Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Meltdown

From the Archives ~ Aug.22, 2007


Annabella and her friend Lily were waiting for us at the airport. A small car, but ample enough for the four of us with our carry on bags. I had met Lily when she was married to Roberto. That was several years back at Vinitaly. They seemed happy enough then.

Lily was somewhere between 38 and 42, a dangerous time for an Italian woman, married or divorced. She can become anxious and unsettled, like a wild cat in a cage. If married, her husband’s friends can be suspect. If divorced her ex-husband’s friends can be considered provocateurs. Fear, superstition and uncertainty, with life and the future looming ahead, all add up to a powder keg of tension and explosive emotions. Perilous times.

“The first summer a newly divorced Italian woman spends is a test of how she will spend the rest of her life,” a saying goes. Here on Pantelleria she would be removed from the scrutiny of the local people who know her in Sicily. But her inner sentinel would still be on guard. For now it appeared her primary goal was getting as tan as she had been when she first blossomed into a woman at 16.


The airport in Trapani was unavailable for landing. Umberto had a friend in the Italian military, so he called ahead to Pantelleria for the unscheduled landing. The airport in Pantelleria is busier in August than most of the year, but it wasn’t really a problem of traffic. As the private plane touched down the temperature reading outside was 38°C. It was 10:00 AM.

A short drive to the resort went smoothly enough. A little idle chatter and gossip, nothing to sink the teeth into yet. Lily was a student of music and Marsala, her father was a winemaker, mother an opera singer. We were going to taste some of his older wines along with a few others from some of the luminary winemakers of the region. Marco de Bartoli was up in Bukkuram. Salvatore Murana was harvesting his Zibibbo at Mueggen. Donnafugata’s Ben Ryè was being harvested and taken over to Khamma Fuori. So at once a busy time for some, and a time of relaxation for others. And at night everyone would gather and eat and drink and enjoy each others company.

This time of the year they don’t do too many primi's or secondi’s. But being Sicily there was an abundance of dolci; in liquid, in solid and in other guises.


And the cards games. Ever since I watched my grandparents playing Scopa or Briscola, I was fascinated with people spending time playing cards. As a young boy I thought it odd that these old people would spend what few remaining moments they had on earth in pursuit of winning a card game. While my grandparents seemed ancient to me I knew somehow that they wouldn’t always remain so. It frightened me for them that they didn’t realize their folly.

Now I see it was a way for them to relax, unwind, stop the daily chores and duties and take a few breaths.
Umberto seemed to enjoy playing with Lily. Both of them were alone, and while Umberto always has this sense of self-sufficiency, someone like Lily would be a match against his hard stone; something could ignite.

Lily was in her post meltdown sequence, according to Annabella. Not interested in men, but definitely interested in parts of them. Conflicted, angry, hurt, vulnerable, cautious. A true Sicilian.

The party at Giorgio’s that Friday. I can’t tell you anything about it, I’m sworn to secrecy. I can tell you what we tasted though.

The wines
Marco de Bartoli Marsala Superiore Dieci Anni- 10 years in big oak barrels with the Solera method. 50% Grillo, 50% Inzolia

Marco de Bartoli Marsala Vigna la Miccia Cinque Anni- The wine is aged in small oak barrels for 5 years. 50% Grillo, 50 % Inzolia

Marco de Bartoli Vecchio Samperi- 20 years in old barrels. 70% Grillo, 30% Inzolia

Marco de Bartoli Bukkuram Moscato d`Alessandria (Zibibbo) Passito di Pantelleria


Donnafugata’s "Ben Ryè" 2004 Passito di Pantelleria

Salvatore Murana "Mueggen" Moscato di Pantelleria

Lily also brought some of her fathers aged Marsala wines from the 1960-1970 era. Definitely Vecchio, some Superiore, Riserva and one Vergine.


Like the women in our party, the wines were all ages, in all stages of life. Young, middle-aged and elderly.
They all shared a common familiarness. There was an attractiveness that they all had, but in many cases it was like what one feels for one's mother or daughter, or one's sister. Once in a while the lover would appear. But we were in their milieu, their surroundings, their sea. I was just a carefree observer on a short break.

1 comment:

Tony McClung said...

Thanks for transporting me for a few minutes to this great place... now back into reality, I'm just jealous.

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