This simple psychological reality came to mind the other day as I prepared to sample an interesting Italian white with an exceptionally long heritage. Fiano di Avellino, from Campania (surrounding Naples) is made from a grape so historic that it traces its lineage to the ancient Romans. "Fiano," it is said, comes from the Latin "Vitis apiano" ("grape of the bees"), so called because the strong, ripe aromas of the fruit attracted swarms of honeybees to the vineyard.
Whenever I try a wine from an unusual grape, I like to read up on it before tasting. In checking the authorities, I found two independent suggestions that Fiano has a characteristic aroma of pears and hazelnuts.
Darn! I really wished I hadn't read that. Now it was going to be tough to keep this knowledge from interfering with my own instincts when I opened the wine.
So I had a bright idea. At the dinner table, without telling my wife what I had read, I asked her what she smelled in the wine. She nosed it, grimaced, pondered for a while, and announced: "Bitter peach pits. Almonds. And nail-polish remover!"
Not a bad analysis, I thought, although I might have come up with something more appetizing to denote those high-toned aromatics in the background. And it sure put thoughts of "pears and hazelnuts" out of my head!
Romano Clelia 1999 "Colli di Lapio" Fiano di Avellino
FOOD MATCH: Very well suited with veal ossobuco bianco, veal shanks long-braised in white wine with a "gremolata" of minced parsley, garlic and lemon peel added at the end.
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Thursday, Jan. 3, 2002