January 5, 2010
For too many years I have let myself get away with something that bugs me in others: ignorance, tinged with the incurious: I don’t understand Italian wine. This is the year I hope to fix this.
Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera. It boggles. Place, place, grape, respectively, in this case. Which does nothing to elucidate. Funny how I savor the memory exercise that is French appellations and varietals, yet in Italian scope this seems ridiculous. It feels like whack-a-mole: No sooner do I get my head around the difference between Nebbiolo and Sangiovese (grapes) that I stumble upon the fact that Brunello (di Montalcino), another cursed ‘B’, is made from…wait, which grape? Sigh. And what does that mean and where is Montalcino and—I’m just jealous because I looked it up and like many trillions of actual Existing European Towns, it consists of a castle on a hill surrounded by impossibly adorable stucco buildings and it looks warm and well defended.
Even in wine production, you can tell that Italy wasn’t united until 1815. Looking at a wine breakdown of the country feels like a brutal march through millennia of weird particulars, city-states, family feuds and dialect subtleties. I need to go stare at a map for a long time. Fortunately this happens to be one of my hobbies.
OK, so last week I had a bottle of Amarone and I even stopped to pay attention. I knew from before, because it’s weird—and thus memorable—that amarone is made from partially dried grapes. And it’s a signature style of the Veneto, a region that even has the common courtesy to be a recognizable cognate of Venice. Problem is: It’s made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grape varieties, which sound more like poor judgment in naming female infants than actual, real-life grapes.
I should probably tell you, briefly, about Amarone. It tastes slightly port-like and raisiny, good for cool weather and cinnamon-y. You want to keep drinking it because it’s friendly and of a texture that reminds you of dreamy Nyquil nights.
OK, back to the point. I’d like to learn about Italian wine this year and stop being such a doofus about it.