Sunday, September 24, 2017

How do you solve a problem like Maremma?

For years, the aura of the Super Tuscan has reflected a masculine, testosterone-laden persona, depicting a “Magnificent Seven” persona. The world was presented with a portrait of the tall, dark and handsome Italian cowboy, an outlier, albeit with perfectly matching boots, belt and cape. It was a Kodak moment, riding off into the sunset with their luscious, masculine, amped-up rosso in search of a Maremmana to wrestle, rope and quarter and serve over an open fire - the perfect accompaniment to that big ,juicy Super Tuscan.

But there is a problem with spiked-up Super Tuscans today: they’ve become collector’s items for the super wealthy, locked away in secret cellars, occasionally resurfacing on an auction block in Hong Kong, London or New York. Some have gotten far removed from the emerging tastes of the upcoming generation (and those whose palates have evolved towards wines with less volume). They’ve become Bubble Boys, living in their own rarified orb.

On my last trip to Tuscany and the Maremma, did I detect a metamorphosis? Are the tides shifting from Super Tuscans made by and for Supermen to ones made by and for Superwomen? That may be a stretch, but there is an underlying cultural foundation which has been in Tuscany for thousands of years. Take off your Western Civilization, white, male-dominated hat and let’s look at this from the Etruscan’s point of view, if only in a theoretical sense.

In a gentler time, women were not subservient to men. Think gender parity. A more balanced society. Women of power. Hera. Demeter. Maria. Something one finds laced through the South of Italy, which is not so far from the Tuscan coast. Tuscany as part of the South? An unthinkable prospect for many, but thousands of years ago, who reading here knows how little (or how much) they had in common with their Magna Graecia brothers and sisters?

The earth remembers. Think geologic time. So, a couple of thousand years, give or take a millennium, in those terms, is like the snap of a finger. No big deal. Oh yes, we’re living our life right here and now and we think that’s the reason for the Big Bang. But we’re not even a fleck of dust flying from the flick of those two fingers, not even a snapping sound. We in the present, are as insignificant now as we were two seconds ago. But we can dream, we can imagine, we can ponder.

And shifting into pondering mode, what if the female energy in Tuscany, in the Maremma, in Bolgheri, in Suvereto, has said, “Enough!” ?

What if Cabernet Sauvignon is no longer the dominant male on the territory? Or Merlot? Or even the precious prince, Cabernet Franc? What if all these grapes and the older (indigenous?) ones exist to fulfill an occult maxim? What if they are here to serve (and blend within) a greater prospect? What if we’ve arrived into the era of the Super Tuscan, now vivified by the stirrings in the land of a latent force, perhaps from an Etruscan female goddess like Uni?

I know what you’re thinking now. “He’s really gone off the deep end this time.” Yeah, so what? You think you and I have figured out the inclinations of the gods and goddesses, us mere mortals?

It’s not about grapes. It’s not about wood. It’s not about optical sorters. It’s not about concrete eggs, or clay amphorae. It’s about the energy of a place.

I’ve been grappling with the conundrum of what do we do with Super Tuscans on the front lines of commerce in America for many years. I was delighted to disseminate bottles of 1968 Sassicaia, 1982 Le Pergole Torte, and 1990 I Sodi di San Niccolò, in my young and heady days. They had energy, they brought something different to the table in a time when Chianti was even more in the doldrums than it is now. When Brunello was still decades away from mass appeal (and scandal). There was something about a Super Tuscan that appealed to a nonconformist. There was no tradition. No rules. It was Wild West, all the way! Italian cowboys, Sergio Leone, Ennio Morricone, riders on the storm. But was that really what it was/is?

My Tuscan friends and colleagues liken the Maremma to a place where the tradition isn’t set, where they can escape the rules that bind the mind of the everyday Italian in everyday life. The Maremma is a place where one can go to free their soul, tan their body, lighten up, run 20 kilometers in the wilderness before the start of a long day. It’s where they can plant their flag for a freescape of the mind. So why should a Super Tuscan, today, conform to a Tachian tradition? I doubt even Tachis would go for that?

And why do we need to box it in with even these words - Super Tuscan? One of Tachis masterpieces was the 1978 Morellino di Scansano that he midwifed for Le Pupille. What a great wine that was from the year of the 13 moons. No one bothered to wonder what it was – it was Morellino. No more – no less. And it was wonderful.

Bring it on- Syrah, Sangiovese, Alicante, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malvasia Nera - all comers! The ancient energy has come back into the land, this is the stuff of supernatural terroir. And if you don’t believe it, then maybe you are just not ready to be a believer.

But Maremma, and her wines, are no longer a problem for me. Because I - blind, deaf and dumbstruck - am now a believer.

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