Le Metro Vol VII just came out complete with an illustration of the Methode Traditionelle process for making sparkling wine.
Aaron put together a really fun collection of bubbles for December. I think it’s their best collection yet.
He also asked if I’d be willing to do the food pairings for this round. As a result the set of wines arrived weeks in advance. To celebrate the process a number of us got together with a pile of foods we love to sample and sip alongside. Our favorites became the suggestions for this month’s Le Metro.
POST EDIT: If you’re in the San Diego area, Le Metro is about to throw a fantastic bubbles event to celebrate their project, and the season.
It’ll take place at the Chuck Jones Gallery in the Gaslamp District this Saturday, December 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. They’ll be pouring a wash of great bubbles.
Truth? The beautiful, perfect, glow of love and light that is the holidays stresses most of us out. I can barely get through Thanksgiving, hide on Christmas, and then finally want to sparkle up for New Year’s but that is largely because the year we just went through is FINALLY OVER. It’s a NEW one! Yay!
I sent out a tweet and a message on Facebook asking people what stresses them out on the holidays. The most horrifying response alluded to a world in which only Yellow Tail existed to drink. Please! Do not let that happen to you! Use the bubbled scenarios below to determine your optimal beverage.
What To Drink When the Holidays Stress You Out: A Decision Flow Chart
click on any of the pages to enlarge
Thanks for the help everyone! It was a lot of fun to come up with solutions for your stressful scenarios.
Thank you to Katherine Yelle, Meredith Miller Elliott, Lenn Thompson, Ashley Copper Quinn, Geoffrey Stauffer, Dale Tanigawa, Laura Anglin, Shawn Swagerty, Fredric Koppel, Michael Alberty, Don Beith, Andrew Hummel-Schluger, Chris Scanlan, Jeannette Montgomery, Marita Dachsel.
Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com
The approach differs from how wines like Champagne, Franciacorta, or Cava are made in that, with those examples, the secondary fermentation (which gets the bubbles in the bottle) occurs within the bottle in which the wine is later sold. This approach is called Methode Traditionelle.
With Prosecco, the secondary fermentation instead occurs within a large tank, and the wine is bottled after. This approach is known as Metodo Italiano.
Technically speaking, either method can be taken with any grape that can make sparkling wine. However, the two methods have differing effects on the final wine, and so many consider each to suit different grapes better than the other.
For example, the Methode Traditionelle generally requires higher acid levels in the original grapes, and so suits fruit like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, which have naturally higher levels of acidity in cool climates.
On the other hand, Metodo Italiano has less impact on the flavors of the grapes, and so does well at preserving the original aromas and flavors of the fruit. For that reason, this approach does well at showcasing a grape like glera in its resulting Prosecco, which, at its best, has a pure fruit expression and accent of fresh greenery.
I’d already done a drawing of Metodo Italiano, so, here it is!
Cheers, and thanks!
Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com
As some of you know, I just returned from a press trip in Italy. I am still researching and tasting from the various regions. In the meantime, here are photos from the first two days of our visit. We began in Valdobbiadene, in the Treviso province of the Northeast.
The region surrounding Valdobbiadene falls within the highest quality area of Prosecco, which reaches to the town of Conegliano. The steep sloped hillsides rise prior to the Alps out of former-marine soils combining the cooling effects of the mountains, with chalky, crisp, mineral-driven soils.
the town of Valdobbiadene
The region between Valdobbiadene and Conegliano is being considered for a World Heritage site designation. Known history of the region reaches back to the 11th century, and includes scientific work done by one of the first wine schools in the world, and commemoration in Renaissance paintings by artists Conegliano, and Bellini. One of the unique aspects of the area that qualifies it for consideration rests in its long standing relationship with viticulture. The region’s geography, both culturally and physically, so thoroughly intertwines with the vines that the shape of the area, and the persistence of the hillsides cannot be discussed without recognizing the role of Prosecco.
The Franco family have lived in the region for generations, with four generations now having operated their Nino Franco winery.
