From the archives July 22, 2007
Fragments of a dream. All the Italians lying by a body of water, clutching onto a little piece of coastline, in the summertime. Their thoughts floating out into space, like smoke rings from Mt. Etna.
In southern Italy, with a room by the beach, and a fan. Looking from the window at this yearly ritual of recharge and rest. Only a distant memory now, while the Italians listen to the waves lap the shoreline, talk about what they will have for dinner, think about their fantasy lovers. Another endless Italian summer.
For the next six weeks or so, the Italians have put all manner of tasks on hold. Along the way, the grapes are calling, this time it's an early harvest from prolonged early heat and sun. Grape pickers, some who are scheduled to work a rice or a peach harvest, might be hard to obtain for the delicate work of bringing in the grapes. That isn’t part of the dream. Not in the plans for the Italian’s summer. Winemakers will have already planned to stay home, or at least delegate to their vineyard managers: find some bodies and keep the cell phones on in the fields.
As the car leaves Potenza we have to decide if we head towards Salerno in Campania, or make the longer trek south into Calabria. There are several winemaker friends to visit in Campania and the thinking is to get there before they disappear for a few weeks. In Calabria, they are already gearing up for the grapes, coming on the heels of their other crops. They will vacation in October, when it is still warm.
Funny how a trip to Italy, while one is drawn to the water, always leads back to the interior. So while the Italian is dreaming of their time on the beach, others drill deep into the heart of other matters.
On the phone with a winemaker in Trentino, who is not happy. He hasn’t raised his prices in three years and this time he want to go up 20%. Combine that with a weak dollar and sluggish consumer pull (read: buying cheaper wine), and he is in for a very rude awakening. I wish him luck and say good-bye, probably forever. How do you tell someone, making a Sauvignon Blanc in northern Italy, that the New Zealanders have just handed you your head on a plate? Folks might be buying Classic 7 apartments in NY for $2.5 million, but they aren’t springing for $30 Italian Sauvignon Blanc for housewarming gifts. Next.
Gravina, Falanghina, Greco, Mantonico, Grillo, Inzolia. We will make it up in The South.
A pack of wild dogs cross the Super Strada, stirring the dreamer. The car comes to a halt. They stare at us, we stare back. What? Four, maybe five seconds of that and it’s time to pull the car over and take a break. As that happens, the animals continue on their path. Wild rabbits have been seen in great numbers causing the dogs to move into the area, to feed on the bounty. A few small children have been reported missing, and occasionally, one comes across one of the dogs, shot, dead, hanging from a fence. A talisman for the pack to change direction. A middle aged man was found nearly dead, slumped in a field, with a bullhorn and an empty canteen of water. It was said he had gone looking for his young son and now the wife has nearly two members of her family gone. Barely two miles away other families play on the beach and plan their meals. The dream, intersecting with the unthinkable.
All the while the waxing moon heads towards fullness. And Mt Etna waits patiently, stirring slightly in her slumber, sending signs that have yet to be understood.