Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Light in Umbria
There is a particular tier of wine that eludes analysis, and to which typical adjectives don't apply; these appeal to a grosser, more aesthetic instinct, and can only be understood by hearkening to many senses at once, including that of time... signal among them are those of Paolo Bea in Montefalco (Umbria). At a unique tasting of 13 Bea wines last night, with Paolo's son Giampiero, current winemaker and erstwhile architect, I found myself pausing again and again to cross out swiftly written, 'default' tasting terms like 'licorice', 'musk', 'rosepetal', and 'menthol' as inaccurate - I couldn't shake the feeling that, by settling for a facile, one-and two-syllable description, I slighted, somehow, both myself and the wines... A quieter consideration drew forth an evocative set of impressions that rang more true... the 2006 San Valentino Umbria Rosso called up not only the twilight aromas of worn, sun-bleached cobblestones in Montalcino, but something as well of their firmness and solidity (and even an element of that city's herb-scented air); the 2004 Montefalco Sagrantino Secco, Vigna Pagliaro had a lean yet generous, stern yet lush character which echoed the fine line and rich coloration of Raphael's Florentine portraits (1504-1508) which hang in that city's Palatine Gallery; the mahogany-hued 2006 'Arboreus' Trebbiano Spoletino conveyed the peculiar tang of Riomaggiore's lemon trees, to which the sea's proximity lends a haunting, gauzy saltiness... I was reminded of a quote from Jean-Michel Deiss (whose wines also, unquestionably, belong to the above tier), concerning wine's musicality, and how a piece by Mozart isn't 'understood' by a percentage-measure of its oboe, percussion, or violin, but instead by a sensual, wordless knowledge of its harmony... Giampiero, like Deiss, is a committed 'natural' winemaker (check out the ViniVeriGroup @ www.viniveri.net, to which he belongs, as the current 'president'): very involved in the cellar, yet also uncompromising in his refusal to over-manipulate... Is it this commitment that produces such compelling harmony? I think so... (More later on this topic...) Considering these impressions, I was also reminded of Faulkner, whose total cadence (a mysterious combination of sinuous sentence structure + ever-shifting narrative time) provides a lasting 'feel' and 'sense of place' that no mere plot description ever could, especially in Light in August... A 'Faulknerian' wine? Pourquoi pas??