Vinitaly Day Three, Saturday

On ‘hump-day’ - normally a Wednesday, but at Vinitaly it falls on a Saturday - is when the worst happens: your teeth start to turn purple, even if you spit. It could be due to the sheer volume of wine, or after days of skipping lunch, or, on today in particular, it could have had to do with Aglianico’s particularly hearty viscosity. Today we sampled many, as our goal was to push-push-push, and make as many visits as possible.

We began at the ‘A Casa’ stand, of super-chic design that would rival the trendiest of museum bookshops. Profoundly soothed by the expanses of trees as their photo-backdrop, by now, this is proof I’m getting cabin-fever-ish, if even just a picture of a tree can prove that much of a relief.

Enzo Ercolino brought my focus back to the table with elaborate musings on white wine vinification, as we sampled the 2009 Coda di Volpe, Fiano di Avellino, and Sannino Falanghina. For their ’08 and ’09 vintages, 15% of the wine has carried over from the year prior, this percentage as determined by the local law’s limits. By doing so, this softens the new year’s must (juice), as it rests on the lees, the dregs/sediment that settle at the base of the fermentation vats.

Their processes are hyper-reductive, rather than hyper-oxygenated. Enzo derided common perceptions of what constitutes ‘good’ wine, stating that these perceptions are often based on an understanding of older (namely French) wines that happen to be oxygenated. In his words, the common palate has been conditioned to assume that wines are supposed to taste oxygenated, rather than fresh.

“These wines would last for ten years,” he said, “if not for the cork”. And with a cork in hand, he drew on it’s lines as one would count tree rings, showing me just how old the cork is. A Casa’s corks are ten years old, where the industry standard is mostly 5-6 years. With these wines, A Casa’s intention is to demonstrate that in the wine-producing terrain of the south one can make wines of longevity and finesse.

With a detailed sketch, he explained how they make their new Rosato of Aglianico. They reduce the total liquid content in proportion to the skins, those which gives it it’s pink color. Ercolino insists the standard of 28 days that most wineries follow is too long, that the color reaches a saturation point earlier. While aptly titled for the US market, the name “Thrill” refers to a quote from the writer/poet Jorge Luis Borges.

We tasted their ‘08 “Fiore dell’ Isca,” 100% of the Piedirosso indigenous to Campania, and I appreciated it’s distinct smokiness.  And with this, more reds: their ’07 Taurasi Aglianico, large-barrel aged and of 200 year old vines, their ’06 Aglianico, and the Taurasi Riserva ’07.

We further sampled two dessert wines – a Malvacia (Malvasia in dialect), barrique-aged for one year, and their Aglianico Botrytis ’07 – the first of it’s kind and compelling, culled from 70 year old vines, in it I excitedly picked up a distinct leather scent.

At Villa Medoro, we experienced the Chimera IGT Bianco 2009: 50% each of Trebbiano and Fallanghina, and the 100% Montepulciano D’Abbruzzo ’08, both steel-tank. We also sampled their Rosso del Duca ’07, aged one year in French tonneau, and their Adrano, Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo DOCG, aged one year in oak barriques.

And at Masseria Felicia, with Felicia we enjoyed her Bronze Label Rosso ’06, at 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso.

At I Pentri, a local stopped to tell me that I look exactly like my Father, he could see it in my profile: only as it turns out,  he had mistaken Dionisio for my Dad, as Mr. Nocerino stood at the sidelines.

With the coming vintage, I Pentri’s wines will be labeled as ‘agricultura naturale,’ in that they do not use chemicals or holding agents. Lia insists that consumers need to be more careful when it comes to selecting wines to drink. Given the glut of product on the wine market, and as fewer wines are being sold, from her perspective as a producer, she sees others engaging in practices where they are using more chemicals, with an eye to shelf life rather than to quality.

We sampled I Pentri’s Fiano L’Amore delle Api ’08, which I admired for it’s softness, and their lovely Flora Falanghina ’09. We also tasted their Kerres Piedirosso ’07, which is self-stabilizing, aged 12 mos in barrique and 12 mos in bottle – there was a brown bread, raisin spice to it’s nose, and finished with their Pietra delle Volpe ’07, a bomb of intensity and concentration.

At Zeni, we sampled the Muller Thurgau ’09 with Roberto. This new vintage is sealed neatly with a glass top, and as I by now I’ve tried out back here in the states, works remarkably well at keeping the wine fresh for days, as my fridge can attest.

We also tasted the Pinot Grigio ’09, the Pinot Grigio Ramato ’09, and also the Teroldego ’07,  and the Teroldego Riserva ’05. For this, the grapes spend three weeks ‘sul grattici’: on the vines, which amplifies their concentration, intensity, and sweetness. From there it vinifies in steel, spends 24 months in barrique, and one year in bottle.

