Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) 2017

What the #VIA Program is bringing to the World of Wine and what it should mean to the Native Italian Wine Market in Copenhagen

Few years ago Stevie Kim & Ian D’Agata decided to join forces and launch a new educational initiative: The Vinitaly International Academy Program. First edition took place in 2015.

The main purpose with the course is to pamper, nurse, protect, clean up, push, hail, praise and let people (re) discover the Italian legacy of native grapes together with the compelling range of different wines these grapes foster in the hands of now numerous talented wine producers throughout Italy.

Traditional and international grapes such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc & Cabernet Sauvignon have for decades been the most obvious, secure choices to grow in many commercially important parts of Italy with families to bread -Chardonnay, Cab S & F + Merlot all being well recognised among consumers, thus easier to sell.

But while consumers are getting ever more wise on wine, hence more critical to what they drink, an eagerness to extent the vinous horizon (finally) seems to have taken place. And this is where the decade long exhaustive work of people like Ian D’Agata (VIA Scientific Director) and the late Luigi Veronelli (founder of the Italian Veronelli Guide) comes into right, having dedicated significant parts of their lives to preserve and protect the authenticity of Italian agriculture.

Ian D’Agata, a man in his best age, is –besides from all the almost geek-terrifying wine stuff he stores mentally- also a trained medical doctor specialized in pediatric gastroenterology (management of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver) and pediatric liver transplants (!) (the exclamation point would be me unable to get over my impression) and has, among others, studied in important universities like Harvard, has won grants in cellular and molecular biology research and has taken the expertise gained from these medicine and research studies and ‘donated’ all of it to his continuing and tireless studies of The Native Grapes of Italy in all their biological essence. A path he’s now been on for +30 years.

 

The challenge of mistakenly identified grape varietals and the much needed clean up

Due to lack of other measures (like DNA-testing and biochemical methods) grapes used to be examined ampelographically (morphological visualisation of a bunch of grapes and determination of it’s organs performed only by the instrument of the human eye and the expertise belonging to who possessed that eye) until the beginning of this century. You might imagine how difficult and challenging this task has been. How do you recognize one bunch from another? They all look fairly the same, don’t they? Right, there are specific differences in between them, but I’m sure anyone who has visited a vineyard now and then -as well as plenty of times- will get my point; it can not have been easy to identify whether one certain bunch of grapes might have been Pelaverga, Vespolina or Nebbiolo. Or Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. Or Merlot (even though Merlot should be easier to recognise in the spring, it has a sort of white shoot tip that makes it different from Cabernet S & F with which it is often confused (D’Agata; 2014)).

Nevertheless the study of ampelography (in short; ‘manual’ identification of grape varietals) was and is a very precise one, being of course taking very seriously, where every detail from the bunches’ shoot tips in spring to the colours of veins are minutely examined. Nonetheless, many mistakes have been made. And a lot of work has had to be done to ‘clean up’ all the wrongly identified grapes throughout times. Unfortunately the cleaning up is definitely not over yet.

One of the biggest problems with the situation of wrongly identified grapes today occurs when a grape thought to be X (for instance, fostering one style of wine) is examined in comparison to grape Y (for instance, fostering a completely different style of wine) to figure out whether grape X and Y might or might not be the same. Scientists are capable of declaring X and Y to be in fact the same. Even though they might foster completely different wines. Appearance, aroma and flavour wise. Why could that be? Might you say, could be obvious if the grapes were cultivated in two completely different environments? You’re right. It could be. But they could also be cultivated in the same environment and still foster different wines. And scientists who have ‘proven’ them identical to each other will (most likely) remain with their conclusions. But the reason why X and Y produce completely different wines, side by side or in different environments, might well also due to an ampelographers work from back then. Who could (quite easily) have mistaken the ground material, in this example, for instance of grape X. If X wasn’t X in the first place, but an ampelographer from back then concluded it was, then scientists of today will stick to the conclusion of X being ‘X’, even though it isn’t. What are their options? Go and do all the examination of all the grapes once again. That’s one h… of task.

Let’s think of Peino Noia (Pinot Noir), like Ian says, and take one of Ian’s examples too; Peino Noia, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco all look very different to everyone (one is blue, one is pink and one is white) and foster different wines. But their genetic material is the same. Or so it seems. But anyone in his right mind will argue that they can’t possibly be. They’re different! But they aren’t, say scientists…

Ok, whatever.

(Of course there’s an explanation, but it’s long and concerns (in short) how DNA testing is and can be provided. If you wish to dig deeper I suggest you buy Ian D’Agatha’s book “Native Grapes of Italy” from 2014).

All this actually also opens up another question. If so many grapes have been ampelographically mistaken in the past, how can we be sure that we’re really drinking what we think we are, when we’re having let’s say, a Barolo? Or a Barbaresco?… Well, that’s too big a question for now so I’ll let it rest.

