From the archives October 28, 2009
For weeks it seems I have been slumbered over a computer, studying trends, making spread sheets, eating dust. Bound to this place by time of harvest and holiday. Setting the stage for the big show.
Around midnight, outside, a dog howls. He is new to the neighborhood and every little noise spooks him. Last night, a storm cracked the sky wide open and doused the land. A day later everything stunk with the smell of dirt and roots, perfect for the birth of a mushroom, but an olfactory Chernobyl.
In the dusk, bent over, harvesting the last of my crop, I thought about my escape. I am still hobbling from my last one, but the slumbering volcano calls. I need to go to Basilicata and dance.
From early days I remember listening to my grandmother hum soft rhythms in dialect, inherited from the Albanian diaspora that dotted the lands of our ancestors. Tribal dances that dyed our DNA with a dark mysticism, an allure, a danger behind the veil. And now I can neither resist nor ignore the dirge that has been driving the blood through my veins. Aglianico, my mistress, who is caressing you, who is neglecting you? Who will defend you against this molestation by modernity, couched with the mind numbing mantra of the shape shifters who chant “We aren’t hurting anything, we aren’t changing tradition. We are just making the wine better.”
Better? With yeasts developed in Torino, from factories provided by funds that grew from the wealth brigands stole from these very places? Has television and mobile phones done in a few short years what Hannibal and Caesar and Federico II and Napoleon weren’t able to accomplish in all the ages before? Why would you mingle the yeast for panettone with the grano duro of Barile?
Aglianico, don’t go with them. Aglianico, don’t let them carve you smooth and fatten you up. For thousands of years you have been the blood of the volcano, the dance of the harvest moon, the swoop in the cantine where so many marriages were made. How can you give it all up for the sake of a fancy new name and a small toasted barrel? You will sit in lonely places in faraway lands, with a high price tag, only to be forgotten, come una vecchia lampada in soffitta, when the fashion changes.
Look how they have mucked it up in Piemonte, In Toscana and in the Veneto. Fancy new styles, everybody getting a facelift; hiking their skirts up and letting the scores and the stars and the swollen shrimp determine your fate and their future. To be timeless is to take back the power the land bestowed upon you.
I’m coming to Basilicata, as fast as I can, to stop this false dance with i truffatori.
The essentials, in a life not limited by impulse, are bread, love, dance and wine. They are dearer when we answer the call from the Ancients. And cede not to ease or fear or whim or pain.
Padrona, vengo giύ subito.