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Welcome to V I N T R O S P E C T I V E

Posted By Joel on February 20, 2009

Vintrospective is voted by Ville in Italia as 2014 Top 15 Italian Wine Blog

March 17, 2012

Readers,

You may have come to know Vintrospective as having a focus on the wines of Italy. This will continue to be the case, however, Vintrospective will expand coverage to wine regions beyond Italy. There is no roadmap or plan for exactly how, except to follow the wines and write as I go. Hope you’ll come along.

Best,
Joel

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Do you think about the place where your bottle of Italian wine came from, who made it, how it was made?  If you stop to consider these things you will begin to taste the unique cultural message which Italian wine offers.  The wine will tell you about the land where it was created.  It will invite you to drink the traditions and histories of the people that made it. That is good wine.  It’s always been like this, more or less.

Some would have you believe that understanding Italian wine is a technical undertaking.  It’s not like that, believe me.  It is impossible to understand Italian wine without an awareness of the culture, people and place that created it.   Only after we have a sense of these things does the technical stuff add value.

That its wine regions are beautifully different, distinct and many is Italy’s strength and its difficulty.  Her dazzling array of wines will both charm and bewilder you.  I suggest one approach: get to know Italian wine by your own sensory perceptions and experiences: you will create a real, personal wine culture independent of the professional wine press.

Don’t worry;  the wines have their own way of deciding the itinerary for you…  Are you coming?

Chianti Classico NYC 2015: Cement and Me

Posted By Joel on May 14, 2015

Chianti Classico NYC 2015: Cement and Me

At yesterday’s Chianti Classico 2015 wine event in NYC, I was able to confirm something that I have long suspected about myself:

I’m a bit of a cement head.

You can take that to mean that I appreciate – and indeed at times adore – wines vinified or aged in cement.

Which, I guess, leads one to wonder what the heck is so special about wines raised in cement anyway?

bibbiano-chianti-classico-event-nyc-2015With a little digging, I was able to gather a couple of insights which make sense to me:

Cement (using the term interchangeably with concrete) fermentation vessels, I’m told, manage to keep a very consistent temperature. And as we know, that is a very good thing. Fluctuating temperature does not reside on the top ten list of things good for wine ;-).

Consequently, fermentation in cement is slow and gradual and that can mean a tendency toward vibrancy of fruit, clean, pure flavors and a marked degree of freshness.

The porosity of cement, too, according to sources, enables the wine to breathe, allowing the wine to evolve in a favorable way, preserving the expressive aspects of fruit, softening tannins, etc., and thus making cement a viable format for ageing as well.

Based on my appreciation of cement raised wines, I won’t argue.

castello-la-leccia-chianti-classico-event-nyc-2015Cement-raised wines often strike me as having a certain richness of mouthfeel which, for me, is important: holding wine in one’s mouth is such an intimate experience that the sensation of doing so should be pleasing in its own right.

At yesterday’s Chianti Classico event, during the walk around tasting segment, the wines of producers Bibbiano and Castello La Leccia captured my tasting attention. I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn that both producers utilize cement in raising their Chianti Classico wines which, by the way, were showing beautifully. And though not present at the event, I’ll mention here too the Chianti Classico of producer Monteraponi, another fine example of cement raising and a wine of which I’ve long been a fan.

Francesco Daddi of Castello La Leccia helped me to understand, too, that cement fermentation vessels, tanks, etc., can also provide a few challenges on the production side of the house: they are not the easiest things in the world to clean and maintain. And they can be heavy, as one might imagine, and thus difficult to transport.

To be clear, I am not here to say that cement as part of the vinification / ageing regimen alone churns out gorgeous wines. Only that I’m learning that cement can bring something to the finished wine that is attractive to my palate. And perhaps, too - still learning here – that Sangiovese seems to respond beautifully to its time in cement.

A Brief Reflection on Wine Price and Personal Politics

Posted By Joel on April 28, 2015

It was as an undergraduate at music conservatory when someone’s derogatory comment about brick layers in the family pointed out the discrepancy between my working class background and the rather pompous company I found myself in at the time.

wine-price-personal-politicsConsidering what the comment was intended to achieve, it was, ironically enough, one of the proudest, identity-aware moments of my life, and I later enjoyed separating myself from that community of condescending assholes.