Annalisa and Silvia Franco hosted us for lunch as a way of introducing us to their wines, and welcoming us to Italy. Then we toured the vineyards of the area.
Giovanni Franco founded the winery in 1919 naming it after his son, Antonio (nicknamed Nino). At the time it was not possible to sustain a sparkling only operation, so the family sourced red grapes from neighboring areas to make still wines as well. Having been part of the family business since the 1970s, Primo Franco (Nino’s son) became the head of the company after his father’s death in the early 1980s. He chose to shift the focus away from still wines and begin the project of a sparkling only winery. In 1983 he completed his first example as head of Nino Franco, naming it the Primo Franco.
Today, the family also makes single vineyard Proseccos showing the unique expressions of the hillsides through the area. The Grave di Stecca is one such example from the family’s own vineyard located in Valdobbiadene.
The area of Cartizze, in the heart of the Valdobbiadene-Conegliano stretch is considered the premier of the region. The concentration of vines, and the intricate vineyard rows are stunning and begin to make sense of quality differences between the best of Prosecco, and the bulk versions of the valley floor. The mountains in the distance here also host vineyards just below the forest tops.
Standing in a vineyard in Cartizze
The glera grape has recently earned its name, having previously just been called prosecco. To distinguish the region from the fruit, the name Prosecco is now protected and isolated to the region in Italy. At its best, glera offers focused fruit flavors with a crisp edge to it.
standing in a terraced steep slope vineyard during harvest. Standing a terrace below, I am at least four feet below the harvester. Looking straight ahead I can only see her boots. (Thank you to Cathy for the photo suggestion.)
Prosecco goes through two tank fermentations, with DOCG quality inspections at each stage. The first tank fermentation occurs immediately after harvest and produces the more austere still wine that will be the basis of the sparkling. Cathy and Primo as we tank sample the 2013 harvest of Rive di San Floriano.
The still wines are brought with their lees to the secondary tanks where they will undergo secondary fermentation and be left on their lees the better portion of a year for aging. Lees contact and aging are a choice made at Nino Franco, and are not necessarily practiced by other wineries. Silvia and Primo help us tank sample the sparkling 2012 Grave di Stecca.
The single vineyard Grave di Stecca is aged in bottle before release.
Tasting through the Nino Franco lineup, all sparkling. from left: Rustico (their “premium entry level”), the Valdobbiadene blend, the single vineyard 2012 Rive di San Floriano, the single vineyard 2010 Grave di Stecca, the Merlot-Cab Franc sparkling rosé (project they make with a red wine producing friend) 2011 Faive, the 2012 Primo Franco
Primo standing with his first bottle of 1983 Primo Franco
Silvia, Primo, and Annalisa Franco standing in Cartizze
My latest illustration for Serious Eats is up and on their site today. We’ve moved to an every-other-week posting schedule there. This installment looks at matching food with dry blanc de blancs champagne.
click on comics to enlarge: how champagne is made, an overview
Terlato Wines was kind enough to include me in a Bollinger Vin Clairs tasting yesterday. Vin Clairs, for those that are unfamiliar, amounts to the still base wine that then goes through second fermentation in bottle to become the final champagne. Guy de Rivoire, Bollinger’s Commercial Director, facilitated the tasting, coupled with an overview of the House, and the blending process.
Incredibly, Bollinger’s Special Cuvée (their non-vintage champagne) can include up to 60 component parts of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir vinified separately, within some neutral barrels, and some stainless steel vats. Each component is bottled in large format, kept in cellar as a still wine to ensure adequate flavor resources for future vintages. These reserve wines total about 650,000 magnums, or 1.3 million bottles. Still, Bollinger produces only 0.6-0.7% of total champagne made in the region per year.
The experience included six components from multiple vintages, and (separately) from each of the three grapes, leading into the final still Special Cuvée, which included at least some of the components we tasted. The culmination occurred in comparing the still Special Cuvée to its sparkling counterpart. Finally, the tasting extended into several vintage champagnes, and the non-vintage rosé followed by a 2004 vintage rosé.
