Naming wine isn't exactly rocket science. Like Italian, French and other players in the name game, you simply conform to labeling standards with mandatory brand, origin, type, producer and alcohol content, plus optional vintage, vineyard, destination and estate, our Wine Labels 101 series talks all about that, but an example of this reads like, "Giacomo Bologna Barbera D'asti, Brico Dell Uccellone 2003". Or wineries can try to a make a memorable impression with a novelty name like Cheapskate, Left Foot Charley or Zombie Killer.
If you sampled a different Italian wine every week, it would take 27 years to taste your way through Italy. With 2,412 brands in a crowded market, relatively few winemakers rely on marketing to set themselves apart from the competition. They depend on brand loyalty, retail exposure or a one-of-a-kind trademark to differentiate their product and communicate to an overly communicated public.
That said, how or why does a winemaker come up with the name Est! Est!! Est!!!? The answer is found in an etymology. Legend has it that in the year 1111, a German bishop en route to the Vatican sent his majordomo ahead to search for inns that served quality wine. Italian wine apparently was the prelate's object of obsession. When the scout found a lodging with wine that qualified, he would scribble the word Est, which is Latin for Vinum Est Bonum, meaning "the wine is good", on the front door with chalk. At one such place in Montefiascone, 75 miles north of Rome, the wine was deemed so exceptional that he wrote Est on the entrance three times.
When the bishop arrived, he became enthralled with the local wine and picturesque Montefiascone. Upon completion of his mission in Rome, he returned to that village and decided to retire and spend the rest of his life there. When he eventually passed away, the village initiated an annual tradition of pouring a cask of wine over his grave. The bishop's demise thus resulted in the debut of Est! Est!! Est!!!.
Est! Est!! Est!!! Originated in Lazio, Central Italy
If the name itself doesn't elicit historical significance and curiosity, perhaps the taste will. A product of the Lazio region in central Italy, the vibrant white wine showcases fresh aromas of husk and hawthorn blossoms interlaced with hints of fresh apples. The wine attained DOC status in 1966.
Years ago, Est! Est!! Est!!! was rather sweet and likely made from Moscato grapes. Today, it is composed primarily of Trebbiano Toscano, along with Malvasia Bianca and Rossetto. Blends vary according to producers, who offer four styles - secco (dry), abboccato (slightly sweet), amabile (sweet) and spumante (sparkling). Comparatively, little of this wine is exported beyond Lazio.
The vineyards are located along the shores of Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe. With its moderate temperature, the climate provides such advantages as warmer summers and cooler winters that help cultivate the grape crop. Steep slopes are required for drainage since the soil surrounding lake is volcanic and tends to retain moisture. Soil best suited for yielding the choicest grapes is crumbly, contains traces of fossil and is saturated with enough potassium and phosphorus to help the vines flourish.
In modern Italian, the word Est translates into East. However, there's nothing eastern about Est! Est!! Est!!! The wine comes from the northwest area of Lazio, where the vineyards are situated on hilly terrain bathed in ample sunshine. So, as the tale tells, the name is dirrived from the historic usage of a language that has long since been dead, Latin - it's quite the example for how things get lost in translation when it come to history, as languages change and die as the years progress.
Est! Est!! Est!!! is Made From Trebbiano Grapes
Wine aside, the countryside encircling Lake Bolsena is breathtakingly beautiful. Following the introduction of Est! Est!! Est!!!, the area was highly praised by tourists who made it a preferred destination not only for enological pleasure, but scenic appreciation as well.
Given the location of Lazio, one would think that a significant number of red wines are produced due to the weather. But 85 percent of the region's wine is white. Of the 25 DOC zones in the area, 20 contain provisions for white wine, all of which rely on Trebbiano Toscano and/or Malvasia. Trebbiano, one of the most widely planted grapes in Italy, is known as Procanico in Lazio, but goes by different names in other parts of the country. It is also the principal grape in the production of Tuscany's sweet Vin Santo and Umbria's semi-sweet Orvieto.
Ancient Est! Est!! Est!!! doesn't age well. Its appeal lies in simplicity that results from excellent grapes and uncomplicated production. For these reasons, it is best enjoyed while young and fresh, and for sipping in summer.
Pair Est! Est!! Est!!! With Local Dishes
Though most of the production involves stainless steel tanks, some of the cru (raw) wines are slightly enriched by storing them briefly in wooden barrels. Apart from intensifying the straw yellow color, this extra step enhances the nutty tone and adds layers of spiciness and a creamy component to the profile.
As for pairing with food, the cuisine of central Italy is generally simple, yet refined. Est! Est!! Est!!! matches well with local dishes like Frito Misto (fried vegetables) and Carciofi alla Guida (deep-fried artichokes). The relatively high acidity neutralizes the region's richer dishes, including Spagetti alla Carbonara (pasta with a sauce of bacon, eggs, olive oil and Parmesan cheese) and Porchetta (roasted suckling pig stuffed with herbs).
Triple E is usually found on retail shelves with the titles Bici, Falesco and Falesco Poggio dei Gelsi and vintage 2002, plus the brand name and all those exclamation marks. Per-bottle prices range from $5 to $14 US.
People unfamiliar with the language of wine might be intimidated or confused by the information on the labels. That's why the repetitive, catchy Est! Est!! Est!!!, its unconventional history and centuries of endurance score in the name game.