Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bank On It

"The wise man does at once what the fool does finally."- Niccolo Machiavelli

Money seems to be on everyone’s mind. The European Community is striving to pull Greece and Spain away from the ledge. In America, people are still spending money they don’t have. Last night I witnessed weekend millionaires spending money in ways that I could never bring myself to do. And I am more likely able to afford to spend the way I saw these folks spending. Not that I ever would. It’s highly predictable that they do this every Friday and Saturday night, if not Thursday as well as Sunday brunch. Their debts add up. Until no shovel will be able to dig them out.

Did the “millionaire weekend” contagion pass from the local party-goers to Spain and Greece? Is there something about the thrill of getting something without having to earn it, save for it and then pay for it? Is it human nature? Wiring? Greed? Impatience? Or just a lack of imagination?

Italy is standing in the queue on that ledge, but there is something different about Italy. There is a lot of money tucked between mattresses in that country. The young generation might like to go full-tilt boogie, what with the malaise of job scarcity and a finite housing inventory. They are still tied to an older generation that holds the purse strings.

In the world of Italian wine, zooming in on Tuscany and even further, on Montalcino, there might very well be a battle going on for Brunello. And a good deal of it is about money. Big money. But there is another struggle, the timeless and inevitable transfer of power from a generation that has done all it can do, to a generation that still must prove to themselves that they understand where to go without really knowing where that is. Nothing different from any other generational shift; the uncertainty, some trepidation, a little looking back, a small step forward, here and there. And then a few years pass and it’s like nothing ever changed. Humans and their indomitable capacity to adjust and forget and move on.

It’s a lot like when someone dear to us passes away. The tunnel seems long and deep and dark. And it is. But then you get yourself inside it and start crawling around looking for some light. And somewhere out of the periphery you notice a glimmer of light. And you set your course for it. You might be wounded, you might be bleeding. You might have had to chew your wrist off to get free of a shackle. But you press on.

Today, Montalcino is pressing on. From a distance I see and hear and feel this; a great weight has lifted. Has Montalcino finally been freed from the toll-keeper? Yes, the toll-taker built the bridge and remodeled the castle. And in no small part do we owe him a debt of gratitude for those actions. But the future is a very different place from 1978. And while we all harbor nostalgia for what was, we have to keep moving through the tunnel. Even as it twists under the castle. It’s inevitable.

On Twitter a follower known only as @PCucina tweeted this question: "@italianwineguy went to a high end restaurant only 2-3 Italian wines on menu. wine capo not keen on them. Any good choices I could give him?"

The first thing that came to me was: Brunello. Not Barolo. Not Amarone. It jolted me, signifying even to me that I consider Brunello as the Ambassador-at-large for Italian wines in the world. Like it or not, there is a huge responsibility for this little town to carry that message to the world.

Because of it, their wines have to be more Italian and more pliable. More traditional and more modern. More accessible and more collectible. All of this and none of this. All while crawling through a tunnel that could be laced with land-mines, some of which could have been set there by the toll-keeper. And while this tunnel is traveling underneath the castle and a land-mine explosion could do in the castle he built, if there is anywhere young Italians can get their full-tilt boogie on, Montalcino is a target-rich environment.

There’s more to wealth than money. There’s adventure. And challenge. And destiny. And there’s never been a better time. Or a better place to rebuild. You can bank on it.

Virtu contro al Furore
Prendera l'arme, e fia il combatter corto:
Che l'antico valore
Negli italici cuor non e ancor morto

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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