Grandi Vini: An opinionated tour of Italy's 89 finest wines (March 11, 2011)
by Dean Tudor, www.deantudor.com
Grandi Vini: An opinionated tour of Italy's 89 finest wines (Clarkson Potter, 2010, 292 pages, ISBN 978-0-307-46303-6, $24.99 US hard covers) is by Joseph Bastianich, who owns four Italian wine estates, a wine store, plus many restaurants in New York City. Shamelessly, he has four log rollers including his business partner (Chef Mario Batali) and his own mother (Lidia Bastianich, cookbook author and co-owner of multiple restaurants, celebrity TV chef on PBS, etc.). Oh yes, if that wasn't enough: he also got an endorsement from Robert ("Himself") Parker Jr. But seriously, while this is a serious book, I have no idea why he needs such log rolling.
He takes us through the process of why these wines were chosen by him (but why 89? Why not 90? Or 100?). Twenty-one wines are from nebbiolo grapes in Piedmont, while 11 are from sangiovese grapes in Tuscany. 18 are IGT wines (mostly supertuscans); 17 are white wines (mostly Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia Giulia). There's a marsala,
a vin santo, and a passito di pantelleria. The well-known (and expensive) names include Il Greppo, Tenuta dell'Ornellaia, Tignanello, Sassicai, Cervaro della Sala, and Ben Rye.
There are also several organic wines. Some memoir and travel materials, as well as histories of the estates and, of course, tasting notes are spread among the entries. At the back, there are summaries of the wines, with information on grape varieties, production, website, first vintage made, aging, and production methods. Every region is covered, but not every province. It must have been politically difficult to come up with a wide dispersion of choices.
Audience and level of use: Italian wine lovers.
Some interesting or unusual facts: Some of the wines produced are biodynamic. Others are "natural" or "sustainable" or organic.
The downside to this book: The nature of differences among natural, sustainable, organic and biodynamic terms is not clearly stated.
The upside to this book: A good reckoning for the 89 wines.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.