Sunday, October 15, 2017

America Under Fire: An Open Letter to the Italian Wine Community

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Caro amici e colleghi,

It seems every Sunday terrible news comes from America. And lately yes, it has been one disruption after another. From floods in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Puerto Rico, to fires in California, the country of my birth has been travailed upon in the most severe terms. And that is just the acts of God, not to mention the hand of man, which has challenged our notion of democracy, liberty, equality and justice. Suffice it to say, on the social and political end of things here in America, we are in a virtual civil war. From the carnage in Las Vegas of concert goers to the massacres of little children in their schools, our civility and our moral core is faltering. And through this, families and friends who no longer talk to one another, for we are a nation of passion and opinion. We are also a young nation, showing our folly for all the world to see.

And now our world, the actual planet is disrupting the disruptors. For our friends and colleagues in the world of wine, California has become a modern day inferno, an unbearable level of hell. And to anyone who ties their life or livelihood to the vine, this is life-changing.

I write this not only as a knight of the vine but as a native-born Californian who is watching his home go up in flames. I now live in Texas, when earlier our brothers and sisters in Houston suffered (and are still suffering) from the massive flooding. The fires in California rekindled and rendered that old wound with a newer, deeper lesion of the heart.

How does this affect you, you might ask? For you have your own problems in Italy, with the heat and the drought and your own broken political situation. You too have been disrupted. I cannot answer that for you. But looking at the destruction in California’s wine country it is near on impossible not to feel something. And I have been hearing from people in Italy expressing their sorrow and their grief and the shock of such a violent episode.

“Expressing their sorrow and their grief and the shock of such a violent episode.” We could be talking about so many things lately that have erupted in America. Or really, the world. And right in the middle of the wine harvest in the northern hemisphere.

So, while the winemakers and firemen and police were losing their homes, they had to keep watch over their tanks, the fires and the peace.

When we look back on the harvest of 2017, perhaps the quality of California wine won’t be the discussion. Perhaps it will be for Italy and France and most of Europe. While Europe hasn’t had the destruction of fire and flood and the self-inflicted carnage amongst their citizens, you, my Italian friends and colleagues, have gone through hell too.

A beverage, made from grapes, that ferments into wine. Wine, which brings joy and pleasure. Are the fires, the droughts, the floods, the lack of civility, are they all worth it to get to the moment of bottling and storing and opening and drinking? I think we must endure. For we have not been vanquished, not yet. But we are being tested. All of us.

“The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there,” so wrote Dickens. We have the wine, we’ve seen the spill and we must endure the stain.

Yes, America is under fire, from many directions, both natural and man-made. But, as I was standing recently on a hill overlooking the Circus Maximus in Rome, I had a vision, back to a time 60 generations ago when our progenitors, both good and evil, struggled to understand the new world they were in. The Empire they knew was over. But the life of man and woman would continue. It was up to them, and to us, to see that continuity in a newer, more humble light. And to get through this horrible period - and back into the light.

Hope remains, Nature endures

Photos - from Instagram feeds during these horrible fires in California's wine country





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