Bollinger Making the Assemblage: the Vin Clairs blend
click on comic to enlarge: Blending still wines into Bollinger’s Special Cuvée
Approximately 90% of the vineyard land in the Champagne region is grower owned. According to yesterday’s presentation, there are approximately 5000 growers in Champagne, and 10,000 Champagne brands producing 25 to 30 million cases of champagne per year. Champagne houses generally operate as a negociant, sourcing grapes from some mix of the 5000 growers through the region. Within Champagne, there is also a small portion of wines made on a grower-winemaker model in which the owner of a vineyard vinifies a small production champagne from their own grapes. Among champagne houses in the region, only three remain under independent ownership, Bollinger being one of them.
Bollinger produces their non-vintage “Special Cuvée” from a blend consistently structured by at least 60% Pinot Noir, with some Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. With an eye on aging, their vintage blends maintain the >60% Pinot model, sticking to Chardonnay for the rest. Another feature unique to the Bollinger House includes their ownership of more than 60% of their vineyards. The entirety of their fruit comes from Marne district. A portion of the still wines are fermented in old oak barrel, bringing an additional textural and flavor component to their wine. The rest are fermented in stainless steel.
The Bottled Wines
Bollinger’s Special Cuvée offers a silk taffeta texture with the swish of a floor length dress. It carries a richly flavored, while fine-boned presentation of dried flowers, light (not sweet) honey and beeswax, walnut and clove touches with a light pleasing zip of acidity.
Tasting through the several component still wines, followed by the final vin clairs, then moving into the sparkling Special Cuvée drove home how impressive the work of the Chef de Caves really is–to imagine tracking the various wines, creating blending trials for so many potential components, then tasting the final still assemblage to anticipate its presentation after second fermentation… fantastic. So much to track, so much work, so much clarity of vision.
We were able to taste both the 2004 and 1992 Grande Année, as well as the Special Cuvée rosé and Grande Anneé 2004 rosé. Though it sounds obvious, I was moved by the 1992–it’s vibrant zest acidity (in magnum) was coupled with rich smokey, walnut-driven aromatics followed by an electric cord of mouth stimulation cloaked in rich flavors. The saline-chalky electrical-current on this wine was lovely.
Thank you to Mary Anne Sullivan, and Stephanie Caraway of Terlato.
“There is a French saying,” Frédéric Panaiotis tells me. “Help yourself and the sky will help you. I like this. This is my motto.”
Frédéric Panaiotis, the Chef de Caves for Ruinart Champagne
I met Frédéric Panaiotis after arriving embarrassingly early to a private Ruinart dinner due to a mix-up with my driver. He and Nicolas Ricroque, the champagne’s brand director, welcomed me warmly and offered bubbles to set me at ease. We began with Ruinart Blanc de Blancs and their dinner’s good view. Later, with food, we’d also step back into older vintages of Dom Ruinart paired with courses made for us by the talented chef Michelle Bernstein.
Ruinart began as the oldest established champagne house in the world, founded in 1729, at a time when bottling the beverage had been illegal. With its forbidden nature, so the story goes, it was desired and enjoyed at the court of Versailles, where the original Ruinart family was friendly. Over drinks one evening with the king, Nicolas Ruinart had an epiphany. His champagne would please. The Ruinart “wine with bubbles” business began September 1, 1729 with the intent of offering unique gifts to Nicolas’s fabric customers–the family owned a cloth company–but within six years of founding the bubbles venture it dominated the family interests and by 1735 they shifted entirely to champagne.
Now, a little less than 300 years later, Ruinart persists, founded on blending strategies with a focus on chardonnay. Today, Frédéric Panaiotis serves as the house’s Chef de Caves, or chief winemaker, in charge of nursing the grapes from vineyard to vin clair (champagne’s first step still blend), to bubbles, all with the intention of maintaining the Ruinart house style.
