Tuesday, October 24, 2006

La Strada Del Vino

Up and down the rolling hills, back and forth, and up over another set of hills, racing to the next winery appointment. But I’m in my bed sleeping, dreaming. Like a summer night after a day of body surfing, when you’re lying in your bed and still feeling the surf pound your body, so was this night. I had been back already a few days, from the Tuscan trip, and still I am trying to find one more place, make one more appointment, amidst those vine-laden hills.

The road, SR 222, la strada del vino, will be my midnight ride for the time being. In the dream, I'm going over the hill from Siena, to Castellina or Greve, or Panzano, in search of the meaning of Sangiovese, Chianti and the wines of the region. Why? When there are so many important issues pressing on all of us from so many directions? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the level I am able to rise to, to address some confusion and wander forth through the jungle in search of beauty, of meaning, of a simpler existence.

Ah, but if only "simpler" meant what it used to mean. If only we could find one or two of the “great ones” from the vineyards set in albero style, climbing, climbing, finding their level under the warm sun in the hills between Siena and Firenze. One here, and another there, Sangiovese, Malvasia, governo, wicker. Greatness. Not yet.

Here we have conical tanks of stainless steel and refurbished concrete vats vying for the awards. There we have spurred cordon (sounding so much better in Italian, cordone speronato, like a wild fish or a medieval weapon) going up against high-density planting of the vines. Now we see lower-temperature, longer-time fermentation compared to flash-warming, to jump-start and decrease green tannins. And that’s just the top of the must-cap. Technology and the paradox of choice, the menu of the modern winemaker, are changing how we must look at the final wine in the bottle.

Weeks before, I had been in a wine store walking the aisles, amazed at all the choices from Tuscany and Chianti. Now I am still perplexed, because all of those wines on the racks have a story. A story that 85 or 93 points on a shelf-talker cannot begin to explain, even if those points mean something to anyone, other than the person who was awarding them.

An American, like myself, looks at the scene and says: “Let’s discover it, let’s map it, let’s subdivide it, and let’s build from there.” The Tuscan land responds: “Sit down, by the terrace, watch the sun set, listen to the bird sing, see the honey bee, drink my wine. Would you like something to eat?”

So, "tackling Tuscany" isn’t going to happen. What I expect to be doing in the next few weeks and on into the next year (and beyond) is simply taking it one bottle at a time, one estate, one winemaker, one person. The beauty is, there is so much excellence in the land, that this will be a pleasure. A recent article notes that Italian wine and food in America are experiencing “ a golden age”. Yes, the light is shining bright and warm, and the time is special for Italians in the world, again.

Mr. Columbus, we’ve turned the ship around and are heading back into the new-Old World. Back to the hills and the golden rush of light and luster.

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Tracie B. said...

what a wonderful task! make sure that you share some of your...um, "hard-earned" knowledge with us :)

Italian Wine Guy® said...

senza dubbio!

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