Wednesday, July 02, 2008

...and the Horse You Rode In On

Guest commentary by Beatrice Russo

You know the saying? Well, in these parts it’s pretty much “Adios MoFo” when it comes down to this.

I’m looking at decisions made in the name of “industry consolidation” and I just gotta think about the poor salesperson on the front line who is just getting ready to lose 30% of his or her income because some suit in some suite in some city made an executive decision. OK, fine, this kind of stuff happens everyday.

But now they are messing with the Italians. There and here.

I just got back from an extended leave at work, traveling and working for a group of wineries. And then I come back to crazy heat, gas guzzling cars, snipers on the tollway and general mayhem in urban America, complete with Darth Vader syndrome.

When you go to Vinitaly and talk to a winemaker about their vineyards and their wine and their philosophy, and if you happen to break bread with them or close down Bottega del Vino with them, you form a bond with them. In America it’s a bond that is often breached. But in the world of Italian wine, there are relationships and the code of hospitality. And when someone, high in a building overlooking a world far removed from their reality, pushes a button, somewhere it affects those relationships and those bonds. And in the Italian sense, it is something so foreign to the way they do business that I am unable to find the words. But I will press on.

Let’s just say, in a calm voice, I am pissed. I am seeing everything in front of all of us shift dramatically, changes, like we have no idea, are coming. But when someone fulfils their obligations and then gets their feet cut from underneath them, in these times, them there are fighting words.

When are the little guys going to ever be able to get out from under the shadow of the elephants, whose dance of death above us is blocking the sun and causing many of the normal joe’s to suffer? These same joe’s who toil, day in and day out, who sacrifice time with their kids because they need to deliver some cooking (box) wine to their account on the way home on a Friday night. And what do they get in return for this vigilance? They get spat upon by the titans of the industry who go to bed at night between their 600 count Egyptian cotton, in their overpriced condo’s overlooking a bay somewhere out west.

Italy has fallen under the spell of the industrial marketers. So now it isn’t just the Micro-Oxygenators we have to concern ourselves with. Now we have to be on the lookout for the Macro-Expectators, these gurus of the new age with their million dollar salaries and their flatulent bonus programs, which they get when they serve up the shaft to the ground troops. Hey, who needs Iraq, when we have Baghdad by the Bay?

They say small is beautiful and IWG sez he is going to be on the lookout to find ‘em small, grow ‘em small and keep ‘em small. Safety in numbers? Why not? You lose one, no big deal, they’re like a bus, hang on and another one will be right by. You can catch the next one.

Hey, Italian wines are complicated creatures, what with all the different things to remember and to know. Today I was trying to figure out one little hill in the Barolo district and it nearly drove me nuts. But I did find out, and now I know. And you know what? Knowledge is power. And when it comes to Italian wines, the suits in the suites could give a rat’s keister about this kind of low-level stuff. Doesn’t interest them, doesn’t keep their 80 foot power boats filled with gas. Doesn’t let them live in the lifestyle in which they have become accustomed to. Entitled, they are? Nah. They earned it, fare and square. Don’t believe me? Just ask ‘em. Or ask their PR wonk or their lawyer or their botoxed trophy wives.

I think about any of those little winemakers on a bricco or a poggio who have spent lifetimes developing their soil and their wine and their craft and then these huge marketing companies come by, spout out some crap about the US market, give ‘em a big order, pay up front and bingo! They just sold their souls to the devils in Baghdad by the Bay.

Yeah I know this is obtuse and blurry and I am not going to explain any deeper. And they said, back in the day, suffice it to say, the little guy better look out, because the behemoths are prowling and devouring. Italy, wake up, they are in your vineyards and your boardrooms. They will steal you blinder than Garibaldi plundered the South.

pix by Leonardo, the old dead Italian guy
(who outshines these new geniuses by a millennium)

Comments to me here:Beatrice

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