Not long after returning from Vinitaly, Las Vegas-based sommelier and wine educator Jamie Smith (wine director for the Charlie Palmer restaurant group) posted his notes from the fair. The post, “MY PREFERENCES FOR VINITALY 2015,” was sent to his email list — one of the U.S. wine trade’s most widely read platforms.
I was thrilled when he offered to take part in the “Franciacorta crawl,” an informal tasting group that I assembled for day 2 of the gathering.
Even though we’d never met, I’ve followed Jamie and corresponded with him over the last year or so. He’s one of the most dynamic characters you’ll ever meet in the business.
His boundless energy, unbridled enthusiasms, and seemingly limitless curiosity for wine have made his e-list a brilliant agora for wine professionals — both aspiring and accomplished.
His notes on Franciacorta are both good and bad news.
On the one hand, he expressed his delight in finding so many great wines in our tastings.
On the other, he echoes the attitudes of many American wine professionals. Higher end Franciacorta doesn’t always deliver what it promises, he writes, and “grower Champagne” still dominates the classic method category.
Because of Jamie’s stature in the wine trade, I really wanted to share his tough love here.
Whether we agree with him or not, it’s important for all of us — Franciacorta producers and lovers — to understand how top American wine professionals perceive the category in a “world of wine” context.
On the day of our “crawl,” we tasted at four stands. There was no real criterion for the selection of the wineries. We simply met at the Franciacorta Consortium stand, tasted the Mosnel that he mentions below, and then approached stands where there was no wait.
Jamie’s notes on the fair in general follow as well.
The Franciacorta tastings with DoBianchi were both great and surprising. The low end seems to be where the magic happens here. The extended ageing and subsequent price that go with it still don’t add up for me. At the price, grower Champs [Champagne] still rules.
Exception[s]: Il Mosnel Pas Dosé Riserva QdE 2004 (you won’t find it but this was the winner of the morning’s tastings); Mirabella Rosé NV; Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut 2005 (sick!); Cavalleri Blanc de Blancs.
Jamie’s general notes on the fair:
Well, another fair in the books; with the same deplorable cell[ular] services (no matter what you hear, Europe is far behind for services). The same overly and disgusting smoky outdoor walkways and the fun bathrooms! BUT that is what exactly you expect here and quite frankly it is also its charm.
This year I had a plan and kinda executed it [but] you can never taste everything. Fun detours and great wine surround you, along with the very funny pomp of “media” events that are totally self-serving and quite useless [and] again Italian style. BUT I love this place and the spirit and the people and the whole shebang and that why I have continued to return for the past fifteen years.