Here's a chestnut:
every season has its wine
During my first fall in Rome, my earliest
significant conversation with the neighborhood fruit seller was
about the pending arrival of the chestnuts.
The chestnuts usually get to Rome each year some time
between early October and early November. They're roasted on
street corners, sending an intoxicating woody scent through
the crisp air. The chestnut sellers bark out attention-grabbing
slogans, and passers by pay a few coins to take a small paper
sack of the warm nuts home with them.
The fruit seller told me another customer had just been in
Verona -- a six-hour train ride to the northeast of Rome -- and
she was told the chestnuts had just arrived on that city's
streets. She reckoned they would get to Rome about two
weeks after that, which turned out to be about right.
Unlike the U.S., where consumers have grown accustomed to
having almost any product all year around, in Europe people
always seem to be waiting for something tasty to come into
season: delicious and delicate peas are in the market by
Easter, I learned. The first asparagus arrives after the first
sunny days that follow the first rainy week in May; a
tree-ripened fig's complex sweetness can't be had before
mid-June; fresh broccoli and the first pears appear around
Halloween; and hard squash comes just in time for Christmas.
It's not as obvious, but similar cycles exist with wine.
Here in Italy, the crisp and simple Frascatti wines and
light rosés that got us through the summer are nowhere to be
seen once the oak trees in my neighborhood reveal their first
orange colors. And the brooding and ponderous Barbarescos
and Brunellos that had in recent months strictly been the wine of
choice for tourists who seemed to have more money than good
sense suddenly seem attractive again.
It's more than a matter of simply remembering whites in the heat
and reds when the weather cools. I've had woody and complex
whites -- Trebbiano d'Abruzzo immediately leaps to mind,
though a better example might be a heady and concentrated
Puligny-Montrachet -- that would be as inappropriate in the
summer as a sweaty evening by the fireplace. And the light and
refreshing fruit of a Beaujolais or a Grignolino from Italy's
Piedmonte are as out of place on a cool winter night as
Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt.
All over Europe, the first cool days of spring are the best excuse
available for cracking open an important red wine, whether it be
a stately classified Bordeaux, Continue