Words of Wit, Wisdom and Wonder on Wine & Spirits

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lunching and Learning with Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini of Barone Fini

Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini is holding court at a small round table tucked into a corner at Felidia, celebrity chef Lidia Bastianich’s swank Italian restaurant on New York’s Upper East Side.  Descended from Italian royalty--Bonmartini-Fini is actually a Count—the slim, debonair de facto head of Barone Fini, his family winery, is regaling guests on such topics as the history of Italy, true Roman cuisine and the trials and tribulations of running an international business within the parameters of Italian tax laws.
            But the last thing Bonmartini-Fini wants to talk about is ink; as in printer’s ink, a business that has successfully grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade, earning him a small fortune.  “There’s just no glamour in it,” Bonmartini-Fini confesses.  “It’s boring.”

Giovanni Bonmartini-Fini
What isn’t boring to Bonmartini-Fini is winemaking, specifically Pinot Grigio, which Barone Fini produces two: a Pinot Grigio Valdadige and a Pinot Grigio Alto Adige.  And while his winery also produces a palatable Merlot, it is the white wines that excite Bonmartini-Fini, made from relatively young vines in the Trentino region of northern Italy planted about 30 years ago.  Both Barone Fini Pinot Grigio bottlings are D.O.C, which means the wines were produced in specific regions according to traditional Italian winemaking standards.  Generally, D.O.C. is a mark of excellence and top quality. Bonmartini-Fini says the key to the complexity and complex aromas and flavors in his wines stem from the earth itself.

“Our vines are planted in dolomite gravelly soil,” says Bonmartin-Fini.  “You can actually see bits of shell in the soil from ancient sea beds that once covered the ground. Pinot Grigio requires rich, minerals in the soil, along with good drainage, but it is a sturdy and tough varietal and very forgiving of any mistreatment”

Easily one of the most interesting and complex Pinot Grigios I've ever tasted
            Though the soil in the Trentino region where Barone Fini makes its wines may be rich with minerals, and soaked with natural spring water from rains in the lofty Alto Adige, Bonmartini-Fini insists it is the clean simplicity of his Pinot Grigios, with the grapes hand picked and lightly crushed (Valdadige is fermented in stainless steel tanks, while Alto Adige sees three months of wood casks) that makes them special.
            “We’re not talking about big wines here,” he says while swirling a glass of his 2009 Pinot Grigio. “These are food wines, made to be enjoyed with food while young. I like them best when they are fresh and crisp.”
            According to Bonmartini-Fini, his Barone Fini Pinot Grigios as well as his Merlot are purposely made to be medium-bodied, without harsh tannins or high alcohol content.  He says he follows advice once given to him by a wise Italian winemaker: “Don’t let nature take control, you take control.”  And Bonmnartini-Fini, whether it’s black ink or the golden hue of his Barone Fini Pinot Grigios, is clearly in control.

Tasting Notes:
Barone Fini 2009 Pinot Grigio Valdadige
Bright and citrusy, with faint lemon/lime and floral aromas that repeat on the palate, opening to flinty, well rounded juiciness that finishes clean with a hint of lichee and green apple. Nice balance of acid to fruit.

Barone Fini 2009 Pinot Grigio Alto Adige
Zesty and unusually concentrated. Wild flowers, herbs and ripe pear aromas rise up from the glass, not unlike a fine Viognier.  On the palate are mineral and all-spice notes with a hint of raw cashews.  Medium to full-bodied, it finishes long and satisfying, with creamy lemon curd flavors. 

Barone Fini 2009 Merlot
Light to medium bodied, with a fruity, bright cherry nose. Clean and bracing on the palate, with hints of plum and cassis. Not particularly tannic but has decent structure nonetheless, with a smooth, velvety finish that brings chocolate cherry notes to the fore.    

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