This spring, Shelley Lindgren was finally and deservedly given the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Service at her San Francisco restaurant A16, confirming what many have known for a very long time: she’s the greatest Italian wine brain, sommelier and advocate in the country. Her depth of knowledge is evident in the staggering, unique selections she’s pulled together for her three restaurants. She’s completely changed and challenged what Americans think about Italian wine.
Currently, Lindgren’s mind is on the wines of southern Italy, as she’s doing research for a forthcoming book on the subject. And quite frankly, we’re insanely jealous of all of her travel, much of which has taken her to islands, beaches and craggy coasts.
"A lot of the of the islands and coastal areas in Italy that are a little more remote really have their have their own wine identities. They’re like treasures in the coves and cliffs and mountains," says Lindgren. "Obviously, southern Italy can be very warm and hot in the summer, but it cools down at night, so even places that are flat, like in the boot, in Puglia, where 90% of the wines are red, you have this really delicate acidity, and the tannins are round because of the warmth, so you get a real depth of fruit on the midpalate. They make great roses and drink it by the gallon. They eat tons of seafood in southern Italy, so regions like Campania and Sicily produce an incredible amount of white wine. People think of these as red wine areas, but that’s changing—it’s approximately two-thirds white wine. And you’re starting to see once lesser-known white wines from Italy being more and more recognized as some of the top white grapes in the world."