Just Where Did The Lie Start?
Saturday, December 5, 2015
I know that you must find this a seriously weird title to have for an article, but as you read, it makes perfect sense.
The other day I was in Little Italy (NY) to attend the funeral of my buddy John “Cha Cha” Ciarcia, and while there our mutual friend Bill took me into another wine store to check out (when I was up for the mass and the Festival of San Gennaro he took me into another wine store up there). This one was Enoteca Di Palo, which is an extension of the famed Di Palo’s Fine Foods. Going into the store, I perused a nice collection of wines, including several different Sagrantino di Montefalco wines and asked about some other wines, including a Recioto [della Valpolicella].
Recioto is essentially what Amarone used to taste like way back in the day; there are several stories about how the current taste of Amarone came to be, and I will not choose one over the other. It takes more grapes to make a 500ml bottle of Recioto as to make a 750ml bottle of Amarone; I would gather between 1.5 to 2 times the amount. If you want to taste happiness, sex and decadence all at the same time, get yourself some Recioto!
The price of the bottle was $90 to which I asked why it was so much, and I was given this story that the grapes are dried for one year instead of the normal four to six months. Now, myself being more than a fan of Italian wine, and being a rabid fan of Amarone and Recioto found this kind of fishy. However, as I was there to celebrate the life of a friend, I was going to purchase the same bottle that he purchased when he returned from Italy. You see, I am African American, and there are a ton of people in the industry/business -- buying, producing, selling, and/or serving – who tend to assume that I couldn’t really know much about wine. When I first met Cha Cha, I knew that he was suspicious if not doubtful to this, but when I shared a lovely bottle of Speri Recioto with him, Monsignor Russo and Bill, our friendship and respect were established. When Cha Cha got back to New York, he purchased the same bottle and was waiting for a good moment to enjoy it. The second time I saw Cha Cha, it was when I invited him to a tasting of wines from Vias Imports, and he not only got to experience several other Recioto wines, but some other special Italian wines that most people never even hear about in their lifetimes.
As I was looking at other wines they had, the attendant and I different on the correct pronunciation of a certain grape, but it really didn’t matter. In the end, I purchased the Recioto because I would consume it with thoughts of my friend. When I went into Di Palo’s to get some cured meat, I told the owner that I had brought the Recioto and some Grappa from his wine store, but I also added that the price was too high. He then went into the tale about how this wine was different and that it’s grapes were dried for a year, versus the standard timeframe. Then he decided to try to give me a lecture on Passito (sweet) wines from Italy. I found this both offensive and hilarious, because he had no idea of what I know and what I have experienced.
As I returned home, I located the producer and emailed them in regards to this wine, because the website said one thing, but the seller said quite another. They confirmed that it was just six months and then I asked them the export price to which I was able to ascertain that these guys were selling the wine somewhere in the vicinity of twenty to thirty dollars too much. I did wind up emailing the store, along with the spec sheet from the winery and telling them about my experience in their store.
But the question still goes back to where did the lie about this wine originate?
See, having seen the inside of the industry, I know that people will tell tall tales about wines in order to get people to buy them. They will lie about the quality of the wine, the amount that is produced, whether the wine is still drinkable and even the story behind the wine itself. If they think you know nothing about wine, they will promote some swill to you or try to keep you a constant consumer of some pedestrian crap. I have seen producers who lie, importers who lie, distributors who lie, and retail stores as well as bars and restaurants who lie. Hell, there is even counterfeit wine!
In this case, the question comes out to who is the person who lied? With the wine’s specs readily available, putting it on the importer seems very iffy. This means that it falls on the seller, but I don’t want to instantly place the blame on them. For anyone familiar with passito wines, the concept that grapes were dried for a year seems very ludicrous indeed. But when the lie is sensed, it makes me feel wary about the seller.
The wine was good, but it was not better than the Recioto produced by Speri; winemaker Luca Speri knows that I think that it’s the tops and was stunned to see me sitting at the back of the room during an exclusive vertical tasting of Amarone at the Italian Embassy in D.C. He just met me in Italy earlier in the year and as he turned around to talk, he’s wondering if it was truly me.
And you never know who you’re truly dealing with, as the person you’re telling this story to might actually know more about the wine, or style of wine, than you.
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