It is this willingness of the winemaker to give over to something older and longer that gives champagne its persistence and brilliance both. Panaiotis recognizes he is part of this longer tradition. “When you join a champagne house,” he tells me, “it is important to understand my name will not stay.”
Panaiotis emphasizes the importance of this history. “In California, a winemaker can make their mark on a house, and that is understandable. But, in Champagne, it is different.” He continues, “In Champagne, you should never remember who was making the wine 40 years ago. He is just one of the guys making sure the wine style is the same.” The comparison highlights two different models of success–one of persistent innovation, on the one hand, and one of established grace, on the other, both to be valued but for different contexts.
Frederic Panaiotis discussing Ruinart champagne at a special demonstration with Chef Morimoto, Pebble Beach Food & Wine 2013
Panaiotis strikes me as a man full of grace, and gravitas both. As much as he regards himself well integrated into a larger team–both historically and currently–he also acts as the facilitator of that team’s larger goals.
It is in listening to Panaiotis, I am struck by how the two models–California and Champagne–showcase not only different ideas of history, but also differing examples of leadership. He appreciates the value of both approaches, having resided in Mendocino for almost three years between 1989 and 1991, assisting in the production of sparkling wine for a California label.
Now as chief winemaker for Ruinart, Panaiotis emphasizes the strength of the house band. “When it comes to winemaking, a well-honed team is so much more efficient and reliable. There can always be someone that is sick, but not all of us. So, the response, the assessment of the wine has to be done by the team, not one person.”
Successful focus on the group together, however, depends on also recognizing each individual’s talents. Creating that well-honed contingent, Panaiotis explains, comes from smartly utilizing each person’s abilities. “I must understand who on the team is more competent, more sensitive on certain areas than others.” In describing his meaning, Panaiotis uses himself as example. If he is feeling off one day, it’s necessary for him to recognize who around him can be more effective. “Everyone has expertise, skill in something.” He says, “I have to recognize that. Then I can trust you. Then the team responds. Whoever from the team for each part of what we’re doing.” Panaiotis emphasizes the advantage of this approach, “it’s very satisfying and more fun when we all work together.”
Brand manager, Nicolas Ricroque, Chef Michelle Bernstein, and Frédéric Panaiotis doing final preparations for dinner
Getting Panaiotis to discuss his time in California uncovers an aspect of his character I suspect is foundational–curiosity coupled with systematic study. His education focused on the sciences, taking him through a career that has included chemical wine analysis, years of research on cork taint, and several positions making sparkling wine, in both California and Champagne. Talking about his work in Mendocino, Panaiotis tells me about his studies. “I took Spanish while I was working in California. Wine is great. With wine, you learn something everyday.” He references an idea we both agree upon–the more you know, the less you know. “But with me, it is not enough, so I study languages.” Currently Panaiotis is getting started with Mandarin.
It is not just a thirst for more knowledge that drives Panaiotis, it is also an interest in deeper understanding. We touch on the idea of food and wine pairing, a subject common to the world of wine. But with Panaiotis it blooms into a conversation about culture, recognition of values and ideas. Panaiotis’s thinking is multi-layered throughout. To understand food and wine pairing more effectively, he studies other languages.
He explains his reasoning. “Language is a key aspect of learning how people think,” he offers. “I am always interested in food and wine pairings. Language is key to understanding a culture’s ideas.” By recognizing the ideas of another culture, you gain new insight into flavors and food relationships as well. The various forms of study, then, all circle back, even while revealing something new in themselves. It is both that are true.
In discussing Panaiotis’s wealth of experience he reveals again his blend of grace, and gravitas, coupled with what I recognize as genuine humility, a trait he already revealed through his discussion of team work and leadership–a person of genuine humility, I believe, recognizes what they are genuinely good at, while understanding too there is always more to learn.
Through the Ruinart dinner, and the next day’s Morimoto cooking demonstration, Panaiotis showed his talent for pairing food and wine, an ability clear throughout our discussion as well. But he understands the source of his own strengths. “I am not gifted.” He explains. “People think I am gifted in food and wine pairings. No. No. No. I am not gifted.” As he speaks he is utterly sincere and to the point. “I work very hard all the time to keep learning.”
