My brother Philippe just passed his Level 1 test towards certification as a Court Master Sommeliers. And for Christmas, he's sent me a case of his favorites from Calcareous. Thanks for stocking my cellar!
Recently I posted about a bottle of Radikon wine, curious about this organic red. At that point, I was still in curiosity (versus drinking) mode. The other night, I decided to uncork it for a dinner of turkey scaloppine, roasted Brussel sprouts and red quinoa, along with light mushroom sauce and pomegranates.
Initially, I wasn't swayed. Indeed, at first taste, I felt more confused than clear on the flavors. Then I continued sipping, let it warm up a bit, and very soon I found myself warming up to this unique bouquet. It's very good!
Recently, chef Pamela Yung posted photos of Radikon Oslavje, a orange wine that piqued my curiousity. Radikon wines are organic, which impacts both fermentation and aging. No sulfites are added nor are they filtered before bottling, adding to richness of flavor. Looking online, I found two bottles from the Friuli-Venezia that were mentioned in a New York Times article. More to come when I taste them, but for now they look good on my shelf.
Last summer visiting Sicily, I met wine maker Jacopo Nardi and his girlfriend, baker Esmeralda Spitaleri. I've invited him to tell us more at Stir the Pots about fermentation, enology and beer!
How did you become interested in fermentation?
So I think you're asking me when I had my very first meeting with something fermented. If so, my answer is somewhere between ages of 10 and 15. I don't remember it exactly. Prosecco, the best ever, my father always bought it straight from a very small local producer around Conegliano-Valdobbiene. Then he bottled it at home. He was stashing it for summer. Me and a long life friend, Francesco, were playing in the garden where my father was bottling it. Jokingly, we told him that we would drink all the leftovers from a nearby carafe, even if he wouldn't allow us to.
“Suit yourself,” my father said. So we, without waiting for anything else, emptied the carafe down our throats. He turned to us astonished, reprimanding us for a too-hasty first experience or "baptism of alcohol fire." Ever since my journey was varied; when I had to choose what college to attend I found out the existence of a major in viticulture and oenological science and technologies but I followed the tip of a friend and studied agricultural science which I quit after two years to dedicate myself to wine study in Conegliano.
I had wonderful years, practical experiences and a lot of discussions that keep going on now when we meet again. Now with my girlfriend Esmeralda, who makes me ferment from the inside we'll try to put to practice what we learned in school, she increased my curiosity introducing me to the world of beers and bread-making!
When I first tried your wine in Sicily, you called it "simple juice." What is good wine for you?
Wine is good when from a simple fermented alcoholic beverage becomes the fruit of a vision and the job of an artist conscious about the goal to reach and then in the wine cellar he pictures the environment that surrounds him changing it into must: "form of image that doesn't only capture the light impressed on a film, but also gives corp and shape expressed in light, perfumes, tastes, and sensations hitting the soul more or less intensely.
So we are speaking of hard work in the countryside, pondered, studied and applied in the absolute respect of the territory and the nature of the place keeping alive old cultivation techniques joining them to new learning developed in time which allows us to have the full picture oh the analyzed ecosystem, gathering the whole expression of this Nature in the fruit of the grapevine.
After that, all the work made in the wine cellar has to be equally pondered, studied and applied to allow the grapes to reach their complete transformation in wine with less intervention as possible, passing the baton to yeast, the real magicians that in a synergistic way shift the photographic mono-dimension to plural dimensional in all senses.
Often these binary relations "countryside-farmer, enologist-yeast" are underestimated by many producers, heirs of a traditionalist culture that partially interprets their own territory, maybe obtaining some qualitatively good products but they are not the true expression of the nature in which they are ingrained.
And at last, if I generalize my personal idea I would say that good wine is the one that when you swallow a sip of wine it makes you feel it, makes you vibrate inside and your body accepts it giving you that warm sensation that cuddles you from the inside.
Is beer also on par to wine?
That is one of the eternal diatribes and that will always change according to the person you are speaking with.For what concerns the Yeast-like thought the two beverages can be considered equally, both of them have a soul in common, alcoholic fermentation, without which we would have neither of them but they belong to very different convivial contests, historically wine was destined to elite classes while beer was for common people.
Again, among the main differences wine pictures a territory, limited by its own annual production cycle and long time of honing; beer is a collage of different territories depending on the origin of the ingredients that are used in its production process in which water rules the most important part. More, beer is a way more delicate than wine.
