Sunday, October 14, 2012

Kinetic Graffiti and Sunburnt Sicilian Orange Wine in Milan

Near the Porta Genova
How does one explain “orange” wine to friends outside the natural wine cabal? Last night, I had a free night in Milan and met up with a fellow I had been wanting to meet ever since I read about him in the New York Times. Carlo Bevilacqua is a photographer who is of the great tradition of shooters from Italy who witness the world that most of us walk right through. But the world through his lens is a richer place and one he is willing to share with all 100% of us.

One of my favorite indulgences is to wander a place alone with a camera. I slip into my invisible clothes and take to the streets without map, GPS or a destination. I’ve done it in Rome, Venice, Palermo, Naples, Torino, Florence, and not just Italy or the cities. The cities are fecund with the amalgam of the human condition. Milan is a working laboratory for all those little heartbeats that fill the canvas. I’m not sure if the graffiti that infects the city acts as a de-sensitizing buffer or as a Rosetta stone to its greater understanding. As an outsider I find it immensely interesting, a palimpsest of visual imagery that makes me dizzy drunk. And that’s before I’ve even had a sip of wine.

Ottimofiore's Gino Castaldo - Photo via Vivimilano
In Milan’s Chinatown, in a little trattoria Carlo has been going to for 25 years, Ottimofiore, we feasted on wine, conversations and platters of fresh seafood and a pasta con sarde that my Sicilian grandmother would have approved of. Carlo and his friend Marina, a novelist (and one to note) and I took the recommendation of owner Gino Castaldo for a Sicilian white from Inzolia, organic grapes.

Fueled by heady discourse and fresh sardines (from an impressive antipasto buffet), we took in the wine. It was “dark”. “What kind of wine is this?” I heard my friends want to ask. “It’s what some folks call an orange wine.” And I explained the basic characteristics of the orange wine movement. “Like my family used to make in Sicily,” Carlo noted. Yes, Carlo, old school. It was a trip back though memory lane for me as well, sitting in the corner of a little piece of Sicily in Milan. We could have easily been back in Palermo in the 1970's.

Did the wine suffice? It was pleasant enough. Our little sunburned accompaniment was no match for the vino sfuso I’d had earlier in the day, I confess. Maybe I am not one to wax on the glories of Cornelissen and Cos. Maybe I’m too modern. Or too simple. Maybe these wines just aren’t for me. Marina cited, “I’d rather have Champagne or Chablis.” 

Lord knows, I keep trying. After all, it’s just another bottle of wine. No comparison to new friendships and a free night on the town, off the grid.Thanks a million, Carlo and Marina, for a lovely evening in your town.

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

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