Monday, March 23, 2009

Italian Epiphany

Have you ever had a wine epiphany? It's a moment when you are tasting or drinking wine and suddenly all the stars in your palate, mind and emotions align. Epiphanies rarely happen in a classroom-style tasting, or in a sales meeting, when 30 or so wines are forced upon you in less than an hour. They often happen while tasting at a winery or in a vineyard, sometimes during an amazing meal, and most often in the company of people you enjoy. I clearly remember my Burgundy epiphany. It was about ten years ago at a wine dinner hosted by Jacques Seysses, of Domaine Dujac, at the Little Nell, in Aspen. The food was great, the company was fun and fascinating, and the wines were simply singing. Suddenly, I got it. I understood why people lose their minds (and their life savings) for great Burgundies.

I had an Italian wine epiphany last week. I was dining at Barolo Grill, in Denver, with my co-workers (whose company I enjoy immensely), and our Italian wine importer. We started with the Ca' Rugate Monte Fiorentine Soave Classico, 2007, a single vineyard wine that has received the Tre Bicchieri award, the most prestigious Italian wine award, for the past four vintages. If you think Bolla when you hear Soave, well, as my Italian relatives would say, "Fugghetaboutit!" This wine has intensity, body, depth and was delightful with my Hamachi Crudo con Calamari appetizer. We tasted several reds from regions as diverse as Abruzzo, Campania and Piedmonte, all wonderful. My epiphany began to really kick in with the Moroder Rosso Conero 2006, a wine made from the Montepulciano grape from a small region in Marche. Maybe it was because I had it in my glass as the entrees were served. It paired perfectly with my Gnocchi Verde con Agnello, spinach gnocchi with braised lamb shank and broccoli rabe. The wine was dark and complex; it made every bite of food taste better and the meal made ever sip of the wine taste better. That, my friends, is what food & wine pairing is all about! Then, we moved on to the Barolo. Barolo, I think I can safely say, is the Italian wine that probably hands out the most epiphanies. When you talk to Italian wine fanatics, you find that almost without exception, they are in love with Barolo. It had been coming all night, but while drinking the Andrea Oberto Barolo 2004 at the end of my meal, once again, I got it. Oh yeah, I got it.

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