“Wine is sunlight held together by water.”

Is it any wonder that an Italian said this? And not just any Italian, but Galileo Galilei. Because wine would make stargazing a lot more interesting, I expect. 😉

Having lived in Sonoma County, California, I’ve been on a few wine tastings. But a wine tour? I wasn’t exactly sure what a wine tour even entailed until meeting Positano native and professional sommelier Cristian Fusco. The idea is not simply fork over a few dollars to swirl, sniff, sip and spit, but to completely immerse yourself in the vintner’s world from cultivation through production to consumption.  And at Swirl the Glass, a tour culminates with a tasting experience including the art of complimenting wine with food.

On a recent trip to the Amalfi Coast, I joined Cristian on a tour to boutique winery Tenuta San Francesco in Tramonti. Just a 45 minute drive outside of Amalfi, we began our journey wandering through the vines themselves while Cristian discussed the benefits of pergola cultivation, the weather and seasons dictating the conditions of a great wine, and the requirements for DOCG and DOC wines in Italy. Cristian also discussed the lack of synthetic irrigation and the necessity of dry soil to produce a complex and flavorful wine. This concept harkened me back to one of my favorite quotes from the movie “Bottle Shock” (a fabulous film telling the story behind the famous 1976 Judgement in Paris):  “‘A comfortable grape, a well-watered well-fertilized grape grows into a lazy ingredient of lousy wine.’ ‘So through hardship comes enlightenment.'”

After meandering in the vines, we came inside the winery building for a look at the modest if only in size, not in technology, fermentation room before admiring the beautiful French and Austrian oak barrels in the cellar. Cristian’s explanations were not overly technical but instead explained the life cycle of a great wine, which only built my thirst to try some. 🙂

Cristian conducted the tasting over a superb homemade lunch cooked for us in the winery kitchen and served at a communal table with a huge open window overlooking the vines. We started with Tenuta San Francesco’s Spumante, or sparkling white wine, “Alta Costa”. The crisp white “Tramonti Bianco” accompanied our first course of panzanella (Italian bread salad with fresh tomatoes), fior di latte mozzarella and ricotta. Our pasta course was a local specialty, gnocchi alla Sorrentina, served with the lovely “4 Spine” or “four thorns” red. Finally, it was roasted chicken with Mediterranean vegetables served with the “E Iss” – “This is it” in Neapolitan dialect – red made from just one grape varietal found only in the Tramonti region. For dolce, a tiny tiramisu-like custard cake.

My favorite part of the Swirl the Glass experience was this delicious lunch, clearly made with love by the women of Tenuta San Francesco, accompanied by great wine and conversation with fellow travelers. That day, I shared the table with an Australian journalist living in Dubai, her mother who lived in Indonesia, a couple from Dublin, and another couple from Brisbane. Our afternoon was luxurious and unhurried and was conducive to our understanding and enjoyment of the wine.

Cristian’s gift is not only his passion and knowledge for wine, but the way he makes it accessible to even a wine novice like myself.  My friend Emily once said, when describing her knowledge of Italian wines, “I know about prosecco. And when I say I know about it, I mean I know I like to drink it.” Cristian whole-heartedly agrees with this sentiment. For him, Swirl the Glass experiences facilitate the most important factor to any wine tasting – knowing what you like and enjoying it. Salute to that!

Swirl the Glass
phone: (+39) 329.42.19.392
email: info@swirltheglass.com 
www.swirltheglass.com

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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