Before I continue with my posts on a recent trip to Mendoza, Argentina, I wanted to share a thought from Stevie Kim, the very smart and very talented managing director of Vinitaly International.
With the opening of the initial wine2wine on Dec. 3, the first event in Italy entirely dedicated to the Italian wine business, Kim re-emphasized the importance of fostering the Chinese wine market and particularly that of Chinese millennials, those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s.
This age group is also known as the “Net Generation,” based on its increasing reliance for knowledge about wine (and many other topics) on social contacts through the rapid proliferation of smartphones, Internet and wireless communication.
This reliance on the personalized message of social media is something shared by all young people, said Kim.
The Chinese “are not very different from their counterparts in other parts of the world,” Kim said. “The main difference, however, is the fact that in China wine knowledge and consumption is still at its early stage but social media will foster to bridge this gap.”
Her remarks appeared in a story titled “Are Chinese Millennials any different from others with regard to wine”? on the PRWeb site.
Apparently not, said Kim, because it’s this younger generaton who “will become opinion leaders in lifestyle trends, including wine choices,” noted Kim.
The entire article may be seen here.
It’s the water.
Readers of a certain age will recall a famous beer commercial with those words extolling a then-popular malted beverage.
The theory being, of course, that having a superior water source somehow made for a superior beer.
I’m not sure how that works, since I never tasted the water at its source (although I had some limited experience with the final product).
However, I can attest that drinking water without chemical additives for purification, without high levels of distorting minerals or the teeth-numbing metallicity that comes from running through rusty pipes, can be a mind-opening experience.
Most Americans (by which I mean in the U.S.) drink plain tap water, of which in most cases there is nothing wrong. You can even get charged for tap water in some “gougé” restaurants, but that’s your fault. Other countries, however, more often drink bottled water, either by choice or necessity. I asked a friend, a lovely chef from Parma, why Italians predominately drink bottled water even when the tap water is safe (except on trains).
She looked at me as if not understanding the question.
“It’s because we have so many great springs,” she said at last. “Why drink treated water?” Why, indeed?
Every place you go people are opening bottled water; particularly in northern Italy, close by the Alps and the Dolomites, where natural springs bubble nearly everywhere and are tapped wherever there is room to install a bottling plant.
It’s said even Roma has good water, since it’s taps are filled by water piped from the north.
Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to the recent Summa 2014, a gathering of winemakers held last month at the 17th-century palazzo of Alois Lageder in Magré, Italy.
As in way north Italy, where the Alto Adige (or All’ Adige, if you are local enough) snuggles against the Dolomites and pure spring water is abundant as fresh air and eye-popping scenery.
One of the first things you see upon entering Lageder’s stone-walled courtyard is the eye-catching spring filling a trough the size of a small Fiat.
The Lageder family history is intertwined with the natural water; the family summer home, Villa Lageder in the South Tyrolean mountain village of Sarentino/Sarnthein, also has a historical spring.
The wines shared at Summa reflect that freshness and purity found in the water and Lageder’s own philosophy of “respect for nature, appreciation of the surrounding environment, and responsibility to future generations.,” as his website notes.
As I wandered the two-day event, talking to wine-makers and tasting their wines, I asked them how much their wine philosophy was inspired by their personal terroir.
Many of them echoed the words of renowned Prosecco maker Primo Franco, who effused about how your mouth and palate are pampered and developed by drinking clean water.
“No question a person’s palate is better when it isn’t maltreated,” he said.
That coddling of the palate is evident throughout Summa, where Lageder’s constant spring proved an ideal way to start anew each session in the tasting rooms.
Tezze di Piave, TV, Italy – When I first met winemaker Antonio Bonotto, of Tenuta Bonotto Delle Tezze, he looked like anything but a renowned winemaker continuing a family tradition almost 400 years old.
Instead, dressed head-to-toe in a forest-green rubber suit and standing on scaffolding 12 feet high, Bonotto was diligently power-washing 400 years of grime off the walls and ceiling of the ancient, heavy beamed space where grapes once were delivered by horse-drawn wagon and making the room into a new tasting room/reception area.
For the moment, Bonotto was making it rain harder inside than out.
