The Modern South

This Thursday and Friday, September 7-8, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Chardonnay 2004 Planeta

Planeta’s 100% Chardonnay put the winery on the map when it was first released in 1994. Fermented in small French-oak barrels, this wine showed that Sicilia offered an ideal environment for the production of modern-style Chardonnay: great weather and lots of sun. Today, Planeta and its Chardonnay continue to lead the Southern Italian wine revolution, producing approachable, fruit-driven wines that the winery offers to modern-style lovers at a reasonable price point.

Merlot 2003 Planeta

Another ground-breaking wine from Planeta, this Merlot is blended with small amounts of Petit Verdot and spends twelve months in barrique before being released.

Ceuso 2001 Ceuso

If there ever were a “Super Sicilian” wine, this is it: 50% Nero d’Avola (Sicilia’s most noble grape) blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A Bordeaux-style wine vinified and blended in the same tradition as the Super Tuscans that preceded it.

Nero 2002 Conti Zecca

Sourced from top growing areas in Leverano and Salice Salentino, Conti Zecca’s Rosso del Salento is a blend of Negroamaro with smaller quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon. Negroamaro is one of the region’s most ancient red grapes. Some believe its name to mean “black bitter” (from the Italian negro and amaro) but others believe that it means “black black” from the Italian negro and the Greek maurus for black, perhaps a reference to its dark color. Although Cabernet Sauvignon has been cultivated in Puglia for more than two centuries, innovative producers like Conti Zecca have just begun to experiment with modern-style blends like this one. Their Nero has been one of the first Super Pugliese wine to emerge on the scene, receiving great praise on both sides of the Atlantic.

Naima 2003 De Conciliis

De Conciliis’ Naima is a 100% Aglianico made grapes grown in Cilento (in Campania). The wine under goes temperature-controlled fermentation in small French-oak barrels. The result is a gorgeously modern expression of Aglianico. The wine takes its name from the famous composition by jazz musician John Coltrane, a reflection of the family’s interest in jazz and their desire to push the envelope of winemaking tradition.

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Wine Opinion: I’d Rather Eat This Old Hat

A few days ago, someone told me that I was “old hat.” This said person said this to me because he didn’t agree with my position on wine and only drinking wine with food. I thought about it for a while and decided that they were right. I am old hat. By this, I mean that I like my wine in the traditional style, that is to say, made in the winery, not in the laboratory with machines that torture the poor grapes, and that wine should never be served without food.

Wine is made to go with food. I never drink wine anywhere unless it’s accompanied by food. Recently, someone wrote, in one of the more trendy wine magazines, that we must break the tyranny of food and wine. It makes you wonder: is this a joke or a trick question? Wine belongs with food and food belongs with wine and it has been this way for the last 3,000 years. In my opinion, give me wine made in the traditional style, not those that are meant to be drunk on their own. Those wines are meant to be drunk on their own because they are too big, juicy, and concentrated to be drunk with food. Wines that are too alcoholic, too jammy, and taste more like Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia than wine, are not for me.

I’ve also been told that I am old hat because I insist that my stemware have a stem. My wine glass must be made of glass (or crystal) and it must have a stem. There are wine glasses that look more like they would be fit for Bourbon or Scotch than for wine. These glasses are a problem because you get your fingerprints all over them and the heat from your hand warms up the wine. In Britain they call wines that are drunk from these glasses, “stand-up wines,” in other words, wines you drink standing up without food.

I’ve also been told that I am old hat because I drink my wine sitting down and my caffe’ standing up. One of the great things about the Italian bar is that when you go there in the morning, you stand at the counter, you chat with the barista, and you drink your morning caffe’ or cappuccino standing up as you enjoy a brioche. Italians never drink cappuccino after 11 a.m. They do not refer to their coffee as espresso… they call it caffe’ (kahf-FEH). Call me old hat but never ask an Italian for lemon peel to put in your coffee. The concept does not exist in Italy. And they do not serve coffee in styrofoam cups.

I, for one, refuse to drink my caffe’ from plastic or styrofoam. If it’s not in a ceramic cup, I will not drink it. In Italy, a few months ago, we were with a woman who came out of an Italian bar and was almost hysterical. She could not believe that they would not give her coffee in a large styrofoam cup filled with ice, with a straw, that she could drink as she walked down the street. “What is wrong with this people?,” she said. “They are so backward!”

On our recent trip to Italy, I was reminded of why serving food with wine is so dear to my heart. Michele and I were in Sicilia and we ordered a bottle of spumante. The waiter brought the bottle and along with it fresh Sicilian olives and tramezzini, small crustless sandwiches made with hard-boiled eggs and Sicilian tuna and caper, fresh marinated anchovies and mozzarella, and the standard potato chips, pretzels, and peanuts. Italians do not drink wine without food. This is something that they don’t even think about. In the long run, and in the short one, too, I am just someone who, when they see a bottle of wine, wants someone to say, this is your grandfather’s wine and thank goodness for that.
–Charles Scicolone, Wine Director, I Trulli and Vino

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