James Suckling tastes with Nadia Zenato

Yesterday, celebrated American wine writer James Suckling paid a visit to the Zenato winery in Peschiera del Garda where he and Nadia Zenato tasted a vertical flight of the estate’s Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva.

That’s James, seated left, with Nadia in the winery’s underground tasting and aging room.

An acclaimed journalist and wine writer, James is widely recognized as one of the pioneers of American wine journalism. He was among the first writers to join the staff at the then nascent Wine Spectator in the early 1980s when the publication just had a handful of subscribers.

Just a few short years later, the magazine sent him to live in Paris where he set up its first European tasting office.

It was only natural that the magazine would expand its coverage to include French and Portuguese wines. But it was Suckling’s embrace of Italian wine that marked an epochal shift in how consumers perceived wines from Italy.

James would ultimately relocate to Italy where he became a prolific writer on the country’s wines and one of their first high-profile champions. Perhaps more than any other writer from his generation, James literally put Italy “on the map” of the world’s fine wines.

He recent years, he’s branched out beyond the wine writing world, expanding his work as a philanthropist and film producer.

He’s also a big fan of Zenato’s Amarone. Here’s what he had to say in his most recent review of the Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Riserva:

    Zenato 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella Cl. Ris. Sergio Zenato
    99 points

    This is a huge and impressive wine, but somehow graceful and subtle. It packs an eclectic array of brambleberry compote, violet essence, eucalyptus, oyster shell, pure iodine, vanilla, resin, tar, cassis, plum liqueur and hot stones. You can only stand back in awe as one shade of fruit appears after the next and a barrage of tannin coats your mouth. Yet, this is gentle, agile and flowing. Nevertheless, its main attraction remains its unashamed, monumental power and muscularity. A haunting wine that sends chills down your spine. An epoch-defining wine for Veneto that harks back to the legends of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Perhaps the best Amarone ever made.