Saturday, January 20, 2007

Guest Blogger: Eugenio, Wine Expert Extraordinaire (Part Two)

Welcome back to my two-part series on my pal Eugenio (read part one here). Thanks for your comments on part one; it's encouraging to see that I'm not the only one who feels a little unsure about where to start when it comes to knowing about wines. So, without further ado:

Q: You often hear experts talking about smelling things like tobacco, or grass, or other smells… how is it possible to distinguish these smells? Do you need to take a course?

A: It’s true. Wine experts have chosen to tell the story of the scents of wine by using examples of scents that are common to everyone. It’s easier and more understandable when you hear someone say they smell “cinnamon” rather than “aldeide cinnamica,” no? That’s where we get the perfume families that describe the scents: floral (acacia, violet…), fruit (berries, tropical fruit), herbal (hay, mushroom, grass), spice (pepper, liquorice, vanilla), toasted (coffee, cocoa, smoked), ethereal (wax, varnish, caramel), etc.
To identify them it’s enough to just remind yourself of common scents and then look for them in the wine.

Q: Why is it important to smell wine?

A: It’s important in order to appreciate the characteristics typical to a wine and its quality. And then let’s think of the role that scent covers in certain animal species. From bees to dogs, and lastly in humans. Scent gives psychological and physical emotions, and it determines choices. Have you ever eaten something that you hated the smell of? I don’t think so…

Q: You were a judge for the International Wine Challenge, and from what I understand, it’s kind of like the Oscars for wine. How did you become a judge? What was the experience like for you?

In June of 2005 I was at Vinexpo in Bordeaux to choose wines for my Italian and Swiss companies. I was stressing out a poor French producer because I was telling her about the defects I had found in her wine. A woman saw this and came up to me, asking me if I was a sommelier and if I was familiar with the IWC, inviting me to stop by their stand to chat.
I stopped by, got to know the organizers and had a nice chat with them. In the months following we exchanged emails, they evaluated my resumè and then they invited me to participate as a judge in the Challenge. I told them that I was available and I was honored by the offer, which would allow me to taste wines alongside the world’s foremost wine experts, learning from the Senior Judges who I had the pleasure of working with in the beautiful Barbican Center in London.

Behind the scenes at the International Wine Challenge 2006, held at London's Barbican Center

The IWC is the most important wine tasting competition in the world: more than 9,300 wines are tasted and evaluated by 150 judges, only three of which were Italian. Let’s not forget that Italy is the biggest producer of wine in the world. To represent Italy alongside my two “made in Italy” colleagues was an honor for me. Working side by side with these “Masters of Wine” was a completely unexpected goal for me, especially considering that I’m “only” 38.

Q: The whole “scene” that happens at the table when they bring you the bottle of wine you ordered can be intimidating for someone who doesn’t know anything about wine. Tell us then, what is one really supposed to do when the bottle arrives? Are you really supposed to smell the cork?

A: I don’t smell the cork but smell the wine to see if it smells of cork. If this is the case, then I ask them to bring out another bottle. If it’s not the case, then I nod to the server and pour myself a nice glass that I enjoy completely relaxed in good company. It’s fantastic exchanging impressions of wine with my friends. A bottle of special wine can be a gift of invaluable emotions, making an evening unforgettable.

Q: What was or what is the biggest satisfaction you gain from your work?

A: To count among my clients: both colleagues and sommelier restaurant owners, many of whom are the biggest Italian and foreign wine experts in their field; associations dedicated to the promotion of the culture of “drinking well;” not to mention also a few indulgent VIPs famous on a global scale. In Italy you know we have a privacy law, otherwise I would name some names…
This is the payback for all the hard work I do on a daily basis in finding important wines with little prices.

Q: One last question, just for fun: in your opinion, what is “the” wine of 2007?

A: Can I have a back-up question, please? It’s like asking a father which of his children he likes the best. And I have lots of children, at least in an enological sense…
Given that, I’ll close my eyes and respond to you in good faith. I’m betting on Ruchè 2006 from Nadia Verrua. It’s coming out in May 2007 and I think it’s going to make people talk a lot about it. And in tasting it, you’ll understand why…

Thanks, Shelley, for the interview! I wish all your readers a wonderful holiday if they are coming to Italy. And don’t forget that the ancient name of Italy was Enotria, or “Country of Wine.” Surely there’s a reason for this name, no? In vino veritas

Grazie to you, Euge, for the generous information you shared…I had fun picking your brain a bit on a topic that continues to fascinate me. Wishing you all the best in 2007!

If you are interested in contacting Eugenio, you can write to him at: bigliocca AT caveduroi DOT com. Soon he will also be launching a long-awaited website, delayed due to his impossibly heavy workload, at Keep an eye out for it, and happy wine tasting!


Tracie B. said...

oh ruche'! i recently tried it at the antepreima for vitignoitalia. it stood out because it was very profumato...i love discovering i vini autoctoni :) i agree about the cork. i don't generally smell it, because i can go directly to the wine. it seems like a superfluous step...cheers :)

Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Great interview Shelley!


FinnyKnits said...

So, so awesome - what a great piece (pieces?) I'm excited to order a bottle of wine at dinner soon and smell the bottle instead of the cork - I wonder if I'd know the difference? I should try this at home a lot first to see if I can, ahem, tell the difference. It *might* take a few tries.

TinkerBlue said...

Great interview.