Monday, October 13, 2008
My Dinner With Andrea
First of all, this particular Andrea's a dude, Andrea Spada by name. Named best young sommelier in Italy a few years ago. Author of definitive guidebooks to the vineyards of Romagna. Restaurateur.
He scouted the wineries I visited last week (on a press trip sponsored by the Enoteca Regionale di Emilia Romagna), then came along for the visits and tastings. We also had dinner at his restaurant in Faenza, Noè, named Noah for the first planter of vines, the first wine maker, and, truth be told, the first to get pass-out hammered. All this after the flood, mind you.
Spada's place--his third restaurant--is devoted to art as well as the harmony of wine and food. Now, most of us follow the paint-by-numbers pairings. Only rarely do we come into contact with people who are so intimately familiar with the subtle tastes and aromas of hundreds of similar wines--and ever-changing plates from the kitchen--that they unerringly find the perfect match. No hit-and-miss, no "almost." It's a satisfaction beyond words.
Seven wines for six courses, including three lovely sangioveses (Romagna's all-purpose red) and three takes on the gets-no-respect albana grape variety: two at the start of the meal with the omnipresent plate of cold cuts, one magnficent passito at the end. The grapes for passito are dried in the sun after harvest, concentrating their natural sugars for a sensational sweet wine. The 2004 bottling from Tre Rè had overtones of peaches and apricots yet plenty of acidity to complement a fig tart.
Other countries play games with their wines, adding oak chips to the juice for more "flavor" and all sorts of goop to give the wine more body. Not here. Wine is governed by rigid tradition, intense rivalries and often-petty local politics, resulting in a crazy-quilt of bottles. But there's no question about their sincerity and authenticity.