Saturday, November 19, 2005

Too Much Tongue

This is a very loose translation of a post--really a riff-- that I published in Italian a few days ago. I'd love to hear comments from you, pro or con. This is a subject that's been bugging me for a while. The other day, when I was writing down my impressions of the Cavallotto Dolcetto d'Alba, it occurred to me, and not for the first time, that the tongue is too central to our language of tasting wine. It's all about the berries and fruits we taste and sugary coatings we feel on our tongues, the bite of tannins, the puckering of acids and so on. Granted, we talk about the nose, and we swirl and swirl to release ethers, etc. But it's all in service of the tongue. Now don't get me wrong. The tongue is a useful and delightful organ. Mine is used for many things, many of which lead to bliss. But the overattention we give to the tongue makes us forget about the complete experience of drinking wine. And this, I believe, causes us to miss the mark in assigning relative degrees of merit to one wine or another. To me, at least, a good wine is above all an evocative wine. Do you see what I see? This is a bold move: involving sight when talking about drinking wine. But let's think back to a hot, sunny day in July. There I am with a glass of Vermentino--a Sardinian Vermentino from the large winery Sella & Mosca, a very pleasant and restrained but not "remarkable" wine--and I'm drinking the light-colored, dry wine before and with dinner, a nice piece of fried dayboat flounder from Montauk. There is a haunting undertaste of something wild in the wine, I suppose you could call it a hint of the macchia, the Mediterranean undergrowth, and the acidic snap of lemon. But it's more about the sea, and the name on the label reinforces that impression: La Cala, the cove. It's free association time. Evoking, evoking... So. Here I am on the 22nd floor, the sun blasting in over all the skyscrapers of Midtown, lolling around with a glass of chilled Vermentino that makes me feel like I'm swimming under water in some Sardinian cove, cool and silent, searching the sandy bottom, far away from the sweating millions and the horns blaring on First Avenue, and the medium I swim in isn't salty water but clear, briny Vermentino. Soon the fish will be in the pan, the lemon is already sliced. It's a lovely hour of rest after an arduous day. And an $8 bottle of wine's transported me well out of the grimy city into a place that, for a while, is just about perfect. How can tired gustatory similes "like lychee nuts" and " like gooseberries" begin to compare with the power of wine to evoke other places, other states, other joys?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dolcetto d'Alba with Roast Pork

The other day I wrote a fairly tipsy little rhapsody to the Cavallotto Dolcetto d'Alba, which we had just drunk at home with a roast loin of pork. That post was in Italian, but I think it's important to translate the mini-review into English. (Without the drunken rhapsodic references to autumn hedgerows and the great Piedmontese writer and suicide, Cesare Pavese.) I will simply repeat that Cavallotto is a superb producer of Barolo and other Piedmontese varieties; they're all extremely worthwhile. The Dolcetto cost just $13.99 and was a delightfully nuanced wine for the price. It finished pretty long and left a wonderful mixture of flavors in my appreciative gob: liquorice, fallen leaves, and an earthiness reminiscent of truffles, (not so) oddly enough. The fruit I tasted was grape, not the usual orchard that tasters feel obligated to call upon to describe what's hit their palate. It also had a refreshing acidity that kept the autumn flavors from being oppressive, and it was a lovely match with the rosemary-scented pork loin. The Cavallotto Dolcetto d'Alba would be a wonderful house wine for the colder months of the year, complementing all kinds of savory dishes that keep the chill outside. If you can find it, buy a bottle. Chances are you'll want more. By the way, in case you're wondering, this is not part of a viral marketing campaign for Cavallotto. I just happen to be taken with their wines. They are not overdone, overoaked, overanything. Honest, clean, balanced. And the varietal character of the grapes they use comes through loud and clear.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