I mention it here only inasmuch as the experience arose in me a developing set of personal politics that does today influence my relationship with wine.

I have, on many occasions, wondered at what point it is that the price of wine begins to alienate, discriminate, to perhaps even cheat.

When does the monetary cost of wine begin to be profane in the context of one’s own worldview?

As my relationship with wine deepens, the topic of price raises for me some of the most important questions about what’s in the glass, its origins, and indeed, about myself.

The price of wine is … Important.

What I am willing to pay for a bottle of wine is coming more and more under my own scrutiny, requiring some purposeful, personal reflection. And I am not talking about whether or not I can afford the bottle price.

At its particular price point, is a wine a valued communicator of tradition? Of terroir?

Is it an overpriced imposter?

There does, too, seem to be a certain price point beyond which I will not purchase a wine, no matter how highly regarded it may be. Not because I can’t afford it (which, likely, I can’t). But because I am uncomfortable about pricing so exclusive that it feels to be something inherently contrary to the spirit of wine.

In an economically unequal society, am I comfortable that a wine’s price represents fairness rather than greed?

In practice, this also means having an opinion regarding price points within specific appellations. I mean, look, appellation-governing organizations can create as many new cru, premier cru, and grand selection designations as they wish. I must ask myself, though, whether such inventions bring real improvements in the wines and consumer understanding. Or do they function as well-disguised marketing tools aimed at establishing higher price points?

Producers and appellation-governing organizations might both benefit from consideration of price as a requirement to staying competitively relevant to an international customer base often joined at dinner by images and narrative from media broadcasts of the world’s less fortunate populations.

I mean, clearly the amount one is willing to spend for a bottle of wine will vary individual to individual, likely to evolve with changing economic times and world events. For well-educated, socially aware wine drinkers, price and conscience may be intertwined in a way that influences the pleasure and enjoyment one derives from wine.

To be clear, quality is still the benchmark, not price alone … but good and even excellent quality wines are available at reasonable prices so why not enjoy them and patronize their producers?

Getting comfortable with wine and what we pay for it will likely be every wine lover’s personal reconciliation. For me, it’s a work in progress and I’m closer to getting it sorted. In any case, I will be happy to know that we are thinking about it.

Domaine Hubert Chavy Bourgogne Rouge La Taupe 2008

Posted By Joel on March 26, 2015

Narrative does provide and communicate context around wine. That’s important, at least at certain stages of appreciation. But, ultimately, you have to turn the volume down on narrative and decide for yourself if the wine is real or not, if it’s really there for you in the way you want to enjoy it.

domaine-hubert-chavy-bourgogne-rouge-la-taupe-2008One of the most real wines to land on my table of late is Domaine Hubert Chavy Bourgogne Rouge La Taupe 2008. The wine possesses remarkable epicurean utility and an air of romance, qualities that are becoming antique in the current wine market.

That’s not to suggest that this Bourgogne Rouge is out of step: I mean that style and fashion are two different things.

Rock beats scissors.
Style beats fashion.

You leave certain things to the glam and trophy wines.

Elegance, romance, real life?
Leave those things to wines like this one.

Sardinia: Scenes from Sulcis, Wine, Food, Producers & Friends

Posted By Joel on February 15, 2015

NOTE: I traveled as a guest of Consorzio Carignano del Sulcis on an educational press trip to experience the Carignano wines of Sardegna’s Sulcis region.

The following is part of a series of planned posts featuring the region of Carignano del Sulcis, its producers and wines:

The entire time we drove through Sardinia’s Sulcis region, Pat Metheny’s “Last Train Home” played in my head, as if it were somehow the soundtrack for exploring the Sulcis territory, its famous Carignano wines, food and culture.

In gathering some trip photos to share, it seems fitting that you might experience it that way, too :-)

* Song snippet from “Last Train Home”, a cut from the album “Still Life (Talking), by Pat Metheny Group, released 1987 by Geffen Records.