Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Disneyfication of Barolo - The Queen of Jelly and Her Cannubial Bliss

For this observer, Italy is a source of endless fascination. They take rugged, sun scorched stone and turn it into a timeless beauty. They take a land that has for years been revered by the people living on it, and turn it into a parody of modern day life. I love it. There are no barriers, no boundaries. Good taste lies down next to the tasteless. The sacred sleeps with the profane. Italy is humanity’s perfect mirror of our evolution, for better or worse. And now, in the land of Barolo, in the historic Cannubi vineyard area, again, the mirror is pressed to our face. Our existential selfie, once again, is revealing what we value, what kind of a people we are.

Growing up in Southern California, I spent many hours at Disneyland. Back in the days when all were vaccinated against common scourges, we freely spent out time walking among the theme park, wrapped up as we were in our childhood fantasylands. The house of the future showed us what life was going to be like in 1986, sponsored by none other than the Monsanto Corporation. We walked in single file, filtering through this house of the future, anticipating a time when our lives would be lived in that oh-so perfect world.

Two generations later, in the early 21st century, the Disney-fication of Barolo-land is underway. Entrepreneur Sandra Vezza, whose empire encompasses Gufram, a furniture manufacturer in Barolo, famous for a pop icon of the 1970’s, Studio 65’s “Bocca” sofa, and Italgelatine, a producer of industrial and pharmaceutical gelatin, has a new project. Vezza hired local architect Gianni Arnaudo to design a winery worthy of the Gufram “pop” legacy. Now the “queen of jelly”has a new dream come true: a pop winery in Barolo.

Parked on the side of a hill in Cannubi, the locals once again are shaking their heads. What are these boxes, one stacked on top of the other, doing in a Unesco world heritage site? God only knows; She was unavailable for comment.

Perhaps Barolo is going to surprise us all and not go the way of Burgundy, instead opting for the vision of Disney instead?

I noticed a preponderance of Disney stores, in Venice and Verona, on my last trip there. They were joyful places, little children looking happily at the dolls, the bright pastel colors and warm lighting during the bleak shortened days of winter served to remind the children (and their parents) that spring and summer would soon be here. The world according to Disney. And now it has come to the Langhe, and Cannubi, of all places.

Some people are disgusted. Some are resigned. No one knows what will be next. Will a Gufram outlet pop up next to the winery? Or a gelateria? On one of the most historic of all Barolo sites, which has weathered its share of controversies these last few years. Is this insult upon injury? Or merely progress?

The Langhe is not without its architectural experiments. The Ceretto family has the square cube on the hill of Castiglione, like a cubical ship from another planet that rammed into the earth. Now it is a beacon of sorts, a landmark. Will this new winery from Vezza become a new lighthouse in the night? Or simply another blemish, wrought by the uber-wealthy upon the land, as a mark of power, the terroir of the elite.

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

Bocca sofa images the from the book "Fotocopie" by Maurizio Berlincioni
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