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Making Friends With Animals

Photo by: Greg Gorman

Posted: Oct 3, 2006 5:07am ET

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.

Susan Thomas
Austin, TX —  October 3, 2006 8:42pm ET
That rhino is of course Durer's famous 1515 woodcut and it is on almost all of the wines except the Barolo, which features Durer's lion. Try all three of the Barbarescos, the Barberas and the blend, Le Pin. Give Gaja a 68 - that'll bring his prices down.
Simone White
NY NY —  October 4, 2006 12:09am ET
The rhino is on all piedmonte wines from La Spinetta and has become a benchmark for these great wines.
Jim Clarke
New York, NY —  October 4, 2006 8:37am ET
I guess "Critter Labels" have reached a whole new level.
Robert Roche
Monroe Twp., NJ —  October 6, 2006 6:34pm ET
Hope you are enjoying Italy but I wanted to contact you about your article in the 10/15/06 issue regarding shipping wine when it is hot. I tried to find an email address but to no avail. This is my first blog at 68 years of age. Your article really hit home with me because my wife and I visited Napa & Sonoma during the week of 7/8/06 when it was dreadfully hot. The worst experience was going into the tasting rooms and drinking hot wine. When I would comment to servers that they were doing their wine a disservice by serving it hot the only comment was "we do not have air conditioning". I suggested that they try and keep the wine cool and received no response. Poor marketing. Also, I only have my wine shipped to NJ in October. Never had a problem. I am awaiting five cases.

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