Christopher S. Miller
Tipicitá is an Italian term that is difficult to translate into English, yet has significance to wine regardless of where it is produced. The closest we come to a similar term in English is typical, but that doesn’t really work, because typical often has negative connotations (he’s drunk again—typical). So the wine industry and critics have once again formed a new word for what the Italians mean—typicity. A word my computer does not recognize and wants me to correct. Tipicitá can be useful for both winemakers and wine consumers to pay attention to. A typical wine is usually boring—it can be good but boring. Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay, Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio and Yellow Tail Shiraz are all typical wines without Tipicitá and are all kind of boring. This versus some of the Channing Daughters’ white wines I discussed in the last article. Those wines have the spirit of Tipicitá, though they will need more vintages to prove what the Long Island terroir is best suited to. For consumers, a wine store or restaurant that focuses solely on wines that are Tipicitá can be a touch daunting, but with a well designed program, headed by a passionate and devoted wine professional, such wine lists and stores can be the opposite of boring.
I spent a bit of January and February traveling and I discovered a slew of wine programs in the restaurants in Aspen and San Francisco that were tightly focused on wine of Tipicitá from a particular country or region. A16 Restaurant in San Francisco made a huge impact on my palate. This Italian restaurant focuses on the food of Campania and Naples and the wine list matches that quite uniquely.
While most restaurants like this would have an assortment of Chianti’s, Super-Tuscans, Barolos and Valpolicella’s, this list was composed only of still wines from Southern and Central Italy (excluding Tuscany) and was full of wines produced from grapes such as Aglianico, Greco, Fiano, Falanghina, Nero d’Avola, Gaglioppo, Montepulciano, Trebbiano (finally a couple the average consumer might recognize), Ansonica, Connonau, and many more fun interesting wines. This list would be scary for the average wine drinker, without a knowledgeable staff to help, but with a bit of knowledge the list becomes a vinous playground—the type of dining experience that forced me to jump into the food and wine business in the first place.
Locally, I have heard Trata East, a new Greek restaurant in Watermill, has a wine list of only Greek wines with names like Mavrodaphne, Assyrtiko, Aghrioghitiko, Xynomavro, Moscophilero, Robola, Limnio and many others. I plan on experiencing this adventure in the next month and I’m sure I will have a fun time. Greek wine regions are starting to get back to their ancient vinous heritage.
I know there are other focused/themed wine lists out there and would like to hear from our readers so I can check them out and report back in the future. What I am looking for are wine lists that are focused and adventurous, with selections that push the restaurant to have a well-educated staff. Such wine programs should be celebrated and supported so they continue and other restaurants and stores follow their lead. Stores are a bit tougher because they need to please a larger market. One store that has a strong staff that works hard to find Tipicitá wines is Domaine in East Hampton. You will find brands there, but there will also be a focus on adventurous wine selections. To see what A16’s and Café Ferreira’s wine programs look like, check out their websites: http://www.a16sf.com and http://www.ferreiracafe.com. I couldn’t find a website for Trata East but there is one for the Manhattan Trata: http://www.trata.com.