I was with my friend Patrick Caseley of Trevignano and when Bonotto recognized Patrick, the oenologist called out, “Hey, Patrick, welcome,” and crawled down from the high rise.
“You caught me at a bad moment, I’m really working,” he said, shutting off the sprayer and walking to us.
It didn’t seem he was very dry, in spite of the rubber suit, and specks of grime dotted his smiling face
“But I’m quite happy to quit for a moment, this is hard work,” he said. “You probably don’t want any photos of me right now.”
He laughed and brought us a treasure found in the walls during the ongoing renovation.
“It is, or it was, a bottle of wine my father put in the walls in 1966, when he was doing some remodeling,” Bonotto said.
He showed us a broken bottle, still bearing a hand-written label with the date 22/9/1966.
“One of my workers was inexperienced with a machine and he wasn’t able to stop in time to save the bottle,” said Bonotto, shrugging. “Too bad, it would have been nice to have it whole. My father made this wine.”
Bonotto’s family has lived in the Tezze area since at least the 1400s and for centuries the family rented farmland from the local monastery and paid their rent with wine.
The commercial winery began in the 1800s and today Tenuta Bonotto makes a line of still and sparkling wines, including a delightful Prosecco DOC (he’s just outside the Prosecco DOCG zone) in brut and extra dry and a refreshing Novalis, made of 100 percent Manzoni Bianco, with hints of oranges, apricots and a stony minerality derived from the soils and waters washing down from the nearby Dolomites.
He’s particularly proud of his Raboso del Piave-based wines.
It’s an ancient grape, Bonotto said, with ancient records indicating this indigenous grape, considered the “king of wines” by Venetian aristocracy, having been vinified since the 800s.
“The real distinctive characteristic of this grape is the acidity,” Bonotto said. “Normally, when a grape ripens the sugars go like this (moving his hand in an upward arc) and the acidity goes like this (a downward arc). But with Raboso, the acidity gives you this,” and he drew a straight line.
It’s that straight-on acidity that deters many winemakers who don’t understand how to make wines with Raboso, Bonotto said.
“It’s not something you can eliminate, so you learn to work with it,” he said. “Or not.”
When vinified as a sweet wine, the acidity balances the sugars, the result being a sweet wine with “nerve,” as Caseley said.
That bottle of his father’s wine from 1966 may still have been drinkable, given Raboso’s acidity, and the current Bonotto rued not being able to see how it might have aged over nearly 50 years.
With his wife Vittoria, we tasted Bonotto’s 2009 Potestá Raboso del Piave DOC (100 percent Raboso Piave) and found hints of violets and roses on the nose with spice, licorice and a pleasing bit of earthiness and minerality.
He also makes a Raboso Passito, its grapes dried naturally for four months before vinification, and a Raboso Rosato Frizzante, bright and indulgent in fresh red berries and cherries.
“This is the blessing of this grape, you can make so many different wines from it,” Bonotto said. “It’s a pity because we have so many other varieties here we don’t focus on Raboso. It’s really a marvelous grape.”
VERONA – One of my many “Instant Italian” lessons while at VinItaly last week turned up when my cellphone didn’t. Looked in pockets, bags, hats, suitcase and even the bag with my brioche from the panificio. No luck.
Finally thought of looking in the car, which meant repeating a 10-minute walk but no big deal, because that’s where I left the phone.
Gloria Giovara, wife and business partner of good friend Patrick Casely of Trevignano, laughed when I explained my short absence and said, “Now you know how to say, ‘Ho lasciato il mio telefono in la macchina.'”
We were headed around to explore several of the immense pavilions comprising VinItaly, each of them the site of a different Italian wine region. Patrick and Gloria, ever working in the beehive-busy culture of the world’s largest wine fair, were seeing clients and I was tagging along, hoping to absorb some of their encyclopedic knowledge of Italy and the Italian wine world and maybe meet someone interesting.
As if that was any problem.
The trans-generation crossing is something every winemaking region worries about. Who is going to take over when the first (or fourth or more, in many cases here in Italy) generation gets tired and starts looking around for the next generation of winemakers? But in my days at Vinitaly, I was fortunate to meet several young winemakers eager to take over, or at least eager to accept the reins when handed to them.
