When I met Alessandro Lunardi I wanted to listen and learn from him all day. As the director of the Frescobaldi Group for North and South America, he spoke about wine gently and unassumingly.
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Maybe it’s because he was once the wine education manager for Robert Mondavi, or maybe it was because he truly believes in the wines being produced by the Frescobaldi Family, which has been making wines for 700 years all over the Tuscan countryside.
Either way, he reminded me that there truly are people out there that want to teach, share and introduce wine to novices like me.
And his single most important advice to those who are starting to learn about wine? "Trust your palate!"
“There is so much intimidation in our industry with so many wines experts,” says Lunardi. “Don't drink a wine just because it received a high rating from a critic.”
Better yet, start your own rating system and keep journal. That’s your summer school homework.
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Bet that’s the best homework assignment you ever got.
Questions for our Wine Pro
What is your 'death row' wine?
I don't know if I have one, I have been fortunate to have so many wonderful wines in my life that it's hard to pick one, but to narrow down as much as possible I would say it would be a Tuscan wine, since I am from Tuscany, and probably a great Sangiovese like a Brunello do Montalcino. One that bring exceptional memories is the 1990 Castelgiocondo Riserva.
What region produces the best wine?
That is very hard to say, I think in absolute terms quality wines exist in every single region in Italy. Italy produces a great variety of wines and they ate all quite distinctive. Then it become a question of personal taste and preference. I do like the wines of Tuscany.
What is the best wine and food pairing you’ve ever had?
Well, I think some of the "super strict rules" we hear are a bit too much, there are definitely pairings to avoid but again I think personal preference and emotions play the most important role here. In this sense the best food and wine experience I have had was several years ago in the Tuscan countryside near Montalcino at a friend's house where I ventured cooking a rabbit I had acquired from a local farmer. I followed an old recipe from my grandma, a slow cooked stew with herbs and spices .... and then we opened a bunch of Brunellos. I have never had such a perfect, seamless integration of flavors, we dined on the patio overlooking the landscape, there was a big optional component ... It was was heaven!
What will the U.S. wine industry look like in 10 years?
As large distribution groups consolidate and big brands align, there will pockets of opportunity for smaller producers like us and dedicated wine selling organizations. Today's younger drinkers will shape the market of the future, they will demand better access to wine, mostly through the Internet, and exchange of information at all levels mostly through social media. These flows of information will impact the market as much as traditional media if not more, The producers who understand and adapt will have leadership despite the sheer size of their business.