Posted by: tomciocco | June 22, 2008

THREE CONVERSATIONS WITH AN OLD FRIEND

Olde Schoole MontepulcianoMontepulciano d’Abruzzo is indeed an old friend. I remember it to be one of the very first Italian red wines I had ever tried that I could actually put a name to, and so it is for many others. Montepulciano is a reliable and versatile player. It’s not particularly difficult to cultivate, it yields robustly, and it effortly makes balanced, hearty, fruity wine. All of these traits make it one of THE best sources for cheap but better-than-decent jug wine. There are Abruzzese producers that work batteries of glinting, outdoor stainless steel vats bigger than your home, pumping out lakes of this cheerful chugging juice. You could do much worse than this sort of stuff for the same money…

And then there are wines like Barone Cornacchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vigna Le Coste” 2001, i.e. those that express the variety’s higher ambitions.  This is not to say that Barone Cornacchia doesn’t also make  good “tumbler wine” too – most Montepulciano producers do – just that this wine is what I consider to be one of the best traditionally-styled Montepulcianos that don’t cost BIG bucks. I you want to read more about the Cornacchias, click here.

I’ve been drinking this particular bottling since the early 1990s, and like many old friends, it’s not always around, and we’ve lost touch at stretches, but we always seem to reconnect and talk as freely as if it weren’t really a year, but just a week ago that we had last spoken. It’s a great thing to hear that old familiar voice telling new stories…

So what initially prompted all of this is – shockingly – we drank a bottle of this wine the other night. I have a notebook (best one I’ve ever had too –  go here. Click on “General Catalog”, then “Notebooks and pads”, then “Leather Look Pads”) into which I nearly illegibly scrawl tasting notes, and in doing so for this wine, it occurred to me that I had reviewed it at least once before…As it turned out, I found TWO previous reviews of the wine (same vintage too), and ALL THREE were dated as well (now THIS is shocking – I should do it more, but most of notes I write are not dated – must rectify…) and here we are!

So here are the transcripts of three such chats with this old friend. Certain “topics” come up in one, and not in another. My mood, its mood, the weather, the other folks at the table (or lack thereof), and the fare on the plates on the stained tablecloths on that same table, have all contributed some things that were expected of them, and some that were not with regard to the understanding of this wine, and that’s a great thing indeed. We change, the wine changes, and we “discuss”.  Too many critics want to make drinking and writing about wine something that it decidedly IS NOT, and that is some sort of “science” or investigation. Just like life itself, “science” or a method, or whatever, applied to a deeper appreciation of wine, is just one factor in really understanding your interlocutor, and in my opinion, a surplus of codification is too often the work the critical drinker to regulate something that is fundamentally HIGHLY quixotic. It’s something more akin to a taped interrogation than any real give and take. 

Azienda Agricola Barone Cornacchia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo “Vigna Le Coste” 2001 

 

March 20, 2006

Nearly opaque purple/garnet color with violet at the rim. Nose of minerals, spice, plums, lilac, and chocolate. The body is polished, dense, and chewy – supple but structured. It shows vinous flavors with hints of prune. Finishes with fine but grippy tannins.

April 20, 2008

Very opaque deep violet/black color. Heady nose of licorice, stewed plums, damp black earth, and mushrooms. The palate is medium-full and juicy and shows a refined minerality with a nice acid/tannin balance with complex layers of coffee, black raspberry, and tea. A “natural” wine that is both rustic and elegant.

June 13, 2008

Sultry violet/deep garnet color. Nose of scorched earth, plums, spice, soy sauce, wet stones, dried roses, and TRUE barnyard odors: chicken manure, et al. The mouth-feel is supple but well structured and a bit “brooding” with flavors of pomegranate, cracked pepper, prune and black raspberry, licorice, and black cherry.

TOM CIOCCO

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