Restaurants / Bars

Energy Geologist Turned Italian Wine Guru Brings His Flair to Texas

Now, He’s Revealing His Hidden Hotspots — Where the Good Wines Are

BY // 01.26.18

I love to talk about wine with people who share my passion for it. We open bottles, we trade stories about travel and winemakers,  terroir and residual sugar, and we talk of taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines to one another, we drink, and we learn a lot. In Wine Talk, I introduce you to some of my friends, acquaintances, and people I meet as I make my way around the world, individuals who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste. You’ll appreciate their insight, and I hope you’ll learn something from them as well. 

A few months ago I attended a tasting party at a home in Houston that could have just as easily been situated in the Italian countryside. Marble floors and walls, Latin maxims gracefully displayed around the interior and courtyard (one that featured a pool and Roman statuary), and Italian hosts. There were, as well, many Italian guests, and we were sampling wines from that country.

At some point during the evening, I was introduced to Osvaldo Pascolini, a distinguished gentleman who, it quickly became evident, loves wine as much as I do. We enjoyed a scintillating conversation that touched upon his home country, geology — he is a geologist who works in the energy industry — food, cooking, and, of course, vino. Afterward, I knew he would be a perfect subject for Wine Talk.

Pascolini holds certificates from the Istituto di Cultura del Vino and the Italian Sommelier Association (AIS), the largest sommelier association in the world. He’s also an instructor at the Texas Wine School in Houston, and serves as the Texas delegate of the North American Sommelier Association. In short, he knows his stuff. I look forward to sharing a table, and more words and wine, with him soon.

PaperCity: Tell us about three wines you think are drinking well at the moment. What makes them worthwhile? How about a food pairing for each one?

Osvaldo Pascolini: Prosecco is definitely a global winner. However, the quality of Prosecco varies significantly, depending on wineries and terroir. My favorite is the Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze, DOCG. Pizza Margherita topped with a few anchovies pairs perfectly.

Another interesting sparkling wine, one made in the Traditional Method , is the Argyle Brut, a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, from the Willamette Valley.

The rising star among the sparkling wines is the Franciacorta DOCG; there are 106 producers in an area about 20 times smaller than the French Champagne region, with a peculiar geology and micro-climate. We are currently drinking Franciacorta by La Montin,a an organic, refreshing, elegant and complex wine, available also in Rosé.

Serve this with salmon … and your guests will love you.

These wines are perfect for pairing with foods needing acidity to balance their fat content. Salmon, for example, or fried seafood. Generally, we drink sparking wines throughout the year with our meals.

PC: If cost was no consideration, tell us the one bottle you would add to your personal collection, and why.

A 1960 Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero, Gran Reserva, a blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.

PC: What is your favorite grape, and why?

Pinot Noir. It’s challenging to grow and to produce excellent and complex wines from this grape. However, when everything works perfectly, the results are outstanding. I am thinking in particular of Burgundy (France) and the Pinot Nero of Alto Adige (Italy) by Brunnenhof. In addition, Pinot Noir plays a fundamental role in the production of my favorite Champagne and Franciacorta.

PC: How about one bottle that our readers should buy now to cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, anniversary, or other red-letter day?

Being a geologist, my attention is always captured by the terroir, in particular the geology and the resulting soil. An elegant, balanced full-bodied red wine that reflects perfectly the nature of its soil is the Aglianico del Vulture DOCG. Mount Vulture is an extinct volcano, located in Southern Italy. The soil is rich with unique minerals, and produces a wine of distinctive qualities.

PC: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a glass or bottle?

Vinology, a place in Houston, on Bissonnet at Greenbriar. The people working there have competency and are willing to keep learning. Some “wine gems” in Houston can be found there only.

PC: If there was one thing you wish everyone would keep in mind when buying and drinking wine, what is it?

Always look for estate-bottled wines, as they are generally produced from grapes right after the harvest, fruit that did not suffer from long transportation. The quality of wine will tell if the grape experienced problems and was damaged during the trip from the vineyard to the winery.

Another simple rule I recommend is to never swirl a sparkling wine!

PC: What is your “wine eureka moment,” the incident/taste/encounter that put you and wine on an intimate plane forever?

I was born and raised in Italy, surrounded by vineyards and any type of wine you can think of. When I was 4 years old, I took part in crushing and pressing the grapes with my feet, and that was my first involvement in the vinification process. I have never forgotten it. However, the thing that caused me to get deeply into wine came many years later, when I started working as an energy geologist.

During the business meals with my international colleagues I was always asked to choose the wines. At that point, about 25 years ago, I decided that it was time to learn more about the magnificent culture of wine. I started to study it in my spare time, and it’s grow into a passion that will forever be in my heart.

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