Saturday, December 10, 2005
For the past few years I have been working on a novel entitled Catch of the Day. I have posted about one quarter of it on another blog site, Writer at Work. If you like stories about 40-year olds coming of age, then this is one for you. Thanks.
Blurb: He Walked the Line
In 1957 Bill Blake, a 40-year-old rockabilly-loving drunk and novelist, runs away from his mother in Massachusetts and his failures as husband, father, man and artist. He winds up in a little town on the Maine coast, where he encounters Douglas Broadwood, a male spinster who harbors a passion for Jack Kerouac, an old friend who’s about to hit the literary big time.
Into this repressed world comes a movie company to shoot a risqué soap opera of small-town shenanigans. With the cast and crew Bill blazes new trails in Downeast debauchery. Problem is, love starts to get in the way. Just as Bill realizes what happiness lies in store for him, Douglas Broadwood, the self-effacing innkeeper, stands in the wings, ready to snatch it away from him.
Catch of the Day is a joyfully cynical look at a time and place confronting the limits of its own presumed innocence and its self-deceptions. And it shows Bill and
Friday, December 09, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Wine Diary #1 /// Diario del Vino No. 1
Sat., Dec. 3 /// Sabato, 3 dic.
Zaca Mesa Chardonnay 2003 (
Villa Appalaccia Toscanello 2002 (Virginia) – Cabernet Franc 65%, Sangiovese 25%, Primitivo 10% -- not very Tuscan but light, soft, very pleasing, ate it with pizza and salad /// non "toscano" ma morbido, gradevole, ho bevuto con pizza e insalata
Sun., Dec. 4 /// Domenica, 4 dic.
Chateau de Campuget, Costieres de Nimes 2003 (
Mon., Dec. 5 /// Lunedi', 5 dic.
Veritas Cabernet Franc 2003 (Virginia) – Soft tannins, rather low in acidity but sort of charming in its light way, a soft ladylike personality…Constant Companion liked it better then I, since he tends to hate acidic wines with puckery tannins. /// Tannini morbidissimi ma un peu charmant, personalita' da donna BCBG...a mio Compagno Costante piu' piacevole che a me, perche' a lui non piace molto vino acidico con tannini pronunciati
Tues., Dec. 6 /// Martedi', 6 dic.
leftover wines (believe it or not) -- Zaca Mesa and Veritas Cabernet Franc
PLUS an Anjou:
Chateau des Fesles 2003, Anjou, France -- different take on CF, pronounced tannins, a little vegetal, wonderful /// diverso dal CF Veritas, tannini piu' potenti, vegetale, buonissimo con il salmone al forno
Saturday, December 03, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
The Straightshooter Takes on Michel Bettane
I am reprinting the English translation of a strongly worded article which appeared last July originally on the web site LaVinium. It was written by Franco Ziliani, the Straightshooter ("franco tiratore"), whose wonderfully evocative article on Barolo country I translated here last week. Franco has generously granted me permission to bring his point of view to the American wine-drinking public. The translation was provided by his fans at the premier seller of quality Italian wines in the New York area, the Italian Wine Merchants on 16th Street.
I think you will appreciate Franco's knowledge and relish his pungent way of expressing himself. He is a welcome antidote to the smarmy horseshit that characterizes so much wine writing, both in the States and...everywhere else, actually.
Michel Bettane passes judgment on the 2001 Barolo but the King of Nebbiolo remains an unfathomable, impenetrable mystery…
Try to imagine the French wine world’s reaction if an overly self-confident Italian journalist were to judge the leading domaines of Bordeaux and Burgundy by comparing them to “the achievements of the best of Italian enology, whose aesthetic fundaments can be applied, without any trace of chauvinism, to all foreign wines,” including those made in France.
At the very least,
Even though he wrote—bordering on the ridiculous—that he was capable of evaluating Barolo by comparing it to the “achievements of the best of French enology, whose aesthetic fundaments can be applied, without a trace of chauvinism, to all foreign wines.” (Sic!)
Neither the present writer nor this publication are believers in political correctness or inflated grades: they like to call a spade a spade and, frankly, they prefer to speak their minds. We have no reservations in saying that not only is Bettane’s article offensive but it shows how it is impossible to understand Barolo unless you possess the necessary humility and willingness to evaluate the wine with an open mind. This article reminds us that
It would require pages and pages—the best thing would be to translate the whole article—to convey Bettane’s various misunderstandings, misconceptions, and mistakes (last year he gave readers a taste of his very personalized approach to Piedmont wines in the first edition of the supplement Italie della Revue du Vin de France devoted to the region, which he edited). He throws up his hands and admits that “some of my opinions may seem strange to those who follow these wines in American magazines and Italian guidebooks.”