The eternal rivalry between these two wonders can be simplified discussing markets but we won't talk about that. Actually, I find a lot more interesting to find out the real joining links that today are about productive mixtures about fermentative techniques - barrels, amphora's and spontaneous fermentation for example - and exchange of raw materials. today you can drink wines that taste like beers and beers that taste like wines.
My opinion is that more than rivals they simply have to surprise their interlocutor and give a moment of pleasure, they have to make you feel good, satisfy your thirst.
How do you pair food with wine?
About pairing food and wine I would enlarge the reference point about the routes headed by the bite and the sip, comparing these two elements to two winds that run the sails of taste towards the sensory goal wished by the one who knows the expressiveness of assonance and dissonance between the parts. In case you sail through fog, drink prosecco and everything will be all right, always and in every occasion. you don't have, though, to drink grape syrup with bubbles, it's easy to make a mistake considering all the crap you find all over the world.
Generally, I think that the most important thing is to base on your own gustative experiences to find out that "quid" that can give you satisfaction in any place-moment- situation at least that's what I do and I am not a chef or a sommelier. And once in a while just dare.
How do you know if wine is good; name, grapes, terroir?
I apply what I didn't learn in sommelier classes but learned talking with sommeliers and producers, sitting with them at a table or at the counter in a tavern or a bar.
Sure you need some objective technical judgment parameter to value the structure but after that luckily subjective opinions start never ending talks.
Factors that influence our perceptions are various and in a messy evolution. You can only stick on the immediacy of sensations for this kind of evaluations which will never have a constant.To sum it up, without lurking around, if that given bottle doesn't stop arouse enthusiasm in you and who is around you, I mean you are never tired drinking that, they can say whatever they want but that, for you, will always be a great wine.
How do you judge wine?
You have to drink it, get at least at the bottom of the glass to try and understand what you are dealing with, you have to live the history of the ones who made it and the life of who is telling you that story, otherwise with no other indications, what are you left to do?
You have to feel it running inside yourself and the answer will be given straight from your body depending how it reacts from the inside.
I confess that after a very technical part pops out, but it's to comprehend the product deeper, to satisfy curiosity and to foment dialogue to try and get the maximum amount of information about the activities used in the countryside and in the cellar, looking for something we might then use in our experiments and then in our productions.
What is "Yeasteria?"
Ah, nice question!
Yeasteria is me and my better half Esmeralda's project.
It's about a cycle closed in itself which includes production, divulgence and straight knowledge about everything regarding Italian craft.
Of course, the starting point will be about wine and beer being our matters of study in which we want to find ourselves artisans.
But it means to catch the avant-garde that cross the limits of standard and limited production, gathering around artistic expressions of all kinds.
to make it simple, among Yeasteria's first projects we are trying to create a cultural event inside a historical Venetian building to promote good wine, music, art for a 360 degrees good experience with a social intent of requalification of canals in Venice.
productively, in may, we will have our first 5000 bottle as the result of our experiment made on 2015 grape harvest, which I personally wanted to dedicate to my mate, Esmeralda, all the rest is a surprise. The next step is to develop a line of beers.
Meanwhile, regarding cultural fields, our objective is to offer to curious people all over the world the chance to live the wine and food quality artisan experience of Italian territory starting from Venice and then strolling around.
What's your favorite; red or white?
No distinction, zero compromises!
Are bread, wine, beer strokes-of-luck or genius in harnessing nature?
I would say it's the ability humans have to inspect natural spontaneous events to find a way to domesticate them and talk with them.
What do like to eat with red wine?
What do you like to do when your not thinking wine?
Chris Struck got my attention the old fashioned way - he posted online. Joking aside, his expertise shows offline as well as on it, working as well blogging as a sommelier. He credits a hybrid French/Southern upbringing in Destin, Florida as the birth of passion for food and beverage. At age 14, he began cooking for Chef Tim Creehan’s fine dining restaurant group. As a young man, he spent time overseas in Europe, and while attending Johnson & Wales University, found his calling among the vines while interning at Chef Tom Colicchio's New York restaurant Craft. From there he dove head first into the wine world, gaining certifications from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, the Society of Wine Educators, and Germany's Deutsche Wein Und Sommelierschule
Struck then went to work as assistant sommelier at Racines in New York. Recently he left to join the team at the soon-to-be opened Rouge Tomate Chelsea under Master Sommelier, Pascaline Lepeltier. In addition Struck consults for White Street Restaurant. If that's not enough activity to make you woozy, he is currently completing an Executive MBA in Food Marketing at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia. Enough getting caught up in titles. It's time we get "struck" with Chris.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
My first job was working as a food columnist for the local newspaper in my home town, where I was known as “the Food Dude." At one point, I conducted a series of interviews of chefs for the column. I was interviewing a well known local chef and my final question for him was (jokingly), “How young do you hire?” I was 13 at the time. After what I thought was playful banter, he said, “Do you want a job?” It was the first time in my life I uttered the phrase, “Yes, Chef.”
