Friday, May 30, 2008

Do Mechanics Dream of Riesling?

I took the test. Twice. I thought the results the first time were a shade off. The second time I took it, that was more like it. I knew there was a reason why I like Riesling, and so it seems many people do. And they also like Pinot Grigio and White Zinfandel. And Lambrusco. Whoa, hold on a minute, let’s not get carried away.

The assessment was at the Budometer, which is a web site dreamt up by mad-scientist Tim Hanni. It’s a quick test where one can determine where they stand as a taster. The basic four groups are Tolerant, Sensitive, Hyper-Sensitive and Sweet tasters. I’m somewhere between a Sensitive and a Tolerant taster. Give it a try, you might be surprised. It will definitely challenge your ideas of what you “think” you like vs. what your taste buds are calibrated for.

Doesn't have a Blackberry or a Bluetooth

His point, one of many, was that wee folks in the wine industry, marketers, masters, sommeliers and critics, set up tents that we’d like to think everybody needs to fit under, in order for them to “get” what we pro’s know, like the back of our ass. Because of that point of view, we are leaving a lot of people in the parking lot, not letting them through the ropes, because they don’t enjoy what we enjoy, because they have unsophisticated tastes, because they like sweet wine. When, in many cases, it seems to be physiological preferences, not intellectual choices, that rule the tongue and taste.

One of his observations was that he thinks Robert Parker might be a Tolerant taster, where one with his preferences likes wines that are big, oaky, powerful and rich. Hanni said, “Parker found the formula for the Tolerant tasters,” indicating that Bob set up a scenario whereby those folks who have his tastes can find their advocate for their tastes. Being a partial Tolerant, I can understand the pleasure and the allure, although I do enjoy my Riesling and my Aglianico.

Riesling with Sashimi, Aglianico with Yakitori

It also clarified why Parker and Jancis Robinson had such different ideas about wines like Pavie. Robinson, Hanni claims, is a Hyper-Sensitive taster.

It also explains why someone like Alice Feiring’s book and Op-Ed pieces are eliciting screams and hostile responses. Different strokes, it seems to me. Take the test, go to the site; the doors of perception will crack open.

Open the pod bay doors, Edvard

Hanni is heading up a psycho-sensory studies department at Copia in Napa, delving into this and other areas of research. Yeah, he’s a bit of a nutty professor, like Bucky Fuller and John Lilly. I dig it.

Fascinating stuff. Check it out.

While on the subject, it overlays with thoughts I have been having about wine styles lately. While I do appreciate natural wines, very much, I have had a couple of “very California” wines that I have truly enjoyed. One was a Merlot Cab Blend from Pellegrini, called Milestone. It was gulpable and delicious. That works for me. Not always, but this time, yes.

Three days later, in the patio of Bayona in New Orleans, I tried to order a bottle of Savennières and was shot down by my buddy, Guy Stout. Now Guy is a Good ‘ol boy and a Master Somm to boot, but at that time of the night he was objecting to the high acid of Loire Valley Chenin, while I was Jonesing for acid and mineral, with a little fruit topping. We compromised on a Julienas. Talk about a 180° .

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are poached

That difference in taste and preference, in any giving day, and subject to change, is beginning to explain why there are so many different kinds of Valpolicella Ripasso and Amarone’s floating around out there.

Hey, when a winemaker comes at you with his bottle thinking he has all the answers, here’s what to do. Take your red cape, get out of the way, swirl a bit to make your move look good, and get ready for the next winemaker, or critic, to pass your way with his sharpened horns of opinion. Don’t get hooked. You’re not necessarily wrong about what you like. So you might only have been getting into Italian wine, or wine in general, for a month or a year. Doesn’t matter. You are where you are. Live with it. Embrace it. Enjoy it.

Dream a little dram for me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Shock & Ah

"Have you forgotten your scripture, the thirteenth scroll? 'And Proteus brought the upright beast into the garden and chained him to a tree and the children did make sport of him.' " -Dr. Zaius

A few weeks ago, several of us were sitting around a table in Manhattan with a winemaker from Montalcino. Somewhere between his unreleased 2004 and the historic 1971, the observer in me saw a face on the label. I took a picture of it, out of focus. It reminded me of something from when my son was a little boy. And then it hit me, there it was, staring at me.

This particular producer espouses traditional methods for making Brunello. He is waiting, as are many of us, for the whole Montalcino mess to run its course.

