Don’t ask me how…you don’t want to know, but I recently came across an old Vogue article titled, “Who Told Cindy to Remove Her Mole?” The provocative picture of a young Cindy Crawford circa, 1993 sauntering down the runway in Hervè Lèger obviously led me to the quick read. But, it was Cindy’s words that got me thinking about a few of my favorite things: wine, beauty, and truth.
According to Cindy, as a kid, her sister would tease Cindy about her now famous mole, calling it an “ugly mark.” For a period of time Cindy contemplated removing it. Her decision to live with her God given blemish was probably the best career decision she ever made. In a sea of ubiquitous beauty, it was this “ugly mark” that gave her “look” substance as well as elevated her natural allure. It was singularly hers, unforgettable and perfectly-imperfect. Above all else, I would argue, it made her authentic.
So what does this have to do with wine you ask? Well, Swigg is continually searching for Cindy Crawford’s mole, at least metaphorically. Adrift in a sea of ubiquitous, homogenous wine, beer and spirits that wash ashore at your local liquor and grocery store, polished up to look pretty and taste pretty (think lots of makeup), we are fishing for the authentic and the memorable, the beautiful and the profound…we are casting for Cindy, and the seas are, well… rough.
As the great twine writer Matt Kramer has stated:
“Many of today’s shallowest, most facile wines are created by winegrowers—and sometimes celebrated by wine critics—who dismiss, disregard or are even contemptuous of authenticity.”
These wine growers, critics and ultimately consumers are the same men and woman who probably think Cindy Crawford’s beauty would be enhanced or even saved by the removal of her mole…her authenticity. Rubbish!
The reality is that the “contemptuous part of authenticity” stems from the fact that many wine drinkers – and wine critics for that matter – as in life, simply reject what they cannot understand. Instead of keeping an open mind and realizing that Cindy’s mole is not an imperfection, and “authentic wine is not an abstraction,” they find solitude in a preconceived, juvenile, “one size fits all” notion of wine, beauty and taste.
To quote my hero once again, “The fine-wine transformation of our time is rooted in seeking the authentic, from the vines to deferential winemaking to the glass. It’s a matter of recognizing that there is indeed a real deal—and getting it.”
One of the producers that captures the “Real Wine” spirit of Swigg is Walter Massa. Every time I pour one of his wines, whether they be his “signature” bottles or his more modest offerings, they resonate authenticity, conjure visions of Cindy and make me want to take another sip.
As his national importer has noted:
“It’s hard not to get worked up about Walter Massa’s wines: He had a vision for a variety nobody wanted, worked in obscurity for years, rescued the grape (Timorassa), and doesn’t talk about himself but about the territory of Colli Tortonesi,” and after all these trials and tribulations has become the “Sound and fury of Italian sommeliers.”
Walter farms 22 hectares in 8 unique vineyard areas located in the forgotten Piedmontese appellation of Colli Tortonesi located in Northern Italy. If Walter is the beauty, the Timorasso grape is his “Mole.” Timorasso is an ancient Italian white grape varietal that hinged on the precipice of extinction until Walter resuscitated it. Though grown elsewhere in the appellation, Walter has made it his own. Timorasso is Walter’s letter of authenticity, a voluptuous expression of tropical fruit, Christmas spice, honey & bees wax with lip smacking minerality. There simply is nothing else like it. I sip Walter’s wines the same way my adolescent-self stared at pictures of Cindy, with passion and longing for more.
Like Cindy, Massa is not an unknown. Walter was Gambero Rosso’s viticulturist of the year in 2010, and his bottlings of Timorassa are considered some of the finest examples of white wine in Italy. Unfortunately, we live in Delaware, and there are limited bottles of Walter’s wines to drink, Hervè Lèger dresses to adorn, and there are certainly not many Cindy’s…but that’s ok, because I have Joanne, my own authentic beauty, and we always keep Walter Massa’s wine well stocked.