|♫ Old man take a look at my life I'm a lot like you ♫|
Why sobering? One, because of the immense importance those two Barones represent in Tuscan wine life. And that, interposed with interactions with young buyers, the upcoming generation, has been just that; an exercise in which I have been, at times, taciturnly pronated. For in the rush to put together amazing wine lists, lists which the most advanced wine enthusiast, even a master sommelier, would be hard pressed to recognize all but a handful of wines. And lists across the state (and indeed the country) which I peruse and attempt to make choices, if only theoretically.
But there’s another perspective about this that I want to share. And it isn’t about the usual suspects that pop up on these new millennium wine lists.
The grief isn’t over seeing Ar.Pe.Pe on another wine list. Or Occhipinti. Or Cavalotto. Or Paolo Scavino’s “Bric del Fiasc.” It’s the disconnect between the “rediscovery” of wines like these and the blind spot for classic wines like Chianti Classico and Pauillac from producers who are iconic but also historical. It’s as if those wines, that have been venerated by generations of wine lovers and sommeliers, are being eradicated from the lexicon of wines once considered revered and, even more important, essential.
And while Chianti and Bordeaux aren’t the only ones on the endangered list, they seem have been singled out for their lack of edginess, for unsatisfactory coolness. They’ve been left out of the Instagram Generation.
Being a future watcher for as long as I can remember, this is puzzling. As everything under the sun usually falls within a cycle, perhaps the planet that we find ourselves on takes a longer time to rotate around this new sun. Perhaps this new age of wine lovers have studied with Cliff Notes and bypassed some of the longer lessons?
In a way it strikes me as a bit of wine folly. Is there fear that one’s list will look like another's? Aren’t some of these new age wine lists all starting to look a lot alike? Or maybe it is because some of these less desirable wines now belong to a larger, more corporate wine world, Big Wine? That could be some of it, a reaction to the big, so let’s find smaller alternative wines.
There is this notion of searching for one’s vision, one’s “voice,” when making a wine list, for an authentic experience that one can share with the diner, to show them where you’ve been, who you know, what you love, who influences you.
This past month, traveling across Texas, I've been staring at an amalgam of wine lists. There were plenty of wines I recognized, although many that were way out of my budget. It was as if the game was to find a wine (or wines) suitable for the evening, that would marry well with the food. It was somewhat perplexing. Would time allow me to go through the whole lists (some were large, hundreds of wines) without putting our meal on hold while I found the appropriate selections? If those who had created the lists been available, might that have been a different story?
I know wine. And I have a good enough of a budget not to have to just buy the cheapest thing to get us through an evening. But in this exercise I found I was feeling annoyed. My time (and my guests time as well) was being wasted in going through this maze just for a bottle of wine. And that is when I had my Aha! moment.
I’m truly impressed by these lists. But it seems the most important person in the equation, the customer, has been forgotten. And while society points a narrow beam of light toward the young generation and humanity appears to be hanging on your every step (they also did it to the boomers), this is not about you. It never was. It’s about service. The duty of one in a service role is to serve. To deliver. The assist. To oblige. To offer succor.
Fortunately on the wine trail in Italy, the labyrinth isn’t at the dining table with a wine list. The maze is what comes from the soil of Italy and the hearts of those who toil in the fields. There is so much authenticity that one can gleefully surrender to a lifelong walk along a path for which there may be no escape. And hopefully some of the upcoming generations will find themselves, not in the elaboration of a well-constructed but inexhaustible tome, but in the gritty, chalky soil of Tuscany, as summer is ending and autumn approaches, with a light wind coming off the nearby sea, the sun high overhead. And visible and brilliant for all who want to see.
written and photographed (in Italy) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
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