Among the notable are the attractive six young people in the accompanying photo who comprise the future of Cantina La Salute, which is a cooperative formed in 1969 when 11 farmers in the Piave River valley near Treviso, feeling threatened by encroaching “big business,” came together to ensure the continuation of their lifestyle.
If I understood correctly, today the cooperative acts like a consortium, maintaining the quality of the wines while making a line of wines from the grapes produced by the various members of the cooperative. The winemaker for the cooperative is Antonio Cocca (second from left) and the president of La Salute is Nicola Fantuzzi (third from right). The others in the photo include (from left) Allessandro Milan, Cocca, Elena Rossi, Fantuzzi, Enrico Prisson and Serena Lessi.
The sextet in the photo are among the current generation of winemakers and viticulturists, although many of the original winemakers still are actively involved in the day-to-day operations of their individual aziendas and vineyards. The cooperative today produces a variety of wines, including a delightful Raboso and a millesimato spumante designated “21,” a number relating to Feb. 21, 1969, the founding of the coop, and Nov. 21, the day of the Feast of Our Lady of Health and the day the cuvée selections are made. The wines have been awarded many medals and honors, including several Gran Menziones at this year’s Vinitaly.
Surely it’s not too late for a few New Year’s resolutions? It’s seems so soon to be a few days into the New Year. I was busy trying to find last year’s list, just to see what I missed out on procrastinating about. Just say I’m just well-practiced in putting off making (and breaking) those pesky resolutions. So here goes, a partial salute to the New Year and a look ahead to months of swirling, sipping and scribbling.
Taste more Colorado wines – Notice I specifically didn’t say “drink” more Colorado wines.
There are many in-state wineries whose tasting rooms I’ve yet to sully, and this year I plan to sully as many as possible.
That said, there also are some (many? few?) Colorado wineries who wines aren’t worth drinking, sad to say.Over-reaching, under-ripe, too many chemicals and too few years’ experience all add up to undrinkable. I’ll taste as many as possible and steer away from those who deserve steering away from.
Find the hidden gems – Sounds great, too bad it’s already taken by Colorado Ski Country USA.
Those wise marketing folks at Ski Country know a winner when they market it and I hereby resolve to let you in on the better-kept secrets of Colorado winemaking.
You won’t ready anything about the plonk (see No. 1) but each year I find some gems at the Colorado Mountain Winefest.This year, I’ll take you with me when we swing around the state.
Encourage wine drinkers to use better glassware – Sure, you can use a jelly jar for drinking wines, but then you could drive a Yugo to the Indianapolis 500, too. Good stemware, the kind that allows you to hold, swirl and sniff, isn’t expensive and lets you enjoy the flavors, bouquets and beauty of the wine.
If you think it’s chi-chi or stuck-up or fancified, that’s OK, too. Some day you’ll be served a nice wine in a decent glass and you’ll wonder what took you so long.
Drink more sparkling wine – Like, this might be possible only if they add a few days to the calendar. Don’t save sparkling wines only for “special occasions.” There are some fun sparklers out there costing under $10 and some killers in the $20 and under range.
Besides, haven’t you noticed how opening a sparkling wine – a sparkling wine other than Cold Duck, that is – makes any occasion special?
This also is the year to explore grower Champagnes, wines from farmers who once sold their grape to immense wine houses but now are bottling their own labels.
Try more (domestic) chardonnay – I’ll admit it: Domestic chardonnay is getting better. By “better,” I mean it’s trending away from the over-blown, over-oaked, over-ripe, peaches-and-cream flavors that ruined California chardonnay for millions of former fans. Winemakers are starting to rediscover the taut minerality and vibrant acidity that made chardonnay America’s favorite white wine. South America and South Africa also are producing some excellent chardonnays but the finest chardonnays still come from France.
Explore more – Speaking of California chardonnay, did you know some excellent (not chardonnay) white wines come from Spain (viura), Italy (trebbiano), Germany (riesling), New Zealand (sauvignon blanc) and South Africa (chenin blanc), to name a few varieties? Not to mention Bulgaria (traminer), Portugal (albariño) and Austria (riesling).
