Sunday, September 25, 2011

Italian High Noon: Five Rode In

As morning dawned, only five were left. After many wars and battles, they couldn’t claim victory. They had been left behind, without any entitlements to greatness, as their fellow warriors had enjoyed. No victory laps, no medallions, nothing. Just the blank stare from the sun as it rose to shine upon everyone else but them.

How many more years before these five could taste the glory of greatness, riding tall in their saddles, heads held high? As if it were ever in the cards for these five?

Soon, the curtain would fall, and there would be no more pageantry, no more striving for the highest honor. Before long, they and all their compatriots would be swept away into a larger procession. And with it, dashed is the chance to go into new battles with a taste of triumph.

They were all alone now, waiting for the noonday sun to cast no shadow upon them, to become invisible even to their star and the earth they strode. They were Valle d’Aosta, Trentino, Liguria, Molise and Calabria – the shunned ones – the outlaws – the disregarded – the unkempt – the unloved.

Making a little breakfast in the fire before they broke camp and set off for their reckoning at noon, they drank strong black, bitter coffee and ate rock-hard bread which they seared in the coals. Molise was first to speak, as the junior fighter among them.

“What did I have to lose? Only my precious Biferno, the only one they could have recognized. My Rosso, perhaps? But the Montepulciano from our neighbors in Abruzzo have stolen that glory. The white? Who would give a Trebbiano any honor? She is the pretty little sister everyone wants to bed down when young, but as she ages, she is scattered, haggard, and uncertain. No, she would never be honored. Only Emilia Romagna, with their political power could have gotten that victory with their Albana or Tuscany with their precious Vernaccia. But not we terroni in Molise. We should have gone back to shoeing our horses, content to be a drive-through for the cattle.” Dejected, Molise saddled up and headed out first.

Then Trentino roused. “We are a border place, neither Italian nor German, nor Austrian, nor any of the other many conquerors who have spread their seed on our ravaged lands. But our Teroldego is nobility; our Teroldego should have been acclaimed, recognized. But we are on the frontier, and we have no one claiming us but everyone wanting a piece of us.” And he threw the rest of his coffee into the fire and strode away to his final meeting in town.

Liguria then rattled out his paean. “We are also a border, and we have the traditions of France and Italy and the Savoy, but we are an inhospitable terrain, not noble, but fleshy, sensuous and hard to claim. Our great red in the hills, the Rossese, is as noble as any Dolcetto or Primitivo. But alas, no honor from Rome. And our Sciacchetrà? On a par with Picolit or Sauterne and more precious and hard to find, but for the few princes that harbor in our ports in the calm months. She has no advocate in Rome, either.” And Liguria ambled towards his horse and joined the other two.

Only Calabria and Valle d’Aosta remained, chewing on the last pieces of hardtack, mulling. Valle poured a last cup of the bitter liquid and launched his lament. “We are also a frontier and with inhospitable winters and borders and mountains and vineyards difficult to traverse. Who would know the glories we contain? We have not one nor two, but a plethora of worthy candidates. Six come to mind - Blanc de Morgex, Fumin, Donnaz, Enfer d’Arvier, Torrette and Chambave Rouge. Any could rival most of the DOCG’s that have been handed out. And I say, HANDED OUT, NOT EARNED.” Valle D’Aosta was known for dexterous gun handling. You didn’t want to anger this one. “The vineyards of Torrette are like the Douro, or the Mosel or my neighbor in Liguria. But no, the fools in Rome get our taxes, and we provide them with a safe border. But we have nothing else they want. And so they give nothing else to us, unless we grease their palms with fat coins. I would sooner wrap a cord around their necks and string them from the highest tree.” He was angry, but he pulled his boots on while Calabria said his peace.

Calabria, tall and tan and lean with an aquiline nose, shaped from the many years the Greeks held sway over his lands, he was more philosophical. “We have one, maybe two, wines destined for greatness. The Ciro, without a doubt. But as it has been for thousands of years, not because some minister of Parliament decrees it so. We will be here long after Rome is sacked a second, third or infinite number of times. We feel the greatness of our territory, and no one can take it away from us. As for the masters of the DOCG – they can all burn in a hell much worse than any Dante can dream up.” Calabria was their negotiator, but he had had enough. These two joined the other three as they rode to their noontime meeting with destiny.

And what a meeting that would be, the five remaining territories, none of their wines with a so much as a single DOCG.

Oh, to be a crow high in the sky over the dusty little town when the sun was at its peak and the tower clock would strike noon for the last time.

They weren't going down without a fight.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Cevola,

IMHO this is the best piece you have written. I selfishly relished every word of it.

Thanks for the continued enlightenment.


Alfonso Cevola said...

Thank you, Franchino, I really am glad you liked it. I do too...which is odd to say, except once in awhile I write something that really surprises me
But it does make me happy to know people like you as well enjoy this kind of thing...thank you very much

Michele Connors said...

Love love love this post!

Gloria Chang said...

Reading this great post on Monday morning absolutely makes my day.
My husband is from Trentino which is the reason I feel so attached personally to the part about Teroldego. :)

Wine Curmudgeon said...

Sometimes, I think you are wasted selling wine.

Erin Grace said...

Bravo Alfonso. Entertaining and passionate. One of my favorite posts of your for certain. I've already directed three people to read it.


Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks , all...was really fun to write

Thomas said...

Alfonso is (nearly) wasted selling wine. There's a book in this man--maybe two.

Fabio (Vinos Ambiz) said...

Thanks for the great post. And for the all the others too, with such good info on the wine world in Italy.

Anonymous said...

Can you do Seven Samurai to include the reds of Etna and the ornery Teran of the Carso?
Well done.


Alfonso Cevola said...

Sounds more like a "Guns of Navarone" scenario..but we're working on it - Thanks!

Anonymous said...

what about the editor? the editor? the editor?

Alfonso Cevola said...

My editor is A.W.E.S.O.M.E.

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