Italians may lead the world in design and style, but they have fallen behind the organic and biodynamic wine bar curve. Rome is my favorite European city, and while attending the first annual Rome Film Festival I jumped at the chance to imbibe a few glasses of organic vino at one of the city’s beautiful wine bars.
I started with my longtime favorite, L’Enoteca Antica near the Spanish Steps, for a glass or two and a light dinner. Its long high-ceilinged room opens to a side street and is filled with wonderful antiques; my eye caught a marble wine cooler that could have been an Etruscan fountain tub. Old portraits fill the walls and dark wood and cracked marble form the bar and counter.
Did they have any organic wines by the glass? None that I could find. The “proprietario” came to help, reaching to a high shelf and dusting off a bottle he thought might be biodynamic. It was Castel de Paolis, I Quattro Mor from Lazio and made by a “politco” on his family’s farm. A blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Syrah, it was absolutely delicious; rich, full, lovely, soft and round. The blending was flawless and gave the wine a suppleness and fruitiness that made every sip a pleasure. The only thing negative was that it may have been too well made; giving it a bit of that California perfection and not enough individuality and terroir. Learn more about it at www.casteldepaolis.it.
I discussed organic wines with the “proprietario,” and while he knew their benefits, he said his patrons, a mix of locals and tourists, had not come round to specifically requesting them. When I pointed out that Italy was leading the way in biodynamic winemaking, he agreed, but said this had not filtered down to the wine bar world yet.
He was right. After searching another six of the city’s more popular wine bars, none featured organic wines. Two of them, in the hipper Trastevere section, had never even heard of biodynamic wine.
The solution to this is twofold and easily fixable. First, wine drinkers must be vocal in asking for organic wines. Italians are masters at adapting to trends and customers. They took up the use of the Internet and web sites long before other Europeans. If wine drinkers make it “sexy” to engage in “responsible hedonism,” Italians will jump aboard the bandwagon.
Secondly, the numerous and wonderful Italian growers, vintners and distributors must put pressure on wine bars to feature their products. Italy is a place of traditional business relationships; it is not a culture of revolutionary marketing ideas, especially in an industry as old as winemaking. However, with all the fabulous organic and biodynamic wine being made from Alto-Aldige to Sicily, it should be easy to rewrite the old relationships and get these fantastic vintages into wine bars.