The hard work Panaiotis puts into his job he also does with clear gratefulness and joy. “I don’t make champagne,” he tells me. “I make something to make people happy. Putting a smile on people’s face, that is my job. How many people can say that?”
Thank you to Frederic Panaiotis for including me, and taking time to talk with me.
Thank you to Nicolas Ricroque.
Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.
Master Chef Morimoto on stage alone, selecting his perfect tools in preparation for the demonstration
I was grateful to be included, knowing he is held in high regard for his sushi, good nature, and cooking talents. What hadn’t registered, however, was that he is held in high regard partially because he is on television showing these things. He is, in fact, one of the original Iron Chefs, and for many the favorite. The truth is, I haven’t had a television hook-up since 1996 (except for one brief stretch in 2000, when Jr. was only a year old and I watched all 10-years of Beverly Hills, 90210 (the original series), skipping the trashy season 8, in 4 months). Some of the heights of fame, as a result, allude me.
Master Chef Morimoto and Ruinart Chef de Caves Panaiotis prior to the demonstration
What hadn’t alluded me is Morimoto’s positive reputation. The fame part hit when at the start of the demonstration the audience curtain was opened, and a beautiful, very small, older woman ran across the room ahead of everyone to ensure she got her seat with the best view.
Morimoto’s cooking area set up in advance of the demonstration, as seen in the demonstration mirror
The event, as they explained, was a marriage of two cultures–Japanese and French. The demonstration, then, brought together an account of Japanese sushi tradition, with insights into French wine culture, and advice on how to enjoy the two together in a meal.
the team works on final preparations prior to inviting in the audience
Ruinart’s Chef de Caves Frédéric Panaiotis opened the event explaining, he is happy to give us the chance to enjoy champagne sitting down, with a meal so that it may be more closely appreciated. Also, by drinking bubbles in a wine glass, rather than a flute, the aromas are more accessible. In describing his own history with sparkling wine, Panaiotis explained he’s been drinking champagne pretty much all his life. In the region it is common to place a finger dipped in the wine on a baby’s lips after birth, the first offering to a new life. He also joked, “Champagne is what my grandmother used to drink when she was not so happy.” He went on, “but it is also a beverage we know is not just for special moments. It is for anytime. Champagne makes the moment special.”
Ruinart Blanc de Blancs, and sushi pairing
In thinking about food and wine pairing, Morimoto offered insight in relation to how he also flavors the fish itself. When preparing sushi he has four different levels of tamari, four different densities of sauce. Seafood with no fat–octopus, shrimp, as examples–does well with lighter flavored sauce, lighter tamari. Fish with more fat, mackerel in winter, perhaps, take double the flavor needed as mackerel in summer when there is less fat in the meat. The more fat on the fish the more soy and wasabi you use. Similarly, when thinking about the wine, Panaiotis offers, a clear fish pairs with a really clear wine. The flavors accented on the fish, then, or added to a dish, can echo the flavors of the wine.
Chef Morimoto introduces the first course, explaining the differing cuts on a single fish
The Ruinart blanc de blanc is served to us alongside a Japanese white fish that is unique to the region but resembles an American Amber Jack. The Ruinart rosé, on the other hand, comes in a bit more savory, and is thus paired with preparations that have hardier flavors, such as fried dumpling in tomato, salmon, and uni. The team offers too that it would work with lighter meats, such as duck.
the demonstration included large screen close ups for the audience
Both wines, however, are delicate, all about subtle layers of rich flavor. It is here that Panaiotis gets excited about his wines with Japanese food. Morimoto’s preparations resemble a description of the wine–simple, clean food with rich flavors and freshness.
Morimoto and Panaiotis worked together. As Morimoto prepared more intricate cuts, Panaiotis was able to discuss the food and wine. Morimoto also offers insight on the champagne along with Panaiotis.