First it was shock and now it is “Ah, hey fellahs, ready when you are.”

So we wait, open a bottle of NegroAmaro, and wait for the carousel to play out its song.

Heard in the trade: “These days, the wines from Puglia are appearing to be more authentic than their northern counterparts.”

Would that be before they discovered French oak, micro-ox, reverse-oz and designer yeasts? Say, like, in 1977?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Get Your Green On

The dogs were biting at my ankles as I dodged into the greengrocer store here in town. Inside the genius-mad spiceman was cuddling in a corner with his heirlooms. I had seen him down the street in the Italian shop, where he told me he had scored some wild asparagus from the Basque part of France. I was hopelessly locked in a mad dash to get my green on.

Later that evening we had been invited to our friends’ flat. Not just any flat, it is in an older but still desirable part of town. It’s a minimal space, clean and uncluttered. The friends had just returned from a six week road trip to places in the world I would never see.

Simple food and a few wines from the cabinet, I was just coming off cold-turkey withdrawals from Riesling, but I was in the game and looking past the Mosel, for the moment.

You never know when a wine will surprise you. For instance, we were going to have a Verdicchio from Matelica, usually a wine I go crazy for. Before that wine, though, our host opened a bottle of Beringer Alluvium, a white from Semillon and Sauvignon, and a splash of Chardonnay and Viognier. No chance of tasting terroir there, right?

I had been to Beringer in February for a tasting and a dinner but I didn’t remember the wine except as a brief snapshot during the reception.

Terroir and California don’t go together? So the debate goes. Being a native of California, perhaps I sense the underlying thread that a place like California weaves into every thing Californian. I get it, don’t always like that some winemakers cover it up with their barrels and their egos and their lofty ambitions. Then again, a winery like Stony Hill manages to dodge the barrels and the reverse osmosis parade that is going up and down Hwy 29. So it is possible.

Anyway, this Alluvium didn’t seem so out of kilter. In fact it wasn’t until our host handed me a glass of the Verdicchio (a Gambero Rosso 3 glass’er, so he told me) that I nearly jumped out of my skin. The California wine reflected its California-ness more truthfully than the Verdicchio portrayed its Marche-ness. Pure and simple, no debate, I was longing for more of the Beringer and hoping the Verdicchio would just go away.

Still, I was in that Riesling trance of late, so that might have something to do with it. Nah, I’m not buying into that.

The Verdicchio had great acidity, but a little too highly pitched. What was the winemaker thinking? Let’s raise the heels up another inch, hike up the skirt, lower the bodice, there, she’ll be a real stunner. What does Sergio@IWM call ‘em, bona?

Well, it didn’t work this time. Anyway we were on to reds

We were joined by a couple who had just arrived from San Francisco. Fresh air, lively conversation, some new ideas, waiting for the red wines to breathe.

Earlier in the day I had gotten a text from one of my Italian Wine Daughters about Rampolla’s Sammarco. This is what I love about the young’uns, they have a question about the 2003 Tuscan harvest, they send you a text. I think we got it worked out. Sammarco, by way of answering the IWD, is indeed 95% Cabernet and 5 % Sangiovese, not the other way around as I told her. Sorry.

But here’s a winery that has embraced their green-ness, Rampolla, that is. And they are making a Cabernet in Sangiovese country. Whose fault is that? A younger Tachis, no doubt, but it works for me. There are all kinds of surprises in the vineyards, aside from the way we think it should be.

The SF couple has a vineyard in Alexander Valley, Laughing Raven. Sauvignon and Barbera was what I heard they make, perhaps something else. We must try these wines too. I think there will be more surprises.

Many folks are searching for their simple truths, and life on earth just isn’t giving the answers we would expect.

The host pours a red wine and folks ask what it is. Wine, drink it. OK.

Back to Italy and the Marche, to a wine that if I could nail in a blind tasting it would make me very happy. Le Caniette Nero di Vite, a Rosso 50% Montepulciano and 50% Sangiovese, lots of wild-ass acidity bordering on volatile, taking you right to the edge of the brink, strapping on the rubber bands and pushing you over to a bungee-jump-of-a-lifetime swallow-of-wine. And back up to do it again. And again. That bottle didn’t last too long.

The Marchegiani have the great secret of Italy growing wild right out of the pots in front of their windows.

