A few days ago, Luca Gardini, sommelier of the Cracco restaurant in Milan, was crowned Best Sommelier in the World. The competition was held in Santo Domingo during the annual meeting of the WorldWide Sommelier Association, and the news arrived many hours after a heart-stopping finale that involved two other excellent professionals, one from the Czech Republic and the other a Dominican, who was playing therefore on his home field. I invite you to watch the video showing part of his performance, linked by Intravino.
I am naturally proud that an Italian professional won this prestigious prize, and I do not agree with the detractors who say that it was a false victory due to the absence of French contestants. The fact that France produces great wines does not mean that their sommeliers must be the best. To Luca, therefore, I send my most heart-felt congratulations.
This said, after having viewed the video I recommended to you, where Luca’s immense technical preparation is clearly demonstrated, a thought occurred to me. While I am absolutely envious of professionals of this caliber for their capacity for sensory analysis, I am not a lover of this kind of purely technical approach to wine.
I was unable to attend the event, but I would be interested to know whether, besides this demonstration of competence in the analysis of each wine, the contestants also evaluated aspects that are almost never taken into consideration and yet are nevertheless fundamental, one of which being the evaluation of the degree to which a wine is typical.
Do you remember the 2010 event called Brunellopoli, which involved prestigious wineries from Montalcino, who abundantly cut the Sangiovese with varieties that are not permitted, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Montepulciano? Well, did the sommeliers who celebrated these wines before, and who continue to do so now, notice that, notwithstanding being well made from an enological perspective, they did not have the slightest hint of typical and original character? And, according to you, should sommeliers be capable of noting this aspect?
On second analysis, while I delight in the technical description of wines as a consultant for the enological section of the magazine A Tavola, I do not appreciate when a wine is described and catalogued according to its taste and aroma markers: Tobacco and tamarind here, underbrush and sour cherry there. A wine, especially when it is a great wine, is like a musical composition, it cannot be broken down, but must be evaluated in its complexity, for the sensations and emotions it transmits, for its harmony and for its balance, for its appeal, its naturalness, its complexity and its “typicalness”.
Can you imagine someone describing a Mozart symphony…by rattling off, one by one, the notes that it is composed of???