Hello from Verona, Italy

This week finds the wine team in “fair Verona,” wandering its maze of cobbled streets to find the best wines in Italy.

In the streets of Verona

No sooner had we arrived than we headed out to meet Diego, our resident wine explorer, at a small wine bar called the Bottega del Vino.

Inside Bottega del Vino

Set in a narrow alleyway, the bar itself is far too small to accommodate its own popularity. The crowd of fashionable Italians and in-the-know foreigners spills out into the alleyway, where the waiters set pristine white table clothes over trash cans. Of course, we have people wining and dining out by our trash cans in Baltimore too. But they are never quite as well dressed.

Outside Bottega del Vino

The highlight of Bottega del Vino was a red wine, previously unknown to us, called Schioppettino, which has one of the most unusual (and delightful) noses we have ever sniffed. The grape is virtually non-existent outside of Italy, and even rare within it (so rare, in fact, the entire varietal nearly went extinct in the 1970s). Stick your nose into a glass of schioppettino and you’ll immediately wonder if someone sprinkled fresh ground pepper on your wine while you weren’t looking. The pepper comes with a touch of charred wood, almost similar to the scent of mezcal, tequila’s smokey cousin. On the palate, however, schioppettino reveals a nice balance that is neither overly spicy, nor acidic.

After several glasses, and a brief moment of horror looking at the bill (which revealed that we have been sipping on $35 glasses of wine), we wandered over to a small eatery to fortify ourselves with wild boar ragú and tortellini.

The next day began a week-long marathon of meetings and wine tastings. The trick to not losing all sense of taste as tannins blast your mouth for hours on end, according to our importer Barry, is to drink a Coca Cola at lunch. The sugar and fizz cleanse and revive your taste buds. Follow it up with some water and right back to tasting you go.

We already have some excellent sources for your Italian collection – for example, a fourth-generation winery run by a father and his three daughters who speak an old Piedmontese dialect that’s actually closer to French than Italian and who make a delicious Barolo (in “grandfather’s style” as the daughters say).

We’ll fill you in on the rest of the trip next week.

Re: the Torrontés we asked you about in our last mailing. Thank you for taking the time to respond. Right now, we’re trying to see if the right deal (for the right price) can even be struck – a fast-paced business environment is not what Argentina is known for. We’ll keep you in the loop. 

Oh, and your collections of Argentine wine began going out on Monday… Remember that someone 21 years or older will need to sign for them. Enjoy and let us know what you think!

Ciao!