Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chianti for the Commoner

“When will you talk about it?” My friend was pouring me a Sangiovese, in purezza, leaning in. “You and I discussed it over a year ago. Isn’t it time yet?” Raffaella, my Tuscan confidant in purezza, was pressing me to come in out of the rain and spill it.

“Ok, I promise to get into it at the next possible opportunity.” But I wasn’t looking for a fight or controversy. I’d had enough of that from the Vinitaly debacle. It really should be something more intimate, like a letter. After all it is a communication among friends. But it is a conversation that needs to be opened up to more than me and my Tuscan confidant. A letter form, that feels right. It’s more personal.

Dear Raffaella,

Even though you don’t live in the classic zone for Chianti, we now address this. Not that this is directed to you. If it were, it would be a private message. As is, we have had this talk, many times, over the years. But the world wasn’t listening. At least the world we know and the world that knows us.

What is this little problem with our Sangiovese? Isn’t it a little like our society? We have the famous ones and the unknown ones. We have the large and the small. We have the important and the insignificant. We have the left and we have the right. We have the self-proclaimed and we have the humble ones. What we don’t have is any sense of consistency, a connection of sorts, between the high classic and the common place Chianti. And the problem, to make matters more complicated, the perception of Sangiovese , as Chianti, is distorted.

Popularity is partially to blame. Profit also. It’s such an easy mark, to bottle a wine, whether in a folkloric bottle like the straw covered fiasco, or to deliver it in a deeply punted and over-weighted dark glass, as a most serious kind of affair. What’s inside? Isn’t that what we are seeking? The inner soul of Chianti?

A man worked all his life, came up from humble beginnings, had many, many challenges in life. And then he made it. Big. Multi-millions in value and as much in the bank and in land wealth. He was a simple man. But his wine was far from simple. And not accessible to everyone.

A family plowed with wooden plows and oxen. The floor where they ate was dirt. They were unassuming. But they were sitting on a gold mine. It just took hundreds of years for the gold to surface up, in the form of red, liquid, savory Sangiovese. And then, what? Then the wine flowed and the prices rose and the bank accounts grew, like the estates and the boats, and the homes in, California, Florida, Rome, Sardegna, Liguria.

There are scores of stories like this. But how does this address wine for the common folk, who do not come from a royal or noble family. Wine that is still wholesome and true, and available to people who aren’t tycoons? That’s the windmill I’m tilting toward today, dear Raffaella.

Tomorrow we will hear speeches about the different zones of Chianti; will they be called sub-zones, as if they are sub-par? I object to that term. But it isn’t the crux of the crisis that Chianti is in right now.

And will we hear lofty proclamations about the new elevated status for Chianti, Gran Selezione? Yes, it is the darling little soccer ball right now.

Will we witness the dialectic between the traditionalists, the modernists and those in between, who are all striving for authenticity?

And will we be subject, again, to the argument that one respects the time-honored practices from the past while dipping one’s toes in the infinity pool of modernity? All the while, making a great wine for cellars in the sky?

But what about wine for the commoners, we the (little) people? What would it be? Can a patrician, a noble one, deign to make good, honest wine for the grass cutter, the window washer, the plumber or the servant?

No doubt, in the tomorrow of the future, we won’t hear any more about it than we have in all of the tomorrows of yesterday. Wine for the commoner is becoming more and more uncommon. The man from humble beginnings has had a lot of time to think about where he came from. But the painful reality is that he no longer belongs to that world. He has become elevated, as has his wine. And he can no longer touch the ground in which he came from as easily, for the distance he might fall in reaching back might be fatal to his station in life.

Hence, we are still wandering in the desert for the manna we call Sangiovese, searching for truth for all, for sustenance for the many and for availability for the common folk. Yes, Sangiovese might have sprung from the veins of an immortal, but for the commoner, the distance between Heaven and the castle is closer than the castle and the cottage in the village below.

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


Raffaella/Nelle Nuvole said...

Thans so much Alfonso for what you have written. Now I need time to elaborate, translate, and finally reply.
Your Muse, Raffaella

allaboutwine said...

thanks for your post

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