Guiltless: Nature vs Intention


A Note on Natural and Intentional Wines.

Looking at two glasses of pinot noir, you might not be able to differentiate which one is the natural one and which one is intentional. The colors are the same. The aromas are similar, but the methods of production are separated by ideology … and ideology is a great distance to travel sometimes.

Standing in the hall at Vinitaly‘s VinItalyBio (Pavilion 8) the small wood-crafted stands are a buzz with interested consumers and buyers. The natural and certified organic wines might be a drop in the bucket of wines presented at this year’s 50th anniversary conference, but a few years ago the VIVIT section was housed in a small room in PalaExpo.

The offering of minimal-intervention wines being presented at the conference has quadrupled. No doubt, this reflects the shift in the cultural exchange between consumers and producers, and in the greater retreat from industrialized food toward something more sustainable.

Tasting through the wines, one thing becomes eminently clear—a gentle reminder—variety is the spice of life.

Varietal consistency—from Sauvignon to Chenin to Cabernet and Grenache—does not occur by accident. The hallmark aromas and flavors of “typical” wines have a direct connection to the ways they are made. These characters are created by recipes. We’ve all become accustomed to this concept. You cannot make a cake without flour, for example … or can you?

The flourless cake exists. And it’s delicious, usually. (It depends who’s making it, of course.) The point here is that there are more than one or two ways to make everything. Cars, houses, boats, skyscrapers, and wine.

The variables in any equation are based in our own individual perceptions of the subject being studied and the potential for our expectations to drive those perceptions. While I  prefer allowing myself the uninhibited experience of an unfamiliar wine, I have been trained by recipe-makers. I have concepts of what a thing should be. The problem here, obviously, is not the wine. It is me.

Where a home in the center of a city designed by Zaha Hadid or Frank Ghery might not speak to a hermit, neither does a log cabin cut from the forest it was built in attempt to woo an urbanite. Each of us is cut from a different cloth. We have body memories based on our experiences. It is not easy to permit those perceptions to have free-reign once they have been organized.

Just as a highly conceived malolactic-negative sangiovese blanc de noir saten is not a glera method ancestrale, the discussion about which strategy is better or whether one method for making a sparkling wine is right or wrong, dismisses the real matter at hand.

Your preference matters. What you like matters. What you think is important matters.

Whether you believe spontaneous fermentation or cued fermentation using laboratory yeasts, you should be permitted to enjoy the wines you like without guilt, without feeling like you should be shopping from another aisle, another store.

The key is understanding why you like or don’t like something—diving deeper into the glass than the ether of the winery’s marketing material.

VinItaly provides a unique opportunity for consumers, in particular, to step up and join the conversation. Where the wine industry is headed? Will you choose nature, or intention? Maybe you like a bit of both? Tell the producer. Use your social media to tell your friends. Feel empowered to make your choice and try to understand that other people have choices too. 

It is entirely possible that your choice depends on the grape or the wine category (sparkling, fortified, still). Perhaps somewhere in all of the tastings you discover that the temperature of the fermentation matters, or the amount of rainwater in a growing season makes a wine more palatable. Perhaps you prefer wines with a lower alcohol, a short or extended maceration, or you discover a new variety—Italy alone boasts more than 375 native grape varieties.

What, ultimately, I’m getting to here is that you have a great many choices. The possibilities and potential for flavor combinations are mind-boggling.

Throughout VinItaly beginners and professionals are given the chance to speak directly with the winemakers, to understand the processes, to learn what makes the wines of Italy tick. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about what you like and why you like it.

Here are some of my favorite wines from yesterday’s tasting at VinItalyBio.

*Note: I stuck to southern Italy for most of the tasting and plan return for additional regions.

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Camuto goes to jail, for dinner 

RB from Robert Camuto at Wine Spectator

Massimo Sestito knows how to put together a compelling Italian wine lineup.

As maitre d’ of one of Milan’s newest and trendiest restaurants, InGalera, he has carefully curated an 80-label list that is sprinkled with 90-plus-point gems and spans from Sicily and Calabria up to Barolo and Friuli and most everywhere in between.

Fair enough. But what really distinguishes the restaurant is its location—inside the gates of the Bollate penitentiary, a medium-security facility near the Milan fairgrounds that holds more than 1,000 inmates. The waiters, cooks, dishwashers—everyone except Sestito, chef Ivan Manzo, the hostess who greets customers at the prison gates and the restaurant’s creator—are long-term inmates.

“We have murderers, bank robbers, everything,” says Silvia Polleri, 65, a retired kindergarten teacher turned caterer, who in September 2015 opened InGalera as Italy’s first public restaurant in a prison.

Read More at Wine Spectator >>>

Renato Moves North

Amidst rumors of a Sicilian wine industry shakeup, Renato de Bartoli confirms his departure from his family winery, Marco de Bartoli, to assume the role as CEO of the Marzotto family company Baglio di Pianetto. De Bartoli will replace long standing head of the company, Alberto Buratto.

Featured in an article at GiornaleVinoCibo, De Bartoli commented on the departure and the road ahead.

“My family business has been set very well, my brothers will go forward with the company[Marco De Bartoli]. The company is built by so many people that if one takes a step back, the company will still be able to continue well. I will lose the daily operations, but the company has solid legs … I am encouraged by this new phase of maturity of Baglio di Pianetto. And for me it is a source of professional development.”

via GiornaleVinoCibo

Vinitaly 2016, Notes on Day One

It is nearly impossible to gauge the importance of the world’s largest wine fair. VinItaly has for 50 years been steadfastly championing the diversity and charm of Italian wines. This 50th Anniversary edition of the Verona wine festival only further substantiates the importance and interest in Italian wines in the international marketplace.

To give you a simplistic breakdown of the attendance and interest in VinItaly, the managing company VeronaFiere logged 4,000 exhibitors + 150,000 visitors, including 2,600 journalists from 46 different countries, during the four-day fair in 2015.*

In addition to promoting traditional ‘intentional’ wine producers, exhibitors and visitors, the fair has been a leader in the ‘minimalist’ wine movement, promoting certified organic producers from around Italy and the world.

winewithoutwalls_logoWine Without Wall’s was a ‘natural’ wine competition for low-sulfur and minimal interventionist wines. A list of winners can be found here.

The competition pairs with VinitalyBio (in Pavillion 8), and features 66 individual certified organic and ‘natural’ wine producers.

banner_wanted_itaAs of 2015, members of the trade — buyers, educators, sommeliers, Masters of Wine, and Master Sommeliers — are being offered the opportunity to take the Vinitaly International Academy Certification Course.

Led by Italian native wine grape specialist, Ian d’Agata, the rigorous and challenging certification focuses on one week of learning and an in-depth exam that includes tasting and identifying the qualities of Italy’s native grape varieties and the methods of their production. Continue reading