Last September 17th Nicolas Belfrage, Master of Wine left us, leaving an aura of great sadness and infinite gratitude for having met such a pure and kind soul.
That same evening, in Italy, still not informed of the news, we were drinking with some dear friends a bottle of Paradiso di Manfredi’s Rosso di Montalcino, and in the meantime, I shared the thought that this wine would certainly be excellent as it was a favorite of Nick. The event led to a nice conversation about him.
The last time I spent time with him was at a “family” dinner organized by Ixta, Nick’s youngest daughter, at their home in Italy, Villa Monte in Rufina. I found him fragile but with eyes full of life, happy and satisfied with the wine he had chosen to accompany the delicious dishes cooked by Ixta. The evening ended with some jazz music, played by Charlie Parker, and lots of laughs, reminiscing all the special moments we had shared in that house, during all the years it had been their property (it would be up for sale shortly thereafter).
Our families met in the mid-1990s when our children were of school age. From that moment on we spent almost all weekends together, cooking, eating what we had prepared and drinking; we enjoyed exploring different wineries, often moving away from the usual local Chianti. Until then, we were lacking the knowledge that revolves around the world of wine and we found the choices that Nick often suggested unusual, considering that at that time in Italy everyone drank the classic local regional wines. Nick, with a lot of patience and dedication, shared with us all his knowledge, passing on his passion for wine. He had a kind way of guiding you in search for what was honest and good in wine, so real and convincing that it has forever marked our paths leading us to become a family of wine producers with a wine shop in Florence.
Much later I had the honor of working with Nick in the world of wine. I was traveling around Italy visiting producers and companies both with Nick and alone. Each time I was happily surprised at how he was so loved and well liked, it was enough to name him to find always smiling faces and friendly ways waiting for you at the cellar door.
Nick, by divulging his knowledge about the whole Italian wine scene, with his books and his activity as a journalist, has indelibly enriched all Italians and non-Italians who love to enjoy a glass of wine to accompany a meal cooked with love.
As I sit and write these lines, I can’t help but think that here in Italy we should all raise a glass as a tribute to Nick, who, with no personal interest but driven by passion alone, drove the whole country in his car in search of interesting wines for the world. He recorded them one by one, black on white, to convey his enthusiasm in the face of so much genuineness and love that over the years has led man to create that precious nectar that unites people and honors the earth.