Value is not Based on Price

T0003520_contado1The best value wines are not always the least expensive.  But price is also no guarantee of quality.  As with anything it is based on what the market or the perceived market will pay. When it comes to wine, you and I are the market, and we need to show the powers that be that we can make good choices about value. It has long been my goal at Zambri’s and else where to de-mystify the world of Italian Wine so that we can take advantage of some of the great deals out there.

My wine tip this week is about a great wine called Contado Aglianico.  At 24.99 per bottle it is not as inexpensive as the wine I recommended last week but it is exceptional value and I will tell you why.  There is a wine rating system in Italy which rates wines as uno, due or tre bichierri. (This translates as one, two or three glasses).  Tre Bichierri is the highest Italian wine award.

The 2009 vintage of the Contado Aglianico from Di Majo Norante has achieved Tre Bichierri.  So this makes the wine cost of $24.99 an incredible deal.  If this wine was from a more well known producer and region it could easily cost ten times that much.  The Contado is produced by Di Majo Norante in a region called Molise in the Central South of Italy.  The wine is made from 100% Aglianico which is a powerhouse grape grown mainly in the south of Italy.

This is a wine to drink today, (I recommend decanting to soften the tannins), but could easily be aged for ten or more years.  As with my previous posts, this wine is not available on the shelves locally as far as I have seen.  So the only way to purchase it is by the case.  You can order it from any government liquor store. The CSPC code for this one is 535732.  Take advantage of it now as you never know how long these wines will stay in the system.

It Happened at the Rijksmuseum


I love Rembrandt.  I don’t know why.  Something about the way he paints eyes that seem to look directly inside me.  I especially love this self portrait he painted at a later age.  It was a time in his life where things were not going too well for him.  His beloved first wife had died and his career as an artist was stagnating.  He had been in favour and now he was not.  The expression on his face seems to convey both weariness and defiance.  Although life is not great you can see his internal sense of self is undiminished.  Battered but not beaten.

Last June we were in Amsterdam and I was excited to visit the newly renovated Rijksmuseum.  This would combine a trip to an architecturally interesting renovation with the ability to see many of the Rembrandt’s that had been unavailable to the last time we were there.  It turns out there was a third treat in store for me.  One of my favourite authors, Alain de Botton was the Curator of a show at the Museum called, Art is Therapy, based on a book he had written with Co-Curator John Armstrong called Art as Therapy.

Alain di Botton

I had not heard of his book and I was intrigued by his presence at such a venerable  institution as the Rijksmuseum. The premise of both the book and the show was that Art should have a point and that point should be to improve the lives of its viewers.  The authors take exception to the way art is portrayed and viewed in the modern world and feel that Art Galleries and Museums totally miss the point.  This has not made them very popular with the art world. But, as I know from my wife Dita, the Dutch are very open to new ideas and concepts.  Alain happened to be at a cocktail party with Wim Pijbes the General Director of the Rijksmuseum.  After reading his book, Wim immediately invited de Botton to curate a show encouraging a more accessible approach to the viewing of art, even down to a neon sign on the front of the historical museum declaring Art is Therapy.


Throughout the museum squares of yellow paper posed an alternative view of certain important works.  Rather than describing an historical period or style, the curators create  an emotional context such as tenderness, love, anxiety or sorrow.  Talking about what the works might invoke inside the viewer rather than their status in the art world was intended to make art, even and especially the great masters, more accessible to the human experience now.De Joodse bruid, Rijksmuseum

In one very exciting moment for me, Dita and I were sitting and looking at this painting by Rembrandt called The Jewish Bride, The accompanying note talked about the tenderness displayed and how hard it is to maintain that newly wed tenderness in our relationships over time. I was reflecting on that in terms of my own relationship, (Dita and I had just gotten married after twenty five years together), when I happened to glance behind me and saw Alain de Botton and John Cameron watching the public reaction to their show.  So now I can say I truly have been a part of the curatorial experience. A living example of Art is Therapy!

