“The Waiting Game: Age-worthy
Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano”
Kevin Zraly hosted a very well attended seminar at the Hilton New York, on February 8, as part of the 2011 Italian Wine Masters. The annual event brings many great Tuscan producers, along with DOCG Prosecco to New York. This year Zraly was on hand to present two seminars: the morning focused on the Tuscan wines, and a later one on bubbly from the Veneto.
He is a well known wine educator, with instant name recognition. I thought it would be a great opportunity to see him in action and experience some mature Tuscan powerhouses. I’d been waitlisted for the seminar, so I arrived early to make sure I got a seat if there were no shows, and my anticipation was great. From what I experienced, he has a big personality and clearly loves to be “on”, but I think he underserved his audience, spending a lot of time going over basics.
For example, he explained how we should look at the color, smell, and taste. We were being lectured on a fundamental level. When someone smelled a sample or got ahead of his pace with the pourings, he chastised them. If this was a Master Class, there was no need to spend what seemed like 10 minutes, with later repetition and hand gestures, that Sangiovese is the main grape and that Tuscany is the region these wines were from. Though entertaining and certainly energetic, I don’t think he adequately addressed the audience in front of him or respected their prior knowledge.
We were, after all, in the trade and presumably had a foundation from which to work. From the title of the seminar, I expected a more in depth analysis of the regions and the wine making approaches that made them unique and “age worthy.” What we heard, it seems to me, was more of a consumer presentation. Not that it wasn’t entertaining, up to a point. We also heard from the heads of the three regional Consorzios, whose information I thought was more interesting, especially (at least to me) of how the Black Rooster became the symbol of Chianti Classico. I thought these experts were underutilized. Perhaps a moderated discussion would have been better.
Considering the access he had (a week in Tuscany, with all cellars open to tasting, he proudly proclaimed), I don’t think he shared with us as much as he could have, at least from an informational standpoint. The wines gave plenty of information, however. He had selected, and brought a dozen samples of wines he liked for us to try, and I’m not critical of the choices. In each DOCG category there were three newer releases, and one much older vintage, enabling us to see how the patina of age had softened the wines. The only problem here was that there was no younger version of those specific older wines to contrast with. I think at least one of each of the newer releases should have been from the same producer as the older wines. Showing us age “worthy-ness” with a mini vertical tasting would have been more appropriate. If they were not available then it would be understandable, but if he had the access he described, this was surely not a problem, rather his selection criteria for the titled seminar.
The four flights poured (without notes for this blog) in order were:
La Madonnina, Riserva, 2007 Chianti Classico DOCG
Fontodi, Riserva “Vigna del Sorbo”, 2007 Chianti Classico DOCG
Castello di Ama, 2007 Chianti Classico DOCG
Salchetto, 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
La Braccesca-Marchesi Antinori, 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Poliziano, 2007 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Pinino, 2006 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Castelgiocondo, 2006 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Uccelliera, 2006 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
Principe Corsini-Fattoria Le Corti Riserva Don Tommaso, 1999 (1.5 L) Chianti Classico
Dei, Riserva, 1999 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG
Col D’Orcia, 1991 Brunello di Montalcino DOCG
All the wines showed nicely and were fine examples of type. The concluding flight was a genuine delight. Perhaps a more fitting title for the seminar would have been: “A Tour of Sangiovese from Brunello di Montalcino, Chianti Classico and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.” Maybe this is not as flashy as advertised, but truer to the presentation. With all this said, it was still worthwhile to have attended for the wines poured, even though the educational portion could have been better.