A good mate often teases me about having a cellar palate. We started out buying wine together in 1996, splitting cases of Moss Wood, Cullen, Giaconda, Jasper Hill and Mt Langhi (for about $30 a bottle back then), and I still have a soft spot for these wines today, although they are long gone from my cellar via a combination of both drinking and selling. I think back to what I enjoyed 15 years ago, and my tastes have completely evolved. Now its all Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and anything in between.
My mate has gone on to collect a ridiculous amount of wine. Me, I bought a house. Now I’ve started up again, purchasing birth year wines for my son which I hope (insist) he shares with me in fifteen to twenty years’ time.
Back to my mate. He’s right. I have a cellar palate and I’m proud of it. My palate is Italian-centric because I love Italian wine and, although I have favourite wineries, I enjoy celebrating the diversity of Italy in all its grapes and flavours. I don’t exclusively just drink my ‘own’ wines, but often do. Why wouldn’t you drink them when our criteria for selecting a winery is “do I like to drink it?”.
In my job, I’m lucky to drink great wines all the time (I’m writing this with a glass of Costanti Brunello 2007 which was leftover over from a tasting yesterday and totally rocking on day 2!). So, for me to lay down my hard earned and put you in my cellar, I need something more because just being great wine simply isn’t enough. I want to feel something else in the wine, a connection to the person that made it and the place it hails from, which culminates in a memory that puts a grin on my face.
If you make great wine but you’re a douchebag, then I don’t want it, no matter how good/famous/hard to find/highly scored your juice is. It means nothing to me. In twenty years’ time, when I’m drinking my 2008 Baroli and 2006 Brunelli, I’ll look back and think of all the beautiful memories and friendships in this business, and I will savour it so much more.
In a fitting finale, here is my favourite photo from my recent trip to Italy. Giovanni Costanti and Charlie Paul (two future winemakers?), eating gelati in Montalcino. Now there’s a wine that means something to me…