A bit of history and a taste of it

I enjoy history. History made us who we are today. It’s important to delve into all history — the good, the bad and the ugly of it.

Therefore, when presenting to others at a wine tasting event, I always begin with a touch of history. That includes the background of the wine, the region of the wine’s production and the tastes of it. The more one knows, the more one can enjoy the experience.

That’s why at my next wine tasting event we’ll begin with the back story of what we are going to sample. In other words, the history of the liquid.

Our theme will be Italian red wines. Obviously, we can’t sample every Italian red, but I think we’ll all be surprised how the wines we do taste are all related.

Italy has grown and produced wine for over 4,000 years. It’s possible prehistoric humans made wine there, but there’s no definitive proof so we’ll begin with the Greeks. During the time they lived there, they made a lot of wine and planted many vineyards. They named the area ‘Oenotria’ — meaning the land of wine.

Wine was a central part of life, and of course, still is! Wine’s popularity grew during the time of the Roman empire, and, after that empire fell, Christian monks kept wine making alive during the Dark Ages. You just gotta love those monks!

To say wine has thrived in Italy would be an understatement. If you visit the country, don’t be surprised to have it offered to you at every meal, before every mean and after every meal. The Italians love their vino!

The most produced grape varietal is Sangiovese. You might see this wine named “sanguis Jovis,” which means the blood of Jupiter. Jupiter was the Roman god of sky and thunder, and the king of all gods. It seems appropriately named and here’s why.

Sangiovese is the most grown wine grape in Italy. It’s the basis for many other Italian reds, but the wines all taste differently. Why? Because a lot of the wine’s taste depends on the terrior. That means the wine reflects the local climate, the soil and the topography in which it is grown.

Now, let’s taste Salto Sangiovese. You’ll find most Sangiovese is grown in Tuscany. It dates to the 16th century, and is the basis for many Italian reds. You’ll taste some mild acidity to go along with medium tannins (bitterness). I enjoy this wine’s red cherry flavor that brings out a little leathery taste.

OK, let’s taste a Montepuliciano d’ Abruzzo. It’s grown primarily in east central Italy, and usually contains about 15% Sangiovese. The area is noted as a dry region which is cooled by the winds coming off the Adriatic Sea. This terrior allows for a late ripening grape, and it gives the wine its spicy/peppery blackberry taste. It’s aged a minimum of five months, and that aging smooths out the tannins of the wine. I like a sip of Canaletto because of it mild cherry flavors and long soft finish. You might like it, too!

Now let’s sample a Valpolicella. The name means valley of river deposits, and the wine reflects the stony soils of the region. It’s usually a blend of Corvina Veronese, Rondinella and Molinara grapes, and is to be consumed soon after it is released. I think you’ll enjoy the wine’s blackberry, chocolate and brown sugar tastes. Sample a taste of Bolla Valpolicella — it’s historically pleasing.

Did you ever sit down in an Italian restaurant and note a squat bottle encased in a straw basket on your table? If so, the odds are you had a Chianti staring at you. It is produced in the Chianti region of Tuscany, and principally is made from Sangiovese grapes. It dates back to the 14th century, and is the catch all for Tuscan wines. It is grown in a wide variety of soils, and thus, the many different tastes of the wine.

However, most Chianti wines feature medium tastes of acidity and tannins. Seek the berry and nutty flavors. I think you’ll discover that most of the wine’s tastes are in the finish. Why not taste a bit of history with a sip of Biagio Chianti?

You know, you just might find some similarities in all these wines — just like humans. Yes, there’s history to everything and everyone. That’s why history makes life so enriching!

As always, eat and drink in moderation but laugh with reckless abandon!

Salute! Cheers!


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