What’s in store?

Nothing feeds my heart, soul and mind like spending a few weeks in Italy. I’ve only just returned and I miss it already. There’s the villages and beautiful scenery, the daily rituals of caffe at the bar, aperitivo and a passegiata that, for us with a five year old, involved a daily search for the best gelati (Gelateria La Romana dal 1947 in Desenzano take a bow).

What else do I miss? The food (I don’t mean just restaurants), actually going out to buy food at markets and shops. It is inexpensive and high quality, even in the supermarket. And there are some things that always taste better – olive oil, butter, cheese, yoghurt, veal and chocolate to name a few.

There are a few things I won’t miss. Some of the shopping hours are archaic. I can understand it in Spain, where dinner starts at 10pm and you need a siesta in the afternoon, but not in downtown Alba. UHT milk in my morning coffee – yuk. The toll booths on the autostrada – it would be ok if the money was used to actually improve the country’s roads but, being privately owned, it actually makes a few very rich people even more rich.

But the one thing about Italy that I won’t miss is the storage of wine. In Italy, the land of wine, the storage of wine is, for the most part, appalling. So much so that the oldest bottles I enjoy whilst travelling usually come from the cellars of the wineries we work with. I won’t pay for older wines anymore unless I’ve seen the cellar of the restaurant or wine shop or been there before.

On this trip, in Barolo for example, I purchased a few current release wines that I knew had just hit the shelf. There they were, proudly standing upright alongside previous vintages. Why do so many enoteche and ristorante in Italy stand their bottles upright? When it gets bottled at the winery, it gets laid down for sometimes two years before being packaged for sale. So why then stand the bottle upright on a shelf for sometimes the same period, or even longer? One hot summer day, let alone the fluctuating seasons, is enough to ruin the wine.

It was the same story in Panzano in Chianti where the local enoteca , packed to the roof with a great selection that included lots of older bottles, stood every single bottle upright. In fact the most prized bottles had their very own lamp to shine on the labels!

I think the winery owners and winemakers themselves need to be more vigilant about how their wines are presented post sale. A consumer that unknowingly purchases a badly stored bottle is likely to blame the wine and not buy again. There must be millions of bottles stored this way around the country and I believe its an issue more serious than cork taint.

To ship our wines to Australia, they are stored at our climate controlled warehouse in La Spezia, then packed into a reefer (refrigerated) and, after arriving, they are unpacked into our climate controlled warehouse in Melbourne. We take the storage of our wine seriously, whether it be a container of Barolo or Montepulciano. Marco Ricasoli-Firidolfi from Chianti’s Rocca di Montegrossi said it best during his recent visit to Australia, “my wines here taste exactly as they do at the winery.”