Anthony Bourdain is an unabashed hedonist. A skosh caustic and brutally honest, he’s also eminently quotable, and often hilarious. Because he says stuff like this: “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn.” And this (about garlic): “Avoid at all costs that vile spew you see rotting in oil in screw-top jars. Too lazy to peel fresh? You don’t deserve to eat garlic.”
I hope you’re not a vegan who likes jarred garlic.
So, when the latest issue of Wine Spectator magazine arrived in my mailbox with Anthony Bourdain on the cover, I knew I’d be in for a good read. However, the quote of the article doesn’t belong to Bourdain, but to Wine Spectator editor-at-large, Harvey Steiman. The two were lunching at Ristorante Morini in New York City. The wine list arrives, and Steiman hands it to Bourdain, who bristles and says, “Oh no, that will be your department.” Bourdain claims he doesn’t know anything about wine (I’m throwing some serious side-eye on that claim), so Steiman tries to get a feel for what Bourdain likes in a wine. Bourdain is having steak and pasta with a Bolognese, so they settle on a red. But which red?
And that’s when Bourdain offers, “I don’t like big Bordeaux anymore. That’s a side of the spectrum I’m getting away from as I get older. I’m moving toward trashier, rougher Côtes du Rhone, wildly unpredictable Burgundies, and regional wines of Italy that I have absolutely no idea what the hell they are except they’re from someplace I’m interested in.”
Right. He doesn’t know anything about wine.
So Steiman whittles it down further, asking Bourdain,
Steiman just distilled the entire red wine world down to three words. Yes, there’s much more to red wine that just funk or fruit, but I love the simplicity, the lack of pretense. It’s a question I’ll keep in my back pocket for the next time someone asks me to recommend a “good red wine” (a nearly impossible task without knowing what someone likes in a wine).
And Bourdain’s answer? “Either way.”
Steiman then selects Ar.Pe.Pe Valtellina 1995 — a Nebbiolo from Lombardy, in Northern Italy, near the border with Switzerland. Steiman says it’s “a mature red with a lovely sense of refinement and precision.” I had never heard of Ar.Pe.Pe before, so I looked it up on wine-searcher.com (because I’m curious that way). There are no 1995s available, but the more recent vintages of this wine are about $12ish in Italy, and $35ish in the US. If you want the riserva, add another $10ish to the price tag. Honestly, I expected a fancy Wine Spectator editor and a world famous chef to end up with something a lot more flashy (read: rare and expensive). It’s kind of refreshing that they went with something more attainable for wine-drinking mortals (aka me).
So, wine friends, what say you?