Stop asking that your wine be 'clean', and start demanding it be delicious.
Three Glasses Full
Wine is wonderful, in the truest sense of that word: full of wonder. That someone could take a bunch of grapes and make this-wonder, pure and simple. But if wine is wonderful, then Italian wine is MORE wonderful. More delicious, more varied, more mesmerizing. More MORE*. Which is why Friday found me on a train to NY for the annual Tre Bicchieri tour. Hundreds of the best Italian wines, assembled to taste in one ballroom? Yes, please.
Tre Bicchieri, literally ‘three glasses’, is the highest accolade awarded by Italy’s Gambero Rosso, where one glass signifies a ‘very fine’ wine, two glasses a ‘highly recommended’ wine, and three a wine ‘outstanding in its genre’. For the 2020 awards, out of the countless thousands of wines produced in Italy, the panel deigned to taste about 45,000. 22,000 made it into the guide. Only 457 were awarded Tre Bicchieri. These wines are the best of the best of the best.
Given an open mind and spirit of adventure, New York never disappoints. Outside the Metropolitan Pavilion, a man dressed in a fur pahaha hat and flowing robes-as though he were about to play an eighteenth century Cossack in some movie- sat eating an apple, the juice running down his ample beard. Inside, the day began with a rather civilized seated tasting (pictured above) of special award-winners: the best sparkling wine, the best red, the best up and coming winery. But after, you head downstairs to the ballroom, the crowd multiplies by a few hundredfold, and genial chaos takes over.
A graceful yet voluptuous Custoza. Bear hugs and ‘Ciao, Bella!’ from old friends. A man in iridescent lime green trousers and a hairdo straight out of Grease. Another in dayglow fuschia paisley and funky-cool frames that were half Elton John, half Murano glass. A tangy Lambrusco Sorbara and a spectacular, brooding Barolo Riserva.
Lugana. Ribolla Gialla. Carmignano. Women in haute-couture plumage that couldn’t possibly be functional, but somehow was. Rapid-fire Italian mixed with delightfully accented English, with each letter fully pro-noun-ced-ah. Gaglioppo, Rossese, Vin Santo. The event is somewhere between a wine tasting and a rugby scrum. I was elbowed, jostled, splashed by innumerable spit buckets, and stepped upon by one very large man. Yeah, it was pure heaven.
Post-tasting, there were cocktails to introduce a certain producer to a certain distributor, then dinner, then a stop at an amaro bar, then a few more stops. It was a late night. One sleepy train ride later, I was back at the store, plotting just how much of that heaven I can bring back to Franklin.
Probably a lot.
* My opinion, but I’ll argue it ’til I die.