Despite the ever constant influx of new and unusual wines that come to me each and every day through 13 celsius, I feel that I most often gravitate back to the source, the font that initiated my life in the world of wine, namely, Italia.
Two wines have come back to me that I feel are of particularly distinct and delicious character: one is sweet and one is just plain delicious.
Torcolato. This is a sweet wine derived primarily from the native Venetian Vespaiolo grape. Torcolato mean “twisted” in Italian. This is due to the way these grapes are hung in twined and twisted columns to dry. Much like Recioto or other sweet wines, the drying process serves to extract water from the grapes through evaporation, thereby concentrating the sugar content and intensity of flavor inherint in the grapes themselves. Torcolato was one of the first sweet wines I ever encountered, and it served as the perfect foil to a plate of Gorgonzola Dolce with dried figs and salted almonds. Of course, the strangeness of the name carried a lot of personality into the equasion as well. Torcolato. It sounds like both an alien torture device and a chant to be yelled amongst thousands during a festival of pleasure. I don’t know for sure. Either way, Torcolato was long considered one of Veneto’s “closet wines”; the type of thing that your Nonna would make herself by drying grapes in the closet underneath the stairs and would pull out when you and the family came to visit… most often, it was so sticky sweet and one-dimensional that nothing else would do but a glass or two of frizzante water to wash it away over Nonna’s cookies. Since the producer Maculan came on the scene, things have changed. Now Torcolato is the sweet wine of choice in the Veneto. And while it is still not famous among the majority of wine drinkers in the world, whisper its name in the ear of any sommerlier after a long meal and the word “smile” will form over his/her lips.
Torcolato Maculan 2006 is sublime: honey, poached pears, raisins, peaches, vanilla bean and pineapple show on the nose and on the palate with a sweetness that is balanced and long-serving. Drink with strong cheeses and savory desserts such as broiled dates on a bed of marscarpone.
Brunello di Montalcino 2007. I can’t remember Brunello di Montalcino hosting two consecutive vintages of such superb quality as the 2006 and 2007 vintages. 2006 was great throughout. That said, it was sort of expected that 2007 would be slightly less brilliant. Not the case. The ’07s are showing beautifully. At the behest of a business partner, I was asked to explore this vintage, which, I admit, I had already written off as uninteresting. I have gone through 6 of these so far and I can say, without a doubt, that the ’07s are drinking wonderfully. Brunello was basically invented by Biondi-Santi. And a great and beautiful job has been done here. But, seriously, so far, across the board, nothing but good has been said about this ’07 vintage. Tonight I tested the ’07 output of Caparzo. Simply. Amazing. This wine is the full essence of Sangiovese, but in a new and dynamic costume. Ripe berry fruit, nuanced spice, violets and earth dominate. Acidity is fresh and lively and tannins are compact, definite and gorgeous. This wine gives its charms easily and, really, this is terribly worth drinking now. It shows dominance and pure force without being overly hot or raw. This wine will only improve with more age in a proper environment but I can’t wait to try more of them now. This opulent wine reminds me of tired nights around the fire in Girone (where I lived for 6 months with a strange Professor of Micro Photography who was also a shaman of Tuscan wine; grazie, Riccardo Innocenti). He once showed me a picture he had taken of a strange micro-organism that appeared to be something like a tiny crab. This creature negotiated his way through the menacing microcosmos by clutching smaller organisms in its two relatively large claws and using them as shields as it worked its way towards its cellular food source against potential attackers. This concept reminds me of two things: the way mankind often uses smaller entities to pawn off their defenses and problems and also the way good wine can sit confidently behind a good vintage and still perform its own seductive function.
Drink this wine now, later, or never… it will be good when you are dead and gone just as well as it will be good to you now. Eat just about anything with it; the acid moves it over steaks and big pasta dishes as well as over fast conversation and intense debate under a full moon.