On the serendipity of tasting notes


- Susanna Danieli

It’s hard to believe it’s already May. While it has always been my favorite time of the year (perhaps because it is my birthday), this May 2019 feels kinda odd, carrying a lingering bittersweetness with it.

Let me explain: we just had a very busy April with its usual nerve-raking exam session, followed by a long and relaxing spring break which got the majority of us scattered to many different places. As for me, I escaped to my little wooden nest (literally) in Alto Adige, or Südtirol as you prefer, to breath clean air, do some leg work up the mountains – not that up since there is still plenty of snow – and reflect upon my future.

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Yep, I now begin to realize that just a bunch of exams and a mini (but fabulous) didactic trip are left and then I’m done, my time at Unisg over in a couple of months. Obviously I will try to enjoy the time I have left as much as possible and I know this sounds like a tragic farewell speech but indeed it is a piece of my life I’m saying goodbye to, and a very special one.
All these elements – the awareness of time running out, my love for Alto Adige, the choices I have to make in the immediate future – are linked in my present and tell a story about my past, one that surely changed my life and brought me where I am now, ready to change again: this is the story of how I enrolled into the University of Gastronomic Sciences.

It all started with a wine tasting (can you guess?) in the middle of December 2015. At that time I was living in Verona and was literally breathing wine, since the next month I would have taken the professional certificate as a sommelier for which I had to study and train hard. I used to relentlessly look for opportunities to taste: you could find me at any fair, event, workshop dealing with wine, a period of formation and exploration I remember as happy-go-lucky, at least in terms of quantities of alcohol I was able to manage without getting drunk – honestly, far more than I am now.

That night I was attending a tasting directed by the lovely Corinna Gianesini, now responsible for the region Veneto in the Slow Wine Guide. Of all the things I was unaware of, starting from the very existence of UNISG, the most unexpected one was that I would have met her again some years later, this time in Bra, working at the editorial office of Slow Food (it’s a small world, after all).  Anyway, the focus was on Alto Adige white wines and the most aromatic grape varieties that are harvested in the region: riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot blanc, sylvaner and goldmuskateller.

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I still have notes about those wines as I always write something down, and frankly I encourage everyone to do the same, especially when you have the time and the concentration to do it, sitting down at a professional tasting. It is a very useful tool for memory and a source of inspiration to draw from, whether you are looking for a bottle to open, a wine cellar to visit or, like now, an article to write. Thanks to those notes I have clear in mind who the producers were and how the wines tasted and, while I have a fond memory of them all, this story will deal with just one. Because, you see, when you report feelings and thoughts about an experience you may be curious to know more once the glass is empty, and that’s exactly what I did.

You may be starting to wonder how this Alto Adige tasting is related to my quest for the future and the consequent discovery of the UNISG world.

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Fast forward a month later: I was on the edge of undergoing the sommelier exam and reflecting upon the job opportunities in the field, be it in Verona or elsewhere. Would I have been ready to work at a professional level? Did I want to go back to the restaurant business? I also asked Corinna for advice because I knew she wrote for AIS – the Italian sommelier association I was studying with – and she told me I should try to ask them and, in the meantime, keep tasting.

Well, one of those days I was on Facebook staring at the profile of one of the producer of that memorable evening dedicated to the whites of Alto Adige. His name was Patrick Uccelli, owner of Tenuta Dornach in Salorno and the bottle in question was XY 2012, a Pinot blanc, the third in order of appearance at Corinna’s tasting. I have my notes right here and they read:

100% organic, not filtered, skin maceration
Limestone and red quartz soil
Crisp, fruity, herbaceous
Smooth, salty, intense

That’s it. Or it isn’t?
This story would be that simple if it wasn’t for Patrick, his wine and ultimately Corinna who chose it. Because that day, while on the Facebook profile of Patrick, I noticed he had just posted a link regarding an interesting “Master in Wine Teller” which would have started soon in a certain place called Pollenzo. A little research led me to UNISG website and, well, the rest is history. At the age of almost 26 I decided to have a fresh start at the university and now I’m almost done.
Since I owe so much to mister Uccelli, I feel that the scarce note I wrote down in that December 2015 doesn’t do justice to his incredible wine. Now, having a little experience in this field, I feel I can do better.

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Let’s start again: Patrick and his wife Karoline are the owners of Ansitz Dornach, a biodynamic and organic farm in the village of Salorno. Patrick takes care of the wine-making process while Karoline, a biologist, looks after the soil and the biodiversity in the farm. They work so well that they earned the “Vino Slow” mention in the last Slow Wine Guide 2019, referring to a wine of outstanding quality and with a clear link to the terroir, history and environment it comes from. I remember their 2012 Pinot blanc as a pleasant, rich and fresh sip, vivid in its bright golden color.  On top of that, a delicate aroma of citrus fruit with hints of pear and vanilla bean, a crisp and full mouth with a long finish.

Considering what this wine meant for me, I’m definitely looking forward to try it again and cheer to the long path I went through here in Pollenzo.