Remembering Giorgio Bocca: Bartolo, pop open a bottle!

Photo via Il Journal.

He was allergic to any form of rhetoric and he was truly un-Italian in his respect: Italian journalist, partisan, and essayist Giorgio Bocca, 91 years old, died in Milan on Sunday. He deserves to be remembered with a dry eye and not without a touch of irony.

For this reason, I’ve decided to remember this surly, free-thinking, independent man from Piedmont not as a maestro of Italian journalism (which he was, indisputably, regardless of your political leanings) but rather as the great (and demanding) connoisseur of wine whom I had the pleasure to interview twice in his home on Via Bagutta in Milan.

One wine, above all others, was often cited in his books: Barolo, a wine for which he reserved great passion, a wine he drank only when produced by a few carefully selected and trusted producers.

And so, as I think of how Bocca has left us, it’s only natural to evoke the name of another great man from Langa, whose dry, ironic personality was intimately familiar to Bocca. When ever the writer was in the area, he’d go visit this man and they had much more in common than their love of wine: they shared a keen interest in culture, politics, and, of course, in Barolo.

I’m thinking of Bartolo Mascarello, an indisputable leftist like Giorgio Bocca, leftist but not sectarian, enlightened and enlightening, rigorous in his being in favor or against something or someone but not intolerant, perhaps not open to dialog with those whose ideas he opposed but always willing to listen.

And so as I reflect on this goodbye to the great journalist from Cuneo, Giorgio Bocca, I’d like to think that somewhere — in some corner of the imagination, I don’t know where — Bartolo Mascarello is waiting for Giorgio. He’s sporting one of his ironic, amused smiles and of course, he’s speaking in the noble dialect of Langa. He’s opening a buta — a bottle — of a special wine intended to welcome Giorgio to this truly special parlor…

Bartolo, pop open a buta! Giorgio is here!

—Franco Ziliani

The following profile appeared yesterday on the English-language version of the ANSA website.

(AGI) Milan – Giorgio Bocca died on Christmas day in Milan at 91 years of age. He had been a wartime partisan, journalist, founder of the newspaper ‘La Repubblica’ and a long-time collaborator of the Fininvest TV networks. News of his death was released by Feltrinelli, a publishing company who published several of his books and that recalled him as “a great journalist, a great combatant and a great friend”. “Since the partisan war of resistance up to these last few days of the Italian and global crisis – the publishing company continues in a note – he witnessed, observed and told the history of our Country through seven decades. Giorgio Bocca’s enquiries, short polemic articles and books have accompanied and nourished the building of civil society through many generations of Italians”. In January, Feltrinelli will pubish his latest book: ‘Grazie no, 7 idee che non dobbiamo piu’ accettare’ (‘No, thanks: 7 ideas we can no longer accept’). In the past, in addition to his journalistic activities, Bocca – who was born in Cuneo on the 28th of August 1920 – wrote several essays and his having fought with the “Giustizia e Liberta'” Partisan division often led him to tackle the issue of fascism and resistance although he also wrote books on terrorism during the ’70s, on journalism and on the problems of the South of Italy.

During the last few months, some of his comments on the ‘Meridione’ had placed him at the center of controversy after he defined Naples as ‘flea-bag’ with ‘unhealable areas’ or Palermo as a city “stinking rotten, with monstruous people gushing out of slums”. A skilled polemicist, during the last few years, he had often delved into the condition of journalism in Italy: in 2008, in an interview on the ‘Le invasioni barbariche’ TV show, he said that while the journalists of his generation “were driven by ethics” today “truth is no longer of interest” and “publishers are always on the payroll of advertisers”. Among the last recognitions awarded to him was the 2008 Ilaria Alpi Prize for his Life-Long Achievements: “All those that go into journalism do so because they hope they might reveal the truth: even if it’s difficult, I call on them and encourage them to continue along this road”.

Tasting Note: Biondi Santi 2008 Rosato di Toscana

When my fifty-fifth birthday arrived this year, I didn’t reach for a powerful red, nor an elegant Champagne, nor a juicy Franciacorta. No, I drank a stunning rosé on my birthday, perhaps the most important and most celebrated of all the Italian rosés (and probably the most expensive, since more than one online wine store offer it at Euro 33). I’m talking about the Rosato di Toscano, 100% Sangiovese, created by the Gentleman of Brunello, Franco Biondi Santi on his Tenuta del Greppo estate in Montalcino.

On another occasion, I wrote the following about this wine: It is the youngest child of the Greppo estate, a wine obtain by vinifying estate-grown Sangiovese at 16-18° C. without skin contact, aged for 18 months in stainless steel. We could call it a youthful Sangiovese, a quasi Brunello… in pink, obtained from young vines roughly 5 to 10 years in age. The vineyards are located in zones rich with stony subsoil and galestro [schist], with exposition to the North-East, South, and North, and elevation ranging from 250-500 meters.