Chef Morimoto has been studying and developing his cooking techniques for well over 30-years, and offers tips to the audience on how to choose the best fish. First, he explains, his favorite knife is any knife that is sharp. The best cuts of fish have not been sitting directly on the ice–the cold damages the meat over time. When eating sushi, place the wasabi directly onto the fish, not into the soy, and put the fish side of a nigiri role down onto the tongue, with the rice side up. This gives the purest flavor.
a glimpse of the audience
The team explains that this demonstration is a proud moment. Chef Morimoto is honored to be included in a prestigious food & wine event. Wine is an established, and respected culture. Twenty years ago seeing an Asian chef on the itinerary for such a demonstration would have been unheard of or un-thought. Panaiotis, likewise, is pleased to see Ruinart alongside Japanese food, where he thinks it can pair so well.
Morimoto puts final touches on Panaiotis’s sushi
In considering his Iron Chef reputation, Morimoto explains that even there he is not cooking for the judges, or cooking to beat the other competitor, but instead cooking to improve himself. With each ingredient challenge the approach is similar. “I cannot do same, same, same.” He says, “So, I have to create a new thing. Every single time, I’m shaking when I hold the knife, then I have to ask myself, what am I making? Each time, I’m challenged. I’m shaking.”
Chef Morimoto Sings
After the demonstration was complete, the audience was invited to propose questions. An audience member asked if Morimoto would sing. Bashful at first, he offered what he called “a fisherman song from Japan.”
Thank you to Chef Morimoto and Chef de Caves Panaiotis.
Thank you to Mark Stone and Nicolas Ricroque.
Thank you to Sarah Logan, and Vanessa Kanegai.
Thank you to Bettye Saxon.
Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.
One of the great annual food and wine extravaganzas on the West Coast United States occurs each Spring in Pebble Beach. The town becomes host to the best chefs, wines, and sommeliers from all over the world, as well as the folks that want to be there to drink in their offerings.
Here are photos surveying some of the activities I was lucky enough to attend over three of the four days (it begins Thursday but I arrived Friday).
Friday:The Grand Tour: European Continental Cuisine Lunch, featuring Wines of Portugal
First of all, please forgive. I am currently traveling without my scanner, so after spending the day drawing I could only post my notes from Scarpetta’s current portfolio by taking a photo of it. I’ll reload the scanned-in image after I’ve returned to Sonoma next week. In the meantime, let the photo of the drawing suffice. Thanks! Updated with the scanned image!
Celebrating Friuli (w a little help from Barbera): Scarpetta & Frasca
click on image to enlarge; click twice to enlarge more
Bobby Stuckey greets me at the door with a smile and a glass of pink bubbles. I’m happy I took the drive to San Francisco. After a few moments everyone has arrived and we sit. Lunch is going to begin.
Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, and Chef Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson have traveled from Boulder, Colorado, home of their well-known and celebrated Frasca Restaurant, to share their love for Friuli. After establishing their Friuli inspired restaurant, the team expanded to begin Scarpetta Wine starting with Friulano, Friuli’s classic white.
Stuckey introduces the day’s activities. “I feel like I’m in the cool kids club. But it’s surprising too because I feel like I’m still punk rock, and I feel like I’m still a cross country running nerd, but I get to hang with you guys. So, thanks.” The event includes Sommeliers, Wine Buyers, and Wine Writers from around the Bay Area.
The Sparkling Rosé
Bobby Stuckey setting the stage
Stuckey continues, focusing on the wine. He explains that the rosé offered upon entry is made with the Charmat method using a slightly unusual blend for the style of Franconia (aka. Blaufrankisch) and Pinot Nero (aka. Pinot Noir). Though the Charmat method is often maligned for its association with poor quality versions of Prosecco, Stuckey explains the technique is more centrally all about capturing tenderness and aromatics. Combined with care, and old vine material, Stuckey believes it creates a unique sparkling rosé.
