Wine. I drink it, I love it, and I don’t really know much about it. Enter Sarah May Grunwald, my friend and personal wine mentor who is always there when I need a great bottle, on site and in-the-cantina research and yes, especially when I need make sure that I know what I am drinking, and talking/writing about. Sarah is a walking encyclopedia of vineyards and vintners, a DOCG demi-goddess, and most importantly a hands-on gardener who gets into the dirt for wine, spirits and food. Sarah and I have talked wine for years, and now Sarah will share her wine brain and take us into the vineyards on CiaoBella.
Hey, who are you? I’m a new world girl, a native Californian born to Australian parents. I’ve lived in Italy for 15 years, but I started becoming a wine lover long before that when I lived in south Australia for university. South Australia is one of the main wine regions in the country and my roommates were studying enology, wine culture and viticulture in general. That was my first introduction to wine that went beyond picking up wine out of a fridge out of a 7/11.
Don’t you have a lot of wine education? I have a certification as a sommelier through Associazione Italiana Sommelier. I study wine with Sandro SanGiorgi at Porthos Racconta and I’m currently a diploma* student at the Wine & Spirits Education Trust WSET. It is difficult and I have to study a lot as it encompasses the entire world of wine whereas sommelier certificate was mostly Italian wines which helped me for what I want to do because I find that outside of Italy wine education Is does very poorly with Italian wine- they don’t give you enough education about the diversity in Italian wines so have both international education and Italian wine education. *The diploma is one of the highest levels of wine expertise, follwing the Masters of Wine, aka the most prestigious wine qualification.
So if you were to continue with a Masters of Wine, would I call you Madame or Mistress of Wine? You can call me Mistress of Wine now.
Let’s talk about wine, more specifically what is so important to you about Lazio wines? Well, I live here. I live in Castelli Romani and I am surrounded by vines. When I first moved here, I started really appreciating the work that goes into the finished products that’s in the glass. It’s really poetic- its work that people do to convey a natural setting- very hard work, little reward except the alcohol and yet every glass is different. My passion is simply because I am local. It goes along with my life philosophy- how I eat, how I shop, what I do, everything comes from within 20 miles from where I live. I do drink wines outside of Lazio but on a day to day basis I drink Lazio wines.
What’s the most expensive wine you’ve ever purchased? I don’t want Ettore [her husband] to hear this. . . You know, Italy has something that a lot of other countries don’t - you can drink really well and not spend a lot. I don’t remember how much it cost but the most expensive wine I bought was a bottle of Fiorano from the 1970s, which is a Lazio wine made near Ciampino.
It seems like everyone is talking about Lazio wines. I just had dinner in Milan who surprised us by picking Silene, a Cesanese - not just because we live in Lazio. The wine industry is very prone to trends, just like any other industry. Right now, everyone is drinking Cesanese, comes from southeast of Rome. It’s like with the Georgia wines, why are we are seeing them? They [Tourism boards] are bringing sommeliers to taste the wines and they like them. You aren’t just going to find them.
For people like me who really enjoy wine but have no wine memory, how should we drink? Find wines that you like and keep drinking them... and also leave room for experimentation!
It’s no fun if you’re not sharing a bottle with Sarah, so lift your glasses with my favorite encyclopedia and Darius Arya on Travel: In Situ, Darius’ peripatetic podcast going on site for history, culture and travel (iTunes, SoundCloud and everywhere else you download your podcasts). Join Episode 6 “I’ll Drink to That” where Dariusand Sarah drink up history and Lazio. Line up these Lazio reds to taste along:
Sarah May Grunwald is a certified Sommelier, former professor of wine and current WSET Diploma candidate. She goes knee-deep into Lazio wines on Guild Somm, and contributes wine, food, culture and travel articles to Wine Chronicles, Eat Sip Trip, Veg News, Curiosity Magazine, Wine Sofa, Culture Trip, World Footprints and more. Sarah curates and leads wine-centric excursions and experiences in Italy, and is founder of Taste Georgia, cultural consulting and itineraries in everyone’s favorite former Eastern bloc country Georgia. Follow her on Instagram @Sarah_May G.