This is all very confusing, amusing and at the same time absolutely lovely. It’s why we should be happy in Copenhagen. Because challenges like these are why Ian D’Agata has dedicated his life to Italian Native Grapes and their biological essence, stressed innumerable wine makers not to give up their sacred native vines and by all means make them native wines with all their fine material, grapes like Fenile, Picolit, Vermentino, Schioppettino and, of course, Tazzelenghe… Plus many others.

In Copenhagen we should be happy and thank ampelographers from the last century, indeed did they pave the way for today’s hungry Millennium world wine lovers, ready to look up from our main stream vanilla and chocolate flavoured glasses of wine and take our wine knowledge, passion and experience to the next level.

We should be happy in Copenhagen, because due to ampelographical challenges Ian and Stevie Kim made the VIA program possible, managing to involve wine professionals from all over the world to become completely hooked and so willingly entangled in this complicated affair of passing on the ‘new’ knowledge and understanding of these ‘new’ wines with deeper philosophies. Of nativeness.

 

Authenticity and deeper Philosophies of Wine

We know for a fact that consumers are looking for deeper purposes and interesting philosophies to attach to the wines they enjoy. Organic growth, biodynamic farming and natural wine making is for one a direction wine lovers around the world are keen on taking. Sustainability seems to be the most important value in this category, thus the reason to the rise of sales (Denmark has seen a strong growth of sales of organic wines and Fair-trade over the past years (source: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nov 2016). In the extremely technologized, digital and increasingly robotized world we are all now living in, it makes perfect sense that core, fundamental values like how to take care of our planet, stands stronger than ever. ‘Nativeness’ is in this same league, together with the concept and usage of 0-km agriculture, both philosophies about keeping agriculture authentic. And sustainable. Authenticity is what we want, together with Sustainability + 0-km. It all goes hand in hand with Nativeness. These are the key words summing up the categories of wine and agriculture you and I and our times consumers are looking for.

It is know up to restaurateurs, hotels, wine shops, wine journalists and other good people from around the Globe to push the Italian Authentic Native Wine legacy to reach the recognition it deserves. Just like we’ve done with 0-km agriculture, sustainable natural, biodynamic and organic growth.

And it is my humble and honoured job as Scandinavia’s 1st Vinitaly International Academy Italian Wine Ambassador in the World, to pass on the knowledge I have in the field of Italian Native Grapes and the wines they foster by staying hungry and keep learning with the purity and excitement of a 5-year old, writing and teaching about what I now know and what I learn, continuing to import wines to Denmark, exposing them to the private market, to Horeca and certainly offering them to our guests at our restaurant (lenoteca.dk) on a frequent basis. And it’s my privileged job to invite all interested to follow me and the VIA Community on this journey, and become part in the manner that suits one the best.

 

The Journey has started

The journey has started and I don’t know where it’ll take us besides from right here, now and the third weekend of May 2017 (Friday 19 and Saturday 20) where I will be hosting a Franciacorta and Northern Italian White wines Dinner, to taste, discuss, enlighten our selves, and most likely meet some new lovely people too.

Tickets can be purchased by following this link: http://madbillet.dk/show/event/franciacorta-and-norditaliensk-hvidt-moeder-syden/0/0/0/english

 

 

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Barolo -Conterno 1998- what a gem

To have the privilege of tasting age worthy Brunellos and Barolos from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s has for some decades already been a very great privilege. Today, we’re at the upper site of the late twenties. Millenium twenties, that is. And yesterday evening I just had the honour of tasting a trio of great Italian wines.

The first two, absolutely splendid ones. But what I’m in to write about tonight are the last 3 glasses of wines in that 1998 bottle of Barolo from legendary Giacomo Conterno in Serralunga d’Alba, Piedmont, that we ended up with at home. Yesterday, guys -it was fabulous. But tonight, maybe it was even better. It was opened at 5 pm some 27-28 hours ago, just waiting to be thoroughly and merciless  -but caringly- assessed once again approximately 2 hours after dinner tonight, on a random quiet Sunday evening. This is what I got;

A clear garnet-ruby, light coloured red with a clean, not to noisy, nose although insistently  talking about tobacco, coffee, cherries and… good old freshness. The wine is of course dry and acidity is not what it most expectedly used to be, but still perfectly present. Tannins are high!, so much on their toes, even after all of these years – like a young handsome man grown old meeting his high school sweetheart again. Alcohol and flavour intensity medium – but what a mediumness; coffee, coffee, coffe – and more coffee, so bitter chocolate it feels like chewing it, leather, tar, liquorice and embracing minerality (earthiness) – all tertiary flavours and right there among them, there she is, the mature but still so impressive beautiful cherry-lady looking for her tannin-guy confident she’ll find him, with a slight, slight crispness and great freshness. Yes, it’s a developed wine and should be drunk now, but my best experienced guess is -despite the less fortunate vintage of 1998- that this one will still do for another half a decade or two or three in the bottle……………

Wine lovers, a wine like this is hard to find. Hard to afford. And might be hard to understand. You should want to taste thousands of wines before you get here, before you ‘get’ a wine like this. And recognise the fantasticness you’re blessed with when you have it – be it presented to you with you knowing it’s origin or be it presented to you blindly. I aim I’ll be able to recognise this greatness when someone’ll serve me a glass of pearl drops like the ones in this league, without my prior knowledge.