The wine is paired with a winter Friulano Salad of apple, radicchio, shaved horseradish, and shaved hard cheese. The salad is all lightness and zest alongside the savory, floral bubbles. A beautiful opening.
Love for Friulano
To put the wine Friulano in its proper context, Stuckey compares it to Chardonnay. Where the French grape offers a neutral palate that allows technique to be shown on top, Friulano doesn’t. Where the French grape has been cleaned up and clonally selected, Friulano hasn’t. Instead, Friulano carries distinctive, even funky aromatics that Stuckey compares to the “wild dog of agriculture.”
For all the funk Stuckey ascribes to his beloved grape, the Scarpetta version is a clean, refreshing offering of its wine–all lifted aromatics, rounded palate, and pleasing viscosity on a stimulating palate. (Truth is though, whatever funk Friulano may have, I’m simply a fan of the grape.)
The wine comes to us alongside Friuli’s Native food, Frico–a fried cheese dish bringing together dried firm cheese with a molten center of Montasio cheese. Last year during COF2012, a group trip to Friuli six of us were lucky enough to take, we ate Frico daily. Don’t hate me Italy, but Mackinnon-Patterson’s version is even better, all smooth, lush, pungent, and easy mixed with smoked ricotta and sprinkled with fresh green onion.
Tasting the Whites
Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson serving up his risotto
Over time, Scarpetta expanded its white focus stepping into International varieties that have become classics of Friuli in their own right, both giving a unique presentation in that region.
* Pinot Grigio
As Stuckey explains, Pinot Grigio, though often maligned, can give a sense of freshness, with seriousness and concentration. Stuckey tells us, Pinot Grigio properly understood is a vehicle for terroir. “It is that,” he says, “that makes it a noble grape.”
Mackinnon-Patterson comes out from the kitchen to serve his Risotto and builds on Stuckey’s idea by drawing a parallel between cooking food and making wine. For Frasca’s chef, cooking is all about layers of flavor made through treating the flavors with time. In listening to Mackinnon-Patterson explain the courses, while tasting the foods and the wine, what I find in common are delicate flavors with stamina and presence. Each course, like the wines, comes in lifted, dancey, and rich.
Stuckey considers the idea of Sauvignon Blanc in Friuli, there referred to as simply Sauvignon. In Stuckey’s view, Sauvignon is the secret weapon of the region. It is the Ponca, their calcium rich soil, combined with the marginal climate of the area that offers a unique opportunity for the grape to give a triology of fruits–orchard, citrus, and stone–layering the mouth in unexpected complexity. Such flavors alongside the great acidity indigenous to Friulian wines and Sauvignon gives something more than a simply refreshing white wine.
Turn to Barbera
Our meal finishes with a surprising turn (if you didn’t already know the Scarpetta portfolio), a red from Piedmont. Stuckey explains why they decided to focus on Barbera, their only wine from outside Friuli. In his view, the grape is the gateway wine to drinking Italian reds. For people used to French reds, Italians come with a lot more traction. For those drinking New World reds, the earthy flavors are often surprising. Barbera, on the other hand, offers a textural and flavoral connection to other Italian reds in a lighter, juicier, food friendly physique. This wine we drink with meat.
While Barbera is most commonly made in the Barbera d’ Alba DOC of Piedmont, there the grapes play second fiddle to their more popular neighbor Nebbiolo. In the Barbera del Monferrato DOC, however, Barbera is the focus with the vines being planted in high density, steep vineyards, and given the chance for old vine age.
Stuckey describes how he thinks of the grape’s characteristics. “This is what I think about Barbera,” he tells us. “It’s tangular. This grape is tangy, and angular. So we give it no new wood. It’s all about letting it be noble–a vehicle for terroir. That’s tangular.”
Stuckey invites us to enjoy the wines and food with one final comment. “Here’s what I want you to know,” he says. “When it comes to Scarpetta and Frasca, I would like to meet you on the corner of drinkable and thinkable.”
Thank you to Bobby Stuckey, Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson for the food, wine, good company, and invitation.