“No thank you, I think I’ll have a beer,” said my shadow to me. “Six more weeks of winter,” I said to no one there.
This particular week, the wine trail has lead me to Over-Done-It-Land, but in high fashion! Beginning with Slow Wine, a movement by the Slow Food folk to showcase wineries they “particularly like for the way it interprets Slow Food values (sensory perceptions, territory, environment, identity).”
All the vintners featured at the Slow Wine Tasting were Italian and so it was at the Metropolitan Pavilion on Monday, January 30th that I tasted my way through Piedmont, Chianti and Chianti Classico. I’m a tried-and-true lover of California wines, but the young Nebbiolos and Chiantis gave my west-coast palate a run for its money. Many of these wines were showing clean, bright noses with complexities that will most certainly develop with more time in the bottle. I was particularly struck by the lack of “animal” or “barnyard” qualities in many of the Piedmontese wines. It’s no secret that Italy has had to clean up its act. A little over a decade ago it was next to impossible to fine consumer magazines talking up “good value” and “Italian” in the same issue. The tides have changed.
Reality check: the Slow Wine event was similar to other pavilion-tasting extravaganzas, done many times over year after year. Trade, press and consumers show up, get checked in and bounce around the room often without much care for any linear narrative tasting. I’ll say this: from a consumer standpoint, there’s great value if you’re a connoisseur studying to achieve the title of Sommelier through an accreditation. Suddenly there’s 400 wines for you to taste through and develop sense memories for. If you’re a retailer it might be a good opportunity to discover a new brand. If you’re press you might find that undiscovered vintner or client if you’re on the other side of press. However…
I really have to ask: what’s in it for the winery? They commit to many of these tastings, often paying to participate and supplying wine. I have yet to see the right balance of value + reasoning at events like this. Perhaps I need to organize one of these pavilion tastings, eh? Show everyone how it’s done! And make it worth a vintner’s time. Keep your eyes and ears pealed for a Noble Rot inspired airline hanger tasting extravaganza.
Slow Wine aside, I enjoyed one of the best chicken dinners of my life with an avid connoisseur who lives in a princely palace in DUMBO. We’re not talking BBQ chicken or herb-roasted spit-fire grilled chicken, we’re talking his own classified, “transvestite” chicken. Don’t let the name deter you. It was one of the best chickens I ever did eat. And, dang, I can’t remember how he prepared the bird – which was likely his intention as he poured, glass after glass of these absolutely brilliant wines:
And Wednesday, I had the privilege to audit a tasting group of some of NYC’s top Sommeliers (from Oceana, Eleven Madison Park, Corkbuzz, Del Friscos, etc) as they practiced for the advance certificate exam. Because these chaps typically work lunch service or have to prep for dinner service at their perspective haunts, the group meets at 9:00am most Wednesdays. And proceeds to blaze through 12 wines. The test goes like this: in front of you are six glasses of wine; three white and three red. You have 25 minutes to run through every detail of then you can, from color, clarity, a laundry list of criteria about the nose, the wine on the palate to the final test: Name That Wine! + the region and the year from whence it was born unto fermented grape juice!
I was humbled by the experience. The array of wine-speak vocabulary was overwhelming and impressive and the best part: they really know how to have fun and make fun of themselves. Favorite quote: “The wine is total schlunk!” and across the room: “I hate that I know what you mean when you say schlunk. I know exactly what you mean!”
I only captured the first six we tasted through, and I was allowed to sample the wines too while each candidate was administered the test exam. A great, great week for tasting some stunning wines and for reminding me why at the end of the day great winemakers prefer a cold brew.