Sunday, April 15, 2018

Italy as the Starting Point on the Journey to the Center of the Wine World

For years, the Italian winemaker has sought to please the global wine lover with a spectrum of flavors, from the rustic and feral to the refined and bridled. Much of this comes from our inborn desire to please. Imagine a highly-trained opera singer, like Pavarotti, crooning Neapolitan folk songs. A bit below his station in life, people said, when he did. But boy, did the masses eat it up. Italians live for love and approval, at least from where I perch on the tree of life.

So, what if the Italian winemakers have, with all their energy (male and female) in the last 60 or so years, created a model where they no longer need to mimic to please, but in which the world now spins on their axis? Bear with me, this is a bit of a thought experiment, but also a way to perceive another way in which Italian wine and culture, by extension, could be a Tesla coil of sorts. And how, you ask? In the way in which we go about perceiving, tasting and even evaluating wines from around the globe, doused by the ablution of Italian wine.

What if we approached Bordeaux as if we came first to Tuscany and then our perceptions splayed out from there? Or rather than coming to Barolo and Barbaresco with a Burgundian sensibility, what if we turned the tables and assessed a Vosne-Romanée from the perspective of one from La Morra?

Or what if we decided to look at that Zinfandel from Mt. Veeder in Napa Valley as if it were an erstwhile immigrant from Puglia who was dropped onto the mountain top many years ago? Left to fend for itself, to survive and then to rise to the challenge, not of being and becoming a California wine, but to shine as if everyone back in Sava needed it to, as a reflection of where (and who) it came from?

Maybe that Shiraz in McLaren Vale really took its cue from some past life as a Grenache grape struggling to keep from being eaten up by a drove of sheep in some godforsaken corner of Sardegna? Just for purposes of meditation, is all I am asking. I’m not suggesting you make an equivalency, or even proscribe magical powers to the Italian connection. Only to alter the wavelength for the purpose of seeing things differently.

I say this, because I am looking at things from an altered perspective. After all these years of trying to get people to love Italian wine (and really, in the sales end of things, to love the salesman) I no longer have that desire, that drive. I’m willing to go out on the limb of the tree of life, maybe only to have my perch fracture, sending me down to earth with a thud full of reality. In the meantime, what if? What just if?

The world of wine is now more open to experimentation and pleasure. Winemakers circle the globe; the colliding of ideas and customs is in full cadence. The genie is out of the bottle. And what is going into it is more exciting than ever. And with that our perceptions and attitudes about those precious liquids can be re-energized, as well. I understand this can be a fruitless exercise to some, an abyss to others. I find it deliriously revitalizing.

Just something to sip on…again without a single tasting note or score. And again, with no apologies. Take a moment and jump with me, before the branch breaks?

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great post...My 2 takeaways FWIW...

1) I've used this playbook for years. In short, the hard part is convincing others, because as we know...

2) It's the singer, not the song.

Thanks...Frank Riccioli

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