Sunday, November 11, 2012

There’s a place for 'us'

Life has these funny little connections. I’m sitting is a sorry little corner of the Frankfurt airport and tweet, “With #DavosDuVin & #EWBC done there's still #MeranoWineFestival. Me? I'm heading to Verona 4 Vinitaly Wine Competition

A few minutes later Luca Currado (@vietti_vino ) replies, “ @italianwineguy ciao Alfonso .... Me too in Frankfurt ... But on my way to go home! Ciao.”

Just like that Frankfurt isn’t some cold place that I have been walking around trying to find the right terminal for the last hour. One of my pals is here. The world gets smaller and more connected.

There was a  recent article in the NY Times about an island of Greeks who boast incredible longevity of years. One of the elders asked what might be the secret to such long life. He answered, “It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”

More and more it is becoming an ‘us’ place. To be sure, there still are plenty of 'me’s' on this swirling little orb, but in the wine business one grape doesn’t make a wine.

I watched a man in the shuttle, grey hair, cropped short, standing up, with a sand colored rains coat, black jeans, pressed, and a pair of comfortable black athletic shoes. Was he a scientist? He had an official looking briefcase with him. He was a quiet man, non-assuming. But he wasn’t invisible. I was curious about what he did in the world.

Upon arriving in Verona he got on the same bus to the hotel. He too was coming for the Vinitaly wine competition, has a room on the same floor as I do. Two grapes, pressed into service. Looking for the great wines.

I reckon there will be more of this happening in the coming days. I thought about the influence a competition has on the wine. Does it help sales? It doesn’t hurt. Who benefits from it the most? I am not sure. One thing, when I thought the grey haired man was a scientist and I wondered about what he did in the world and then when I found out we were most likely colleagues, it infused in me a desire to give it my all in this competition.

It all goes back to the farmer. Some fellow getting up at all hours of the night to tend his fields, in the rain, the freeze, the scorching sun, the hail, the drought, the ravages of Nature, all of this and then they have to make the wine. And then figure out how to move it through the system, because another vintage cycle has just started up. We, us, owe it to them to give it our best shot.
Recently I tasted through a couple of Sangiovese wines from Tuscany. The wines were made by neighbors. They came from different worlds. One is the farmer’s world, almost feral. The other approached the world from a more international point of view. More traveled, wealthier, more access. These are things that one can learn, but not as a judge in a blind tasting for a competition. Knowing that I know, it does affect how I think about the wine, the kind of conversation I have with the winemaker. I enjoy both wineries' wines. Sure, one is more for the world-at-large, and the other is more for a world internalized via our mutual history, throwing in some romantic imaginings of mine. In a blind tasting that all goes away, stripped of prejudice and preconception. And yes, there is the prejudice of the individual palate, but that it something we all have. Do we really know what the other person sees when they see the color red?

No matter the color, be it red, white or rosé, wine is the ultimate ‘us’ beverage. Opening up a bottle forges a social compact among those who partake in the juicy delectation. And hopefully something more and more of ‘us’ will be doing in the future.

written and photographed (@Produttori del Barbaresco) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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