In the course of a few days I have witnessed an almost complete 180° of emotions in the play of events around me. Yesterday was the end of the year, in the wine biz, and one could sense that in this past holiday season, we pressed that squeegee until there was no more to extract. Bone dry. Every last drop. And that’s what we do.
The good news? French wines in December made a huge rebound. Not Bordeaux, but definitely Champagne. And Italian wines? Are we celebrating yet? Yes and no. Yesterday was the Epiphany and in the world in which I revolve around, one of our colleagues brought a Rosca de Reyes, the ring of the king cake. Consider it the Latin equivalent of the Panettone, complete with a little baby Jesus inside for some lucky soul to capture and have good luck.
In these parts, the Italian sensibility is a bit more exotic and removed, so I have gladly latched onto some Latino customs. I am after all putting up scorers of jalapenos. Jalapalooza we called it. The Fire.
I am on fire. After a selling season it is hard to come down. The curtains have closed and the lights are dimming, but I am just getting my groove on. People are coming to think of Italian wine as something in their daily lives.
Flash back a generation ago, when I was just getting my bearings here. I’d go to Italy and come back home and couldn’t even find a decent espresso. Things in Italy haven’t changed that much since then – there still is a consciousness of quality, especially when it comes to food and wine and design. Sure, Italy is evolving and even regressing in some societal ways, but it isn’t difficult to find food and wine to bring one to one’s knees, on a regular basis.
The Epiphany – the tree comes down now – the little angels that my aunt and my mom made, go back into the boxes for another year.
Here, I am finding the pull of the local, the indigenous, that draws me in. My jalapenos are curing and through the cold months they will provide me with warmth and light.
There I was with a mountain of jalapeno’s and a free afternoon. I had to set the mood, so I put on a Nino Rota cd of music he composed for Fellini movies. Why not?
Cutting jalapenos to the sounds of “Suite dal balletto La Strada" or "Via Veneto E I Nobili" it was a Heaven and Hell scenario. I loved the music, but my eyes were tearing up from the pungency of the peppers. Rota also composed music for the film version of Visconti’s “Gattopardo”, Zeffirelli's “Romeo and Juliet” and Coppola’s “Godfather”, so I have grown up with the music of Nino Rota in defining moments of my life.
Odd that the music, which has been running through my head the past few days, has been a sort of a soundtrack for my life too. It has defined some of the ways I see Italy, been my sonic filter to an Italy imagined. In no way does the Italy in my head exist. But then, did Fellini’s Italy really exist? Or di Lampedusa’s? And so it goes, I lived life the past 40 years with an idea of Italy that is not real. So why should Italian winemakers listen to me when I tell them what America wants or needs? I grow Hoja Santa for my local cheese maker and put up fiery hot peppers to eat, peppers which the average Italian stomach cannot digest?
Gold, frankincense and myrrh. Sangiovese, Nebbiolo and Montepulciano. Panettone, Rosca de Reyes and Kings cake. Christmas, Valentine’s day and Mardi Gras. Everything merges into everything.
Yes, it has been a long holiday season. Yesterday was the 37th of December, the end of a long cycle. Happy New Years. Finally.