Friday, February 8, 2013

celebrating uniqueness instead of greatness

2008 La Sala Riserva | DOCG Chianti Classico

Visiting Paris in spring 2011 was a dream come true. Seeing with my own eyes the monuments and museums ... feeling the history and culture of the city for myself was an experience I'll never forget. Yet the one blemish on the trip was our day spent in Versailles. It was a disaster, from waiting nearly 2 hours to get tickets, to the long lineup snaking around the grounds just to get in (which we bypassed by sneaking in with a Chinese tourist group), to the ridiculously overpriced and wildly mediocre lunch.  Touring the palace and gardens felt like an obligation, like checking off that box of things to do in Paris so people don't ask that most idiotic question what do you mean you didn't go to Versailles?! Yes, I did, and it was a shithole. Gaudy and supremely tacky, reminding that for all their admirable qualities, the French can still reek of poor taste and dull imagination.

We don't want grandeur and pomp without substance, in wine and other things. Versailles is meant to show the splendor of the House of Bourbon, but it had no toilets. Residents emptied their chamber pots straight out their windows, marinating the palace grounds in a unique aroma. Same way as a wine that impresses, superficially, with oak and extract, fruit and alcohol. Upon closer inspection - with bottle age, with time in the glass - there is nothing. It falls apart because it lacks substance, it lacks that all-important quality that no amount of maquillage can imitate ... that energy and personality and character that only the true great wines of the world possess.

This Chianti, in this wino's opinion, is a good example of a wine that's shy at first, needing time and patience from the drinker to coax it out of its shell. With time however, it proves its worth. The vineyards of La Sala were once owned by the Medicis - a 100% sangiovese wine, the Riserva is aged in a combination of American and French barriques for 12 months, followed by an additional 6 months in bottle. Young and dark, brooding in the glass. Reticent aromas, with the structure clearly evident. A tightly coiled, compact wine, more sinewy than muscular, very tensile. Drunk over 3 days, it begins releasing those sangiovese perfumes of red berries, that slight dustiness, a distinct minerality. Its potential evident, the only requirement, time.

Like the palace covered in gold and mirrors but devoid of taste or character, avoid the wines that grip you in a hug before you even know its name. The easy, friendly ones can sometimes be the most dangerous ...


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