Five is a charm...
I don't see the harm to put it like Britney Spears. Well yes, the song went Three is a charm, …, I don't see the harm...
But anyway, we are talking wine here and this time I’m going to remain silent and quote directly Paolo De Marchi of Isole e Olena Winery as he answered one simple question:
what is wine to you?
We'll go back to the pentagon later, but now...
Ubi maior minor cessat
"I like wine because... first of all I like agriculture. The passion for wine is very simple. It is perhaps the first product from agriculture to which man has tried to give the name of the place. This is one thing I like, this very strong bond wine has with the place of origin. And the idea of producing wine comes from producing grapes in the first place, we are fruit growers, and it is a great satisfaction to grow beautiful grapes and then to destroyed them and start something completely different, you know, the transformation. And then we make a product that gets bottled and is sent to the world. There are very few agricultural production processes, in small scale economies, that handle the complete cycle from the land to the consumer. And so, this strong bond with the territory leads the consumer to come and see what we do here. I call this the circle of origin, when we manage to stimulate the consumer's desire to come here. This is what I like about it.
Then, I like to taste different wines and everything, but I am not an expert. As I said before, I am not a taster, in the sense that I must like what I taste, period. Otherwise it's a technical tasting and I don't have the taster's vocabulary, the aromas, and all that.
I am thrilled every time I find balance and harmony in wine, I like this aspect.
For me wine is this sense of destruction of a product to create another, there are so many implications in this idea, right? The rebirth of a product from the destruction of another and then...
the myth of old wines.
Wine is, if anything, a human product, not a product of nature, because man's effort is to stop time and stop evolution. The myth of wines that age for a long time is the myth of freezing time.
This in a nutshell is what wine is to me, just a process that goes from the ground to production and to consumers who then come here. This thing of destroying something to make another and then try to freeze it in time. Not the dream of eternal life, it is impossible, even wine dies, but wine that ages for a long time is the wine that we all admire.”
It is hard to say anything after Paolo’s dissertation on wine, so let's go back to the pentagon. Or rather, Paolo's theory of the pentagon, so fascinating and captivating that it can be superimposed and intersected with the broader, transcendent and spiritual meaning that has been attributed to this geometric figure over the centuries.
For the Pythagorean school, the Pentagon is the geometric expression of the number 5, that is the union of the first even female number 2 with the first odd male number 3, so it is associated with the fertile conjugal love that leads to universal harmony.
Hippasus of Metapontum, on the other hand, the discoverer of irrational numbers, points out that the ratio of the sides of a pentagon is equal to the golden or divine ratio. (see The irrational Bonsai Podere le Ripi)
In the Middle Ages the pentagon symbolizes even the microcosm in relation to the macrocosm, man in relation to God, the aspiration to harmony through order and perfection.
To obtain a great wine, in which harmony and balance tend to perfection, it is necessary to obtain the right connection and a proper balance between 5 fundamental factors, just like the 5 sides of a pentagon.
These factors are as follow: 3 closely related to Nature, at the base of the pentagon that has the tip pointing upward, the soil, climate, and genetics. The other 2 are man and culture intended as tradition.
The ground is the lower side, the base supporting the entire geometric architecture, just like any wine rests on its land. Man cannot influence it directly, but by knowing in detail geological and geomorphological aspects, chemical composition, texture, he can make all the right decisions on the type of variety to plant, the type of rootstock, which nutrients to increase, the type of pruning, training methods and the like ... Underestimating this, inexorably compromises every other aspect for years.
Moving to the left of the figure, we find climate. While the soil once identified and selected never changes, the climate represents the unpredictability of Nature, always. Even more so nowadays with global warming. Both in terms of general climate and microclimate. This highly aleatory element, however difficult to manage, is the key to a different vintage each year, making each unique and unrepeatable, and giving wine its mysterious and divine charm.
To the right of the ground we have genetics. Man can have his say here, either by selecting or cloning, although he cannot modify the very natural essence of a variety. Sangiovese, like Nebbiolo for example, will always have "weak" genetics, that is, the result will be very different depending on the terroir in which they are planted. And they like only certain places. On the other hand, a Cabernet is a survivor and adapts much more easily. The same is true for other varieties like Muller Thurgau and Chardonnay. However, of any variety, we can select the best plants and reproduce these clones to improve the "species". This has been done over the centuries and is still done today.
Fourth side. Man. The man who transforms the grapes given by nature into wine, destroying them and starting a new process, a new life. Humbleness is key here, respecting the first three elements and their essential and determining role. The basic imprinting. Man must know them, understand them, interpret and leverage al three towards a personal expressive philosophy. He must be aware, however, that he can never go against them, or upset them. Then he must be able to communicate correctly and coherently the final outcome. You just cannot outsmart Nature!
To close the pentagonal figure, the cultural background, the environment intended as a community of people, as areas, as the territory in which certain wines are produced. This is what we call tradition. That is, in the most intimate and etymological concept of the term, a transfer of knowledge and information continuously enriched by new experiences. A dynamic vision of a tradition that evolves over the years, thanks to new scientific knowledge and why not technology.
With the same humbleness, I must admit that these things as told by Paolo are certainly more tangible and credible. Here at Isole e Olena, while walking the vineyard and visiting the cellar with him, everything makes perfect sense. The passion is there in the wine and gave me a strong and unique sensorial and emotional experience. This is how the circle of origin closed around me.
A circle with a pentagon inscribed. Think about it Paolo. Wine not?
As required by any educated tasting, we start with a white.
Chardonnay private collection.
What is a Chardonnay doing in Chianti Classico? Just picture a white rose in the middle of a bunch of red roses. It catches the eye right away. And as any "exception" it must be "exceptional". Pètit Chablis! A little Burgundy in Chianti. The French themselves use it as a benchmark for their comparative Chardonnay tastings. Aged for eleven months in barriques. Smooth with inner elegance. Ripe fruit, apricot and yellow peach, full and pulpy but fresh and pleasant all the way. To be paired with a noble seafood dish or also enjoyed alone in meditation.
Paolo, when you open the 1999, don’t forget to invite me!
Let's go back to Chianti with Cepparello now, the maximum expression of pure Sangiovese.
Only the best grapes can become noble in Cepparello; the "legend" says that ever since 1976 Paolo has been wandering in the vineyards putting colored ribbons on the best vines to select only the best bunches every year. Power and elegance. Balance and Harmony. Elegance and persistence. A triumph of flavors, first to the nose and then in the mouth, all well integrated but clearly defined and recognizable. Sour cherries, plums, blackberries and blueberries. Then tobacco, cigar and balsamic hints of mint, eucalyptus and pine resin to make the long finish even more pleasant.
Paolo, when do we organize a beautiful vertical tasting?
The tasting continued with La Syrah and Vin Santo (Trebbiano and Malvasia).
And with a pearl. A Nebbiolo, produced by his son's company in Lessona. Sperino Estate. A new oenological reality.
One exciting discovery. An in-depth study that requires a trip to Piedmont.
Who's going with me?
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