Paul Favale ’97 recalls that when he finished his weekend chores, he and his grandfather from Italy would sit back to enjoy a piece of prosciutto, a block of cheese, and a few sips of vino. “I was exposed to a lot of wines through my grandparents,” said Favale, who is president of his own consulting company, Favale Enterprises, and president of wine importing company HP selections. Just back from a business trip to Bordeaux, France, and Tuscany, Italy, to taste wines from those regions, he gives you a splash of his expertise.
Drink what you like, even if it only costs $10. There are great bottles of wine at every price point because, nowadays, there is more production and more competition. In the United States, there are grapes planted in every state. With globalization, there are wines coming not only from places like Chile and Argentina, and Australia and South Africa, but also Lebanon, Israel, and Switzerland. Currency exchange rates can also lower the price.
The wine should complement your meal. Certain wines will go well with pizza, for example, because of the cheese, the acidity from the tomato sauce, the meats, and the vegetables. Those flavors will change the taste of the wine you’re drinking. Wines from Italy tend to go well with pizza because of the acidity levels. Recommendations: Brunello di Montalcino, Barbera D’Asti, Barolo, Chianti.
Aging like a fine… After you buy wine, let it rest. Retail stores often sell the vintage that was just released, but that wine is not necessarily ready to drink. Buy a case and drink a bottle a year for the next 12 years to see how it changes. (Keep in mind that certain wines [for example, sauvignon blanc and rosé] don’t have that ability to age as long and are meant to be consumed while they are young and fresh.)
Educate yourself. You can learn a tremendous amount by simply looking at a bottle: what country it’s from, the region, alcohol content, importer. Most wineries also have a website. So if there’s a wine you like, see if they produce other wines. Although wineries used to make just one type of wine, now they’re making second and third wines. As a result, winemakers offer similar style wines that are less expensive because the grapes come from younger vines or a different parcel of their property where the terroir may be a bit inferior to where they grow their main grapes. But, you still get the style, the same grape varietals, the packaging — all that’s connected to that vineyard and winemaker.
Take a tour. You’ll learn a lot more walking through the vineyards, talking to the winemakers, and tasting wines out of barrels than you will at a liquor store or reading a book. If you’re traveling, try what the locals are drinking. It’s a journey.
— Interview by Aleta Mayne