Piceni invisibili they are. Happy, lucky, well fed.

Next up, a 2000 Barolo from Pira. They actually didn’t let the vintage take a hold of the wine in the sense that the wine was unencumbered with gobs of fruit. It was gob-less, and we could have used a second bottle. Man, that was nice, even if was too suddenly over. Some of ‘em are James Dean and some of ‘em are George Burns.

There was so much coming at me, for this post, but it would be too long. This search for the appropriate shade of green in one’s life, who are we to think that we are directing any of this? Come on, take one down and pass it around, 95 other bottles waiting to come down. Keep the line moving, bub. We can tackle our inner terroir some other time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Sweet Surrender

Finally, all is quiet. It's past midnight and I’ve poured the last glass of 2005 J.J. Prum Graacher Himmelreich Spatlese. Way off the Italian wine trail, and loving every sip.

It’s been a long week. I’m ready to pack it up and take the long weekend. Been getting ready for a seminar I’m co-opting with the resident Master Sommelier, Sir Guy. A few days in New Orleans, for training and education at the Society of Wine Educators annual get together. Our seminar, as Sir Guy named it, Don’t pass over Ripasso, will be lots of fun. After all, we will be in the Crescent City. A little red wine, some jazz, many, many seminars, but all I can think about right now is this glass of Riesling.

Graacher Himmelreich, Heaven will reign. A white goddess this Riesling is and all these years, though I love Italian wine with all of my being, there has to be room for Riesling. When I first started out in this business, I was so damn lucky to be exposed to wines from the Mittelmosel, they are my Burgundy. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve had more site traffic in the past two days than all of April, and traffic has been growing steadily, like the price of a barrel of oil. I was Uber-Googled this week.

Speaking of oil, this Graacher sure makes something conceptually repugnant, the smell of fusel oil, pretty wonderful. And how can something so sweet be so wonderfully wine? We are all taught to shun sweet wine, but I am over it many moons ago. I could drink this wine every night. A big thanks and shout out to Marco for the gift of Graacher.

So doors seem to be opening, traffic is up, good wine is flowing, a long weekend is upon us and another trip in the wings, this time to New Orleans.

New Orleans, the American canary in the coal mine. At least since Katrina. Our poor little town, such a sadness that even Riesling cannot remove.

So, we will wait and sip and rest. Sweet surrender.

Images from Plan 59

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Which Wine With Seersucker?

Yesterday when I got into the car, after a day of work, the temperature read 98°F. Today when I went into work everything seemed like it had all gone South, like I’d landed smack dab in a bowl of idiot soup. Some days, in this business, you don’t know if you’re a Seer or a Sucker. So, let’s celebrate our blissful ignorance on this Wednesday in May.

A few weeks ago I was walking around the Tompkins Square Park area in NY with a few friends and noticed one of them was wearing a seersucker blazer. We proceeded to taunt him (and to subsequently cyber-bully him), but there was a prophetic air to his apparel of choice. Now it is hotter than blazes and I gots to get me one of them seersucker blazers.

In the meantime, a little pre-summer exercise on wines that match with seersucker. Not just any seersucker, but special selections of seersucker, some designer, some just out-and-out ridiculous. But not every wine is for everyone, isn’t that right my dear friends in the Bowery?

Lyric header host for this heedless post is Steve Miller, a good ‘ol Dallas boy.

Puttin' her rouge on, Slippin' her shoes on, My baby's gettin' ready to dance
Speaking of blissful ignorance, the first is a light-hearted trio of Bubbly’s from Barefoot: a Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio and a White Zinfandel. Marks off for calling them Champagne (not a Growers one, I snarkfully presume). But major kudos for supporting a cause that is near and dear to me, the Pacific Coast chapter of the National MS Society. (And no, I am not talking about sommeliers here. Those who know me, know what I’m talking about).

Coming to you baby on a midnight train
It goes with alligator and polo; it walks the walk and talks the talk. The wine is light but it isn’t simple. It’s a Matrot Meursault with a Stelvin instead of a cork. So it says cool and groovy at the same time as it says refined and sophisticated. Great for hanging around Tompkins Square Park in a brown bag till all hours of the night while waiting for the bars to open up in the morning, so you can order a Harvey Wallbanger or Ramos Gin Fizz.

