Uncorked with Master Sommelier Richard Betts & Casanuova delle Cerbaie Brunello di Montalcino 2004

Like many of us, Richard Betts’ passion for wine began in Italy — Florence to be specific.

I know I can say that’s the case for me.  It’s where, in 2000, I took my first semester-long course in vino — Italian regional wine — wrapping my head around the more cerebral aspects of the winemaking process with the help of a great teacher, but most importantly, I think, learning to appreciate the pure, uncomplicated pleasure of enjoying a glass at mealtime.  It’s an Italian ritual, a cultural hallmark of life in the boot.  An essential piece of the ‘Dolce Vita’ manifesto that I grew to know and love.

Betts fell in love with wine in Florence in 1992.  Once a budding geologist, a memory of a glass once enjoyed on that first trip compelled him to drop everything (except the glass!) to pursue a career as a sommelier. Betts achieved his Court of Master Sommeliers diploma on the first try.  It’s no easy feat.  There are only 170 worldwide.  I don’t have a statistician handy, but the odds you’ll become one too are slim to none.  We are lucky to know Betts through Dennis Scholl, his winemaking partner (turns out sommeliers know a thing or two about making great wine,) and our sommelier Eric Larkee is no dummy, ensuring their Betts & Scholl label is a star on our wine list.

I had the pleasure of meeting Richard Betts at the Miami restaurant on Friday, and with a new Brunello di Montalcino that he’s importing now on our menu by the glass, seized the opportunity to ask him about it.  He kindly obliged.  Thank you Richard, and I look forward to next time!  There are so many more questions than these…  and no real fun asked over email :)

Somm Eric swirls my new favorite BTG wine on our list. I have been to Montalcino but never tasted a Brunello I liked quite like the Casanuova delle Cerbaie.

How many times have you been to Italy?

Oh wow, more than I can count. I also lived there in the early 90’s and for sure will do so again at some point.

3 words to describe how you feel about it.

Simultaneously forward, backward, and perfect.

Favorite Italian food. (All “favorite” questions are lame, except this one :D)

Anything I eat in Trieste. That city is still so Italian with no American influence. You eat the most amazing creatures that come from only the Adriatic and you can really feel that the ancient trade routes passed through there. For example, you’ll find amazing spices from the far east in the cooking but it isn’t nouveau, it is the way it has been for millenia.

How’s your Italian?

It is actually pretty good;)

Most historically important Italian vintner and/or wine-making family.

There are many of course but I have to say the very best is Roberto Conterno at Giacomo Conterno in Monforte, Barolo.

Most alluring (currently) wine-making region?

For whites I am all about Friuli as it extends into Slovenia. The Sauvignon Blanc there is the best on earth and totally unknown. For reds, there are the classics of course but I am currently smitten with the wines from Occhipinti in Sicily. How can you not love an elegant red called Frappato?

What and where would you grow if you lived there.

I would live in Montalcino and grow Sangiovese grosso to make true Brunello. When it is really done in the pure, traditional fashion it is one of the most elegant wines….so special. Plus, from Montalcino you can easily have lunch on the coast, in Rome, Florence, Siena – it’s perfect.

What does Brunello di Montalcino mean to you?

It means Sangiovese and large Slovenian oak barrels. Long aging. Elegance. No Merlot. No Cabernet. No French Barriques.

Why did you decide to import the 2004 Brunello which we now feature BTG @MGFD_MIA? Someone or something must have made an impression on you.

Totally. This is actually an effort of some of the most talented and driven folks in the business so it was a no-brainer really.

What’s the wine’s most impressive quality?

Purity and elegance.

How does the following (taken from their website) express itself in the character of the wine? P.S. Don’t you just love the translation quirks?

The vineyards of the Casanuova delle Cerbaie firm are located at approximately 300 metres above sea level on land dating back to the Eocene period characterized by calcareous, marl, argillaceous and conglomerate rocks. The prevailing south-west exposition of the vineyards allows them to grt the best sunlight throughout the day. Moreover, these vineyards grow on the prestigious hill of Montosoli and extend to the foot of the hill where Montalcino stands, thereby benefiting from a particularly moderate climate since they are sheltered by natural barriers on the North and West from the freezing north wind or extremely hot winds like the sorocco. The nature of the land and its enviable position thus make it possible to obtain excellent performances, eariching the Brunello results in terms of quality and to enrich the Brunello producted in this area with a of particular variety of fragraneces.

This is a pretty good account of how it goes there. Importantly, they are on the northern side of the appellation (which is really very diverse) and this makes for, again, elegant wines that are simultaneously structured and fine. The wine is actually akin to great red Burgundy.

What elements does a wine label need to incorporate into its look and information communicated, beyond the obvious (vintage, producer, etc.) to get it right?

Oh wow. That really depends and is a big question. The best way to see how I feel about it is to look at my labels: Betts and Scholl and Cc;

Why are your tweets so difficult for someone like me (who doesn’t know you too well!) to decipher? Help a girl out!

That is part of the mystery and the spice. Drink more wine and they’ll crystallize:)

Why should Eric Tweet, and why at the handle “@michaelswhine”?

Because he is smart, he is the face of the beverage program and insights into the restaurant business are cool and much desired. He can be funny, talk about what people are drinking, silly or crazy guests (w/o naming names) and really generate a following. It is important as he too needs to be a face there – it will only help success and when Michael is away, guests can see him and feel good. Michaelswhine is so smart! (Of course I think so) But obviously it alludes to the beverage, the resto, and the fact that you are going to gete CANDID and hilarious rants about the ENTIRE experience. Think how funny he’ll be on a busy Friday, on inventory, the morning after he’s been partying with me….on and on.

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