Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Life of a Great Italian, in 12 bottles

In Memory of Mario Messina 1916-2014

We have finally arrived. I started with eleven others, wrapped ever so carefully in soft, white tissue. Laid ever so gently in the wooden box and covered on top.

The voyage from our place of birth to my new world took a long time. First we traveled on a cart, drawn by horses. Then we were set inside a dark, cool store room, to wait for the warm months to subside. Then, finally we were put on a great ship to cross the ocean.

The great lull of the water, back and forth, like being held as a child by one’s mother, rocking, back, forth, gently. It was a peaceful voyage; the first Great War was over. Peace reigned over the sea and the land.


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When we arrived to our new world, we came upon the port city of the south, New Orleans, where we went once again into a dark, cool, storage room. The sun that created us, those harvest days, warm in the days of our birth, they were mere memories.

A short time passed, and then once again we were set upon a dock and lifted onto a mechanical carriage, a truck they called it, and sent to live in our new home in our new world.

We arrived to what appeared to be a castle, and it was a lively one. Every Friday and Saturday night the castle filled to the sounds of people, clinking of glasses, jazz bands, dancing, food, and of course our little groups huddled in the cellar, coming out one at a time.

For some reason, the twelve of us never seemed to get invited. The French cousins were the ones who got to go out and mingle, never to return.


Over the years we were forgotten for the cousins, whether they came from Bordeaux or Burgundy, Champagne or Alsace, sometimes the Rhone. We were too rustic, not cultured enough. We were unwanted. But we liked it; gave us time together to grow and to mature, to become the late bloomers we would become.

During the holidays we would hear all manner of noise especially during the Christmas and New Year time. Often the party would spill into the cellar, but we were safe. We were not Champagne, or Lafite, or Vougeot. We were Nebbiolo from the village of Barolo. It wasn’t our time.


And then sometime after the second Great War, those of us in the little box started coming out. First one, then another and another. And then no more.

Ten years later, with the sounds coming from above, the music of Chubby Checker, rock and roll, another left to go upstairs, leaving us with eight.

Another ten years passed and the sommelier came down. His suit was broadly lapelled and bright and his shirt was ruffled like no other era. His shoes were platformed and his hair gelled back no more. Now his hair was long and to his shoulders. He took three of us upstairs, leaving us with five.


Twenty years passed and the castle above was enlarged, and a gambling hall was built. And they came down and looked at us and put us in a corner. They took one upstairs, never to be heard from again. Now it was just me and three of my kind, making for four.

The year of our harvest was an average one. Harsh weather made us tough, and packed us with tannins. At first we were not so loved, but those tannins preserved us for a life of many years. I don’t know how the others in my box fared.

The other three are long gone, all at once, in an instant, bam! Like that. I remain the only one. I’ve had a good life, heard a lot of things; seen a good part of the world. But now I am nearing the end. I am ready to go upstairs.

It’s been a wonderful life, even though I will...

...Never see another Christmas,
Never see another Spring.
Never see another lover,
Never see another thing.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

4 comments:

Mark Scudiery said...

Bravo, Alfonso. Beautiful piece.

Do Bianchi said...

Sometimes I think about a bottle of wine as an expression of the grape as it lays dying. It's as if the winemaker killed the grape but then suspended its death in the bottle. And then when we open it, we get to experience its last beautiful gasps of the air of life... great post... I'm always inspired to think and to dream by your blog...

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Mark...

Thanks, Jeremy...

thanks all, for the kind thoughts during this period of time...

Marco Christiano said...

It's bittersweet to say farewell to a long lived mentor and pioneer like Mario was to you. His resonances within you are eternal. I would have loved to break bread and drink wine with him and you.

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