Whenever summer comes around I start thinking about the one when I lived in Italy. I'd ride my bike to school every morning, stop for two cappuccinos at Antica Bologna, drink them one at a time with the same barista, then I'd have about 17 more espressos before it was time to switch to Campari and wine. It swells my heart just to think back to those days (also that's a lot of caffeine and alcohol, so that probably had its effects).
School got out at 3p and everything was shut down, because, Europe. I'd walk my bike instead of riding, in no rush to nap with the rest of those lazy bastards. Joking, I loved every single one of them. But the city in the afternoon had all these distinct smells and no one was around to take even a sip of them, so I'd inhale greedily and flood my whole being with them like the glutton Italy grants you free will to become.
There was this fruit stand I'd take the long way to pass by, where the smell of ripe melons was so intoxicating it would hit me before I could even see the stand. I'd intentionally slow down walking by. The owner was probably named Claudio and was probably thinking I was interested in him and his fruits.
But really I was just getting drunk on that smell. I never bought a melon because that heavenly scent was so perfect I am certain no taste on earth would've matched it. I can still smell it like it was yesterday.
Hot afternoon sun, quiet streets, melon perfume...
What's that got to do with this wine I'm not exactly sure, except that the pull of those scent memories from my time in Italy are so vivid and encompassing I can feel the weight of them on my chest like a hug to the heart.
I wish I could drink them all up.
Instead, I wanna share this little taste of the blissful state I lived in that summer, when every bite, every smell, every sound was something beautiful.
It's bright and easy-going but far from simple. Made by a woman in Chianti, Giovanna, who withdrew her splendid wine from the official Chianti designation because they didn't respect the indigenous grapes and quality to her standards. And while there are some good Chianti here and there, it's true that it's mostly the Budweiser of the wine world. You can't mass produce something and expect it to live up to its full potential. I can tell you with certainty I've never found a melon that smelled half as good as those...
Anyway, this wine is enchanting and delicious and yes, it's scarce. Less than 100 cases make it into the country for us americanos. It's special like the naps are long, and the gelato is cold, and the melons are ripe.
WINE: Podere Le Boncie '5' Tuscany, Italy, 2014
GRAPE: Mostly Sangiovese, with dashes of locals Mammolo, Colorino, and Cieliegiolo - that last one means cherry in Italian, and that's no coincidence because the fruit in this gem is Bing and Rainier all day.
HOMETOWN: Tuscany, where so much wine is made commercially, but this one is as pure as the sun is warm.
TASTES LIKE: something you can't put your finger on, but tangible and delicious. Late summer evenings with smells like purple flowers and red fruit that either come from your glass or the garden you're sitting in, smoke from the bonfire or maybe it's the wine. Not that it matters, this one drinks seamlessly with all of those things.
GOES DOWN EASY WITH: I imagine something home-cooked with this one, like a whole chicken and some bitter greens and some burrata with peaches because that's what I ate cooked most often in Italy, and in Italy you don't order chicken at a restaurant, you cook it at home. Pasta, sandwiches and even salmon would also fare well.
TELL YOUR FRIENDS: You're pouring them a wine that's more authentic than any Chianti they'd probably pick - it's not their faulty, it's not because they're lazy, it's just what they know. But sometimes you have to take the long way home in order to smell the melons. It's definitely worth it.