Charles Scicolone was recently asked to participate in a New York Times tasting panel where he and other participants rated twenty-five bottlings of Pinot Grigio.
“Pinot Grigio is often misunderstood,” said Charles, “and so I was glad that the Times is taking it seriously and honored to be part of the tasting panel.”
Times food columnist Florence Fabricant and wine writer Eric Asimov also participated in the tasting.
As Eric points out in his piece, Pinot Grigio can be a wonderfully approachable and affordable wine, great for summer months when we all crave refreshing, bright white wines that pair well with spicier foods.
Charles and the Vino staff have hand-selected the following three bottlings of Friulian Pinot Grigio (each of which is available on our new e-commerce site):
Charles’ Birthday Wines
In other news, Charles is celebrating his birthday this week by pouring five of his favorite wines at this week’s wine tastings (Thursday and Friday, 5:30-7:30).
Don’t miss this opportunity to sample his selections and discuss them with him.
For descriptions of the wines and Charles’ weekly Wine Opinion, please see below.
Remember: the tastings are free.
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Tasting: Celebrate Charles’s Birthday
This Thursday and Friday, August 24-25, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
The tiny Verduno or Verduno Pelaverga appellation is perhaps Italy’s smallest: the wine is made from the rare Pelaverga grape exclusively in the hamlet of Verduno. Spicy and aromatic, locals believe that this excellent food-pairing possesses aphrodisiacal properties, hence the name Basadone or baciadonne in Italian, the “lady kisser.”
The Ezio Voyat winery is one of Italy’s most respected winemakers and its wines reflect the elegant winemaking tradition of the township Chambave in the Valle d’Aosta (where French and Italian are spoken). His Le Muraglie, named after the muraglie or medieval walls of Chambave, is a blend of Petit Rouge, Dolcetto, and Gros Wein, grape varieties central to the valdostana blending style. This wine pairs well with the classic wintery dishes of the region (fondues and venison, for example) but has a lightness and bright acidity that marry with a variety of cuisines.
The Ghemme appellation is found in the province of Novara just east to its more celebrated cousins Barolo and Barbaresco. Although lesser known than those famously long-lived wines, Ghemme (also made from 100% Nebbiolo grapes) shows remarkable aging potential. As in the Langhe (where Barolo and Barbaresco are made), cooler temperatures combined with mild weather made 1996 one of the greatest vintages of the last century.Carella is one of Ghemme’s historic crus. The name comes from the ancient Latin carellaedunum, literally “wagon heights” (hence the name Collis Carellae in late Latin or “wagon hill”). Excavations near the vineyards have revealed artifacts dating to the Neolithic era, a testament to pre-Roman civilization there.
Charles often cites Mastroberardino as one of his favorite wineries. As he has noted in previous installments of his wine opinion, Mastroberardino’s Taurasi has remarkable aging potential and while this 1995 is drinking very well right now, it still has many years ahead of it. The Taurasi appellation was practically invented by Mastroberardino, who has been making wine in Campania since the sixteenth-century. Taurasi is made from 100% Aglianico grapes sourced from the estate’s top vineyards. In the 1990s, the winery began producing the wine with the Radici or “roots” label, a homage to this winemaker’s belief that a traditional approach (long maceration and no barrique) makes for wines that will age gracefully. The 1995 harvest was a fantastic vintage for the appellation.
This Vecchia Annata or “old vintage” bottling by Villa di Vetrice is barrel-aged in large oak botti before its release. The Grati family used to sell the wine only locally until Vino’s wine director Charles Scicolone and Nicola Marzovilla tasted it at the winery during a now legendary luncheon of bistecca fiorentina (Tuscan porterhouse steak) served with green sauce (a heated debate ensued as to whether green sauce is the appropriate accompaniment). Wine ages best in large vessels: the secret behind this wine’s longevity is the large-barrel aging. This 100% Sangiovese (essentially a declassified Chianti Rufina) is rich on the nose and remarkably fresh in the mouth. If you like old wine, this juice will not disappoint you.
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Wine Opinion: De Gustibus Disputandam… Est!
There’s an old saying in the wine trade: “if a wine scores 89, it will not sell. If it scores 90, you can’t keep it in stock.” This system, known as the “100 Point System,” may or may not have been invented by Robert Parker. Today, in almost every American publication, the 100 Point system seems to be the only the way to rate wines. In my opinion, this is a system that is easy to understand. If you give a wine an A, B, or a C, or if you give it 3, 2, or 1 glasses or grape bunches, there is plenty of leeway. For example, an A could be anywhere from 90 to 100. And just what is a glass anyway? But who can argue with a wine that gets 100 points?
At Vino, we do not have a point system. Even some publications that use the 100 Point system admit that it has many faults. But it is so popular that they consider it a necessary element for the success of their magazines. There is one publication that uses the system but also puts out one issue each year where no wines are judged using numerical ratings. It’s not surprising that issue sells the fewest copies each year.
I feel that to rate a wine in this way does not really express anything about the wine, how the wine tastes, or whether or not you will like the wine. Is the 100 points given because this is a wine that deserves 100 points above all other wines? Or because it is the best wine of its type? Descriptions about a wine are much better because they at least give you some idea of what the wine may taste like. But remember: all of this is very, very subjective.
Thursday, August 24, is my birthday and I am picking five wines that we will taste that evening and if there is any left, I will take it home and drink it for dinner. These wines are all made in a traditional style, which expresses the terroir and the grape and they are all very good food wines.
When you taste these wines, and I tell you about them, I will not say that this wine got an A or a B or that this wine is a 90 point wine or a 100 point wine. I selected these wines because I appreciate them and there is no way that I could possibly give these wines a numerical rating. Drinking wine should be pleasurable. You should drink what you like. Unfortunately, the only way to is to taste the wine and to make up your own mind. That does not mean that you should not read these publications. Pay attention to the their descriptions of the wine. Find a publication where the people who are evaluating the wines seem to have the same palate as you. Get to understand what kind of wines these evaluators like or choose.
The Latins used to say de gustibus non est disputandum. In other words, one should not discuss or dispute others’ tastes. In Sicily, they have a similar expression, a ciascuno il suo, or “to each his own.” I feel that in polite company, this is a good rule of thumb to go by. But when it comes to tasting wine, I believe the exact opposite is true: we should discuss our taste and our palate. The greatest part of drinking wine is sharing that subjective experience. In other words, the greatest pleasure comes from eating, drinking, and discussing together. Therefore, I say, de gustibus disputeanum est!
On August 24, Mt. Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the bustling city of Pompeii. This happened in 79 A.D. I was born on August 24 but I’m not quite that old. Please join me this Thursday and Friday to taste some of my favorite wines.
–Charles Scicolone, Wine Director, I Trulli and Vino