I drank the 2008 Rosato di Toscana by the great Franco Biondi Santi with a simple however delicious, everyday dish: exquisite beef meatballs braised in tomato sauce and paired with green beans that had been sautéed with bread crumbs. We’re talking about enthusiasm cubed here: a truly extraordinary rosé in every sense.

Light cherry in color, jus of squab with an orange hue. Dry and direct on the nose, very salty and focusedd, dominated by red cherry followed by a gradual evolution of citrus ranging from pink grapefruit to mandarin oranges and citron. Then came notes of multi-colored Mediterranean maquis, tomato leaf, flint, and hints of rose. Together, they created a weave of color and mosaic of aroma.

Ample in the mouth, juicy, overflowing with personality and refined, ample layers of texture. Well structured on the palate, with vertical depth, endowed with focus, an absolute release of magnificent vitality and complexity.

A stony, salty wine, with perfect balance of fruit, acidity, and tannin (the magnificent tannin of Sangiovese from Montalcino). Great harmony, extreme polish, aristocratic elegance, and absolute drinkability despite the 13.5% alcohol and richness of this highly enjoyable Rosato di Toscana.

It would be suited to a wide variety of dishes, from Caciucco alla Livornese to fish soup, to baby octopus cooked in red wine to braised calamari with peas. But it also could be paired with a roast beef, braised beef, or even veal… and even a well-stocked pizza. Why not?

The greatest of Italian rosés and one of the greatest rosés in the world, including France. Chapeau bas!

—Franco Ziliani

DOCs & DOCGs Are Meaningless if Everyone Has One

Alfonso Cevola has posted an updated list of current DOCGs on his blog here.

Some very instructive news has come to my attention via the website Cronache di Gusto by Fabrizio Carrera who writes from Palermo.

As you can read here in a press release posted on the ministry’s website, I have discovered that Italy’s new agricultural minister, Saverio Romano, who is also from Sicily, and the National Wine Committee are doing “particularly splendid job during a period that has seen the prestige and value of our wines grow in the world. I’ve also learned that the ministry has approved yet another wave of new and useless DOCs and DOCGs, issued by the committee when it met on September 14 and 15.

According to the statement, the committee deliberated and approved “17 requests for accreditations and modifications for DOCG, DOC, and IGT appellation regulations in a variety of Italian regions. It has completed its operational program as established at the beginning of its mandate, complying with its institutional function with a concrete impact on the wine industry, a sector with major importance for the economy and culture of the country [Italy].”

In another press release issued by Fedagri-Confcooperative (the Italian confederation of farmers and farming cooperatives), “with these deliberations, the National Wine Committee has fulfilled its two-year task of reviewing and approving nearly 300 applications to change existing DOs [Protected Designations of Origin] and the accreditation of new IGTs, DOCs, and DOCGs.”

“An impressive accomplishment,” added the body’s president Maurizio Gardini, “under the able direction of [the committee's] president Giuseppe Martelli.”

And so we can rest assured that no one has been denied a DOC or DOCG. Indeed, they have been handed out by the kilo, according to the “logic” (if it can be defined as such) that everyone is entitled to these designations. And its all thanks to the inestimable leader of Italian enology Giuseppe Martelli and Italy’s new agriculture minister, Saverio Romano, leader of the Populars of Italy Tomorrow party, who is currently under investigation for mafia association and corruption.

—Franco Ziliani

Franco Biondi Santi expresses opposition to proposed changes in Montalcino

“Three years ago I was in favor of the addition of softening wines or grapes to Sangiovese for Rosso di Montalcino,” said Biondi Santi in a phone interview today with VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani, who quotes the signore del Brunello on his blog Vino al Vino. “Today, things have changed and my position is no to any change to the appellation.”

Currently proposed changes would allow producers to blend grapes other than Sangiovese into their Rosso di Montalcino. The changes, he noted, would allow producers to transform 500 hectares of unsellable Sant’Antimo and IGT Toscana into Rosso di Montalcino.

“We would enter into the same thicket as 1966,” said Biondi Santi, “when the appellation ‘Vino Rosso dai Vigneti di Brunello’ was created.” [editor's note: this appellation was changed to Rosso di Montalcino fifteen years later] “In the fall of 1966, Montalcino was obligated to found the Brunello Consortium, which became operative on January 1, 1967, with my father. After three months of negotiations with other producers, we decided not to enter the consortium because we strongly disapproved of how it was taking advantage of an equivocation at the time: the grape variety was also called Brunello and it was considered a subvariety of Sangiovese! Therefore, a no is indispensable in order to clarify.”