Online you give good pointers on good wine shops. Personally, I’ve noticed that few of wine stores exhibit service savvy. Or they lack an interesting selection. What is your general advice on finding a good wine shop?
Sales is all about relationships. Even more so with a lemon product like wine. You’re selling your reputation first and foremost. The only way to preserve that integrity is to get to know the preferences of your customers, then guide them over the stepping stones to advance their interests (if any) in exploring new wines. It’s a bit different dynamic than restaurants. After a cursory Google Maps to narrow down shops nearby your neighborhood, you actually drop by each store and browse. Then you start asking questions. Is the staff knowledgeable and genuine in their desire to talk with you about wine? Are they personally excited about certain regions, producers, or grapes? Is their selection diverse? Those are all good signs to look for.
How do you taste wine or pair with food?
I stick to the fundamental "S's." See, Sniff, Swirl, Sniff, Sip, Spit, Swallow, Savor.
Looking at the color of a wine can tell you something about the variety or age. White wines tend to get darker as they age, while reds tend to get lighter. Nosing or sniffing the wine can bring pleasure but also indicate something about the grape or if the wine has any flaws. The first nose can sometimes be much different than how the wine smells once the wine sees more oxygen or breathes (when it’s swirled), so always sniff before swirling. Then take a taste, which can help reveal something of the grape, aging, and the place. Then either spit or swallow, depending on the setting.
There are a lot of rules to follow around pairing. Some people say, “Drink what you like with whatever you want to eat.” It’s a free country. Of course you can of course do that. But it’s a disservice to the food someone took time to prepare, as well as to the wine that someone took time to make. And to yourself, as you probably paid for both. Once you understand the nuances of how wine and food can pair, it opens up a new realm of pleasure. You owe that understanding to yourself.
“Matching" is one concept to follow. "Contrasting" is another way to do it. In matching, the weight and structure of the wine, say a red Bordeaux or Nebbiolo for example, is matched with the weight of a dish, such as a steak or braised wild boar. In contrasting, the high acid freshness of a classic Loire Valley Chenin Blanc or Champagne makes a perfect complement to the richness of oysters or a white fish served with a buttery sauce.
The rules of wine we usually get are red can be had with red meat and white with chicken and fish. How useful is that in choice?
They are good basic tenets to stick with because they more often than not work. But there’s no reason to be dogmatic. Acidity, alcohol, sugar (if any), minerality, tannins, structure, body, weight - all that - matching those with a protein or seasoning is far more important than a color.
Is "terroir" is a legitimate term to use for wines? Italians produce more wines per-capita as opposed to the French, so would that mean they don’t have as good wine as the Italians, or is it luck that Italians have more varieties?
Terroir is definitely a legitimate concept having to do with the unique sense of place found in a wine that helps define where it is from. Unfortunately the term has been bastardized and overused in wine marketing by far too many whose wines don't much speak to any specific place that they are from.
Should wine be drunk alone or with food?
I think most wines are more enjoyable with food but, again, it’s not something I’m devout about.
Red or white - what's your preference?
If tabulating all the wine I taste in a given week (which would be a daunting task), statistically I lean towards reds. It really depends on my mood, who I’m with, where I am, and what, if anything, I’m eating.
Under $10 as good as over $100?
Perception is reality. But the simple answer is “no,” not usually. You’d be hard pressed to find a quality wine for under $10 in today’s market, especially in NYC. That said, the odds of my being pleasantly surprised by the quality of $100-plus bottle versus a $25-minus bottle is much slimmer. I like wines to over-deliver. It’s difficult at that $100-plus price point.
Sommeliers, are they still needed or do we just go with instinct?
Great question. More and more we hear it questioned whether, in an age of apps, somms are becoming less and less relevant. But when you employ the use of a sommelier, as a guest or as a restaurant, you are paying far more than any app can provide. You are paying for service and education. You are paying for a person who spends everyday doing the legwork exploring great wines to introduce you to. The playing field is changing everyday with auctions and gray market competition between wine buyers and collectors (which opens the discussion of today’s consumer being more knowledgeable about wine than ever before). All to say that sommeliers are still very much needed as ambassadors between winemakers and wine drinkers.
