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Vinitaly Day Three, Saturday

On ‘hump-day’ - normally a Wednesday, but at Vinitaly it falls on a Saturday - is when the worst happens: your teeth start to turn purple, even if you spit. It could be due to the sheer volume of wine, or after days of skipping lunch, or, on today in particular, it could have had to do with Aglianico’s particularly hearty viscosity. Today we sampled many, as our goal was to push-push-push, and make as many visits as possible.

We began at the ‘A Casa’ stand, of super-chic design that would rival the trendiest of museum bookshops. Profoundly soothed by the expanses of trees as their photo-backdrop, by now, this is proof I’m getting cabin-fever-ish, if even just a picture of a tree can prove that much of a relief.

Enzo Ercolino brought my focus back to the table with elaborate musings on white wine vinification, as we sampled the 2009 Coda di Volpe, Fiano di Avellino, and Sannino Falanghina. For their ’08 and ’09 vintages, 15% of the wine has carried over from the year prior, this percentage as determined by the local law’s limits. By doing so, this softens the new year’s must (juice), as it rests on the lees, the dregs/sediment that settle at the base of the fermentation vats.

Their processes are hyper-reductive, rather than hyper-oxygenated. Enzo derided common perceptions of what constitutes ‘good’ wine, stating that these perceptions are often based on an understanding of older (namely French) wines that happen to be oxygenated. In his words, the common palate has been conditioned to assume that wines are supposed to taste oxygenated, rather than fresh.

“These wines would last for ten years,” he said, “if not for the cork”. And with a cork in hand, he drew on it’s lines as one would count tree rings, showing me just how old the cork is. A Casa’s corks are ten years old, where the industry standard is mostly 5-6 years. With these wines, A Casa’s intention is to demonstrate that in the wine-producing terrain of the south one can make wines of longevity and finesse.

With a detailed sketch, he explained how they make their new Rosato of Aglianico. They reduce the total liquid content in proportion to the skins, those which gives it it’s pink color. Ercolino insists the standard of 28 days that most wineries follow is too long, that the color reaches a saturation point earlier. While aptly titled for the US market, the name “Thrill” refers to a quote from the writer/poet Jorge Luis Borges.

We tasted their ‘08 “Fiore dell’ Isca,” 100% of the Piedirosso indigenous to Campania, and I appreciated it’s distinct smokiness.  And with this, more reds: their ’07 Taurasi Aglianico, large-barrel aged and of 200 year old vines, their ’06 Aglianico, and the Taurasi Riserva ’07.

We further sampled two dessert wines – a Malvacia (Malvasia in dialect), barrique-aged for one year, and their Aglianico Botrytis ’07 – the first of it’s kind and compelling, culled from 70 year old vines, in it I excitedly picked up a distinct leather scent.

At Villa Medoro, we experienced the Chimera IGT Bianco 2009: 50% each of Trebbiano and Fallanghina, and the 100% Montepulciano D’Abbruzzo ’08, both steel-tank. We also sampled their Rosso del Duca ’07, aged one year in French tonneau, and their Adrano, Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo DOCG, aged one year in oak barriques.

And at Masseria Felicia, with Felicia we enjoyed her Bronze Label Rosso ’06, at 80% Aglianico and 20% Piedirosso.

At I Pentri, a local stopped to tell me that I look exactly like my Father, he could see it in my profile: only as it turns out,  he had mistaken Dionisio for my Dad, as Mr. Nocerino stood at the sidelines.

With the coming vintage, I Pentri’s wines will be labeled as ‘agricultura naturale,’ in that they do not use chemicals or holding agents. Lia insists that consumers need to be more careful when it comes to selecting wines to drink. Given the glut of product on the wine market, and as fewer wines are being sold, from her perspective as a producer, she sees others engaging in practices where they are using more chemicals, with an eye to shelf life rather than to quality.

We sampled I Pentri’s Fiano L’Amore delle Api ’08, which I admired for it’s softness, and their lovely Flora Falanghina ’09. We also tasted their Kerres Piedirosso ’07, which is self-stabilizing, aged 12 mos in barrique and 12 mos in bottle – there was a brown bread, raisin spice to it’s nose, and finished with their Pietra delle Volpe ’07, a bomb of intensity and concentration.

At Zeni, we sampled the Muller Thurgau ’09 with Roberto. This new vintage is sealed neatly with a glass top, and as I by now I’ve tried out back here in the states, works remarkably well at keeping the wine fresh for days, as my fridge can attest.

We also tasted the Pinot Grigio ’09, the Pinot Grigio Ramato ’09, and also the Teroldego ’07,  and the Teroldego Riserva ’05. For this, the grapes spend three weeks ‘sul grattici’: on the vines, which amplifies their concentration, intensity, and sweetness. From there it vinifies in steel, spends 24 months in barrique, and one year in bottle.

I was also truly impressed by the newest vintage of the Zeni Moscato Rosa, and its decisive balance of concentration of fruit with freshness, which my Dad and Roberto concurred was at Dominic’s suggestion – Roberto insisting that he really does provide effective product feedback to his producers.

All in all, today was a tremendous push – we’d had only four hours of sleep, and apart from Zeni’s kindness, had neglected to pause for food and had completely lost track of water. By the time we reached Brigaldara at day’s end, the mild temper tantrum I threw could only be tempered by the likes of Stefano Cesari. Feathers back in place, I was pleased to sample the Dindarella Rosato ’09, 70% Dindarella and 30% Morinala, where Lorenzo explained how the two grapes ferment simultaneously, lending a red tone to the wine with the effect/smell of a white.  The day was effectively capped off with Brigaldara’s supremely elegant ‘Casa Vecie’ Amarone.

Back at the car park, like magic it worked again: “Sono Io,” meaning ‘it is Me.’ The Attendant brushed us past once again without paying. Turns out that today, after hearing what my Dad had been up to the past two days, Graziano Pra tried out the same tactic – and found success.

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