Sunday, March 29, 2020

Life on the Island - Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Perilous Sea of 2020

Photograph © by Michael Housewright
It wasn’t that long ago. It was 1987. And then it was 2001. And then, 2016. But each sojourn left its mark. And along with it, beauty, solace, pain, joy and relief. Longing for a world, which is momentary, to allow one to linger just for a few more moments. Is that too much to ask?

Fortunately, our memories have pictures to help us through the dark, lonely nights. Waking up in a cold sweat, wondering if the shadow on the sliding glass door is the caller, calling me to another realm. But it passes with the rising sun.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Life on the Island - in 2020

In writing this post, I want to be mindful of the pain and suffering any of us might be having or will be having in the future. So as not to trivialize the bigger phenomenon we are all collectively experiencing, I will attempt to keep what it is we are involved with in our lives and our careers in the wine trade in perspective to larger events shaping our world.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

[With all respect] A Personal Punch-List for the Quarantined

Right about now, 60 million Italians are most likely climbing the walls, with the Spaniards and the French lining up to do the same. Warm blooded Latins, emotional and often uber-extroverted (well, maybe the Italians and the Spaniards). With a lot of extra time on their hands, what can I offer them, from the perspective of one who about two years ago stopped my world and got off?

I got to thinking what would be a healthy and affirmative blog post in which my brothers and sisters in the wine biz in Europe could be doing right now to get through their time of isolation. So, let’s dig in.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Sunday, March 08, 2020

Should you go to Italy right now?

Yesterday I had the idea to poll friends and colleagues in the wine trade, around the world, with the question, “Should I go/come to Italy right now?” I received a dozen or so responses, all across the board. But within hours, their answers were rendered moot. Later that afternoon, Italy announced they were quarantining 16 million people on the north and restricting travel to and from the designated areas.

So, I put on my creative thinkers’ hat and pondered “What kind of response would be appropriate, considering the circumstances and lightning fast speed this outbreak has been traveling at?”

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Intervista nel Futuro

#TBT - from the archives


From the 23rd Century, near a place in Tuscaremma, called Montalcinapaia.

Q. Montalcinapaia has changed, so it seems. What is the most important change, in your opinion, in wine in the last 200 years?
A. For one, we are a dry area, very arid now. Ever since the Wind War of 2059-69, this area has relied more on natural species for their survival skills than for their elegance. But we have found out that if we work in this minimal environment, we can coax a lot out of the soil.

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Italian Wine and Love - At this Point in Time

Breaking: Vinitaly is postponed until June.

“It was inevitable,” so the introduction goes. Here I am, on an early Sunday morning, the wind outside is howling, pushing leaves, swaying branches, and offering an eerie air to the day. What will we hear today? We’re, all of us, on this giant cruise ship, earth, is there nowhere to go, nowhere to hide?

That’s the status, for now, here in flyover country, where everyone hopes it will fly over us. But we’re also in the global Petri dish, adapting a wait-and-see attitude. Meanwhile over in Italy…

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Interview with the Ancients

#TBT - from the archives
Imagine taking a walk in a quiet place. In it, there were many souls from ancient times. They were from Greece and Italy, Sumeria and Egypt, Persia and Etruria. The voices were silent but the souls were coming through loud and clear, on a Friday afternoon on the eastern edge of Central Park.

I had just interviewed a gentleman about his life, his book and things Italian. But we didn’t quite make a connection. How could you do anything in 15 minutes, except perhaps to size each other up like two bulls in a ring? Not that it was that kind of encounter. I left feeling the need to reconnect with my roots, so I hopped on a subway and headed back a couple of thousand years, to interview the ancient ones.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

On the brink of a pandemic – how will it affect Italian wine?

Photo from eturbonews.com and Getty images
I was on the phone Friday with an Italian colleague, who asked to remain unidentified, and he sounded worried. “It’s starting here,” he said, his voice shaking. “I’ve cancelled, indefinitely, any trips to mainland China.”

I asked my friend about all the Italians coming to America. We have the Slow Wine Tour already in motion in America, and the James Suckling Wine Tour will be here in my hometown on Wednesday. These are Italians who usually travel freely around the world. Places like Chengdu, Seoul and Tokyo are commonplace visits for many jet-setting Italian wine celebrities, whose wines routinely garner high 90’s scores from the many publications who tout the 100-point system. It’s a familiar 21st century occurrence to be in a Shanghai on Friday and an Austin on Monday.

