Presenting Italy Beyond Pizzas And Pasta

Updated: May 18 2003, 05:30am hrs
His love for wine making dates back to his childhood days when he used to tour with his father and grandfather, who were wine experts, to various vineyards across Italy. It was then, as a child, Giuseppe Martelli decided that a career in oenology was his only choice. That decision he never regrets and today he is the president of the Italian Association of Oenologists and Wine Technicians and is regarded worldwide as one of the best wine experts.

Though, Dr Martelli, 52, has travelled across the length and breadth of the globe, he feels at home conversing in his mother tongue. So, we had to settle for an interpreter, who too, had good knowledge about various aspects of wine.

Dr Martelli was in India recently for a week explaining various facets of Italian wine to the captains of industry, wine connoisseurs and traders about. He made them taste the wines after giving a brief account of the region of production. In one of his presentations in the Capital, he mesmerised the audience with his fine knowledge. Of course, the usual questions popped up: How is Italian wine different from the more popular French wine Is Italian wine less expensive than the French or the American wine And the like.

So when I asked him the same questions (this was before the presentation, if you thought that I was not attentive during the presentation!) in an interview, Dr Martelli had a simple line: One who acquires a taste for Italian wines will never ever touch other wines. He explains it like this: Italian wines are full bodied. They are made from several varieties of grapes, each with a regional distinction and totally home grown. The wine is casked and aged carefully and then bottled meticulously and stamped for authenticity.

The oenologist started his career during his university days working for one of the foremost wineries in Italy, the Tenute Sella & Mosca. In 1974 he held a teaching position in the science department of the Istituto Statale di Enologia at Conegliano and at the same time worked as an assistant at the institutes laboratories on viticulture and oenology.

His academic portfolio, coupled with the family experience at vineyards, has given him the hands on experience on the making of wine. And in 1996, the President of Italy conferred upon him the Commendatore Ordine Italiana Award, which is one of the highest citations in the country.

During his visit to India, he not only promoted his countrys wine but also got to taste some of the Indian wines. And after interacting with various people, says Dr Martelli, he has gathered that the Indian market is growing and there is a genuine class of connoisseurs who love authentic wines.

Drinking wine is a style statement and is a matter of class and prestige. But what I have gathered after interacting here is that many Indians still feel that wine is an alcoholic drink. I want to make it very clear that though wine has alcoholic content, but it is negligible as compared to whiskey or vodka which Indians prefer.

He feels that it will take some time before the myth is erased from the mind of Indians and they will start consuming wine.

Could prohibitive prices of wine be the main reason why Indians are not preferring wine Dr Martelli says, Yes, on foreign wine the duty imposed by the Indian government is whopping 260 per cent, which is highest in the world. We hope after Indian implements the WTO agreement, this will come down and more and more people will be able to afford quality wine.

So what does the master oenologist drink himself Oh, thats a very tricky question, says Dr Martelli and continues, I like red wines as they are matured. I also like pairing my wine with the right kind of food so that the taste is complimented.

The master prefers Brunello di Montalcino (red wine made of Sangiovese grapes), Barolo (red wine from Nebbiolo grapes) and Cabernet, the Californian red wine. It will not be fair on my part to point out a couple of brands, but nevertheless, the brands which I like are the premium ones available in the world today, endorses Dr Martelli. He further says that sometimes he smokes a Cuban cigar while savouring his red wine. Its definitely a feel good factor. I feel high, really high, he smiles.

Dr Martelli says it is very important to drink the right wine at the right time. White wines are usually fresh and youngideal for consuming during the day time. For the evening, red wine has no substitute, when one tends to sit back and relax. Thats what I explain during various wine tasting sessions and try to do the same myself.

The wine expert spends most of his time criss-crossing Italys various vineyards and often travels abroad to gauge the response to Italian wines. His other passion is classical music and whenever he has time, he plays a game of tennis with his daughter, Anna, who is also pursuing a course in oenology. Its her decision to do the course and I dont think I have influenced her in any way, he explains.

So, will the legacy continue Yes, as of now it shows Anna will join some wine company after her studies. But then it is lifelong hard work if she wants to excel and keep the family tradition.