Wine Tasting: Many Mouths & the Tuscan Nose

Eleonora Mazzucchi (April 25, 2008)
A wine-tasting event on Manhattan's ritzy Upper East Side, "The Tuscan Nose", attracted connoisseurs and laypeople alike. Chianti wines were the cause for celebration-- and a little friendly commercialism

Fine wine is a celebratory necessity, and when the wine itself is celebrated, all the stops are pulled.

This week producers and importers of Chianti wines threw themselves a soiree, or more to the point, a lavish wine tasting off Park Avenue. In a soaring, whitewashed, chandelier-bedecked space (formerly a church, replete with organ pipes), The Chianti Classico Wine Consortium spotlighted 40 of Tuscany's best Chianti-region labels for an event it called "The Tuscan Nose". Tasting tables were accommodated on the ground floor, while the upper level featured selections from “The Essences of Chianti Classico”—wines tinged with the scents of the Chianti countryside (including “mown grass”, “strawberry”, “iris” and “licorice”, among others), courtesy of a collaboration with Florentine perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi. Along with spectacularly palatable food and wine offerings, seminars were held by the president of the Consortium, Marco Pallanti, and renowned sommelier-cum-writer, David Lynch. The evening's elegant guests—surely people from the neighborhood, if gold buttons and bow-ties are any indication—buzzed about rosy-cheeked and jovial, and if in the beginning they had quietly scrutinized each pouring of the deep red stuff, two hours later they had become irrepressibly voluble, slapping backs and scouring the dessert trays for more chocolate truffles.

The equally genial estate representatives, poised and smilingly offering tastes of their wines, gave us some insight into the business. For many of them the U.S. is where their products are most in demand, totaling 30 or 40% of their exports, with Europe, in particular Germany, as their second-biggest market. Some expressed concerns over competition from California wineries and a strong euro threatening to discourage sales abroad, but they remained hopeful for the future of Chianti wines in the U.S.

As one of the civilized world’s oldest luxuries, wine has always tended to be a family business. This couldn’t have been more evident than when we were given the backgrounds for some of our favorite Chiantis. The Paladin company offered up an impressive and rich line of Chianti Classico wines, produced on a Tuscan estate but built on the strength of a legacy that started in the northern Veneto-Friuli regions. Fattoria La Ripa holds claim to a vineyard that once belonged to Mona Lisa’s father, whose funds were then used to commission Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic portrait, while Barone Ricasoli has managed a noble wine-producing estate since the 12th century. Banfi, a powerhouse label that does its own importing and has footholds in both Piemonte and Tuscany, has a curiously trans-continental story, with third-generation Italian American brothers now managing its company.

If a trade is lovingly passed through generations, the result is in the taste. It can safely be said that American wine aficionados won’t stop clamoring for a little more Chianti.






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