Making Friends With Animals

Oct 3, 2006

My friend Nino, whose clothes supply I tapped when my luggage was delayed, is a vet, and he loves canines.

Periodically he’s checked out some of the winery and street dogs we’ve met at different intervals along the way.

For me, the rhino has become my friend. It’s the image used on the Vigneto Starderi label, and we’ve had a few bottles of its Barbaresco, which was sleek and earthy with tarry raspberry flavors.

I have nothing but admiration for those who navigate through the wines of Italy or, for that matter, just about any country.

It’s one thing to get to know one country or state or appellation. It’s another thing to try to decipher the labels from Germany, Spain or, in my situation, Italy.

There are, of course, scores of different grapes, appellations, vineyard-specific wines and blends, and that’s why it’s often best to default to the producer’s name.

It’s the greatest guarantee of quality.

I won’t pretend to know more about Italian wines than is possible. Yet I’ve found myself using some old familiar crutches. Last night I drank a lovely white from Jermann, which I visited 20 years ago, and this winery, in Friuli, still makes excellent wines. I also ordered another bottle of red from Marisa Cuomo, a name I’ve come to trust.

I know enough names on most wine lists to get by. (And the advice I’ve been given by various waiters and sommeliers has been superior.) When I’m perusing the options, I can almost tell just by the prices when I’m in a section that has wines from Angelo Gaja.

Yep, they’re expensive!

That’s why, along with producers' names, I’ve tried to memorize labels, and why the rhino has become my trusted friend.

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