Once upon a time there was a monstrous wine ...

What are we to make of old wine? 

On this point Jamie Goode was discussing on his blog just before this Christmas. His conclusions? "... wine is more than just a liquid with flavour. There’s a cultural significance and richness. And old wines also allow us to connect with a vanished time in a very intimate way."

How to disagree with this point of view. Wine is not just a fermented juice. It's a form of cultural expression of human kind. A bottle of wine represents a space-temporal bridge which allows us to reach a geographical location that may be far from us and a time that is, for sure, remote to us. 

Yes, we may discuss about the stability of these bridges, about their reliability in bringing us a trustful image of that place/time, about the influence of the interaction taster-wine in developing this "photography", etc. etc.

It remains true that, regardless their stability, reliability, consistency, objectivity (and so on so forth), there are special bottles that represent the so-human attempt to escape the inexorable flow of time, the so-human necessity to share our creations with other people that are far in space and time from us. An extension, a projection of our uncontainable soul in space and time. 
That's why wine is culture. That's why wine is so human. That's why, after all, wine is so captivating. At least to me. 

So, which bottle is bringing to me all this poetry? 

Ora da Re Barone Jacona della Motta 1932  

A unique and unrepeatable wine. In fact, a unique and unrepeatable vintage and a unique and unrepeatable story behind this bottle. I will take advantage of the leaflet found inside the wooden boxes in which these bottles are packaged to tell you about its story (wooden boxes that are made using the Slavonian oak wood obtained from the dismantled barrels where the wine was aged for a period of 56 years).  

The People
The wine was produced by Barone Nicolo' Jacona della Motta in Mazzaronello in 1932.
His family arrived in Sicily from Spain 1630 with his ancestor Joseph Chacon de Narvaez, lieutenant of the spanish army.  Joseph married Donna Joanna Muzio in Palermo on the 1st of August 1639. Their son, Antonio, was declared with the italianised form of the surname "Giaccone". Antonio was succeeded by Giuseppe, then Filippo, then Antonio (born in 1719) which surname was again modified from "Giaccone" to "Jacona". Antonio Jacona married Anna Canizza and their son, Antonio La Jacona Marchese della Motta, was made Barone di Mazzoronello on 15 June 1767. He had no children and the title and properties went to his nephew Nicolo' (born from Antonio's sister Vincenza and his cousin Salvatore). The succession of Jacona delle Motta continued till most recent generations with Salvatore (1837), Nicolo' (the producer, 1879), Salvatore (1902) that went to live in Rome with his three daughters Marida, Francesca, Gioia.
This is to set the context and the origins. Other important characters of the story are: Piermario Meletti Cavallari (the entrepreneur behind the super-tuscan 'Grattamacco'), Luigi Veronelli (the most influential wine expert in Italy at that time, that inveted also the name 'Ora da Re' for this wine), Piero Cucchi and Vittorio Spano' from Consorzio Cooperative Interregionale in Marsala (that invested money and efforts for bottling and bringing this wine to market), Giacomo Bersanetti (designer of the bottles).

The Place
Feudo di Mazzaronello, the estate where the wine was made in 1932, was belonging to the municipality of Caltagirone and was acquired by the town of Chiaramonte Gulfi when the province of Ragusa was created. It was a huge estate (1300 hectares) located on the hillside of the river Acate, just above the Vittoria Valley (famous today for the production of Cerasuolo di Vittoria). At that time Cerasuolo was made by Frappato, Calabrese (Nero d'Avola) and Grosso Nero (today nearly extinct). It was a huge wine, much darker and higher in alcohol than today. A 1-2% of concentrated grape juice (mosto cotto) was here added before fermentation. Grapevines in Mazzaronello were bush-trained (alberello) with very low yields (0.5kg per plant). All the production was handmade and wines were aged in large casks of Slavonian oak. This was until 1932, the last vintage produced. After Niccolo' death (1935) grapevines were, indeed, removed and the estate was fragmented in small lots and sold out. The cellar, however remained there with the 1932 wine sleeping in 10 large casks. It was walled up and left undisturbed until 1985. The cellar was only partially underground, therefore the wine followed an ageing evolution not dissimilar to a Madeira wine or a Marsala.  

The Discovery
The wine was brought to bottle thanks to Marida Jacona della Motta, daughter of Salvatore Jacona della Motta son of Nicolo' (the man that produced the wine in 1932). Marida was attending a meeting in Rome where Piermario Meletti Cavallari was giving a talk on wine marketing. She knew about the wine left abandoned in Mazzaronello and asked Meletti Cavallari to taste the wine. Contrary to his expectations, Meletti Cavallari was mesmerised by the wine's qualities. Still amazed he contacted Luigi Veronelli that went to taste the wine and defined it a 'Monster of a Wine', an 'Eternal Wine' able to stand against the best Jerez and Madeiras. He also invented the name 'Ora da Re' (A Kings' moment) and advised to bottle only the wine from casks no. 2, 8 and 9 (the other casks were over-oxidised).
There was still a problem to solve: how to bottle and commercialise this bizarre finding.
Marco de Bartoli (legendary Marsala producer) was called in cause first, but the the deal did not go through. Other entrepreneurs were asked to join this venture but many attempts failed until the Consorzio Cooperative Interregionale led by Piero Cucchi and Vittorio Spano' agreed to invest in the bottling and commercialisation. Before bottling, the wine was analysed in details by Prof. Scienza at Instituto Agrario San Michele all'Adige. He was an expert of long ageing processes in wine and remained surprised to find the analytical values reported in the picture below in such a wine. From a chemical and organoleptic point of view the wine was considered a unique and unrepeatable jewel. So lively and complex beyond any logical expectation.
The wine was officially presented in a famous tasting held in the wonderful Formica island, in the Aegean Archipelago. The 37.5cl bottles were designed by Giacomo Bersanetti and the wine was released into market, year after year, by small lots and especially sold by means of several auctions. Three lots, coming directly from Veronelli's personal cellar, have been recently sold at the Bollafi Auction on the 17th of November 2015. Few exemplars are available online exclusively through the Italian retailer wineshop.it.   

Tasting Notes  (from cask no. 9)
From the picture above you can see the wine presents some haze and a brown colour. Very good tears. By just a visual judgment you are ready to throw the bottle in the bin. Fortunately a kaleidoscopic surge of complex aromas are jumping out of the glass screaming "Wait! Wait! poor fool. What are you doing?".
It's unbelievable! Chestnut, honey, caramel, earth, cool balsamic notes and garrigue, not a hint of hotness from the 17+%alcohol. You need to try it to understand how old looks to the eye and how fresh and vibrant arrives to the nose.
On the palate again it's very lively and serious, practically dry, with a wonderful tangy character of the best dry sherries. Concentrated and elegant on the mid-palate. An authoritative structure lead to a very long finish.
Outstanding Quality. Premium Price. Drink now or hold. Blend: Frappato, Calabrese, Grossonero. Tenuta di Mazzaronello (1932), Chiaramonte Gulfi, Ragusa, Sicily.

<< Non e' buono il cavaliero se
non si prova sul campo della battaglia >>.
Mi consegnano la prima bottiglia di "Ora da Re" e 
subito le memoro, le parole di 
Santa Caterina da Siena.
Scenda in campo il vino del
mio privilegio e mostri con
orgoglio le sue insegne.

Luigi Veronelli


Popular Posts