By Sasha Smith, NYC Correspondent

OK, I admit it. I’ve been feeling a little smug lately. Maybe it was the fact that I did pretty well on my study group’s blind tasting exercise. Or that I devoted a good part of my President’s Day to researching the slopes and soils of Burgundy. Or perhaps it’s just that many of the wines we’ve looked at to date, from Alsatian Rieslings to Southern Rhône reds, happen to be wines I drink frequently. Whatever the reason, up until yesterday I thought I would have no serious problem passing this test.

But yesterday’s class on Northern Italy left me wondering if I am not totally and completely screwed.

Italy has 1,000 different varietals, and I felt like we talked about at least half of them last night. Verduzzo, Croatina, Ribolla Gialla, Pignolo… at a certain point I just gave up, and my notes trailed off in a series of question marks. The tasting was even worse. I thought that a Gewurztraminer from Alto Adige was intense on the nose and palate, while our instructor Mary Ewing Mulligan, who quite literally wrote the book on Italian wine, said it was delicate. The Barbera that to me tasted mostly of tar and herbs, she praised for its juicy, fresh fruit
characteristics. At certain points, I was wondering if we were tasting the same wines. Not a good sign. 

I am definitely going to have to step it up, particularly as several of my classmates seem to know a lot about some very obscure Italian wines. (Granted, some of them are in the trade, including one who is a
sommelier at an Italian restaurant, but still.)

There were a few positives: first, I found out how delicious Soave can be. We tried a 2005 Soave Classico from Monte Carbonare and it was complex and surprisingly full-bodied. At $26, a much better value, and much more interesting, than I would have thought.

The other exciting discovery is that I’m not a fan of Amarone, or at least the 2000 Bertani we tasted. I love finding out that there’s an expensive wine I don’t like. More money to spend on aged Barolos, or even some Brunellos to get a jump on next week’s class on Central Italy.