I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker
This begs to be Bio-dynamite from Berkeley, a home made garage wine from a former SDS activist in a seersucker suit. That would count out Kermit and Neal, but there’s got to be another Big Boy out there still in hiding. Actually, we found him west of the East Bay, hiding in the hills on the Ridge estate, where a Chardonnay can be found in small amounts. From their Santa Cruz Mountain vineyards, first planted to Chardonnay in the 1940’s. Our lyric host, Steve Miller said it best when he sang:
You're the cutest thing
That I ever did see
I really love your peaches
Want to shake your tree
Lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey, lovey-dovey all the time
Ooo-eee baby, I'll sure show you a good time

Ooe-ee Baby!

I’m a picker, I’m a grinner, I’m a lover and I’m a sinner
Like it cool and dry, but need something ripe and ready? A little tango teaser from Argentina might be the perfect match with this swatch of seersucker. We popped a bottle of Astica Torrontés the other night and it was my Johnny Walker Red son who said, “What is that? I like it!”
Great floral aromas, slightly moscato-like with shades of tropical gardenia. Sweet young thing, not too dry, very seer-sucker and slurp-worthy. We even found a pair of seersucker tango shoes to go with it.

Go on take the money and run
It woulda-shoulda been a Brunello, but now I’m betting on those new ’03 Toscana IGT’s. Can’t tell you who they’ll all be ‘till after June 10, but there’ll probably be a swarm of them. Or not. Might be better with a seersucker coppola hat, as shown. Helps to cover-up your eyes from all the bright lights putting the spotlight on the garbage in Naples that has found its way to the dumps in Tuscany?

Her lips are red, Her body is soft, She is a movin' volcano
That would be a red wine from Sicily, what else? From Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna Rosso: Nerello Mascalese with a little Nerello Cappuccio. With a little up tick in the activity on the slopes of Etna, and here we go lookin’ for some grass fed Baw’b que. Enough to turn a vegetarian into a flexatarian for a night. Livin’ in the USA.

Tired of the war and those industrial fools
You know what I’m talking about, maybe it’s that wealthy industrialist who made a gazillion bucks in the gas and oil industry who decided to chuck it all and set up shop in the Rutherford Bench? Now he’s planning on how to save the world from low-scoring unoaked wines. This calls for a seersucker selection from Rosenthal wines, n'est-ce pas? A Cassis Blanc from Domaine du Bagnol: Marsanne, Clairette and Ugni Blanc in a fruity aromatic cease fire from the madness of making the daily bread. I had this wine a few weeks ago, after a night of Gravner, and I can still taste, and remember this wine for its clarity and its joyful purity. Peace, y’all.

Abra-abra-cadabra, I want to reach out and grab ya
From Puglia a Fiano-Greco , Prima Mano. Reaches right out of the glass and grabs ya and doesn’t wrinkle the seersucker. Clear flavors, bright and not spoofed up. No smoke and mirrors, just a clean shake and a hangover-free morning.

Some people call me the space cowboy, yeah. Some call me the gangster of love
From the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, a Sauvignon Blanc from Linden Vineyards. I like what the winemaker says, "Rather than having a wine defined by oak and alcohol, I prefer a wine that is defined by its ‘sap”. Less than 300 cases made, so you’re gonna hafta call yore relatives if’n you wants some.

Somebody give me a cheeseburger
All those hot dogs earlier in the month, during a field trip to Brooklyn, got me to thinking about a reddish wine to go with them. The closest I got was thinking about a wine from Kermit Lynch from Corte Gardoni, a Bardolino Chiaretto (Rosato). I can has hot dog? And free range and grass fed if I wants to? Yes I can. Just in time for the Seersucker Invitational Park Slope Bocce Ball Tournament.

Good night and “Gob-less”.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Current Italian Wine DOCG List

To the best of my ability, here is the list, after the jump.

