Will Nason was a retired soldier who worked in my building as a government civilian. He'd been in Italy for many years, was married to an Italian woman, and lived near Verona in one of the most famous wine regions of Italy. One day someone mentioned to me that Will often bought wine for him from a winerie near his house and that it was inexpensive and excellent. So I asked Will if he could hook me up as well and he said sure. The wines that he brought were from the Valpolicella region. They included Valpolicella, Ripasso and Amarone. I had recently discovered Valpolicella thanks to Ernest Hemingway. I had read his wonderful book "Across the River and into the Trees", which takes place in Venice and the main character drinks it throughout the book. I'd never heard of Amarone but I got a quick lesson. Amarone is a very strong, full bodied wine that is not for the average wine drinker. Will brought me a bottle to try and gave me the background behind how the wine is made, how it should be served and what to eat it with. I didn't realize it at the time but my wine tastes were evolving into more serious wines and I was leaving stuff like Marzemino and Moscato behind. When I got home and asked Giampietro about Amarone he quickly agreed that yes, Amarone is a very good wine but must be drunk with care, always with red meat. I opened the Amarone that night, let it breathe for quite some time and upon the first sip I was hooked. After that I had a tremendous desire to learn more about red wine and find out what was good and what wasn't. If I liked Amarone that much, what else would I like? I had once asked Giampietro what he thought was the best wine in the world and he replied that, although it depends on your tastes, for him it was Brunello di Montalcino from the Tuscany region of Italy. It would be a while before I would finally taste my first Brunello but once I did I understood why many consider it the best red wine in the world.
I soon became a wine sponge, eager to engage people like Will and Giampietro in conversations about wine, and soaking up every little nugget that I could from them. Had I lived anywhere else the love and interest in wine probably never would have taken root but living in Italy, surrounded by some of the best wines in the world, I quickly developed a passion.
So am I a wine snob? I guess I am to some people. I don't consider myself a snob because I'm far from an expert. I just happen to have tastes in wine that are much more evolved than the average person. I sampled enough wines to know what's good and what isn't. Being in Germany has made things worse because although German wines are fine, they are nowhere the quality of the wine in countries like Italy, France, Spain, or even Australia. I get drawn into arguments with people here all the time because they have usually only ever drunk German wines so they have no idea that better wine even exists. When I try to tell them that, the wine snob label gets thrown at me. At times I wear it as a badge of honor but most of the time it gets annoying because it comes from someone who has no interest in wine.
I guess it all comes down to what an Italian friend of mine once told me:
"If the wine feels good in your mouth...this is a good wine."
In Vino Veritas.