I’m in a wine bar just off Regent Street in central London and choose a Schioppettino 2007 from the list. I don’t know the winemaker, Fulvio Bressan, but the one time I tried schioppettino (means ‘little shot’; also known as ribolla nera) before, at a Friuli tasting, it was really, really good.
I take a big sniff of this Bressan 2007 and it’s breathtaking, one of the most perfectly poised and distinctively perfumed wines I’ve had the pleasure to try. The nose has something like pine singing over the fruit, then it’s more like pungent oregano oil.
Then it does that thing that all special wines do, namely having you climbing up the wall in frustration at not being able to connect an aroma to some long-undisturbed memory, an agonising something “that should be firm but slips, just at the fingertips”.
Is it frankincense? I imagine a priest swinging his clinky thurible down the church aisle (though I’m not a Catholic and never went to church). Then these aromas resolve into something… more homely – and I have it: lavender bags – those muslin lavender bags placed on pillows in certain impossibly cosy and settled homes.
These were the aromas rising so hypnotically from this glass of Bressan 2007 Schioppettino.
Then I googled ‘Bressan wine’.
The first word you see in connection with ‘Bressan wine’ is ‘racist’.
It turns out that Fulvio Bressan is a very intense man with military pretensions and rabidly racist tendencies. In 2013 his grotesque social media tirade against a black Italian politician caused such outrage that some wine industry people called for a boycott of his wines. One London chef, Jacob Kenedy, of Bocca di Lupo, even made a social media show of smashing his entire stock of them:
Several commentators, Guardian restaurant critics Jay Rayner and Marina O’Loughlin among them, expressed their support for Kenedy’s actions. It caused a big stir in the normally staid world of Italian wine.
So we have an amazing wine and a morally repugnant winemaker. Tricky. It’s funny that this comes just after I’ve written about another disgusting racist, Philip Larkin, and about the importance of separating the man from his art.
I would like to say that the same applies to Fulvio Bressan. It does to the extent that I can call his Schioppettino 2007 one of the finest wines available to humanity, but not to the extent that I will be drinking it again soon.
Disgusting public outbursts like this (note that Larkin’s racism was not public and he’s dead now) and what they represent, do call for a sort of protest, no matter how fine the wine is.