Where the Wine Trail Leads…

Where the Wine Trail Leads…

On a grey, drizzly morning I stare out the window, saddened at having just read the rather harsh remarks of a prominent wine critic about Sangiovese in Montalcino, Brunello and its Consorzio.

Is that what it comes to? A search for monochrome perfection? The unbearable boredom of greatness?

wine-trailStill staring outside:

I’ve known the richness of life’s blessings expressed only in a collection of days good and not so good; understood the depth of personal relationships through disappointment and happiness.

Did I boo my favorite tenor from the stage because I think his last year’s performance was better sung?

In a cosmos where everything runs in its own cycle of good and not so good, that we, as wine lovers, would criticize as wine follows the ups and downs of nature’s plan – even when produced year after year in the same place by the same people – seems absurd, contrary to wine appreciation and certainly to what should live in the heart of a wine lover.

Perhaps, when considering wine, we might take a lesson from a popular song artist who sings of loving the “perfect imperfections”*. If, as many have said, Sangiovese is a great communicator of terroir, then it stands to reason that Sangiovese will too be a great communicator of terroir even when conditions are not quite right, a talker of terroir’s perfections and, sometimes, imperfections.

I am not at all suggesting we tolerate badly made wine. Only that we recognize that, just as love demands forgiveness, wine requires tolerance for an acceptable range of quality variation.

You know. The good outweighs the bad.

I’ve often wondered where the wine trail leads. I still don’t know. But … if it leads to a place where days pass with predictably excellent sameness, full of well-behaved lovers and tenors who sing each song as well as the last, well, count me out.

*John Legend, All of Me
Photo borrowed from www.maremma-tuscany.com

Ventolaio Rosso di Montalcino 2010

Ventolaio Rosso di Montalcino 2010

ventolaio-rosso-di-montalcino-2010It was a wet evening in Montalcino complete with howling wind which convinced me that hidden gems are found not only on gloriously sunny mornings or bright afternoons in the countryside.

Traveling with a group of American journalists on a media trip to Montalcino, we visited Ventolaio on an evening were you were happy to be inside, warm, dry, and in good company. Wines I tasted that evening were lasting reminders of this under-followed producer.

Having recently come by Ventolaio’s Rosso di Montalcino 2010, I am happy to find it drinking as well now as then, if not a bit more evolved, with still intense aromatics, a good mingle of red / black cherries, violets, earth and tobacco, with deliciously chewy tannins. A superb bottle of Sangiovese goodness.

I have wondered several times why I don’t see more of Ventolaio here in the US market. I am baffled, really, why not, but propose you to add Ventolaio to your “hidden gems” list.

Related Link, from the media trip: Brunello di Montalcino: A Reflection

Chianti, Version COOL

Chianti, Version COOL

jazz-guitar-3Smooth, cool sounds of live jazz carry me aloft and scenes from the excellent Chianti NYC 2014 showcase tasting are still fresh in my mind. As two of the jazz scene’s most exciting guitar players do their part to help make jazz once again hip for modern listeners, Chianti’s producers too are reinvigorating the wines of their denomination, making Chianti cool for a new generation of wine aficionados.

During my lifetime Chianti has evolved from a wine that grandfather kept in the kitchen cabinet to a serious wine that seeks clarity of expression in voices more subtle than grandiose. That evolution has been largely driven by a willingness on the part of producers and the Consorzio to depart from stale convention, tempered by respect for tradition, in order to advance quality within the Chianti heritage.

chianti-nyc-2014-2Today’s Chianti has upped the cool factor, delivering wines of emotion and meaning, and doing so with an attitude of casual elegance and sense of freedom attractive to a hip, chic clientele.

A highlight of CHIANTI NYC 2014 was the guided tasting introducing marvelously varied styles of six Chianti wines:

Sorelli Chianti Riserva 2010 is herbaceous and floral, perhaps by virtue of the rare addition of 10% Trebbiano in the blend. Weighing in at 12.5% alcohol, this red wine is light enough to give good blessing to summer fish dishes, first courses and entrée salads. Aperitivo approved 🙂

Flexing a bit more muscle with 14 degrees of alcohol, the fuller-bodied Morzano il Quarto Chianti Riserva 2010 rested 24 months in third passage barrique before pleasing admirers with its floral, fruity, spice-inflected bouquet and overall harmony.

Sensuously scented Bellini Chianti Rufina Riserva 2010 impresses with rich, velvety sensations of red fruit sailing over a river of delicious acidity. Finishes with big, harmonic tannins. Nice Chianti to lay down for a bit.

Having done time in large Slavonian oak and a stint in bottle, Castello Oliveto Chianti Riserva 2010 delivers good Sangiovese flavor on a palate ever so slightly softened with a small percentage of Merlot. Enduring, elegant nose of red and black cherries and violets.

Made from 100% Sangiovese, Tenuta Cantagallo Chianti Montalbano 2010 Riserva shows a modern side with hints of vanilla and spice, berry cake bouquet and very polished palate.

Open and round, Castelvecchio Chianti Colli Fiorentini Riserva Vigna La Quercia 2010 is striking with rich dark fruit, savory herbs and a touch of smoke, a good call whenever lamb chops are within grilling range.

Just a note on Chianti serving temperature: even in better restaurants, Chianti is oftentimes served too warm at 18 C / 65 F or warmer. Recommend you enjoy Chianti at a slightly cooler temperature, say, 16 C / 60 F to receive its message. (You really must try a slightly cooled Chianti paired to sushi or sashimi.)

Whether you’re craving an insane burger creation from some hipster chef, feeling zen-ed out and sushi-addicted, hanging with investment bankers for a clubby evening of steaks, or visiting home for a Sunday serving of Mom’s roasted pork loin studded with rosemary and garlic – whatever foodie flag you may be flying – today’s Chianti wines can deliver unique, affordable pairings for every budget and level of sophistication.

And that’s cool.
#Chianticool, to be precise 😉

Related Post, Chianti, Turning the Page: Notes from Chianti NYC 2013
For additional information about Chianti wines and territory, click over to Chianti Consorzio