Wine resolution 2010: Fix that Italian problem

January 5, 2010

For too many years I have let myself get away with something that bugs me in others: ignorance, tinged with the incurious: I don’t understand Italian wine. This is the year I hope to fix this.


Why does everything have to start with ‘B’?

Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera. It boggles. Place, place, grape, respectively, in this case. Which does nothing to elucidate. Funny how I savor the memory exercise that is French appellations and varietals, yet in Italian scope this seems ridiculous. It feels like whack-a-mole: No sooner do I get my head around the difference between Nebbiolo and Sangiovese (grapes) that I stumble upon the fact that Brunello (di Montalcino), another cursed ‘B’, is made from…wait, which grape? Sigh. And what does that mean and where is Montalcino and—I’m just jealous because I looked it up and like many trillions of actual Existing European Towns, it consists of a castle on a hill surrounded by impossibly adorable stucco buildings and it looks warm and well defended.

Geographical chaos

Even in wine production, you can tell that Italy wasn’t united until 1815. Looking at a wine breakdown of the country feels like a brutal march through millennia of weird particulars, city-states, family feuds and dialect subtleties. I need to go stare at a map for a long time. Fortunately this happens to be one of my hobbies.

A toehold

OK, so last week I had a bottle of Amarone and I even stopped to pay attention. I knew from before, because it’s weird—and thus memorable—that amarone is made from partially dried grapes. And it’s a signature style of the Veneto, a region that even has the common courtesy to be a recognizable cognate of Venice. Problem is: It’s made from Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara grape varieties, which sound more like poor judgment in naming female infants than actual, real-life grapes.

I should probably tell you, briefly, about Amarone. It tastes slightly port-like and raisiny, good for cool weather and cinnamon-y. You want to keep drinking it because it’s friendly and of a texture that reminds you of dreamy Nyquil nights.

OK, back to the point. I’d like to learn about Italian wine this year and stop being such a doofus about it.

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