Updated: Feb 8, 2018
Here we are. Today if you follow me, you are entering the fascinating world of Italian wines. I will spend few minutes for a few days every month introducing everybody to this magic world. I will try to keep it short, pointing to resources available if you would like to deepen your knowledge , or of course you can feel free to ask me questions ( if I am not writing to a wall :-)) ). However I am truly passionate on this topic, so I can just write to the Void if it will be the case. I will start with Campania tomorrow; I will continue with this beautiful and familiar region ( to me at the least as I was born here and I am currently a Resident) until the end of January.
Before we start I want to demystify the word wine. I can understand, it could actually be an intimidating topic , people believe that pronunciation , clearly understanding the nuances can create embarrassment moments at times.
But there is nothing farther away from the truth. Wine is a personal experience, wine evoke personal moments , personal memories with its aromas and bouquets; so in other words you can make it and turn it the way you want.
Nevertheless, there are few simple do and don't which I am going to highlight here and I invite you to debate them if you like. I will treasure everybody's opinion and we can discuss it together.
Wine is not just an alcoholic drink, a glass of wine ( if kept to that or one more) it actually an healthy drink. This is debatable of course, but there have been multiple studies which point to this conclusion. It contains antioxidants and I will keep it to just this statement; I want to avoid long digressions and step into a never ending path. I invite you to research it if you want and we can debate it offline.
Wine is passion ( the one that the enologist, the farmer, the, winery personnel put into it to produce what you are drinking).
Wine is determined by Mother Nature ( Good vintage , vs Bad vintage). Rainy summer , Hurricane at Harvest time ( It has happened to me when I produced my wine in 2011 with Irene in the NorthEast, I still have some of the bottles ... just good to watch right now)vs a Sunny, Hot summer with perfect diurnal temperature swings.
Wine is determined by Geography , the exposure of the grape to the sun, SouthEast vs SouthWest, vs Northern exposure. The perfect terroir ( I will explain don't worry, don't get excited)
Wine is determined by History ... why this grape vs others in this regions? Proudly as Italians we can say that the Romans were the best modern winemakers ..., they created the practices that are still used today in some regions.
So here are in my opinion the DON'ts , oversimplifying it of course.
1) I have heard from few of my friends. My knowledge ends with "White" or "Red". OMG, think about it, if you go to a wine bar and ask : " A Glass of Red wine, please", it is like going to a restaurant and order " Please a dish with meat or with fish ".
Imagine now the Bartender , he/she has two choices , one is to ask exactly what type of wine you are looking for, may be he/she can hand you a long wine list ( this will add to your anxiety , thinking "oh no, now I am going to look stupid"). Or she can list you verbally the wines by the glass ( even worse , now you have only few microseconds to make an intelligent decision). The other choice the Bartender has, is to chose for you; he/she serves you a glass of either WHITE or RED , it will be their best situation... most likely the least expensive wine to a steep cost . IT is a Business after all. Now you truly don't know what you are putting in your body, HEY....IT IS YOUR BODY, your stomach , your liver, your kidneys.
Also another consideration to make is that every wine can be suitable or not to the situation you are in, it can be too heavy or too acidic for you just sitting at a bar with your date or your friends.
Ok, lets go back to the initial statement , "White" or "Red" is the possible lowest level of knowledge on the topic. It is like saying, "a meat dish, please", I don't care if it is beef, veal, chicken, turkey and how it is made... Just feed me> IT IS TIME to evolve , you can do it. So, try to avoid it, just follow me for the next few months.
2) If you pass the above first stage and you feel confortable with ordering " A Glass of Cab or Pinot Grigio, or Chardonnay" , yes you feel proud, you can actually pronounce those words, you have tasted them in the past.
Congratulations, now you made the first step towards your wine expertise. But also in this situation it is still too generic. Cab is the most used word for Red Wine. Cab stands for Cabernet Sauvignon , it is one of the most grown grape in the world. But remember what I said before? Mother Nature, Geography? Not all the Cab wines are made equal ... Actually the experience you can have will be totally different if you chose a Cab from California ( may be Napa) vs one from Sonoma ( Hey still California) or from Argentina, Chile and finally the Benchmark Cab from Bordeaux.
All different experiences ... like different wines. What about if you are in Italy... You are from New York and you order a "Cab" ... The waiter looks at you and most likely will say ( depending where you are.. Definitely if you are in Naples).. what about a Pallagrello or Aglianico, or Piedirosso ??? WHAT??????? " What did you actually say???" The Sweat start pouring down ... and you revert back to point one " Ok a Glass of Red Wine", Getting rid of all your tension. The fact is that not all the regions of the world produce Cab , so it would be nice to expand the knowledge a little further. Follow me on this and you will, very simplistically. The same apply to Chardonnay and to Pinot Grigio.
3) people will drink wine in paper cups or the old Chianti glasses.... Hey that is not the way to enjoy a great glass of wine. Always ask for the proper glass , the one with a stem , with a small bowl for white, and a larger bowl for red ( don't worry I will cover this as well). Or a Flute for the Sparkling wines.... Note I said Sparkling Wines .. I will go over how to proper taste wine and how truly enjoy the experience .
4) Do not ask for Champagne if you are looking for local Sparkling Wines ... Champagne is sparkling wines made in Champagne region in France ... ONLY FRANCE ... so Berlucchi is not Champagne .....
5) And one more... You can't truly buy a good bottle of wine for less than 8-10 EUROS in Italy and the same for less that 15-18 dollars in US (Italian Wine, imported). Think about the cost to produce a good bottle of wine, the cost of the land, the cost to farm perfect grapes, the cost to make the wine with perfect , clean, new equipments, the cost to bottle it, to age it and then to transport it, to sell it. SO always think what you are putting in your body, it is your body after all.
And this is all for today ... Tomorrow will get into Campania .. so...... FAST YOUR SEATBELTS . the Voyage is starting ... You will be an expert in only few months.