Monday, May 2, 2011

Behind the Shelves: Enoteca La Botte (Ce)

I turned right at the Caserta north exit. I should have turned left. So, when I did arrive, I was 15 minutes behind my schedule. I had an informal appointment with Vincenzo Ricciardi. I hadn't seen Vincenzo in several weeks when he taught our II level sommelier class on the Campania Region. Vincenzo Ricciardi, 30 + years of professional sommelier experience including Delegate of Ais Caserta, President of the Campania Region, and Ais National Vice President. Vincenzo Ricciardi, owner of Enoteca La Botte .

I’m not sure what hit me first when I walked into Via Nazionale Appia 166; the incredibly high ceilings with chandeliers dangling…or the aromas of roast beef coming from the courtyard to the right. I entered, walked past the chocolates, and began to eye the international wines section. I was there for awhile, looking at labels, trying to recall the grape varieties that I have been studying for the past 3 months, when I heard a familiar voice. I turned, and saw a familiar face and familiar smile. Vincenzo. Straight from the kitchen where he had been preparing for that evening’s III level sommelier course for Ais Caserta.

You have the classes here? I asked…Yes, tonight we’ll be talking about wine and food pairing so meat and potatoes is on the menu…let me show you where.

And so my time with Ricciardi began. Directly to the back of the enoteca. Back where his classroom was set up for that evening’s lesson, wooden tables, wooden chairs. A classroom housed in an area enveloped in Roman arches that silently reminds you how far back Italian winemaking history goes. Bottles, everywhere…huge bottles.

Vincenzo began opening doors to back rooms, showing me boxes and boxes of wines from all over. He talked to me about his plans to renovate…to expand his wine tasting area…open up a wine bar. Another door, where his older vintages were. Bottles dating back to who knows when...on shelves, in drawers, many lightly clothed in dust. Bottles that were gifts…signed by the winemaker...bottles that he had acquired over his long career as a wine enthusiast.

We quickly walked through the different regions of Italy, every now and then stopping to chat about a particular wine… Not only interesting to note the wide variety of producers, but also a variety of vintages available. Some I knew…many I didn’t…several that I wanted to try.

It was time to try…but not wine, cheese. Ricciardi brought me to another section of his enoteca. A section which hosts a large selection of prodotti tipici…from cheeses, salamis, prosciutto, pastas, olive oils, etc. etc. etc.

Karen, Vieni a assaggià…Come and taste. A provolone from Formia that had been aged in a grotta (underground cave), a salami from Tuscany that practically melted in my mouth, and a guanciale from Venticano were just some of the specialties that I shared with Vincenzo that evening.

I looked at my watch, it was almost 8 pm. Had I been here for nearly 2 hours already? The enoteca was filling up with fellow sommelier students. Customers were waiting for Vincenzo as well. Customers, friends, and students, who, like me, were caught up in the enthusiasm that Ricciardi has not only for wine, for food, but for life as well.

I took a few more minutes to walk around by myself, to take a few pictures, to study the labels. To think about the questions that I asked, to regret the ones I didn’t get a chance to ask. But to mentally schedule one, no, several more visits to Enoteca La Botte.

But this time I’ll turn left at the Caserta North exit, not right.

Enoteca La Botte
Via Nazionale Appia 166/180
81022 Casagiove (Ce)
0823 494040

Italian Version

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