One particular gem will give you an idea. In this chestnut, Bettane is discussing—it goes without saying—Angelo Gaja, the King, the Pope of Popes. Bettane states that “the greatest Barolos today don’t say Barolo on the label. Angelo Gaja has opted for the appellation Langhe (Nebbiolo) so that when necessary, he can add a little bit of Barbera, otherwise not allowed by the appellation even though many producers have no problem adding Barbera without saying anything.”
This is a masterpiece and a telling example of how an illustrious guardian of the Revue du vin de France sees Barolo and the wines of Le Langhe and how he happily embraced—without reservations and/or skepticism—the commonly accepted explanation for Monsù Gaja’s decision not to use the name Barolo for his Sperss. As all good children know, the reason is that he needed to add a pinch of Barbera to the Nebbiolo, of course. No other reason whatsoever…
If these were Bettane’s only outrageous misunderstandings, we would accept them. If he believes the best “Barolo” to be Gaja’s Langhe Nebbiolo, that’s fine. He can drink it. We would be much happier to imbibe a Barolo by Cappellano, Cavallotti, Mascarello, or Rinaldi. But it is a different matter when our professorial French taster, with his legitimately subjective opinions, mercilessly slams other iconic figures, i.e., “the producers who perpetuate a style of wine that I judge to be obsolete and that today has taken the form of an almost religious cult. In this regard, I am in complete disagreement with certain Piedmontese and American critics, even though I respect their position.” When he pans Bruno Giacosa, Bartolo Mascarello, Giacomo Conterno Beppe Rinaldi… No, this cannot be tolerated. Even the facile manner of the insult is offensive: “the way of it afflicts me still,” as Dante would say.
What does Monsieur Bettane actually say about these figures? I feel obliged to translate his observations.
And it won’t take long.
He calls Bruno Giacosa “a grand figure of
Although we mustn’t take offense with our French brother, such bêtises and nonsense, for what they’re worth, illustrate his extraordinary critical approach. In his article, he strikes down Giacomo Conterno together with his legacy: “I have never found elegance in their wines and, in particular, never in the celebrated Monfortino. Undoubtedly, this is because classic Bordelaise enology has deformed my palate.”
Bettane describes Beppe “Citrico” Rinaldi as a “man rich in charm and clearly a defender of a respectable tradition.” But according to the critic who believes the best Barolo to be Gaja’s Langhe Nebbiolo spiked with Barbera, Rinaldi’s wines are unfortunately “uneven. Sometimes wonderfully complex but too often they are affected by analytical defects no longer admissible by today’s standards, like volatile acidity or wild animal aromas. My most recent tastings have been catastrophic.”
Well, if you have managed to resist the temptation to write to Bettane and tell him—in the spirit of friendship, mind you—to go to hell, I fear that your patience and tolerance will not last much longer when you read (and I ask you to read and re-read them and test your rage) the sweet nothings that this man from Paris uses to explain Barolo to the French. Shamelessly, he calls Bartolo Mascarello “an old, malicious philosophical winemaker.” What’s more, because he is ill-informed, he claims that Mascarello died last year (he passed away in March of the current year and will be greatly missed).
On the subject of Bartolo and his wines, the French expert (have we any choice but to call him a French expert?) writes that his wines “were originally very fine and pure. Often compromised and ruined by old barrels that gave them animal and wild flavors that his incredulous followers attributed to terroir. I sincerely hope, in memory of the time we spent together in 1988, that his daughter has put an end to these defects.”
There’s nothing that can be said in the face of such a stinging, superficial, and arrogant attitude with regard to Bartolo and his wines. Those of us who have always believed in them are anything but crazy. It offends his memory and his decades of hard work. These heartfelt words ought to suffice to understand how Bettane—as he honestly stated—tastes and judges Barolo with the palate, mentality, and approach of a taste philosophy typical of someone who regularly tastes and drinks
In the category of hopefuls, he also proves to be off the mark (Enzo Boglietti and Luigi Pira di Serralunga are hopefuls? It’s more likely that they are certainties). At least when it comes to the classics (here we go again), Bettane finally manages to get something right. Among those who embrace “the steadfast values of the appellation and who show regularity and correctness in style,” he includes important, solid names like Brovia, Brezza, Aldo Conterno, Vietti, Conterno Fantino, the Scavinos, and Cordero di Montezemolo.
