I try not to get too involved with personal opinion in this blog. Facebook and other social media sites seem to be better venues for that. But today I’m going to make an exception.
In the world of wine, there is no shortage of pundits. The emergence of digital media — websites, blogs, social media, et al — has multiplied the number. There now are so many that it can be difficult to identify which ones speak (or write) from experience, and which ones are just trying to “get themselves out there.”
With all of that said as a prelude, I’ll get to my point: I have grown weary of so many people describing the wines of Italy as “yesterday’s news.” We live in a world where the only “good” things are new things, and sometimes that means turning our backs entirely on “old” things. And in the vinous universe, Italian wine is an “old” thing.
Well, it’s my belief that new and old can co-exist. The only requirement is an open mind, and a willingness to allow our palates to make our drinking decisions, rather than the opinions of our favorite pundits.
All of this came to mind the other night when we were hosting out-of-town relatives at our favorite Italian restaurant. The only thing I knew for sure was that everyone in our party of five would be eating either pasta with a red/meat sauce, or some type of beef dish. That meant a red wine would be the way to go.
Our waiter brought over the wine list, and it was packed with selections from California, Oregon and Washington that I knew well, as well as even more selections from Italy — hardly any of which I’d ever had.
I could have easily selected one of the California wines — there were a couple of Zinfandels from California’s Dry Creek Valley and Lodi districts that would have worked well — but I was determined to “drink Italian” at an Italian restaurant.
So I put my trust in the hands of our waiter. I asked him to select an Italian wine at a specified price point that would pair well with the dishes we were about to order.
We then ordered, and moments later he brought over a bottle Chianti Classico that turned out to be just right.
Why was I so determined to drink Italian wine that night? Because in a world that moves so fast, is ever changing, and rarely slows down, traditions are important. And Italy is one of the great traditional wine countries, where our favorite adult beverage, more often than not, is crafted by vintners whose families have been making wine not just for years or decades, but for generations.
Natural wine — today’s big thing — absolutely has its place. But so does “traditional” wine. And there’s no better place to procure a bottle of “traditional” wine than Italy.