Giacosa ends historic relationship with Wine Bow

Source: Drinks Media Wire.

NAPA, Calif. – Folio Fine Wine Partners, a Michael Mondavi family-owned company that represents specially selected wines from the great winegrowing regions of the world, announced today that it will be the new United States importer for the critically acclaimed Italian wine producer, Bruno Giacosa, effective January 1, 2012.

“We are honored to represent the Giacosa wines in the U.S. and look forward to working with the Giacosa family for years to come,” said Michael Mondavi, founder, Folio Fine Wine Partners. “They truly are one of the best producers in Italy—and the world—and their wines will be a wonderful addition to our portfolio, which includes other top winemaking families from around the world.”

“We are confident that Michael, his family and the Folio team will be able to take our business to the next level in the U.S.,” said Bruna Giacosa. “We have always respected the Mondavi family and believe they bring a unique perspective to our business, as an importer and a producer. Folio is a young and dynamic company but the collective industry experience of their team is deep.”

Bruno Giacosa was born in 1929 in Neive, the village where the Giacosa winery is located. He learned how to make the great wines of Piedmont—Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto and Barbera—at an early age from his father and grandfather. Since the 1960s, he has been recognized as a leading winemaker in the region and the Giacosa wines are often lauded by critics as some of the finest examples of the classic Piedmont varietals.

Today, the family legacy continues with his daughter, Bruna Giacosa. Bruna, who has worked by her father’s side since she was a student, oversees the management of the family business.

Beginning in January 2012, Folio Fine Wine Partners will import the following Giacosa wines: Barbaresco Asili DOCG, Barbaresco Asili Riserva DOCG, Barbaresco DOCG, Barbaresco Santo Stefano DOCG, Barbera d’Alba DOC, Barbera d’Alba Falletto DOC, Barolo DOCG, Barolo Falletto DOCG, Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto DOCG, Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva DOCG, Dolcetto d’Alba DOC, Dolcetto d’Alba Falletto DOC, Dolcetto d’Alba Sorano DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC, Nebbiolo d’Alba Valmaggiore DOC, Roero Arneis DOCG, Spumante Extra Brut, Spumante Extra Brut Rose.

Folio Fine Wine Partners was founded in 2004 by Michael Mondavi and his wife, Isabel, with their children, Dina and Rob, who oversees winegrowing operations for the company. Folio is an importer, fine wine agency and producer of quality wines from the world’s premiere and emerging wine regions. Folio provides sales, marketing and public relations services to wine brands from California, Argentina, Italy, Austria, Germany and Spain.

The Giacosa family has been making wine in the Langhe region of Piedmont for three generations. The Giacosa property covers 37 acres that are entirely cultivated to vines. The altitude of the estate, its south/south-west exposure, and the microclimate combine to create optimal winegrowing conditions. Giacosa makes wine using estate-grown fruit under the “Azienda Agricola Falletto di Bruno Giacosa” label, and wine from grapes purchased from growers that the family has worked with for more than 30 years under the “Casa Vinicola Bruna Giacosa” label. In the vineyards, yields are kept intentionally low (less than 2.5 tons per acre) to concentrate the flavors in the fruit. The winemaking methods employed are scrupulous and traditional without ignoring the benefits of modern techniques.

Francesco Illy asks Brunello consortium to postpone assembly

The editors of VinoWire have obtained a copy of Mastrojanni owner Francesco Illy’s letter to the president and council of the Brunello producers association. Translation by VinoWire.

Dear Mr. President and Council Members,

On August 21, a heat storm [spike] with strong winds and temperatures reaching 41° C. [106° F] struck Montalcino. Grapes that were ripening have been dried up in quantities that vary between 5-50% depending on the zone and the age of the vines.

This event will add difficult, prolonged work for producers and consortium members: we are currently harvesting and many of us are bottling. Regardless, this is the toughest time of the year and the heat damage makes it even more difficult. None of us have the time, energy, or desire to attend the meeting called by you for September 7, 2011.

Without even speculating on the reasons that lead you to call an Assembly when the greater part of those with the right to vote will be absent, I denounce your insistence on maintaining this date. Beyond the evident facts that I have listed here, it is weighty proof of your total lack of sensitivity to the interests of your producers and consortium members.

Therefore, in the name of my winery and in the name of all those who will endorse this letter, I ask that the Assembly of the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium scheduled for September 7, 2011, be changed to a later date to be determined because of the difficult conditions of the harvest.

Hoping that I have reawakened your dormant however duty-bound sensitivity, I thank you for your consideration and send you my regards.

—Francesco Illy