Sunday, June 25, 2017

Do old Italian-American restaurants hate new Italian wine?

For those whose families emigrated from Italy over 100 years ago, it is a secure bet that we still identify with our roots. In the U.S., we’re Italian-Americans, although many of us prefer to be seen first, as Americans, with Italian heritage. If anyone doubts that, all one would need to do is get on a plane, go back to one of their family towns and see what they call you. Here comes the “Americano,” they would call. And that’s if you were born there and had only been gone for five years, let alone 100.

When one delves into the complicated mesh of food, especially from Italy, there are complications. First of all, where you came from. If you came from Trento or Alba, you will have your specific traditions and foods. And if you came from south of Rome, you will have another. And, seeing as many of the Italians that came to America 100+ years ago came from the south, their influence on how we perceive Italian food, historically, has been overarching.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Puglia's Rosé Conundrum - Through a Glass Darker

How is it a trait that a place is known for, even famous, shuns the quality in favor of fashion? It happens all the time - take a walk through Times Square and feast your eyes upon all that which is desirable. In the case of Puglia, today, the place has an identity crisis. And it centers around the color of their rosé wines.

Rosé wine is all the fashion today. And this is cause for celebration from those of us who never thought we’d see this day. From every nook and cranny of the wine producing universe, someone is bringing out another rosé. Germany, Spain, California, France, Texas, Argentina, Australia, Lebanon, yes Lebanon! Rosé wine is no longer this impossible dream of wine lovers, that someday we might find ourselves in a world where the pale red isn’t shunned.

I couldn’t be happier. But I also am concerned. I like deeply colored rosé wines and some of my favorite wines are starting to look pale and anemic.

“You are trying to be Brigitte Bardot when you are Claudia Cardinale!”

Sunday, June 11, 2017

40 Years - On the Wine Trail in Puglia

What a difference 14,520 days makes

It seems to be unimaginable for someone young today to digest a span of time like 40 years. And when older people, for whom time has stretched farther than one might like to admit, relate a long-past thing, for those who did not live in that time, in today’s Instagram-gratification culture, it’s insufferable. “I didn’t live it, old, man. It doesn’t affect me.” Yeah, I get that. But it does - the wine we tasted then and the wine you are now enjoying - they are universes apart. And it is important to know what happened, and how we got here, so that you can better enjoy your Nero di Troia, or your Negroamaro Bianco or your Susumaniello rosato.

Saturday, June 03, 2017


...on vacation - back soon

from the archives: How Puglia saved my life


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Italian Wines – Multifaceted, Bright, Complex and Confounding

I see it all the time – like Groundhog’s Day – people are interested in Italy, the cultures, the food, the fashion, the design, the statues. But Italian wine is just too darn complicated!

We are entering into the time when more people will travel to Italy for vacations, for tourism, for cultural renewal. I heard it last night in a little café, people talking about Venice, Pompeii, Rome. I saw an older couple in a department store buying comfortable clothes for their “trip to Italy.” And when they get there, when they sit down to eat, they will, most likely, drink Italian wine. So why do they get so hung up about Italian wine here in America?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Who cares what wine bottle you post on Instagram?

PTI – ME!

"It’s all about your brand!"

"Why be a follower, when you can be an influencer?"

"Make your mark (BIG!) for enhanced career opportunities!"

As a visual junky, I have a confession to make – I love looking at pictures on Instagram. Call it an introvert’s tendency to stand in the corner and observe. Or the realization, that at a certain age, you (ALL OF YOU!) will become invisible to the ascending generation that is full of energy and spunk – they want the world and they want it NOW! Whatever. There are millions of images flooding the site and young professionals are now being told that being active on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and, yes, even LinkedIn, is a strategy to strengthen your professional career! Funny, I was suggesting this to the executives (where I work) almost ten (10!) years ago. The teenagers (then) are now in the work force, and they are a force (ASK THEM! Ask their media coach!). And it is now de rigueur to lather up one’s bandwidth with a plethora of visual droppings to mark one’s fire hydrant in the race for influence and relevance. After all, you’re BUILDING YOUR BRAND!

Wow, all those exclamation points (AND UPPERCASE WORDS!) are so exhausting! But we live, now, in a world where so many people are clamoring for attention. And unless you climb over that HUGE wall and get your advanced certification (and maybe even become some kind of MASTER!) how can one differentiate who they are, and how influential they can be, in the short term? Hey, how about posting AWESOME pictures of unobtainable (to the rest of us) bottles of AWESOME wines? Sounds like a plan!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Fortunes of the Times - Great Italian Vintages from the “Noughties” - 2012-2016

Frequent readers already know this little secret – Italy is in a full-blown Golden Age for wine. Never have we seen more great wine coming out of this land once called Oenotria. After thousands of years, we have arrived to the Promised Land. And the last five vintages have bestowed a largess upon wine lovers almost to the point of excess. Before one thinks this a protestation, let’s examine our collective fortune.

