Thursday, June 06, 2013

Firenza, Sienna and Sorento (Parental Advisory: Cacographic Content)

Recently I was in the market for a car. Somehow when I was on the internet, they’d know that I was looking for a car (cookies) and so I would get solicitations to come test drive this or that. I’d even get a few offers via email, but they usually went into the spam file. I tried to figure out why that was, and I quasi-scientifically deduced it was because there were misspellings that triggered either a “bot” or a person for whom English wasn’t their first (or their second) language.

These were for cars, though, not to bail someone out of jail in Indonesia or help a nephew scurry his uncle’s multi-millions out of Nigeria. Just a car. But for some reason, my internet email saw it as a security risk.

I used to do spelling bees as a kid. Studied Latin all through high school. Love words and love spelling them correctly. Now my grammar, that needs work. I can never get the its and the it’s straight. And so on. But place names in Italy, that’s a no-brainer.

Yep, if you haven’t guessed already, this is a bit of a rant. But it’s like a mild infection. It will pass quickly.

Italy has been called many things. And some of the great places in Tuscany, in the South and in the North are destinations for people from all over the world. It’s like California, where I am this week, judging at the California State Fair Wine Competition. Everybody wants to go there (Italy and California) on vacation. Italy is a magnet for the aspirational. And car manufacturers have taken the opportunity to cash in on the Mediterranean Madness that has been sweeping the USA for some time now. Does Italy get a cut from Toyota for their misspelled minivan? Of course not, but who does it really hurt in this day and age of LOL and OMG? Before long, no one is going to know how to spell anything or there will be multiple versions of one word. Just like Olde English and Middle English. Northern Italian and Southern Italian. Language is a sluice gate for feelings, ideas, hopes and boundless energy.

The Italians also do funny things with the English language. They put together disparate words and make a phrase for a T–shirt; things like “Bunny-Cut”, “Exit-Fanfare” and “Loving Peaches.” They make no sense to me, but for years I have seen these nonsense words and take no offense. Misspelling famous cities though, why does that bother me?

Perhaps for the same reason that I cringe when I see fettuccine Alfredo on a menu served with a chicken breast or see spaghetti with marinara cream sauce. Or when the waiter asks me if I want Parmesan cheese on my linguine con vongole. They don’t fall into the context of the authentic Italian experience. Sure, let’s experiment, but the final result should be something better, not a degradation of a classic. And yes, I realize some people spell the city Siena as Sienna. So maybe I will give that one a pass. But it still doesn’t feel right. Anymore than Turin does instead of Torino. At least Ford got that one right. And it is for that reason that I would never buy an automobile with a name that is misspelled. Well, maybe I’d make an exception for a vintage Avanti, ragazzi.

And how does this all relate to the wine trail in Italy? You thought I’d never ask? Simply, what many of us are trying to do is find a clearer way to explain something that can be very complex. Try deconstructing Cannubi, where the government says there are 19 producers who use the name Cannubi on their label, 15 hectares total. So far I have come up with 18 producers (and 2 vineyard owners-Scarzello and Fontana Michelina) and 25.35 hectares. (?) and five of those I still haven't figured out what they own. So, yes for me, simplifying the complex in order to explain it and bring more people into the Italian wine fold is an obsession. But dumbing it down isn’t.

As for the car, it turned out I bought a German car. They never misspell anything. I just wish they would have left a case of Riesling in the trunk. Buying a car can be very exsiccating.

That said, I have two more days of judging and a special night tonight in Sacramento, so I think the Riesling can wait.

written by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
Photos from Italian TV

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