My journey into the wonderful world of Italian wines probably began when I fell in love with the Italian language and culture during college. However, my fate was cemented after working with an American man named David Scott. Dave is a serious wine guy- his whole life has been devoted to changing and developing the US wine market in one way or another. At one point I was lucky enough to find myself working with him for a small importer called Vino Bravo. This now-defunct company was my springboard into the weird and esoteric universe of indigenous Italian wines.
Dave Scott has a passion for Italian wine- and he makes his way cheerfully through Italy on his charming personality and by making up his own version of the Italian language (watermelon becomes “aqua-melone”, and the one phrase he always gets right is “due belle gambe lunghe”…).
Dave & Mike, “En Garde!”
One of my favorite memories of my time working with Dave is from a dinner at Vinitaly, the big trade show in Verona. We were seated at a table and somebody had ordered a bottle of white wine. In the glass I remember it being slightly cloudy and a little on the yellow side- not at all oxidative in appearance. Then, just when I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary- POW!- like lightening this wine changed everything. Nose in the glass- I remember looking across the table at Dave and I think he was reading my mind- this was extraordinary! There were green tea and white flowers, a little bit of swampy funk and honey. Then on the palate a crispy acidity, apricots and toasted hazelnuts.
When I finally was able to have somebody pass me the bottle I was completely shocked to find this bright, intriguing, high-acid white wine was from 1987. We were drinking the Timorasso from Vigenti Massa, and I was in love.
After this I was determined to learn as much as I could about Italian wines. This is a country I love, where my heritage and my heart belongs, and where people like Walter Massa are able to craft wines from autochthonous grapes like Timorasso that can change your life. This was when I really started to understand why people like my friend Dave spend so much of their careers working with Italian wine producers. I know now I never had a choice- since that moment my path has always been winding its way back to the wines and people of Italy.
Walter Massa in his vineyards.
Italy’s wine scene is endlessly fascinating and intoxicating. Like a teenager wandering the Renaissance-tinged streets of Firenze, hold close to your heart because you may lose it around any corner.