Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pian Del Ciampolo and Michael Kane

Last year Pian Del Ciampolo was the great red wine discovery of the year for me. So beautiful and sincere, true to Sangiovese and true to Tuscany. Everything I could possibly say about it however is dwarfed by an e-mail I received from Michael Kane. I sold only a few bottles of this wine, choosing instead to drink most of them myself, but every time I did sell one I printed out Michael's e-mail. Like the wine, what makes Michael great to work with is his sincerity, believe it or not he wrote this without a sense of irony, this is the way the man speaks.

"As pure and authentic, neither manipulated nor molested, an expression of noble Sangiovese as one could ever hope to find! Supple, suave, silky, a precision-tooled definition to both aroma and flavor, and, as always, exhibiting supreme balance, Pian del Ciampolo is a tour de force in the 2005 vintage. How does the Manetti family capture such depth, such brilliance in this wine and at the same time display such deft restraint? Ah, the secret is born on the prevailing north wind that blows through the cool canyons on the backside of Radda!"

for more

Labels: , ,

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dialogue with a winemaker

"In spite of the occasional profanity and less-occasional rant (which, come to think of it, may be what a blog is), I find yours interesting, amusing, and very well said and refreshingly well spelled."

"Rant, yeah well, if you are looking for a reasoned argument, you're talking to the wrong guy. "

"I think that you (what I know) and your blog (what I've read) are very reasonable indeed. It's just forcefully said.
Let's put it this way: We all know there will be R. Parkers and a long list of others who will sell us tripe (fig.) because we're ready to buy. That ain't changing. And what you say about him and about that whole misguided way of reducing the universe-to-be-discovered by elevating a few crappy nadas (100 points!) is so true. What you say against that reduction is interesting, but the light really comes on when you argue for a richer, more positive view - your view.
I certainly intended no affront by using the "r" word."

"I try to do a little of that in the Nutmeg piece and the 2006 Burgundy preview, but seriously no one cares. However, there is a lot of pent-up anger toward R.P. , yet few, very few people are in a position to criticize him. I am the only person I know able and willing to say that he doesn't know what he's doing. I spent hours researching, looking for one piece of criticism published about Parker. I found nothing. "

"Interesting. I assumed there was a whole world of winemakers who truly didn't care what R.P. said. I generally believe monoliths point the way to their own demise, but I guess that's not true here. I'll keep reading."

"The point is that there are many winemakers who disagree with him, but no one willing to publicly criticize him. The people who make, import, distribute and retail wine are not in a position to bite the hand that feeds them. And Monoliths may point the way to their own demise, yet men like this can do much damage. There are now two or three generations of winemakers and wine drinkers laboring under the hegemony of Parker. How many generations does it take to lose a tradition? How fast does a culture die? "

Labels: , ,

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wines You Can't Drink

In this month's Wine Spectator Matt Kramer has a article that got me thinking. I've always sort of liked Kramer, simply because he is the most reasonable of what I consider an unreasonable and ludicrous bunch, the wine press. He has real insight, although he seldom takes the argument all the way and I can't tell if it's because Marvin Shanken signs his paycheck or if he is quite literally a half-wit.

This month he writes that the 21st century world of wine will be divided into the wines we taste and the wines we drink. Even a generation ago First Growth Bordeaux and Grand Cru Burgundy were affordable enough to be consumed if not everyday, at least routinely. Now even those of us who work in the industry are lucky if we drink wine like that a few times a year, while the average wine lover may never taste a bottle of Haut Brion or Montrachet, and if they do it will be nothing more than a taste. Kramer writes that this tasting in place of actual drinking is a virtual wine experience, a virtual relationship with wine. I agree with him wholeheartedly as far as he goes, but then I got thinkin'. While it's sad that much of the great wine of the world has been relegated to the fringe of our drinking experience because of price, isn't it just as sad that much of the wine in the world was never MADE to be drunk, it was made only to be tasted.

Many times I've been to a friend's house for dinner and with great ceremony they show their hospitality by opening one of the stars of new wine, Numanthia, Quilceda Creek, Shafer Hillside, Kosta Browne etc, and my first thought is, "how the hell am I going to get through that?" Drinking those wines, actually drinking them is like marching through a swamp in heavy boots, a sticky exhausting affair. God forbid some poor chef has made great food only to have their work undone by the heavy hand of Chris Ringland, it's embarrassing. That is not to say that those wines don't deserve the scores that they get.

However, the 100 point score should be qualified with a disclaimer "100 points, this wine is an absolute marvel, it shows best when consumed in a single sip while standing on a loud synthetic carpet in a over-lit hotel banquet room. Ill-suited for food, the wine is both ponderous and awkward at the dinner table. Will contradict most cuisines and be undone by anything less inert than water."

In other words the wine has been created, from over-ripening in the vineyard, to over-extraction and over-oaking in the winery, to do nothing but garner scores from people who are not actually drinking them. This my friends is a problem.

Labels: , ,