While on this last trip to Italy, covering Tuscany and Piedmont with a dollop of Vinitaly in the middle, we tasted through many wines from these five vintages from 2012 to 2016.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Piedmont’s controversial 2014 vintage in the Langhe

How important is vintage? Does terroir prevail over the wind and the rain and the sun? Does a farmer, who works the land for 40 years, have special tools to overcome the vagaries of the land? Or is it all a cosmogonic crap-shoot?

Those are questions people, far better connected than me, have been grappling with for aeons. But nonetheless, those were the questions I too asked as I stood on the tower in Barbaresco, overlooking one of the dearest wine producing spots on earth. And 2014 was the vintage in question.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Rare and precious – And other unlikely juxtapositions

It started last night while I was looking for a bottle of wine to go with the lasagne. I wanted something a bit rustic, not too heavy, maybe with some age on it, and red. Isn’t that how everyone does it? Go to your wine closet and pick out something fabulous?

Earlier in the day, at the nearby supermarket, I noticed a display of wine and saw the word Rosatello. Once upon a time, that meant a lightly dry rosé wine from Tuscany, long before “that” was famous. Now it means sweet, red or rosé, still or fizzy, depending on which bottle is presented. But someone shopping in this supermarket would probably get a bottle of either, to go with their lasagne.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is the World Ready for New Italian Wine?

When Jon Bonné penned his groundbreaking book, The New California Wine, he caused a lot of us to look at wine in a different light. It wasn’t so much that all of a sudden winemakers in California were doing something different than they had done before, for in California, experimentation is always part of the gambit. No, it was that he caused us to perceive, from a different perspective, how some winemakers in California were going about the art and craft of winemaking in a totally unfettered way. In fact, these revolutionaries, some of them, have also become part of the mainstream for wine in the Golden State.

There will always be a large commercial aspect to wine in California and other places in the world where wine is part of the commerce of the country. France, Spain and Italy come to mind. Italy has had, for some time, a robust commercial side of wine. A recent visit to the 51st edition of Vinitaly showed just how vigorous that business still is.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

An introvert’s guide to surviving Vinitaly

Amor litteras ad Vinitaly
My dear mom was an extrovert. Being around people recharged her batteries, not that she needed them to. She was a perpetual motion machine. But as a child of hers, who came into the world as an introvert, the opposite happens when I am around a crowd. Thus, when I visited Vinitaly after a year’s absence, I imagined all the other people who might have to brave the endless pavilions of Veronafiere and are also introverts, and thought to make a plan for all of us.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Perpetuating a Legacy in the Modern Day Business of Wine in Italy

In recent days, in Tuscany, there were some terrific thunderstorms. Along with the rain, hail fell from the heavens. Not exactly an “under the Tuscan Sun” moment. But just as I wrote these words, the sun poked its head out through the steel gray clouds.

Over the period of 30 hours, with full immersion (and submersion, as the case may be), I had the opportunity to sit and talk with three Tuscan families about their wine business. And the overriding (if not overtly intended) dilemma they all expressed to me was that of their family legacy in the business of wine.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Valpolicella at a Crossroads in the New Millennium

Outside a storm is passing over, the sky rumbling in a way that is at once ominous and reassuring. Texas in April is not for the faint of heart. Storms of Biblical proportions, hail, wind and torrential rains often put a damper on what only hours before might have been the most perfect of Spring days. But it is also a blunt reminder that none of us are really “in charge.” As someone much wiser than me once said, “We strut and point, pontificate and strike, but, rest reassured, there are always larger forces of destiny in play.”

As the world of wine turns from Bordeaux to Italy and Verona, there will be plenty of bottles opened in the coming days and weeks. None the less of them will be local bottles, in the various trattoria and bars around the city.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Who are the Future “Thought Leaders” for Italian Wine?

With harvest behind us and winemaking for the year finished, Italians in the wine trade are living out of their suitcases. Traveling to markets around the world, attending portfolio tastings and working with salespeople in the trenches. Last week there was Prowein. This week all eyes turn to Bordeaux for their annual UGC 2016 vintage tastings. But soon there will be Vinitaly. Emails are being sent to round up prospective new clients and export markets. Seminars are being scheduled. Dinners, which will go late into the night, are being planned, in and around Verona. And there are all the people planning travel to Italy to visit and taste, before and after Vinitaly. All this eating and drinking and tasting and talking, what will come of it?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Secret Life of a Gateway Wine - Coming of Age in a Life of Wine

Living in a country that is geographically isolated from much of the world by the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, many in America tend to live inside their heads. It’s funny that for those of us who love wine, the head is the receptacle for the precious liquid. If only it could occasionally be utilized as a way to flush our system and give us a more outward perspective. For some, I am sure it does. But the monkey brain inside of us, it chatters away.

I was talking to a group of young wine professionals last week, just relating the differences between now and then - then being the time when I was their age. Maybe younger. I was talking about wine and what my gateway wine was, a path which eventually led me to tables where an obscene array of aged and (often) great Barolo and Barbaresco were there for pure enjoyment. By chance, my gateway wine was a bottle of Thunderbird.

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