Tasting The Ghost Grape: A Deep Look at Pignolo

What virtues are there to be found in obscurity? Don’t ask a hipster. They’ll just roll their eyes and go back to listening to music you’ve never heard of. But move beyond the stereotypes of aloof pretension and you can find something of value in the pursuit of the esoteric or the cryptic.

In a world where we swim in an oversaturated sea of media messages, beset by endless waves of rolling viral trends, the pursuit of the obscure is less about defiance than it is a quest for authenticity and depth. We can seek solace in the unknown, and in its intimate embrace, discover things both about the world and about ourselves that would never reveal themselves amidst the noisy ocean of common culture.

I can’t say that such thoughts immediately sprung to mind last year when I was invited to what was almost certainly America’s first and largest tasting of one of the world’s most obscure grape varieties. But more than anything, I am a curious wine drinker. So when someone invites me to come along and taste a few dozen examples of a grape I’ve had maybe once or twice in my life, I usually jump at the chance.

In all honesty, I had little sense of what I was getting myself into, but I trusted my friend Randall Grahm, from whom the invite came, to not leadeth me unto false pathways.

Tasting the Love

What ensued was at once both a straightforward wine tasting, and on the other hand, something akin to a spiritual retreat led by a man in the grips of a grape-induced satori.

I suppose it is utterly fitting, and in keeping with the theme of obscurity, that I don’t think I had ever heard of Ben Little before I showed up in Napa on a blustery spring day. Bright eyed, energetic, and sporting the requisite amount of facial hair to get into any hipster photo shoot, Little began the tasting with something approaching an incantation.

“In situations like this where I’m talking about Pignolo, I tend to let Pignolo be the one to speak,” said Little. “It is my leader, my guide. I woke up at 2:30 this morning and a quote came to mind, and it was this: ‘Tell me what you are going to do with your one wild and precious life.’ Those are the words of Mary Oliver from a poem she wrote called the Summer Day in 1990. I found the connection. This one wild and precious life.”

“In all the databases of grapes Pignolo is recognized as having its origins as vitis sylvestris. It comes from a wild vine. That is something that, over centuries, cultivators, farmers and in more recent years viticulturists have tried to come to terms with. But it has proven difficult.”

“Today may be difficult. You are under no obligation. There is no expectation. One thing Pignolo has taight me in recent years is to try to live every day without expectation. So when you meet Pignolo today, try to leave that human element of yourself to one side and taste with all your being. Your presence here today is all Pignolo and I could have ever asked for.”

“Neither Pignolo or I see this as a master class. This is a small yet significant part of a unique lesson. If it is philosophers who teach us know to think, I dare say that like all great artists, Pignolo and its winemakers are teaching us how to love. Today is a lesson in thought. For the last 260 years, with ever increasing measure, we have grown to ignore nature’s integrated evolutionary way, choosing instead to follow a more detached developmental path.”

“For reasons of simplicity, I see human decision making govered by a duo of stimuli. One is money, the other is love. In the last 45 years, a hardy bunch of Fruilani viticulturalists and winemakers have endeaoured to unlock the myth that lives aroudn this small black grape. Commercial wisdom declares no one of sound financial mind would ever choose to work with Pignolo on the basis of money. Which clearly leaves only one option. They do what they do for love. Instinct has led them thus far. For those that…


Source : https://www.vinography.com/2024/01/tasting-the-ghost-grape-a-deep-look-at-pignolo

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