I don’t especially like living in crowded Tokyo, but one big advantage is that every week you can find interesting events open for free to the people of the wine trade.
This time it was the Prosecco Superiore DOCG Japan Promotion 2019, a series of events organized by the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Consorzio. This and the DOC are two wines that I like to monitor from time to time because they are so little popular in Japan and I always wonder if they are going to explode at some point or not.
The events, held on November 5th, included a seminar, a buffet and a walk around tasting , but I had to teach at the school in the afternoon, so I just went to the seminar in the morning. Too bad, but anyway I prefer to concentrate on a handful of wine examining them properly, rather than just browsing through dozens of samples in a full scale tasting, especially considering that these producers are not even available in the Japanese market.
Without mincing words, it has been a disappointing seminar, in fact one of the worst I have ever been (and I have sat my share).
Maybe I was not the right target, but the brief the I got by email said that there would have been talk about recent developments of the appellation, so I thought that I may get some insights on their penetration in the Japanese market. Wishful thinking, but that was not the real problem, that could have been my mistake. The problem was in the seminar itself.
The event was opened by a lady from the Consorzio who introduced the public (buyers, sommelier, educators) to the Prosecco Superiore DOCG appellation in general terms. Listening to her was painful: she had just to talk for ten minutes and yet she read her English script from the first to the last word. I am a teacher, I prepare for public speeches all the time and I cringed while listening to her almost mechanic voice listing numbers and statistics and Unesco here, Unesco there. I said statistics, but it was nothing too fancy, all stuff that you (should) find on the Consorzio site.
Anyway, after these ten never-ending minutes, she handed the word over to mister Hayashi Shigeru, expert in Italian wine and CEO at Eataly Japan, who led the public through the seven wines showcased at the seminar. Now, I have no complaints about Hayashi-san, he was precise and competent, but it really felt that it was struggling with himself to say something good about each wine.
Yes because, and this is the worst point, the wines were not good at all. I had my share of decent Proseccos in the past, both DOCG and DOC, and here the only one who rose above an “acceptable” level was the Bellenda Dry Rive di Carpesica 2016 Metodo Classico. The Val d’Oca Brut Rive di San Pietro di Barbozza 2018 and the extra-dry from Tenuta 2 Castelli were also slightly ahead of the rest in terms of precision and definition, but the average quality was mediocre at best. Five wines over seven were Brut, which is fine, but then they also had a pretty low alcohol level (11% to 11.5%), which is not necessarily bad. However when these two elements are coupled with lack of structure, faint vague aromas and muted finish, I am led to think that the dry style is just the result of an excessively early harvest, an excuse, more than a choice.
So all my sympathy to mister Hayashi who was there talking about flowers and stuff. However at the same time I was sitting there, sadly sniffing at the wines and thinking:
“Do Prosecco DOCG producers or the Consorzio think that the Japanese are stupid? Do they think that the magic word ‘Unesco heritage’ will open their purse and make them buy Prosecco? Why using these wines for the seminar? Wasn’t anything better around? Japanese wine lovers are exposed to all types of wines: Champagne of any kind and level, Crémants, New World traditional method, Cava, tank method, ancestral. They love sparkling wines, it suits their food and they drink them often, especially at the end of the year. They can well understand when they get a mediocre Prosecco. They can also understand when a presenter is just reading the script and they get annoyed by this, like everyone else. Wasn’t there a way to engage the audience a bit more? Was it worth to come here this morning?”
No it wasn’t.
As I said I didn’t take part in the buffet or in the walk around tasting. Some people may say that you need to meet the producers to really judge their work, but when I have to choose a wine for my courses I need to assess what is in the glass, if it is the right wine for me or not.
I am pretty sure that other sommeliers and buyers do the same, with their own set of priorities.