Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wine to Come: Observations from the Langhe on the First Day of Spring

Photo: European Space Agency
A well-dressed group from around the world milling around an open courtyard in the Langhe on this first day of spring. A motion to move inside to the winery for a presentation. Above, the moon, already moving, in a short coup against the sun. Winter, trying one last time to forestall the onslaught of growth of the new season. And so this was the augur of the new day.

We were all guests of Enrico Scavino and his family. Writers, sommeliers, merchants, neighbors, scientists, all of us in our own way trying to save our worlds from darkness. Inside the lights dimmed and the presentation began.

Photo: Scavino family archives
I was first in this room in 1984, when the revolution that Barolo was to become was in its infancy. Roads barely paved a mere 20 years before; we were in farmland, where a tractor was more prized than a Ferrari. In other parts of the world, in Bordeaux, in Burgundy, in Napa Valley, even in Tuscany, the ascent of wine had begun. But in the Langhe, the farmers were awaiting the end of their eclipse, easing the moon out from in front of the sun.

I remember observing my father as he got older and lost some of his fire. He mellowed, and along with it the sentimentality of his perspective on life swelled. When I was 30, I thought it a sign of weakening. As with so many things I thought when young, I was wrong. It was like the grapes on the vine, ripening and readying for the wine to come.

And so it was as well, I saw a grayer Enrico Scavino than the first time we met in his winery, when his daughters were tiny tots and the Langhe was beginning its long climb.

All this seems easy to say now. But the hard truth of it is that many leaves have been pruned from the vines; more than one green harvest has left fruit on the ground.

The short little man in the green suit, with the bright eyes. How many people has he walked through the halls of his wine school, sending them back into the fields to find their greater destiny? The women, coming up in an age when the rising consciousness of their changing femininity would see them having a greater say in how this land would be tilled, how these grapes would be made and how the new wine would taste. In a flash, much like the moon outside as it struggled to keep the sun in check, the grandmothers, the mothers, and now the daughters, moving the ball forward. And Barolo has never tasted better. In this room one daughter's mother cannot be here today; one man's wife, long passed, can only be here in spirit. And under the screen, showing the slides of a lifetime, a family, and one man, in a white shirt with a blue tie, turns his back to the stage to wipe a tear from his eye.

I wish I could speak more about the many wines we had. And the food from some of the top chefs, all bestowed with heavenly stars from the realm of Michelin. The meal was celestial, with many working under the sun and moon in preparation for this event. And the wines, going back thirty years, some pressed by souls who could not be there in physical form. For like the leaves and the grapes from the green harvest, they have gone back in, tilled by time.

And that is the real lord in the room. Time. Which makes the wine mellow. Which makes men cry. And which makes all these moments dearer and dearer as the sun reaches closer to the horizon, in search of other lands, other vines and other wines to come.

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