Thursday, April 18, 2013

Italy from a different perspective

Photos by Col. Chris Hadfield
Once I arrived back home from Italy and the Vinitaly show, I spent two days on my back in bed, exhausted from a most intense visit to Italy. It was a great trip, but too much crammed into it, so I paid the price. I spent the two days in bed mainly to get through the exhaustion time as soon as I could, as I had to get back on the road. This week I have been on an Italian blitz in Missouri and am just finishing it up so I can head back to Texas and go out to Abilene in West Texas for the Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit. In the meantime here are some random thoughts about Italy from notes I made over the past week or so.

There seems to be some real good energy being generated by the youth of Italy in regards to a more resilient response to their common condition. True, the youth of Italy have had their future somewhat hijacked by Berlusconi’s Italy. Italy still has way too many dinosaurs who are still in charge and who are just running out the clock. The youth are now on to them and they have time on their side. So they are playing a little waiting game and letting the clock run out. Youth will win. Berluconi will lose. I, as well, am tired with the world being run by wealthy, old white men.

Oak in wine is receding. Almost everyone I talked to at Vinitaly seem to think that the Italian winemaker’s affair with small French oak is over. I hope so. From all indications, people just want a return to simple flavors, direct contact with the fruit, and no heavy mascara overlay of burnt toast on an otherwise gorgeous natural product.

Organic is becoming more and more prevalent in the vineyards. People are seeing the benefits, both economically and esthetically, to farming with fewer chemicals. For all we know it’s too late to save the earth, but those who are trying are giving their hearts and souls into farming in a less intrusive and more instinctive manner. Wine is made in the vineyard and this is a great direction I am seeing in even some of the very large producers.

Sicily has become the energy center of the Italian winemaking landscape. I’m not talking the area where there is the expectation for the greatest wines from Italy. Piedmont and Tuscany still clamor for their attention and deservedly so. But Sicily has become an emotional center. I saw in the pavilion again how much energy is drawn to the wineries by the youth of Europe for the wines of Sicily. It’s an odd confluence, what with all the old-style family feelings that reside in Sicily. And yes, Southern Italy (and Sicily) still gets slammed by their counterparts in the north for being slow and lazy and all the racist and bigoted comments I hear people say in front of me. But the young wine energy of Sicily doesn't care about those old prejudices and attitudes. They are moving forward into the future – with or without the rest of Italy – and the world is watching and following. Very exciting times for the island.
Rome, like Washington, by virtue of their inability to govern and represent their citizens properly, is losing their significance and place in the world of influence. And while they aren’t quite as ridiculous as say a North Korea, it has come to a point that Italy is diminished in stature in the world because of the inane opera that has been playing out in Rome. The only thing that has kept it from taking center stage has been the ridiculous antics of North Korea along with whatever it is they now call governance in Washington.

Tuscany is not standing still. The deeper I dig into this region, the more I like it. There is innovation and diversity. That said, why Montalcino still has their head dug in the sand like a camel, I know not. The Consorzio either has a “No Disagreement” policy inside their department or no one inside wants to lose their job. Their P.R. efforts are lagging way behind the likes of the Veneto and Sicily. I don't get it. Brunello is getting better and the Consorzio is getting worse, holding their growers back. Maybe not for the right reasons, Soldera left, but as I talked to several other producers last week, there may soon be more producers, large and small, leaving the Consorzio. That is one body of governance that needs shaking up before the producers of Brunello lose their grip on the market.

That’s about all from the space station. Over and out.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W
Real Time Analytics