How I Came to Love Art

Z Bench 2
I love this photo so much.  It is of my majestic BouvierJoop posed beside one of our curved benches.  It is taken outside Zambri’s restaurant in Victoria where I work as a Sommelier.  But even if I were not connected to all these things I would still enjoy looking at this photograph.  I would love the angle the photo is taken from where the bench seems to snake onward to infinity.  I love the way the dog is caught staring at someone outside the photo. It captures his intelligence and intensity.  I love the way his eyes match the colour of the bench and curve of his leash mirrors the curves in the rebar. I love the way the photographer gives us a sense of a busy street and and a busy restaurant in the background while ensuring our eye remains drawn to the dog and bench.This is a photo taken by my good friend and extremely talented photographer Jacqueline, (Jax) Downey.

I have a funny story I tell at dinner parties about when my wife Dita and I first moved in together.  At the time I had an apartment that was filled from top to bottom with Ikea, including the “artwork” on the walls.  Dita brought with her a mishmash of stuff including several works of original art brought over when her family immigrated from the Netherlands. I was quite upset at the thought of the beautiful symmetry of my Ikea look being messed up by her things.  I thought her artwork looked old and worn and somewhat depressing while my new Ikea stuff was so bright and perfect and new.

Don’t get me wrong.  I think Ikea definitely has its place.  I just tell the story to show how tastes develop and change. Now, of course, her paintings hang in our home and I can not even remember my Ikea “art”. (Photo taken by me not Jax)

Dutch ARt

Developing an appreciation for art takes time.  I often find I have a hard time going to an Art Gallery or Museum.  Mostly I feel anxious in these places.  I have an easier time reading about art and then looking at it. Or someone can help me with the process like the very good docent at a museum in Phoenix, who really helped me to connect with Modern Art for the first time. Yet, I have also been deeply touched in a seemingly spontaneous way by certain pieces and these moments stand out for me.

Functional Art is a something that I feel a lot more comfortable with.  By this I mean art that is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally satisfying. I have developed a love and appreciation for beautiful homes and the furnishings that go in them and now that my eyes have been opened to this it brings me great pleasure.  Alain de Botton in his book, The Architecture of Happiness, examines why this is so. He states;

“We value certain buildings for their ability to rebalance our misshapen natures and encourage emotions which our predominant commitments force us to sacrifice. Feelings of competitiveness envy and aggression hardly need elaboration, but feelings of humility amid an immense and sublime universe, of a desire for calm at the onset of evening or of an aspiration for gravity and kindness – these form no correspondingly reliable part of our inner landscape, a rueful absence which may explain our wish to bind such emotions to the fabric of our homes”.

I am lucky to live in a home that evokes this feeling in me every day.

2011-07-08 13.53.14-2

Best Value Wine From Emilia Romagna

Poderi Dai Nespoli

Don’t ever go to Europe if you don’t want to deeply resent the price we pay in Canada for European wines.  I work as a Sommelier for Zambri’s restaurant and I have a passion for Italian wines.  I make it my mission to source out the best value I can find in a market where prices are inflated and taxes are so high.  In the process, of course, I find good wines that I can take home for dinner.  This week I have two wines for you, a white and a red from Poderi dal Nespoli a good producer from the Italian wine region of Emilia Romagna.  Many of you may have heard of this region as it is considered to the the food basket of Italy, but it is not as well known for its wines.

My house wines right now are called Nespolino.  The white is a blend of trebbiano and chardonnay, medium bodied and a great food wine, especially with spicier food.  The red is a blend of sangiovese and merlot.  Also medium bodied but with a pleasant fullness that is nice both with food and sipping after dinner.  At $10.25 per bottle these are the best deal around.  But here is the catch.  You will not find them on the shelf anywhere at this price.  At private wine stores you might find them prices at around $14.00 which is still pretty good.  However, I order them by the case from the BCLDB and that is how to get the $10.25 price.  You need to know the SKU which is 791558 for the white and 520833 for he red.  You can also order these at any government liquor store in B.C. My final tip? Order fast as big changes are coming on April 1 that could result in price increases across the board.