I was also truly impressed by the newest vintage of the Zeni Moscato Rosa, and its decisive balance of concentration of fruit with freshness, which my Dad and Roberto concurred was at Dominic’s suggestion – Roberto insisting that he really does provide effective product feedback to his producers.

All in all, today was a tremendous push – we’d had only four hours of sleep, and apart from Zeni’s kindness, had neglected to pause for food and had completely lost track of water. By the time we reached Brigaldara at day’s end, the mild temper tantrum I threw could only be tempered by the likes of Stefano Cesari. Feathers back in place, I was pleased to sample the Dindarella Rosato ’09, 70% Dindarella and 30% Morinala, where Lorenzo explained how the two grapes ferment simultaneously, lending a red tone to the wine with the effect/smell of a white.  The day was effectively capped off with Brigaldara’s supremely elegant ‘Casa Vecie’ Amarone.

Back at the car park, like magic it worked again: “Sono Io,” meaning ‘it is Me.’ The Attendant brushed us past once again without paying. Turns out that today, after hearing what my Dad had been up to the past two days, Graziano Pra tried out the same tactic – and found success.


Vinitaly Day Two, Friday, Part Two

At Icardi, we sampled the Barolo Parej ’06, and their Barbaresco ’07 Montnubert, of which I was a fan.

(Claudio Icardi with his sister Mariagrazia.)








(the Braida stand's clever product display, and below, us with Raffaella Bologna.)

At Braida, we sampled their Il Fiore ’09 white, Bricco dell’Uccellone ’07, and Bricco della Bigotta ’07. I enjoyed Braida’s Grignolino d’Asti, of an indigenous grape: a pale-hued red with fruit/herbal aromas, yet strong acidity and tannins.






At Sardus Pater, I was truly impressed by their Kanai Riserva ’05, 100% of Carignano del Sulcis, a varietal native to Sardegna. We also sampled their Verdicchio ’09, their ‘Is Solus’ and ‘Arenas’ (both also of Carignano del Sulcis), and their ‘Amentos’ Moscato. All are solid wines, of vines that grow in view of the sea.





What with all this wine, I was so relieved upon arriving at I Greco's booth to find the most amazing spread of meats, cheese, and a spicy tomato tapenade, better than anything you'd find in a specialty store, and all homemade by their Mom.

Tommaso Greco, of 'Masino fame, impressed us with his extensive I Greco wine knowledge that my Dad offered him a sales job back in the states. While 'Masino happens to be my favorite of their line, I was also delighted to discover their Savu, a rose' of Gaglioppo, perfect accompaniment to our feast.


     (Tommaso Greco with my Dad.)



(Giancarlo and the Greco family's hospitality.)

At the end of the day we find ourselves back in the tangle of cars all trying to exit the parking lot at once. “Every year I say it’s the last, and every year it’s the same,” says my Dad. When it’s time to pay the toll, my brother adjusts his sunglasses, and Dad leans over him to address the Attendant.

 “Sono Io,” Dad says. This literally means “I am me,” but connotes identity, of celebrity: he once heard Gianna Nannini say this and by now has taken it on as his own. And somehow, this works – the parking attendant grows flustered and replies, “Si, si, prego, grazie,” brushing us toward the exit without pay. As on the first day I was surprised, now I am shocked.



Vinitaly Day Two, Friday, Part One.


“They should do it in Rome,” said my Dad, as we once again weave through traffic maze, gate swarms. Someone came up with the idea to move Vinitaly nearly thirty years ago, when these factors first became a problem. But somehow the fair remains fixed in Verona, city of clunky transport and outrageously priced hotels - yet also unquestionable charm, romance, and approachability.




For me, Verona is a blend of Alba’s sophistication with Venice’s love-struck tendency to brood, but also more girl-next-door than steely seductress. It’s a city where one could fall head-over-heels in love - but today, within Vinitaly’s confines, I fell for our terrific wines, one by one.






Today’s roster was lengthy. We began with a quick visit to Giorgio Pelissero’s stand, where I was happy to meet Cristina Pelissero for the first time.





We then sampled the wines of Dante Rivetti with Katia Rivetti. I enjoyed their Barbaresco Micca ’06, and the nose's floral notes. For a girl who’s not all that big on sparkling whites (go figure), their new Ivan Brut Champenoise ‘07 is terrific, with finely-meshed bubbles and a crystal-clean finish.




(more of today on the second post...)



Vinitaly Day One








(the two Dominics... and me + my Dad.)

