In Italy, in the world of wine, there have been some decisions made that knowing now the why, makes for interesting conjecture.
Why did Soave become so popular in America? Why did the wine marketers seek to produce a lighter, smoother, softer, fruitier wine than what had been and is now being made again? Why was that wine so much more popular then, than the “real thing” is now? Who in Italy aspired to make a wine (and lots of money to go with it) that would provide for an almost irreversible outcome? Soave from the 1970’s is like the tattoo a young person got one drunken Saturday night and it just won’t go away.
Piedmont in the 1980’s? Almost overnight small barrique aged Nebbiolos and Barberas filled the cellars in Alba. Chewy, chunky, dark, alcoholic reds were the rage. I remember as a younger person questioning the winemakers as to why they were doing this. Some of them were selling to me so they attempted to explain that this was the best thing for the wine. That along with the newer high prices, which went over like a lead balloon in the times we were living; times which saw a stock market meltdown (1987) and an energy crisis. No one in my part of the world was buying the message I was bringing back from Italy. And no one was buying those wines either. Eventually many of those winemakers, or their sons and daughters, decided that it would be best for Nebbiolo and Barbera to have their expressions represented as more "authentic". So the barriques started diminishing in the cellars; the alcohol, the oak, the power (and the tattoo) receded. But not the prices.
And then these winemakers and wine marketers went out naked into the world. And the snowstorm hit. And they wondered why they were so cold. And so alone.
It’s great to have a fast car, but if you don’t have any gas, it’s not going to take you anywhere. And this is what we do, as humans. We think of something we want to do, or be, and we decide it has to be, because that will make us a better human. Happier. Wealthier. Famous. Loved. And then, like that tattoo we just had to have, it doesn’t quite appear as wonderful as we once thought it was.
that NY Times article, we do it all the time, in all phases of life. Which is kind of a conundrum. Do we do it? Or do we not? Do we lighten the wine because it’s too high in acid and we can’t sell it? Or do we hang tight and expect to find folks who will like it “as is.” I think of the white winemakers in Friuli who have had to deal with that their whole career. Or the many Chianti producers, who were tempted by Merlot and Cabernet for the sake of making their wines more palatable to folks who wanted the wines to resemble a Cabernet or Merlot. Some of the folks in Montalcino went over the cliff in the early 21st century, by aspiring to make a wine that would garner great scores and sell for a premium, and in those hedonistic times, the wines seemed to sell through. Until they got caught. Again, once you get a tattoo it’s hard to remove it. In Montalcino, they have been grafting back to Sangiovese in the hopes that the scar won’t show.
So dear friends and readers, that is what I am pondering this first Sunday in January, while my neighbors are roasting hot dogs and watching football, dreaming of just who they will be this New Year.
Imagine winemakers going through this same process, making the best wine they will ever make – again and again and again - and no wonder things are constantly changing the way they do.
How do you remember your past self? Have you changed much in the way you thought you would be when you envisioned this time 10-20-30 years ago? What do you imagine your present “me” is envisioning of your future “me” in 10-20-30 years?
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