Ditto for red wines. There’s really no excuse for falling into a wine-drinking rut.
Stay out of a wine-drinking rut – Enough said.
It’s 92 in Grand Junction and only 3 p.m., which means it may reach 95 or so before the sun sets.
I was reading posts by Susannah Gold and Charles Scicolone on a PR tasting they attended (n in NYC, of course) for Soave, an under-appreciated white wine from the Veneto region.
And those posts got me to thinking of a cool Italian white to savor after work, which brings me to the Frascati I have in the fridge. Frascati is a blend of Malvasia bianca (50 percent or more), Malvasia del Lazio and several other varietals including Greco, Trebbiano Giallo and other local (local to Rome, that is) white varietals.
But the wine itself doesn’t get much respect, with most reviews I’ve found calling it “serviceable” and “unremarkable.”
It doesn’t sound like much but maybe that’s about all I need on a steamy Friday, something serviceable and unremarkable.
Not sure what to pair it with, all the reviewers suggesting “unremarkable” foods like seafood cocktail. Seafood cocktail? Not sure I even remember what that is.
But maybe it will give me something to ponder other than the disaster in the Gulf, and the memories of the friends and family who make their living on and near the waters of Louisiana.
It’s been a tough spring for them, and there are going to be many tough weeks and months to come.
But as a bumper sticker said during the dark days following the Exxon pull-out in 1982 that left thousands of people jobless in western Colorado: tough times don’t last, tough people do.
My heart goes out to the tough people of Louisiana.
And I’ll get back to you on this here Frascati.
Buon weekend, y’all, as Alfonso would offer.
After listening for several hours last February to a panel discuss the impact social media such as blogging, Twitter and Facebook are having in today’s wine-marketing world VINO 2010 in New York City, and then recently reading The Italian Wine Guy and his comments on a similar panel at VinItaly, I was pleased to receive a new blog from Azienda Agricola Rivetto in Italy’s Piemonte.
Italian winemakers have long been pushing to get more of the U.S. market, and after hearing comments at VINO 2010 and VinItaly that younger Italians aren’t drinking as much wine as past generations, it’s seem now more than ever those Italian producers are looking to fill that gap through the U.S. wine market. But until the Rivetto blog, the only Italian winemaker I know with a blog is Susanna Crociani from Montepulciano.
Susanna is a delightful person and very talented winemaker, as you’ll discover by reading this blog by our good friend, well-known wine blogger and Italian wine lover Susannah at Avvinare. Susanna Crociani said during VINO 2010 that her blog helped increase her business noticeably. Not only her wine business but here agriturismo, as well.
I also read Franco Ziliani’s Vino Al Vino blog but I feel that it’s more news oriented, not necessarily something written from the heart and eyes of a winemaker, as are the blogs by Susanna Crociani and Enrico Rivetto.
So why don’t more Italian winemakers post on blog sites? Maybe, for one, it’s time consuming and there’s never much rest in the winemaking or grape growing business, as you’ll also find out by reading Enrico Rivertto’s blog entries. But also by reading Enrico’s posts, you get a real idea of who he and his family are and what they are doing.
It was interesting, too, to discover his blog was presented to an international journalism audience at a conference in Perugia and was described as “an example of wine marketing best practice.” Enrico also engages the world through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube.
Enrico’s comments: “Wine producers with blogs in Italy are really few, I think you could count them on one hand; I believe it’s a good way to bring the consumer closer to the complicated world of wine, making it easier for them to understand what lays behind and inside the glass.”
Those comments really hit home for many wine lovers. And winemakers, too, who want their customers to know what goes on in the vineyard and the winery. That’s probably every Italian winemaker I’ve ever met, and after hearing how blogging helped Susanna’s business, it’s almost a given for any winemaker who wants to get their name out to the public.
My feeling is, if any producer, whether it’s wine, cars or legislation, tries to hide the process, there probably is something wrong with the final product. It’s fun and refreshing to read blogs from Susanna Crociani and Enrico Rivetto. Let’s hope more Italian winemakers join the social media world.