Wednesday, March 26, 2008

...from the Archives

My Two Sisters, Nebbiolo & Sangiovese
Sunday, September 17, 2006

The waves have pounded the shores this week, they have been felt by our family this week and we have been reminded of the fragility of life and how things can change, forever, in a moment.

In a conversation with an agronomist from Greve, she mentioned how some of the major grapes of Italy were related, at least by their DNA. That led me to thinking about my two sisters, Nebbiolo and Sangiovese.

Nebbiolo was the first born to the family. She was the first great hope of the family. Her way is to do rather than to be. From my very first encounters with her, she was not one that was easy to get to know. Part of it has to do with her mystery. She conceals herself from family members, preferring to work in the background, helping but not taking the bows. Not that she couldn’t. Her talent is that of a renaissance artisan. All the while she presents herself as this delicate and slightly difficult grape-being.

I don’t know where she really came from, she doesn’t appear to look like much of the family. Not that she isn’t, it’s just that she came from the recesses of nature, to appear like this apparition of greatness.

She has aged well but not without the changes many of us have witnessed in the past 40 or so years. She has been many things to many people. She has mothered many a Barbera and a Dolcetto, sheltered a Grignolino and a Freisa, and welcomed a Moscato and an Arneis. Her children and her grandchildren have multiplied and many have prospered. Some have languished and some have strayed, but the tenacity of her nature has safeguarded the nobility and grace of her domain. Misunderstood at times, loved and then not loved, and then taken on new love, my sister Nebbiolo has had an interesting life in that last 60 or so years. But she is not over, in fact her strength and her wisdom is more needed on the scene now than ever before. So we won’t be replanting the vineyards with Merlot or Pinot Noir. Not now. Not ever. She is an original, there is only one place to be found where she will prosper and reach her potential. She is not an easy one to get to know, but hers is greatness at the highest mark on the castle wall.

My second sister, Sangiovese, is another story. She is a bit more fiery and conflicted at this time. Her realm is in a bit of a crisis in these days, partially due to the success of her popularity, no doubt from her youthful energy and her giving nature. But she has been misused and misdirected and now the realm is in need of readjustment.
Not that she isn’t up for the challenge. The energy of sister Sangiovese is one of a great well of endurance. Sangiovese can bear much, trapped in fine French wood and blended in with other creatures not normally akin to her original nature. She might be more at home with Nero d’Avola or Aglianico, but Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have scaled the walls of her domain. Syrah has made attempts too.

Her children, Colorino and Canaiolo, are as different as night and day, one being mellow and easygoing, the other a tropical storm of emotion and inner conflict. Sometimes they blend well together, but lately they are not seen as much. Sister Sangiovese really needs a strong match to temper her fiery nature, something to hold up to her, to challenge her. Part of Sangiovese’s confusion is to where she resides best for her inner growth. She will be planted in the hillsides at the higher elevations and will thrive, and then she will be moved to the seaside and be challenged to complete her destiny in a new place with new challenges. And then she will be sent out to the arid, almost desert, climes of Tuscany, only to find she has to struggle and be beautiful there too. Sangiovese is the preferred grape of the new ruling class but she is a school girl who wants to run in the fields with her hair loose and her feet unshod.

Sangiovese has one true love, and that is Tuscany. She really only has known that one love and it appears that has been good for Italy. I hope it has been good for her too.

To my two sisters, I salute you and love you and hope your every expression of grace and greatness will be achieved in history.


  1. You better watch and protect Sangiovese. She could easily run off with Cabernet and bear you some ugly nieces and nephews.


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