There aren’t many cultures on the planet that can claim to live life as passionately as do the people of Italy. I have made more than a half dozen trips to the beautiful country over the years. Although I enjoy the unique elegance of French wines and food as much as anyone; the rustic food and robust wines of Italy are special to me.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of touring the major wine regions of Italy with a group of restaurant, wine, and food experts. We started in the north with Veneto and Trentino. From there we travelled to Piedmont and ultimately south to Tuscany. Several prominent wineries of the regions were our hosts and guides including Bertani, Cavit, and Rocha Della Marcie to name a few.
Along the way we dined in Verona, Milano, Trento and Firenze. Apart from the wonderful food and wine, what impressed me most about the Italian culture was the way food, wine, and life were so harmoniously interwoven. It was as if the Italians had deliberately spent hundreds of years practicing how to enjoy life and somehow “Figured it out”.
The comfort with which the Italian engaged wine was particularly inspiring. Although we were with wine experts, with decades of wine making experience, there wasn’t an ounce of arrogance or pomposity. There weren’t endless discussion about wines or perfect food and wine pairings. We simply drank excellent wines that had been made locally for centuries with traditional dishes of the regions. It was the most enjoyable time imaginable.
This Italian experience reaffirmed my humble approach to wine and three principles that should help keep wine lover’s grounded:
- Wine is essentially fermented grape juice: No matter how lofty the price tag or how rare the bottle, all wine is simply grape juices that has been fermented. Remembering this fact can help the most knowledgeable “Wine Geek” or “Wine Novice” keep things in perspective. There is never a need for snobbishness or intimidation when comes to enjoying wine.
- Drink the wines you like with the food you like: Admittedly the study of wine is broad and complex. It involves viticulture, history, geography, and enology. However, one need not know anything about these disciplines to know what wine to drink. Simply drink the wines you like with foods you like and remain open to trying new ones. This approach ensures that you will derive great pleasure from drinking wines as your interest in wine and wine palate naturally evolves. Wine ratings and reviews are also good for unearthing terrific wines, but let your taste be the intimate wine judge.
- If you’re not studying for the Master Sommelier exam, chill out: Since its introduction in 1960 less than 200 people world-wide have managed to earn the prestigious designation of Master Sommelier. For some planning to earn such an honor, wine is understandably a serious matter. For the rest of us, wine should primarily be a source of enjoyment to be shared with others.
Regardless where you are in your appreciation of wine, beginner or experts, these three principles gleaned from experience in Italy’s wine regions comprise a healthy philosophy for blending food, wine, and life more harmoniously. So eat, drink, and live well.. Willamette Valley wine tours