But while Bettane considers these winemakers to be classics, he does not hold the Mascarellos, the Giacosas, and the Rinaldis to be leaders and true masters. For him, they are stuck between the dusty icons handed down by the past. They have nothing to say and nothing to give. This attitude is not only absurd and scandalous, but it shows how it takes more than being a great expert (or at least that’s what they call them) in
Monday, November 28, 2005
Sunday, November 27, 2005
Sogni d'Alanno /// Dreaming Alanno
Saturday, November 26, 2005
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
Four Days in Barolo Country: Italy's Wine Crisis Up Close by Franco Ziliani
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Monday, November 21, 2005
Zaca Mesa Syrah 2001: Tell Me What It Cost
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Too Much Tongue
Friday, November 18, 2005
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
La Questione della Lingua
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Friday, November 11, 2005
Here is my translation of the second part of Giampiero’s report—the fun part, where he got to taste many of the celebrated wines for himself.
The two-day conference on “A Hundred Italian ‘
As you can see in the photo above, the attendees mobbed the tasting tables set up in the splendid garden, eager to try wines which, in many cases, were made of the most common international varieties (Cabernet and Merlot). Further, there was a “horizontal” tasting of 12 regions of
We provide some highlights of the tasting below; and at the end of the article, the entire list of wines offered at the degustazione.
What the Interested Parties Had to Say
First, some remarks and ruminations about the “
According to the preface of Les Vines de Bordeaux, “For most people in
Bozzi Gaviglio noted that, unlike most Italian wines, these omit or downplay the sense of “territory” [and eventually the notion of terroir itself takes a hit--Mondosapore] and the identification of the grapes used to make it. The producers’ intent has been to create individual identities to elevate their products. This is due, in part, to their non-adherence to standard denominations. They seek to make wines that conform to some “philosophy” or business purpose, and this tends to weaken the positioning of the entire denomination, not to mention the strength of the territory’s identity and appeal.
The producers aren’t entirely to blame, Bozzi Gaviglio added. The problem with the DOC system is that it is strictly regimented and doesn’t allow enough scope for individuality.
Aristide [Giampiero] observes that lawmakers are democratically elected and controlled by citizens. We speak badly about politicians, forgetting that we elected them. In other words, if the world of wine has bad legislation, it's not only a fault of politicians (lawmakers), but also winemakers and people in the business—they are all responsible for that. When lobbying and favor-seeking at the regional and national levels doesn’t produce the desired results, Italian winemakers like to portray themselves as victims. Instead, there needs to be a reform of the entire appellation system, with an eye to the benefit of the consumer in
and abroad—and it should highlight the wide range of territories and terroirs in Italy . Italy
Returning to the tasting, Aristide made a commitment to do a sampling of wines from the far north in Alto Adige all the way to
Another disappointment: there were only five or six producers at the tasting tables. However, that’s not to take away from a lovely conference.
In the sampling of 22 wines tasted by Aristide (all indicated by an asterisk below), four were his particular favorites:
- Loam 2002 DOC Alto Adige, Cantina Termeno (Alto Adige) Cuvée di Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot 18.000 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 20-25 Euro. (18,000 bottles produced, Italian retail price 20-25 euros)
- Ronco dei Roseti 2000 DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli, Le Vigne di Zamó (Friuli Venezia Giulia) Cuvée di Merlot e Cabernet Franc 15.500 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo (price) in enoteca (in wineshop) 27-30 Euro.
- Luna Selvatica 2003 DOC Colli Piacentini, La Tosa (Emilia e Romagna) Cuvée di Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot The producer announced a 2003 production of 5 tons/hectare on 2 hectares (5-6 acres), about a kilo of fruit per vine; 8.200 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 20-22 Euro.
- Pupà Pepu 2000 IGT Colli Toscana Centrale, Bellini Roberto (Toscana) Cuvée di Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon 3 to 3.5 tons of fruit per hectare -- 5.000 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 46-55 Euro.
