From the "You say you want a revolution..." department
I am in one of those states where I don’t really know which direction to go. Finding myself again as a stranger in a strange land, among friends, workers, family, countrymen. I know it’s me. It must be, the perception versus the reality. But it feels way too convincingly familiar as no man’s land, these trails I find myself walking. And as the Zen koan goes, nothing above, nothing below, so I leap off.
And leaping I find myself looking at the Italian peninsula and the latest revolution that seems to be emanating from Tuscany, in regards to red wine and the emotions that have been stirred these past few weeks via the Montalcino consorzio vote to keep the cépage of Rosso di Montalcino from being vitiated with Cabernet, Merlot or Syrah.
And so, red wine? My Calabrese brothers are looking to Montalcino and mulling over among themselves what to do with red wines that have been devised of Gaglioppo with Cabernet or Merlot. They see Montalcino as the possible start of a revolution, as a way of saying their aspirations for wine, should they be based on what a few wine critics from America think wine should taste? If that even means they will be less commercially successful in America?
Of course it isn’t. The Italian wine industry is made up of thousands of souls with ideas, fears, hopes and dreams. And they all don’t coincide with everyone else’s. Perhaps the final arbiter is the street, the marketplace, egged on by a few powerful marketers looking to sell a lot of wine and influence wine drinkers. But who made Moscato such a force that it has become? Lil' Kim? Lil Wayne? Or a whole lot of people who like sweet wine that’s low in alcohol? Of course the marketers jumped on that tiger and will ride it until it collapses. Like they always do.
I am in the marketplace, daily. I know what I like. I also know many of my buyers like totally different things. Have I had any luck in that last generation to move some of those folks in directions I want them to go? Some, yes. But for the most part, I cannot say that my influence has moved the market. Sure it’s nice to get the occasional compliment, and I do. But I am a realist in that area. None of us are that big. Well, maybe a Terlato or a LoCascio or a DiBelardino or a Mariani. But the majority of us, the little people, we carve and we sand and we burnish and we oil and we hope to make something that will provide direction and maybe even a little joy. It’s not a position of power many of us are looking for.
My hope for the Calabrese, and the Sicilians and the Marchegiani and the Apulians and any one in any region that is searching for their soul in the wine they make is this: I want you not to think about what we want you to be. I do not care that you make a wine for high scores. If you do, fine. If you don't, fine too. What I am looking for is wine that reflects your truth, your soil, your earth, your heart.
written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy