‘Tis the season… to be running from wine exhibit to anteprima to wine fair. Whether you are a producer or a taster, February kicks off the new vintages and it’s hard to keep up!
A new addition to the Calendar is Wine and Siena: Masterpieces of Taste (the subtitle is new too!), a 4-year old event run by The Wine Hunter, Helmut Köcher of Merano Wine Festival. The Wine Hunter’s slogan is ‘Excellence is an Attitude’ and I’d have to say at this point that WH’s subtitles are even more important than the titles.
Why do we attend events like this? To discover new wines, to renew old contacts, to see old friends, to make new ones. This event was all of that and more. Set in the context of Santa Maria della Scala, the medieval hospital replete with frescoes, we sipped and nibbled the Masterpieces of Taste while surrounded by masterpieces of art.
Despite this new location for the event, which brings together all the wines, stands, and nibble stations under one roof, I preferred the old set-up with people traipsing about the medieval town of Siena, going from one tasting location to another. It made the city come alive with the sound of glasses toasting! Surely this is easier, but somehow a little of the charm is lost, that ‘we have invaded the city and taken it over with wine’ feeling, running into happy tasters along the narrow cobbled lanes of Siena. No doubt about it though, the backdrop is stunning.
In addition to tastings, like the spacious hall (above left), there were also some conferences, like the one about food and wine tourism in Italy (above right).
But the real work is done here, at the stands, talking with wine makers and wine sellers, and hearing their stories.
What draws you to a stand? Is it a label? A terroir? A person’s glance or smile? All of the above?
Since the Tuscan anteprimas are all coming up, I tried to give myself greater geographic diversity, but it was a challenge. Starting from the top, I tried the marvelous whites of Eisacktaler Kellerei, from the Grüner Veltliner to the Sylvaner to the Kerner. Nothing like Alto Adige for that elegant note. Passing then to the south, we sipped some Tintilia del Molise, a region that has yet to emerge in the wine world. The only winery representing the region here is called Terresacre, or holy lands. Clearly worth a visit! And a fun Tuscan encounter with the winery Tenuta di Arceno had me speaking Italian with a paisà, a fellow New Yorker transplanted in Italy, the winemaker for this Kendall Jackson-owned estate. (Photos in order from left to right.)
But the fun part is meeting people, sipping the new vintages, talking. Two such meetings happened here.
Mauro and Beatrice of Castello Monterinaldi proudly described their philosophy and their wines – the kind of conversation that makes you say ‘I’ve got to go see that place!’ And isn’t that the point?
And to finish off the day, a lovely chat with Emilio Mancini from Caiarossa, one of my favorite delicious Bolgheri wines.
From start to finish, it is all about the people who make the wines and the wineries great, the people who organize and attend, who talk and sip and recount and enjoy.
Cin-cin amici miei!