La Questione della Lingua

Ieri, scrivendo delle impressioni che mi davano quel bel Dolcetto d'Alba Cavallotto, mi e' venuto in mente, e non per la prima volta, che la lingua e' troppo "centrata" quanto si degusta, quando si beve. "Impressioni," esatto. A stroll down Memory Lane Mi ricordo dei commenti scritti, O decenni fa!, sulle pagine di una mia tesi su Whitman (credo--o di Mark Twain o di Emily Dickenson, la memoria tradisce spesso, molto piu' spesso or che son vecio), nei quali il professore mi rimprovero' il mio approccio "impressionistico," poco rigoroso secco accademico. Be', imparai a conformarmi alle norme, alle regole del gioco e a brandire quel linguaggio impoverito da bandiera CCCP: poesia scatenata ora imprigionata nella pseudoscienza. Il mio vagheggiare serve, credete o no. Il lessico degustatorio mi sembra altrettanto limitato, centrandosi troppo alle impressioni linguali e non sufficientemente all'esperienza "totale" del vino. Quanto riguarda il Dolcetto d'Alba di ieri sera (prezzo solo $14, piu' tasse!) avrei esaurito il vocabolario enofilo se fossi costretto a descriverne i frutteti che, abracadabra, sono apparsi nella bocca. Avrei tradito il vino e la sapienza che l'ha creato. (E se domandate, Tutto questo per un vino di $14??, rispondo io: E' un vino che vale la pena!) L'analogia piu' adatta e' forse nel fare l'amore. Quando sei "nell'atto," come si direbbe in inglese, non analizzi ogni sensazione ("ora mi tocca la pelle ma solletica troppo, mi fa abbrividire, questo bacio e' bagnatissimo, che schifo", ecc.), anzi si sente ondeggiare, ci sono tempeste, paesaggi, delfini che saltano sotto i monti e i palazzi di Crete, c'e' un gran ricco mondo di impressioni, memorie, associazioni, sentimenti (Zampano' ubriaco sulla sabbia, piangendo!)...
Un uomo come gli altri prima di bere del vino
E cosi' mi pare quando bevo un bel vino. Coinvolge esperienze reali che coinvolgono ricordi profondi, sensazioni veritiere ma, insomma, davvero ineffabili.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dolcetto d'Alba con Maiale Arrostito

Ho gia' scritto sull'azienda Cavallotto, conosciuta da tutti in Italia come ottimo produttore di baroli e di altri vini di vitigni stimati piemontesi. E stasera abbiamo appena concluso un pasto bello di maiale arrostito al rosmarino con patate, abbinato al Dolcetto d'Alba di Cavallotto. Che posso dire? Un po' ubriaco si', sto benissimo e c'e' nella bocca la memoria della liquirizia e di una buon'acidita' e di un aroma di terra, di foglie cadute che mi fanno venir in mente i cespugli e i finali giorni d'estate come se io fossi Cesare Pavese perche', come gia' sappiamo, il diavolo e' sulle colline e la piu' bella estate dev'avere fine... Oddio, che fandonie mi fanno dire il vino, particolarmente un vino cosi' onesto e buono, fresco e delizioso! Ecco, l'autunno vive nel Dolcetto Cavallotto, e l'ora e' questa. Viva l'autunno se ci sia una cassa di questo bel vino onesto e non troppo fruttato!

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Supertuscan Lovers, A Must-Read

If you're fascinated with Supertuscans and other Italian wines that lean heavily on Bordeaux grapes and styles of winemaking, check out the first of the two reports originally written, in Italian, by our friend Giampiero Nadali (alias Aristide) of Verona. I translated it and again want to point it out to you, just in case you missed it the first time. (By the way, the man in this photo is the celebrity winemaker Giacomo Tachis, who is credited with establishing the Supertuscan style with prestige brands like Sassicaia and Tignanello.) I posted Aristide's second article (in English) just the other day. It covers the tasting of a wide range (137) of Bordeaux-style wines from all over Italy. I am pointing the articles out to you so that they'll be at the top of your screen when you come to Mondosapore. Interesting articles--informative and thought-provoking. Thank you, Giampiero.
-- Photo by Giampiero Nadali at Villa Gritti, Verona