I try to avoid writing about wines that are flat out unavailable, especially if they’re a bit pricy. I’ll do obscure and esoteric all day, but someone writing about how a 1945 Chateau Lafite Rothschild made his eyes roll back in his head can make that someone seem like a teasing, gloating snob.
This is one of the cases where I make an exception. Edoardo Valentini was a living legend, and since his death in 2006, he has ascended to the mythological. As a longtime scholar of ancient winemaking techniques, Valentini claimed to have mentally assembled and assimilated the various schools of the ancients, and using just what materials and techniques would have been available to those ancient winemakers, improved upon their work. Valentini farmed a huge estate, 64 hecatres (158 acres) of which was under vine, but from which only the best 10% of the total harvest went into HIS wines (a Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo and a Cerasuolo (rose’) made from Montepulciano). The rest of the yield was sold off to other producers who were only too happy to get it. The wine/grape under test here is the Trebbiano d’Abruzzo, which by the way is not to be confused with the other Trebbianos (Bianco, Giallo, di Toscana, di Soave, etc.). Only some of these varieties are actually related to each other despite the namesake, and indeed, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo is distinctive. Further, Valentini claimed to have discovered and then developed a very peculiar clone or even sub-variety of T d’A. When you taste the wine made from this fruit, you can believe it.
Valentini’s wines are (were?) “vini di meditazione” (‘meditation wines’) per eccelenza, despite the fact that that term is usually reserved for passito wines like Amarone and Sfursat. They will certainly turn a head, but they’re not about pyrotechnics. The more time you spend with them, however, the more they will reward. Maybe “vino di conversazione” characterizes them better. If you’re willing to really take your time to swirl and sniff and sip, you’ll get a fascinating “earful” – lots of GREAT things, but more than a few challenges as well…At the risk of sounding a little hokey, these wines are alive (and note the vintage below!). There are stacks more wines that are cleaner, more technically correct, or more immediately arresting, but very few wines will almost audibly speak like these do.
I believe that E. Valentini’s son is carrying on his father’s work, but I have not tasted any of his wines – nothing from Valentini is ever easy to track down. Your best bet to find anything from Valentini is to always cast a keen eye over the wine lists at the very best Italian restaurants, or spots known for especially “eclectic” deep cellars, or inquire at very high end wine shops specializing in Italian wines .
Despite the poetic wax job above, I served this beauty with a very rustic bordatino soup – a sort of very thin polenta with minced vegetables and pancetta, and then tacchino tonnato, which is the turkey breast version of the classic dish usually done with veal (served room temperature, with pureed tuna sauce), and a white potato and green bean insalata composta (various suitable cooked and cooled vegetables dressed with just olive oil, basil, salt and pepper).
Edoardo Valentini Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 1996
Positively GLOWING kelly green-tinged yellow gold color. Flabbergasting nose of pollen-encrusted dried white flowers, peanut butter(!) fresh ricotta cheese, candied fruit, brook water, buttered toast, etc. The palate is pure, cohesive and detailed with “three dimensional” flavors of dried lemon peel, apricot nectar, crystallized ginger, white pepper and sweet fennel. The finish is a delicate but impossibly complex filigree of flavors that echo on and on.