Complete Listing of Italian DOCG Wines (as of May 2008): 41

Abruzzo (1)
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo "Colline Teramane"

Campania (3)
Fiano di Avellino
Greco di Tufo

Emilia Romagna (1)
Albana di Romagna

Friuli-Venezia Giulia (2)

Lazio (1)
Cesanese del Piglio

Lombardia (4)
Oltrepo Pavese
Sforzato della Valtellina
Valtellina Superiore

Marche (2)
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona

Piemonte (12)
Asti spumante - Moscato d'Asti
Barbera d'Asti
Barbera del Monferrato Superiore
Barolo (Chinato, as well, falls under this DOCG)
Brachetto D'Acqui o Acqui
Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore o Dogliani
Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore
Gavi o Cortese di Gavi

Sardegna (1)
Vermentino di Gallura

Sicilia (1)
Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Toscana (7)
Brunello di Montalcino
Chianti Classico
Morellino di Scansano
Vernaccia di S.Gimignano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Umbria (2)
Montefalco Sagrantino
Torgiano Rosso Riserva

Veneto (4)
Bardolino Superiore
Recioto di Gambellara
Recioto di Soave
Soave Superiore

Sunday, May 18, 2008

In Search of Authentic

In the last few weeks I have been mulling over the idea of what it means to be authentic. It seems that, along with terroir and technology, authenticity has a place on the bus. With regards to things Italian, and in my case, being a child of immigrants from Italy in search of the modern American experience, this is a multi-layered area.

Friends like Carlo on the east coast and Roberto on the west coast could probably attest to their version of this experience. When I talk to Italians who have newly come to America, they have a different idea of what it is to be Italian and also what it means to become American. As well, when I talk to 3rd generation Italian-Americans, they have some very different ideas about their roots and their current place in the sun.

One size doesn’t fit all.

When you add the focus of my interest, wine and food, there can be a multitude of expressions. I’ve said that about three times now, so everyone who has gotten this far probably gets it now. But, what if we were all right? And all wrong?

How do we perceive our place in our culture? In my case, it’s like this. I was born in California and spent half my life there. So I am definitely a Californian, in fact there are few native Californians around anymore. I've lived in New York and go back there often. Half a lifetime ago I moved to Texas, and I consider myself also a Texan. And yes both set of grandparents came from Italy and both of my parents are of Italian origin, so I am also an Italian. Not like Italians in Italy. But Italian, according to the way I see it.

Where does my authenticity come from? It comes from anywhere and everywhere, and most likely from the stronger parts of my personality. There is this triumvirate of the Italian-Californian-Texan which directs the movie of Alfonso. These three versions of me running around in my head also have on the bus the ancient Roman, The New Yorker, the Native American, the Egyptian, the Arab, the priest, the gunslinger and the Boy Scout.

We all have some things directing our inner movie. What are yours?
Food: Let’s take this slow. My mom, when I was growing up, made all kinds of food. We had lentils, we had meatballs. We had fish, we had lasagna. We had eggplant Parmigiano, we had burgers. If my dad was in the mood, we’d have tripe in tomato sauce. Or she’d bread up some meat cutlets and fry or bake them off. On Friday’s she’d bake these flat loaves, slice them open, put fresh ricotta and olive oil, salt and pepper, and nobody in our neighborhood ate better that night. We had broccoli, we had the most amazing manicotti that my mom would make. She was good with pasta. And her cannoli were to die for. She still makes a fruit cake (at 93) that she sends to me. I drizzle it with brandy and it can last for years.

260-268 Elizabeth St, NY

My sister Tina has a canister of noodles our grandmother made before she died in 1976. She calls them Nonna’s noodles and they are in her kitchen, her good luck totem that protects the ancient recipes she has learned. She picked up all the great recipes from the grandmothers, the aunts, the mothers and mother-in-law and she rocks the kitchen. Is it Italian? She makes dolmas to die for. Now my mom does too. No, it isn’t indigenous, but it is delicious. They’re not overdone with technique, just what was handed down. Maybe a short cut here or there. But this has become part of the experience of being an immigrant in an America where everyone wins.

Wine: The old guys used to slip me a glass of wine, not mixed with water. When I hear that or read it in someone’s memoirs, I want to raise my hand and ask a question. I do not remember it ever happening to me. My grandfather never did it when he gave me a little sip of brandy before I went to sleep. At the table, there was wine. And later on in the 1970’s, somehow, carbonated beverages showed up in the kitchen. But they went with sandwiches, with lunch, as a snack, and rarely. Not for dinner. Coke with my grandma’s roasted lamb? Never. 7-Up with my mom’s spaghetti and meat ball? 7-Up was for when you were sick. It went with her healing chicken soup with acine di pepe. Wine just didn’t taste good when one was puny.

