I have been thinking about pain lately. Pain as pleasure. Pain as remembrance. Pain as ennoblement. It can double one over on a regular basis if it is sharp enough. It can recall moments from the past that never go away, never heal. It can remind one that all this is fleeting and transitory, this earthly shell, this carnal cage. And yet, we press on, we scrape and bite and scratch our way toward making sense of some thing in order to give these few moments a sense of meaning, a reason for being.
What ever one finds on the trail, wine will never be enough. But without wine, the pain could be unbearable. Sounds like something one might find in the writing of a desperate visionary from the late 1800’s? Perhaps. Maybe from a solitary soul sitting at his favorite restaurant in Palermo after WWII, working on his only book. Never to be published in his lifetime.
Probably for the better, as it would only collide with a world coming out of the succeeding century. Imagine this tidy, friendless someone, if he happened to accidentally get a glimpse into a world 50 years past the time in which he wrote what would be considered one of the greatest novels of Italian literature in the 20th century. And if his world concerned the world we have woven on this little Italian wine planet three times a week for the last two years, if he were to be dialed in to the planet that the Italian wine trail is, what then? Let’s talk a little walk down that road.
First of all he would see his children, and many others’ children, scarring themselves with elaborate decoration. His precious glass of wine, the one that he drinks everyday, that un quarto of vino bianco, might be a little brighter, a little lighter, a little merrier. Not so morosely introspective, so muddled, so flaccid. Pain as release from burdensome memory. Grillo gone girly.
His beloved trio of reds, Barolo, Brunello and Amarone, might appear a bit different after their last Crusade. Barolo will be leaner, more erect and youthful. Brunello would now pose as the standard bearer, the model of virtuous deportment. And Amarone will have lost his baby fat, not so sweet and lovable now, the campaigns have leaned him out and made him self aware and solemn.
One bright light in his fairy tree might be the white wines of the Northeast. Lithe and hopeful, not without having lost a little of their youthful innocence, but still hopeful in the anticipation of purity and promise. Fifty years have wrestled the fairy princess from the shackles of the grave Teutonic sentinel. Fifty years have produced lightness and a Lolita-like twinge from a high acid and sharp fruit profile.
Over in Barbarossa land, he might witness a still brooding range of reds, from Basilicata to Puglia, but he would also see that the lord of the manor had been wrestled to the ground and is now a servant prince. The price to pay for dominance can often be to serve. While wines to the north queue up for tankers filled with the golden rich sunshine of the red wines from the South, no one bothers to accuse those in the South of adulterating their wine with the thinner, weaker reds from Tuscany or Piemonte. And why bother? Barbarossa knew where to conquer and to be conquered in like. The pain of domination and a region ascends into a world that for thousands of years thought little of their Southern cousins.
Not one to gamble, except in matters of the heart, the old writer peered once again over his glass of wine and looks into the abyss. Staring back in a vacuous manner was an unkempt little tramp, Soave. Back in the day, the little white wine from the Veneto would be seen in a few restaurants in Palermo and would be seen with the various antipasti making their way in the bars of the Charleston. Nowadays, how would he feel about the stylish little osteria near his home, I Vespri, in the Palazzo Cagni of his family homestead? Instead of a solitary offering of Bolla, he could find the various bottlings of Tamellini, Inama and Pieropan. Not a huge gamble, no big stakes, but something gained, something won from the last fifty years.
The significance? If there is one, rather than a late night tip-toe through the tulips, it might be to admonish the old man for his stern countenance that led to his early demise. Or was it that he blew it all in one book and saw no reason to stick around? Surely the world has become a coarser place in the last half century. Less civil in some ways, more matter-of-fact. Less structured, but more flavorsome. Not without the little pains that come if you live long enough. But a little glass of Marsala or passito di Pantelleria can ease one into sweet slumbers in preparation for another day of battle in this agro-dolce world.
Thanks to the art, courtesy of The Tattoo Studio.