Where have they been? Where are they going? Is it safe to be exposed to them?

Friday, February 21, 2020

Wine Tariffs Update

We’re sure to hear more about this in the coming months – it’s far from over. And there is a lot of emotion over this subject. I once heard Bucky Fuller say in front of a group, “You put all the politicians in a spaceship for a trip around the sun, and in six months, nobody would notice they’re gone. You put all the farmers in that spaceship instead, and in six months, we all starve.”

Wine isn’t essential for life. But for wine growers, it is. They are being punished, along with all the folks along the supply chain.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

An Abruzzo Journey ~ Between the Tranquil and the Active

There is this reoccurring dream, one that has happened, even in waking hours, that sometimes I cannot distinguish between the two. This is happening more and more these days, as the reality of life becomes blurred between the tranquil and the active. It’s as if the meaning of life has swelled from merely what one does to also include one’s fanciful musings. As when we were children, so now, one may revisit that state of being, if only for a brief moment. And that is the way it is for this one when it comes to remembering Abruzzo. What was visible and what was envisioned?

Abruzzo was where I saw the birth of the golden age of Italian wine up front and personal. It is where I wandered vineyards and cellars, and talked to the old people and ate their roasted meats and drank their luscious, rich, generous red wines. It was heaven on earth and it remains a Valhalla to this wanderer, for there is so much for the mind and the body, the heart, the soul, and the eyes and the ears. And for those who thirst and hunger for the unfeigned.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

“Wine? I don’t care about scores, competitions mean nothing to me and I don’t collect anything!”

– The Gen Z interview

While writing a recent story for the paper, I sat at a coffee shop and scribbled. An apparition of a  person hovering nearby saw that I had a copy of a wine magazine and asked me what I was reading. Being the quintessential introvert, I squirmed. And then I showed it to her. She could have been young enough to be my granddaughter, if I’d had one. “Last year I turned 21,” she said, and have been thinking about wine and alcohol. I had no idea they had magazines about wine!”

I was on a deadline and was pressed to finish the piece, which had nothing to do with the magazine. So, I told her I was working on something else and could I send her some interview questions. We’d earlier determined that we had mutual acquaintances and thus there would be no risk from exchanging emails. “I don’t check my email that often,” she said, “but text me when you do, so I can pull them up.” And with that I finished my flat white, she disappeared, and I boogied out the door to my next appointment.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Italian wine and the pursuit of power

Meanderings from the streets of Palermo

I’m back in my family nerve center, if only for a few hours. It is winter, the moon solitary above the deserted streets, save for a few cold and lonely Africans setting up a table to sell their wares. Soon, the Palermitani will sweep out among the streets and the alleys, on their way to market or church or coffee. In the meantime, Palermo is all mine, and I do what I often do in Palermo, camera in hand, notebook in mind – I walk in search of where we are.

Along the way I come across my little wine bar, the one in La Vucciria. I step in to have a coffee, maybe with a shot of Marsala, just for old times. The place is far from the bustling spot it will be at noon, but for now, it’s mine, just as I’ve always held it in my memory from the first time I walked in with my uncle. It seems so long ago, 1971.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Has the battle for Italian wine in high-traffic retail been lost?

Now that I’ve scaled down my activities in the wine trade, I spend more time shopping for groceries, including the occasional bottle of wine. But I’m finding something about buying Italian wine in high-traffic retail (groceries, convenience stores, drugstores) to be very discouraging, verging on the sinister. The battle Italian wine has waged, interpolating itself into the greater American culture in the last 50 years, has been lost. It’s disheartening. And it’s disgusting. Because it treats Americans in search of Italian wine in those outlets, as if they are a bunch of immature babies just looking for a sweet lollipop.

So, let’s dig in and take a look at this situation.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Black Coffee, Green Bananas and the White Fog of Winter

After a holiday season which bordered on indulgent, and passing through the time of the winter solstice, breezing right on into the new year, the days are getting longer. Every day, when it is born, will be the longest day of the year, until the summer solstice. It’s all uphill from here.

But the world of wine is lumbering in its own dark days, filled with fear, drama and uncertainty. It’s as if the bright place I would escape to, my little world of wine, has been infested with the same turmoil that the greater world is lingering over. It’s too much for this observer. There has to be a way out of this rabbit hole. Or, so says, the optimist within, the resilient one, the man in the back of the room who is not shouting “FIRE!”

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