Thursday, May 22, 2008
My Violet Quest
At one point in my wine education, I learned that Italian wines can smell like violets. Here’s the frustrating thing. When was the last time you smelled a violet? Here in NJ, U.S.A., they’re not exactly sprouting out of every garden bed…unlike, honeysuckles and lilacs--gorgeous fragrances that I can identify blindfolded.
So, I was on a mission this spring: smell a violet. My eyes were always scanning the ground for purple blooms. This was not going to be easy. When I found little purple flowers, they often had no discernable fragrance.
Even when traveling, I tended to my quest. Strolling in Blowing Rock, I spied a patch of purple. I quickly picked a flower and stuck it up to my nostrils. Smells like…nothing. Then I looked more closely and realized I just picked Vinca, a common groundcover. The tattered petals fell to the ground along with my hope.
Finally, along the cracks of my own driveway (score one for letting things go), I finally found a few stray blossoms…small, deep purple, real violets. I picked them eagerly and smelled. Then I sniffed more deeply. Did I catch a whiff of anything? I shred the little petals to release more fragrance. There, at last, a faint, but distinctive smell. At this point I was afraid if I inhaled any more deeply I’d be snorting violets.
All this dedication came to fruition at a recent wine dinner. Among the very interesting wines being poured that night was a 1999 Bava Barolo Contrabasso di Castiglione Falletto. I love the label on this wine, a lively sketch of a bass violin. The beautifully aged red wine was silky smooth, rich with cherries, really spectacular. The 100% Nebbiolo is one of Bava’s Collezione Quintetto. Each wine is named for a musical instrument. In addition to the base violin, there is Stradivario, Violincello, Cor de Chase (a hunter’s horn), and Bass Tuba. I love that on Bava’s web site, there are musical suggestions for each of the wines.
I stuck my nose far into the glass and sniffed as deeply as I could. At last! Violets! The aroma was clear as day. I grabbed my husband and stuck his nose in. “What do you smell?” Silence. Since he had not dedicated his spring to picking purple flowers, I had another idea. “It’s violets, you know, like those little purple candies?” Yes, he smelled them too. So, in the end I found my violets. I drank a gorgeous Nebbiola that smelled like violets. And I put another notch in my belt of wine knowledge.