New World, Old World, Stories to Tell

 

Lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer … (with apologies to Nat Cole).

While being a “person of a certain” age has its obvious downside, there’s plenitude of reasons to be grateful, if not downright cheerful, not the least of which are those lovely little “aha” moments that go hand in glove with no longer having time to burn on [meaningless projects].

I’ve been re-discovering lately just how little interest I have in anything that smacks of more, bigger, louder, lusher, richer and all those other turn-up –the-volume sorta things, especially when it comes allocating brain cells and liver function. Keep chasing after that stuff and all you’ll do is chase, ‘cause more always begs another more, right?

Just got a mail advertising some new Washington releases. A brand new round of the the usual fare: Blockbuster! Plush! Brand new oak! Concentrated! A gazillion months of brand new oak! Concepts! Techniques! I’m thinkin’ I’ll hafta keep my wallet in my pocket and miss that one. Oh well.

Meanwhile, right up my alley, I had the opportunity and absolute pleasure last week to join a crew of local wine industry types at a lunch and tasting with Luca Currado of Vietti. The wines were, of course, incredible – and for this go-‘round we’ll skip an attempt at description that’d be predestined to fall far short of doing them justice. My only advice is to pick up a bottle of anything Vietti and let the wine tell the story. You’ll see what I mean.

That story is all about the place, and one of them most remarkable stories about vignaioli like Luca is the depth of thought and humility with which they approach their roles as translators of place. While the hallmark of New World winemakers is to use technique to “make” grapes into wines of a certain style, the Old World approach is to use whatever technique best permits the character of the vineyard to speak in the wine. It’s not about making a stylistic imprint as much as it’s about staying out of the way, subtracting one’s own ego and not leaving a signature. Think accompanist, rather than soloist, as our friend Jean-Pierre Vanel often says.

As Luca says: “I don’t care anymore about making wines to please people. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but all I want to do is to make wines that tell the story of the vineyard.” (I don’t know about you, but I’m hard pressed to find anything arrogant in that statement. ) Later, as I complimented him on the wines, he smiled and said “grazie, ci proviamo (we try).”

In your obedient correspondent’s humble opinion, that’s grace – something you can taste in a wine that’s made with passion and humility, but that no amount of money or ego can buy. But grace requires that you pay attention. It's not a blockbuster, it won't blow you away. But it's there for the taking, whispering stores of enchantment and down-to-earth, honest dirt.

And that, as Martha says, is a good thing.

 

More about: Italian wine, New World wine, Sense of Place, terroir

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