Well, That’s Curious…


I made a list of the 12 primary regions and 57 sub-regions of Italy that are discussed in the Society of Wine Educators’ study guide. I don’t speak Italian, which makes learning all 57 subregion names and their grapes quite a daunting task.

Rote memorization is a very uninviting way to learn. Curiosity, however, is a brilliant motivator. It’s easy to get to know the big name reds of Italy. Tuscan’s Sangiovese in its various Chianti forms is familiar to most wine drinkers and readily available. Piedmont’s Barbera d’Alba is also fairly well represented here in the states. Many of us have been lucky enough to taste the indigenous Nebbiolo from Piedmont’s Barolo and Barbaresco regions. Then there are the slightly more obscure grapes, like Barbera’s’ sister, Dolcetto, also from Alba. That’s a grape I didn’t memorize, but learned about out of curiosity. Reading taught me of the grape. Wondering taught me about the grape.

Mauro Sebaste Dolcetto d’Alba, 2010

Mauro Sebaste, Santa-Rosalia, Dolcetto d’Alba, 2010. The bright red color reflects the wine’s bright berry flavor with hints of cinnamon and underpinnings of soil aromas. Dolcetto is not quite as smooth as her sister, Barbera, but she is bright and acidic and like her sister, right at home with a big plate of pasta and sausage…preferably, my home.

The thing about studying wine is the subject conjures up curiosity at every turn. There’s so much to learn, and always more, and then some. Is there any greater motivator than curiosity? Is there any way to be more involved in the world  than through curiosity? Curiosity may have killed the proverbial cat, but I feel most alive when I am curious.

3 comments on “Well, That’s Curious…

  1. Wine sure made me curious 🙂 and I have to tell you; Italian wine varietals have always easily overwhelmed me. So much to take in and learn. I lazily think every time that I need to concentrate on a smaller country LOL.

  2. foxress says:

    As always, you inspire me. So many grapes, so little time. I must press on. Salud to you!

  3. Russell says:

    A helpful trick is that in most cases the name of the wine contains the grape name. i.e Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is from the Montepulciano grape. The real trick is to realize that this is almost only true when the grape is at the start of the name. i.e. Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is actually a sangiovese blend!

    Another example: Vermentino di Gallura …. Vermintino grape.

    Context always helps when trying to digest the myriad of Italian varietals so something fun is to deliberately look out for wine lists in Italian restaurants and spot what would have previously been unintelligible Italian words – you will now recognize wines and regions. In doing so you will reinforce your knowledge and before you know it will be able to fake Italian like in the move Fish Called Wanda by spouting Italian wine names!

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