what do I know?
Enjoy the sommelier course.

12/04/2006 10:53 AM

Anonymous ToTo_too said...

No one trains harder than you...grrrr
Congrats on following your passion.

12/04/2006 1:12 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like fun!

12/04/2006 9:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ciao!so u live in Ischia?I live in southern of Italy and often I'll go to Naples cuz my cousins live there!as I can see from your blog u love Italy..that's cool...

12/05/2006 3:33 AM

Blogger Italian Wine Guy┬« said...

Very Good-Bravo!
Band-Aid is actually a marker for an aroma in wine. Sign of Brettanomyces, or what we call "brett".. can be a good thing but not always.

more here... http://www.aromadictionary.com/articles/brettanomyces_article.html

Made it taste Salicutti wine? Bravo...benissimo...

Pinot Grigio in that manner is the original method, called "Ramato" as in rusty , not as in "domo arigato get me some ramato"
to me it's more akin to a vin gris (duh)but it's like trying to get people to steer away from what it is they know and like about PG to a lesser known style. I like it and see it here sometimes...more likely to see it 25 years ago (when you might have been watching burt and ernie and big bird)

stick with it and dont let them turn you into "spocchiosso" ( i think that's how they told it to me last night)

taste, taste, taste and remember your texas roots..root 'em out, hunt 'em down, and sip and spit, but never cut and run ;)

12/05/2006 8:07 AM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

nyc--there are 3 levels, each consisting of 30 hours. hopefully the next level will start in january. thanks :)

j.doe--already am!

toto_too--thanks, i can be quite the hard worker

julie--it IS

summer--ciao anche a te!

iwg--i KNEW i wasn't crazy. so when is it good and when isn't it? i thought it was rather pleasant or else i wouldn't have said anything to him.
hhmm, 25 years ago my mom was packing wine in my thermos to go to kindergarten...

12/05/2006 9:21 AM

Blogger Expat Traveler said...

training... hmmm sounds like a big sacrifice! lol... keep up the good work.

12/05/2006 11:22 AM

Blogger Susan in Italy said...

"organoleptic" is how I feel after eating squishy oysters. Maybe after this class, you can tell me what's the best wine to drink with them ;)

12/06/2006 6:47 AM

Anonymous David said...

Tracie - glad it turned out well. Sounds like you are well on your way to becoming a pro. As IWG said never give up the fight, keep tastin' them there wines.

12/06/2006 7:59 AM

Blogger Texas Espresso said...

honestly,all the wine talk is foreign to me but very interesting. and i swear that girl in the pic looks just like you! sounds like you are well on your way to sommelier which would be very cool!

12/06/2006 7:46 PM

Blogger Eduardo said...

I love "lotsa tasty hooch" its so incongruent with wine tasting it made me laugh.

12/08/2006 1:09 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Doing the heavy lifting, tough work but someone's gotta do it. I'm not the wine expert in my house...I can't ever remember all the names, producers, etc. The only thing that ever sticks out in my mind is that a good Sauvignon Blanc should smell like cat piss. MMMMM MMMMM GOOOD!

Have fun with your course...

12/08/2006 3:51 AM


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