Do remember to seek authenticity in the wines you taste, in the wines you enjoy and the wines you drink -no matter where they come from in the world.

Aim vs Warmth in Tuscany, Fanti shines

 

Know your 2011 vintage Brunello di Montalcino from Fanti

  • Brunello di Montalcino: Rumour has it, 2011 was a very warm year
  • Filippo Fanti is one of these
  • Today opinions have changed
  • The wines we tasted 

 

Brunello di Montalcino: Rumour has it, 2011 was a very warm year

With the abundant range of Brunello styles available today it can easily become a challenge to decide in what to invest in, indeed for business but absolutely for pleasure too. ’Difficult’ years, as the latest released 2011 vintage, doesn’t make things any less rocky. Therefore it was an even greater experience to visit the charismatic Filippo Fanti for lunch a couple of weeks ago and witness the elegance & authenticity of his wine efforts from this exact year, despite increased sugar ripeness and high contents of alcohol. Rumour has that 2011 was a very, very warm year and rumour is right. This has resulted in much too baked or marmellated brunellos what goes for many of the producers’ wines. However, some producers are fortunated enough to have both devotion and expertise as well as location and aim to maintain the authentic expressions, styles and qualities of Brunello despite of climatic hazards, like 2011’s excess of heat.

 

Filippo Fanti is one of these

– one of these with that kind of fortune. Around 40 years ago, in the early 1970s, he took over the lead of the 300 hectares of family estate when the production was all about olive oil and cereals. This became a turning point in the family owned company’s history because Filippo dared to plant Sangiovese vines in a terroir not previously thought to be suitable to these plantings and the production of Brunello. In fact, the land, located close to the captivating Abbazia di Sant’Antimo, in the splendid corner with the southern aspect of Castelnuovo dell’Abate (to the South East of the town of Montalcino), was judged the accurate opposite; not suitable for the production of Brunello.

 

However, today opinions have changed

Fanti, who sat different periods as president for the Consorzio di Brunello (a free association of brunello winemakers), a man with an ongoing important and consisting voice in the Montalcino community stressing the need for Brunello producers to remain true to their wine producing origins paired with adequate modern wine making technologies, is, together with his wines, considered one of the important benchmarks to which terroir authentic brunello is measured up against.

_____________________________________________________

The Brunellos we tasted

– from different parcels, are all worth every penny. Here they are in descending order (do note the Rosso di Montalcino 2013 mentioned in the middle) together with the estate’s Sant’Antimo and a white & rosé:

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2011, Riserva Vigna le Macchiarelle

Oh boy, what was that? Fermented, aged and bottled 35-year old Macchiarelle vine juice, now deeply ruby red with pronounced nose of baked red fruits, oak and vanilla but on the palate, despite it’s high alcohol, gorgeously balanced, dry with sufficient acidity, tannins, mouthcoating full-bodiness and primary flavours of raspberries and strawberries finished with a velvoutly roundness of chocolate, vanilla and coffee. It was excellent.

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2011, Vallocchio

Deep ruby red from 25-year old Valocchio vines, baked aromas of strawberry, dry with good acidity, tannins and well-balanced alcohol. Full-bodied with flavours of red cherries, sweet spices, coco nut, chocolate and tar. Long finish, very pleasant.

 

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2011

Lovely ’basic’ deep ruby coloured brunello with pronounced aromas of baked red berries, chocolate and farmyard. Medium acidity and tannins, high alcohol, full-bodied with primary wild cherries, vanilla toasted oak and nuts and long finish.

 

Rosso di Montalcino DOC 2013

Beautifully fresh, pure and neat pronounced aromas of red berries, eucalyptus, toasted oak and vanilla. Dry with medium (+) acidity, well integrated tannins and alcohol, pronounced flavours of violets, red berries and medium-long finish. Great ’little brother’ glass

 

Sant’Antimo Rosso DOC 2013, Sassomagno

Deep ruby red with rich aromas of red currant, vanilla, oak, farmyard, cherries and pronounced, thick flavours of red and black berries, chocolate, violets, high alcohol, tannins, medium acidity and long finish. Very good, pronounced international style.

 

Sant’Antimo Bianco DOC

Fresh and dry with high acidity, medium alcohol and pronounced flavours of lemon, grass and leafiness.

 

Soralisa and Rosato Toscana IGT

Medium-bodied rosé with crisp acidity, lemon and leafiness.