My dad started buying jugs of California wine and putting them in decanters. He was a trickster, liked to impress his business partners. I still remember those wines, mountain red. They remind me of Montepulciano or Cotes du Rhone. White wine? I drink it now and love it. Back then, it wasn’t around. Too bad, my mom’s manicotti would have been pretty good with a Soave or a Gravina. But it was not to be.

Did the wines taste spoofed up? Not at the time. And I think, even though they were probably made in a 1960-ish semi-industrial manner, the wines weren’t doctored with wood dust or deep purple. For sure, they weren't "thermostyled". I can still remember how those wines taste and they tasted, to me, more like country wines from Central and Southern Italy. Big surprise, most of the wines were made by children of Italian immigrants, or the immigrants themselves.

I remember asking my mom’s mom once, how she compensated for the loss of her motherland. She left Italy when she was 30, so she had time to get into being an Italian, even if she was dirt poor (They ate well even then). She had been transplanted and re-grafted onto a new country. That was it in her eyes. She never looked back. She became a Native American.

Now, when I hear the chatter and debate of indigenous vs. international, of natural vs. technology driven, of fruity and alcoholic vs. acidic and restrained, I step off the trolley for a minute. And I take a deep breath. And then get back into the battle zone. My shield has a coat of arms on it that explains to friends and foe alike, what I believe in. And this isn’t the first time I’ve said it on this blog.

Authentic? I want the best you can give me. I want truth and I want beauty. I want meaning and it needs to be deep. And if, for some reason you cannot bring that to my table, flirt with me, compliment me, do your magic. Do your best. Just make sure it is delicious.

Images courtesy of the great photographers from the past

Friday, May 16, 2008

Read My Lapse

The Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino's quick response to the current debacle has been hailed in the US.

"Keesa me goo'night, Eddie".

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview with the Ancients

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.

Q. What were the wines like when you were living?

A. They were dark and musky, and warm. They tasted a little like sour water sometimes and at other times sweet like rose petals.

Q. Who made the wine in your community?

A. We had families who passed the trade down from generation to generation. There were families, like in Chaldea, who had been working with the grape for hundreds of years.

Q. Who among you were the first to taste wine?

The fellow in profile speaks

A. When we first tasted it, it came about by accident. One of the servants had left a vase of grapes lying around in a cool dark place and forgot about it. Several weeks later one of the porters was walking around and smelled this sweet odor. He had it brought up to the dining area and we all took bites out of this fruit we knew, but it tasted very different this time. And the juice in the bottom of the vase we all took sips of. This was something we had never experienced before. So we instructed the porters to pick more grapes and let them sit in the basement in the same manner. That was the first time we had seen it.

Q. How did the news of this travel?

A. Slowly at first, but after 400-500 years pretty much everybody in the known world had an idea of the transformative powers of the grape.

Q. And the merchants, how did they fit in?

A. At first, it was seen as a religious ritual, so the merchants stayed away. A tribe of women eventually wound their way through the empire, setting up trade with the Egyptians.

Q. Many times we hear that the Greeks brought wine culture to Italy. Who knows about that in this room?

An Etruscan princess answers

A. We had already started with the grape before the Greeks arrived. We had been going on for several hundred years. What the Greeks did was to bring some new grape types with them, but not superior to the ones we had been cultivating for 500 years.

Q. It seems Ancient Romans loved wine. Poems were written about it, buildings and temples were erected in honor of the god of the grapes.

A. That all is true, but keep in mind we had very little to eat and drink. We were often sick and food went bad quickly. Wine kept, and it kept us well and our bellies full. And it made us happy.

Q. Did the grape have anything to do with the expansion of the Empire(s)?

A. Other than it went where man went? Of course when we conquered Gaul or the Huns or the Britons, we would plant vines and keep the local people collected and subdued. Wine had a part to play in the civilizing factor of the wild tribes.

Q. Last Question. If you were around today, what kind of wine would you like to see? What would you make?

An older Roman answers

A. Listen, I would round up some of my soldiers and head to Toscanium and set that land straight. I’d bring them back to the Jovian roots and light a bloody fire under their feet. And by all the power of Jupiter, we’d bring them back to the flame of truth and all that is holy about the miracle the gods have sent down from the heavens in giving us grape with which to make this precious wine. Anyone caught disrespecting the gift of the gods would be crucified and struck down, their family sent into exile. To go against the Divine Immortals is the worst sin one could commit against the pantheon that rules our ancient souls.

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