How does one educate themselves about wine, read or drink?
Both. But learn to drink with the purpose of first understanding more about what you’re drinking, how it was made, and where it came from. Then drink for pleasure. Also travel. Maps are a huge part of a sommelier’s education, but visiting a region gives you an intimate understanding not gained by any other means.
What do you do besides taste amazing wines in your free time?
Travel, read, cook for and (or) dine out with friends and colleagues. All are significant parts of education. Occasionally I get to take advantage of New York’s awesome theatre culture.
My trip to the Paso Robles on California's Central Coastal region had me feeling like "Miles" (Sideways). Honestly, I was amazed by the regions offerings. I was introduced to big,medium,and small vineyards, and this included something new to me - garagiste wines. There are real differences from one vineyard to the next, impacted by shale in the soil, oak barrel flavors, and a whole lot of other nuances, fruit to vine. It was a wonderful trip.
Thanks to my brother (taking time in between in his wedding) as well as to Annie Gallagher Wilson & David Wilson for a wonderful evening at Grape Encounters. Thanks to Calcareous for a wonderful view, and to Epoch, Ancient Peaks as well as the local wine community. If any of you readers get an opportunity to visit this region, do it! What a treat.
The other day attended The DSWS Annual Grand Portfolio Tasting. Held at New York's Four Season's hotel restaurant, packed with wine buyers, chefs and producers, the evening consisted of a buzz of wine speak, swishes, sniffing, spittoons and clink of glasses.
First I visited Angela Velenosi, wine producer from Le Marche. A region well known for Verdicchio, its producers are trying new blends along with old regional varietals. The first wine was a blend of Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Ludi at 13.5% was very strong, with a taste and flavor unfamiliar but intriguing. I also tried some of their whites, including some fruit flavored wine with a bit of a sparkle, which made me think of a sort of spritzer with cherries.
I then tried some delicious wine from Nimes. Produced by Chateau de Valcombe, these were crisp and full of fruit. From there I tried a wonderful selection of Weingut Peter Jakob Kühn, produced in the Rheinghau region. The minerality was amazing. In addition, I had the chance to confirm the recent NY Times writeup on Sicilian wines. They didn't dissapoint. Terrazze Dell'Etna had the most interesting wines, full of spice and sun ripened fruit flavors, benefit of the altitude and soil from the volcanic hills of Mount Etna.
Like boxes of chocolate, you never know what a bottle of wine will bring. Learning to read the label helps! It helps, too, if - like me - you have a brother who is a wine geek. Recently he moved out to work in a northern Californian winery in a town called Paso Robles. Before leaving his East Coast job selling wine, he set me up with a case of prime picks. Well, those are gone now. Anyway, here is a list of some favorites of mine.
Recently I was invited to Abbottega for an evening celebrating the food and wines of Rome. Put together by Sara De Bellis (a native of the eternal city) and her staff, it was a night of great conversation, lots of photographers snapping pictures (and making me feel like I'd "arrived,") and terrific food.
Giovanni Caveggia, wine representative from Principe Pallavicini, gave a thorough explanation of Roman wines, as we enjoyed them between courses of Sara's home town picks, including in-house baked breads, and focaccia and... well, an abundance of delicious food. In between eating, I got to hang out with with the hilarious Gennaro Pecchia, who kept me laughing in between keeping me in shots. Thank you, Gennaro. But most of all, grazie, Sara. Well done!
Presents "ABBOTTEGA WINE & DINE" A Cycle of Dinner Tasting Created to Divulge the Italian Regional Traditional Culture about "Wine&Dine"
Tuesday October 28th 8pm-10pm "Back to The Roman Roots"
The Traditional and Creative Roman Cuisine meets the Prestigious Principe Pallavicini Wines
Main Courses Gnocchi alla Romana Roman Gnocchi Mezze Maniche all’Amatriciana Half Rigatoni in tomato sauce, Pork Jowl and Pecorino Cheese Paired with Cesanese “Amarasco” 2012 Principe Pallavicini ∞ Costoletta d’Abbacchio con Panatura Rustica alla Mentuccia, Pannacotta al Pecorino Romano e Puntarelle in Salsa d’Alici Lamb Chop with Rustic breading and Mint With Pecorino flavored Pannacotta and Puntarellein Anchovies Sauce Paired with “Casa Romana” 2011 Principe Pallavicini
Dessert Crostata di Ricotta e Visciole Italian Tart with Cherry Sauce Ciambelline al Vino Dried Mini Wine Donuts Paired with“Stillato” 2012 Principe Pallavicini