As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, I’d like to offer a few thanks to some of my favorite people who work in the wine industry in Italy. This isn’t as important as thanking God for all the blessings in my life, but there are all sorts of wonderful pleasures that make up our lives and for me wine is one of the most important and more often than not, it’s Italian wine.
The Organizers – First, un ringraziamento to all the people who have invited me to Italy or have organized my visits and tastings. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be able to taste one-tenth of the Italian wines or meet one-twentieth of the producers I’ve come to know. The people at the various consorzia from Soave to Chianti to Brunello di Montalcino have been a true pleasure to deal with over the years. I won’t mention names here, as there are too many to list, but they understand my needs and in a larger sense, they understand that selling Italian wine in today’s global market requires a lot of promotion and hard work. I do my part to inform consumers about these wines and I couldn’t write as much as I do without the help of a lot of wonderful support people in Italy.
The Producers – A big thank you to the producers, especially the ones that continue to honor the heritage of their land by crafting wines that display a sense of place. While technology can be a wonderful thing, it is not as important as the personal philosophy of a vintner who works with indigenous varieties and makes wines in a traditional manner. In other words, someone that makes a wine meant for drinking at the dinner table and not one styled for big points in a wine publication. I couldn’t even begin to mention how many producers make wines in this fashion -they’re all over Italy, from Piemonte to Sicilia, but two that I met this year for the first time are Sandro Lonardo in the Taurasi district in Campania (the wines are sold under the Contrade di Taurasi label) and Paolo Veglio of Cascina Roccalini in Barbaresco. They are just two of the hundreds of producers whose wines I respect and love as they honor the work of their parents, grandparents and ancestors and remind us how valuable tradition is in the Italian wine industry.
The Chefs – I’m constantly reminded how wonderful wine can be when served with the proper food when I’m in Italy, so I’d also like to salute the restaurant owners and chefs throughout the peninsula for their outstanding work in creating a synergy of flavors that make make the local wines and foods come alive. From the tajarin al ragu di salsiccia di Bra served at numerous ristoranti in the Langhe (many great examples, especially by Cristina Rinaudi at Le Torri in Castiglione Falletto) to the frutti di mare served at Il Bacco in the tiny town of Furore in the glorious Costa d’Amalfi, the local foods of Italy are glorious partners with the equally distinguished wines of the territory.