Talked-about wines

by Daniele Cernilli 01/07/19
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There are those who talk about and criticize wines they know little about or have not even tasted. In order to judge or evaluate something one should really know what they are talking about.

It is only human to want to appear superior. Sometimes this can be forgiven, like a little white lie, other times it can be dangerous with the added risk of appearing ridiculous. Those of a certain age will remember the legendary skit between Walter Chiari and Carlo Campanini that took place in a train compartment. It centered on a non-existent animal, a "sarchiapone", which Campanini claimed to have in his suitcase and that he said he used to frighten other passengers in order to have more space when travelling. In order not to appear ignorant, Chiari said he knew all about this imaginary beast and they engaged in a nonsensical back-and-forth with unforgettable gags.

The world of wine is full of “sarchiaponi” or at least people who improvise profound and apparent expertise just because they read something or saw a bottle for sale. This can result in certain wines being the target of polemics that have little to do with their actual organoleptic qualities.

The other day in a wine shop in Rome, a big fan of “acidic wines”, those that are so tart they make you wince, had it in for Jermann’s Vintage Tunina. “It’s just a trendy wine, sweet, unbearable and those who drink it don’t know much about wine, only that this one is famous,” the gentleman proclaimed. This was certainly a very harsh opinion that could have validity if one really knew this wine, even if I would totally disagree with such a view.

For this reason, I suggested a blind tasting of some white wines, both Italian and French, asking the proprietor to include a Vintage Tunina 2014, thus from a difficult year. The gentleman in question not only did not recognize it but went so far as to proclaim that it was splendid. “It is fruity, has a nice acidity and is a pleasure to drink,” he told us.

I need not tell you his reaction when we revealed what wine it was. Not being stupid, he realized he had made a fool of himself by giving more importance to the “talked-about wine” than one actually tasted.

Was his a shortcoming? An attempt to come across as a true expert? The result of a need to have indispensable reference points as critics have? Whatever. The fact of the matter is that a wine tasted and shared is much more fun than one that is “talked about”. And that to effectively evaluate something one should really know what they are talking about. This is what freedom of thought is about, something that is not just “empty space” as someone I hope you remember used to sing (Giorgio Gaber in his song that said “Freedom is not an empty space. Freedom is participating”. Ed. Note)





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