Here are all the wines at the tasting, by region:
VALLE D’AOSTA Vin du Prevot, Institut Agricole Régional
Barbur, La Montina (*) Ca’ Verde, Ca’ Verde Colle Calvario, Castello di Grumello Deressi, Majolini Doglio, La Brugherata Falcone, La Prendina-Piona Giuliana C., La Boscaiola Messernero, Le Corne Nero d’Ombra, Mirabella San Carlo, Barone Pizzini San Giovannino, Tallarini Sebino rosso, Ricci Curbastro Solesine, Bellavista
Belvedere, Cantine dei Colli Berici Braio, C. Colli Vicentini 360 Ruber Capite Bosco del Merlo Calaóne, Ca’ Orologio Camoi, Col Sandago Campo del Pra, Sartor Capo di Stato, Loredan Gasparini (*) Corpore, Villa Sandi Dogma Rosso, Sutto Due Santi, Vigneto Due Santi-Zonta Entusiasmo, Palazzetto Ardi Flammeo, Ca’ Lustra Franco Zanovello Fontana Masorin, Montelvini Fratta, Maculan (*) Gemola, Vignalta Hora Sexta, Mòsole Madégo, La Cappuccina Merlot Cabernet, Desmontà Il Massi, Villa Dal Ferro Lazzarini Nero d’Arcole, C. di San Bonifacio (*) Perseo, Valerio Zenato Polveriera, Piovene Presa IX, Montelvini Rosso dell’Abazia, Serafini Vidotto (*) Rosso di Corte, Corte Gardoni Rosso di Rosso, Diesel Farm (solo libro) Rosso Giunone, Monte Tondo Rovere Rosso, Ca’ Rovere Sansonina, La Sansonina Santomío, Montresor Speaia, Maculan Terra dei Rovi, Dal Maso Venegazzù, Loredan Gasparini Villa Capodilista, La Montecchia Vite Rossa, Ornella Molon Traverso
Campi Sarni, Vallarom Castel S.Michele, Istituto agr. di San Michele (*) Fojaneghe, Bossi Fedrigotti Fratagrande, Pravis Fuggè, Poli Maso Le Viane, Lunelli Maso Toresella, Cavit Mori Vecio, Concilio Vini Quattro Vicariati, Cavit Rossoreale, CS di Mori San Leonardo, Guerrieri Gonzaga (*) Senteri, Cantina di Isera Tebro, Spagnolli Tre Cesure, Longariva
Arzio, Baron Di Pauli Castel Campan, Manincor Cornelius, Colterenzio Cor Römigberg, Lageder (*) Feld, E & N Geierber, Castel Schwanburg Istante, Franz Haas (*) Kirchegg, Hofstätter Loam, Cantina Tramin (*)
FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA
Alture, Gaspare Buscemi Berengario, Zonin Braida Nuova, Borgo Conventi Carantan, Marco Felluga Cjarandon, Ronco dei Tassi Conte di Spessa, Pali Wines Faralta, Marina Danieli Metamorfosis, Primosic Montsclapade, Dorigo Picol Maggiore, Pali Wines Poncaia, Subida di Monte Progetto, Mangilli Red Branko, Branko Riserva Orzoni, Russiz Superiore Rivarossa, Schiopetto Rok, Pradìo Ronco dei Roseti, Le Vigne di Zamó (*) Rondon, Bennati Rosso Carpino, Il Carpino Sagrado Rosso, Castelvecchio Scuro, Scubla Tato, S. Elena Tiareblù, Livon Val di Mièz, Roncús Vertigo, Livio Felluga
Luna Selvatica, La Tosa (*)
Perticato, Il Poggiarello
Petroso, Vigneto delle Terre Rosse (*)
Stoppa, La Stoppa
Pollenza, Il Pollenza (*)
Arnione, Campo alla Sughera Campora, Casale Falchini Castello di Vicarello, Castello di Vicarello Ceppate, Terrabianca Cignale, Castello di Querceto (*) Desiderio, Avignonesi (*) Dulcamara, I Giusti & Zanza Excelsius, Castello Banfi (*) Guado al Melo, Michele Scienza Guado de’ Gemoli, Chiappini Le Cupole, Tenuta di Trinoro Lupicaia, Terriccio Magari, Ca’ Marcanda Millanni, La Cusona Mormoreto, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nambrot, Tenuta di Ghizzano Ocra, La Cusona Ornellaia, Ornellaia Petra, Petra-Bellavista (*) Pupà Pepu, Bellini Roberto (*) Salamartano, Fattoria Montèllori Sassicaia, Incisa della Rocchetta (*) Sassobucato, Russo Saxa Calida, Poderi del Paradiso Sogno dell’Uva, Cennatoio
Crovello, Poggio Bertaio Fobiano, La Carraia Outsider, Caprai
Le Poggère, Vaselli Madreselva, Casale del Giglio Vigna del Vassallo, Colle Picchioni
Burdese, Planeta (*) Magnifico, Calatrasi Majo S. Lorenzo, Miceli (*)
-------------------------------- Photo: outdoor buffet at Villa Gritti by Giampiero Nadali