Fresh-faced, like on the first day of school, we made our way past the acres of parked cars, down a food and junk truck-lined Verona city street, to join the teeming crowd at Vinitaly’s main entrance. We had a good few minutes to wait, and as the minutes ticked off, the Italian visitor-heavy crowd grew more ticked off. Pressing their bodies forward with anticipation, all were squished in together like extra-virgin olive-oil packed sardines.

Past the entrance we were met with a series of low-slung buildings, organized by region/production zone: a Tuscany building, a Piedmont bldg, and to travel among them for the most part you have to go outside. The feel is Soho meets Chelsea Piers, an upscale warehouse district. Inside, the feel is mini-mall meets a smaller-scaled Vegas, at grids of countless kiosks, far more upscale than I’d imagined.




As we moved from one building to the next, I found the mood of each region to be somehow be captured by choices made of color and surface, and the dance between attendants and vendors: the modern ‘flash’ of Sicily, Tuscany’s ‘fanciness,’ the industrial piety of Friuli.








(Dominic Nocerino with Enrico Berta at Distelleria Berta's booth, where they take meetings + offer tastings.)


Getting our bearings, it was hard not to feel like there was too much to see and do, as the task hand seemed daunting. At the same time, in one day my Dad + I managed to shake hands with Carlo Ferrini, Angelo Gaya & his family, and Tonino Verra of La Contea – so somehow, if we weren’t getting it all done at once, we were taking part in an overall meet-and-greet of vast acreage.



(Dominic Nocerino with Giovanni Manetti, and below with Enrico Faccenda of Cascina Chicco.)

Our tasting highlights included the wines of Cascina Chicco, namely their Roero Arneis Anterisio ’09 and Granera Alta ’08; a new white from Castello di Romitorio named "Constanza," described by Filippo Chia as a ‘bomba,’ and of 80% Chardonnay, 20% Vermentino; and the new releases of Mormoraia’s Vernaccia and Chianti.





Back in our car, as we made our way out of the maze of parked cars that now teemed with life, my Dad cracked wise with the parking attendant: rather than brushing past him with the twenty-four Euros that’s due upon exit, he looked him in the eyes with the question,  “How much do you owe me?” The attendant laughed, and brushed us past, so that our parking was free. My brother and I were surprised, but our Dad was shocked. Seasoned veteran that he is, his respose was, “I’ve never seen anything like that.”




0 to 60 in 30 Seconds.. On the Road to Vinitaly, 2010.

Last week my Dad asked me if I'm excited over our trip to this year’s Vinitaly. "Get ready to not sleep for a week," he proclaimed. As this will be my first experience of it, the scope of Vinitaly continually expands in my (admittedly vivid) mind’s eye - I'm seeing it as a tangled maze of suit jackets, booming-tenor Italian, and acres of spit buckets. "And,” he asserted, “you’d better promise not to complain."

Arguing over my propensity towards sleep is nothing new between us. We’ve already battled over this in Italy in the past, given I really enjoy sleep the way he enjoys soccer; and how his rigorous travel schedules invariably rack in more mileage than the Romanian truck drivers who criss-cross the Fruilian border.

But to vow not to complain? Not that I need to constantly, but I tend to keep the option to in my back pocket, considering the company that I keep. Similar to the way I make an on-line dinner reservation while running out the door, it’s something I like to have just to fall back on, even if my journey takes me elsewhere.

At the prospect of tasting however many terrific wines, you can bet I bit my tongue and agreed. And so, I’ve banked up my sleep reserves and prepared for the worst – and unquestionably, the best.

The soft kick-off of my tour was, I am not ashamed to admit, the Merlot-Cabernet from Couleurs du Sud, courtesy of Air France. Think what you will, it is Pays d'Oc, and I maintain is better than much of what I've sampled at whatever wine bars I’ve stumbled into in Los Angeles, a city that has backed me into it's corner of ‘artisan-made’ cocktails. Thankfully, this wine also soothed me into more sleep.

But be not alarmed, Vinifera-philes, for the tour’s hard kick-off wine is far more impressive. My LA/Paris flight puts me in Venice just in time for dinner. At a local trattoria, I peer over my Dad's shoulder at the wine list, eager for something local, and almost pull the book from his hands as I decry, "Why are you in the Tuscany section?!" Good thing he was, as from it we sampled a 1995 Madonna del Piano Brunello from Valdicava.

 You can bet I slept like a baby, waking only once at four in the morning at a rooster’s multiple crows, with back-up snarled by a creature that sounded like a cross between a tropical bird and a cheetah. Rather than be alarmed, I rolled over and slept even more.

Right now I am the best rested I've been in ages, rolling along in our car’s back seat on the way to Verona. With this energy surplus I will do my best to bring you all the pics + stories I can comb out of this week, and will post them as quick as the frenetic schedule allows me. Enjoy!