Sunday, August 19, 2018

Ferragosto Forever

Onward through the fog...

What must it be like, for everyday to be the 15th of August? To be lulled into semi-consciousness by the steady patter of the waves upon the shore? To awaken only slightly as the large fiery orb above moves around the umbrella, interrupting your cool breeze with a shout of sunlight? To walk the long, hot sandy mile up to the chalet for a platter of freshly grilled gamberi, or a pasta with fresh clams and a nice bright, crisp, glass of Vermentino or Verdicchio? To nap, under the umbrella, with only the care of wondering what to eat, when the sun finally sets? This is the life of Ferragosto forever.

That Verdicchio, by the way, was a Bucci, a wine I first imported into Texas in 1988. Now the 2015 is drinking deliciously. The wine is pale in color. The aroma is free of chemicals, just a light offshore breeze and a hint of evergreen. Very clean. The flavor is mouth-filling. It is rich, crisp and dry. But it has a lot of fruit (not oak) weight. Lovely medium+body. Great to be able to follow a wine for 30+ years, gives perspective. I love Verdicchio more than ever.

How many of you haven’t forgotten what childhood was like? A return to a period when play is more important than work, when time is more paramount than money and when grasping the actual object and throwing it, rather than viewing it on some small screen, is more meaningful. That is the default for this stage of life, should you be lucky enough to reach this point.

I ran into an older colleague, who is still working. “I’m never going to quit!,” he exclaimed. That was the best he could come up with? Nearby, an old client-chef, now (semi) retired, quipped, “That’s because you’re a jackass, and all you’ve been doing your whole life has been taking the water up and down the hill on your back! You don’t know anything else!” In the old chap’s defense, how would he know anything else? Or if it really is better?

When you are young, you’ve been young all your life. That’s all you know. You don’t believe you will get older, and then things will change. You don’t know if it will be better or worse. You fear the reaper. We aren’t that far removed from a time when the average life expectancy of a human was 41. Most people today, at 41, are just getting into their groove. Old age is some foggy notion far away, over the horizon, concealed by the smoke and the smog and the dust of life in the present moment.

So, it’s difficult to imagine, if one does reach the age of 60, what the path could or should be? There are plenty of winemakers in Italy (and France) who are in their 70’s. Maybe they’re never going to quit, either. But I’ve watched the advance of age in people around me. You just cannot rev the engine at 8,000 RPM’s indefinitely. There’s got to be a hill, so one can slip it into neutral, once in a while, and let it roll.

I don’t know how to correctly imagine a “Ferragosto forever” scenario. I know people who do, even young ones. They go from vacation to vacation, from Etna to Whitefish, seamlessly, not worrying about money, or career or anything, other than where to hike? Where to eat? What to drink?

Sobering to observe how some people, at all ages, seize their leisure time almost with a vengeance, like sabering a bottle of Champagne with a clawhammer. I cringe, but it works for them. The wine is opened and flowing. Isn’t that all one needs?

This might not come as a flash to those born before 1958, but the aging process really calls for resolution along with resignation. You will never be any younger. And those younger than you want you out of their way. Like you did when you were their age. But where you are going, looking forward, is looking into a long tunnel where the light gets smaller, the faster and further you head through it.

And all that one has amassed, whether it be degrees or accolades or influence or power or money, none of it gets to go where you are going. You build up the sandcastle of your life on the shores of the sea, and after a lifetime, the waves will pound back. Au naturel.

Not meaning to sound maudlin or morose. No, not at all. But to be aware of the mountain one is climbing, and the point on the mountain one is at, right now. And be realistic about one’s place on it.

Wine expert? Really, this is something worth paying an engraver to put on a piece of granite?

I read this line recently, about another soul on the path of life, “Has forgotten more about Italian wine than (most people) will ever know.” Of course, the person for whom that was being directed stated that was not the case. But even if it wasn’t, don’t we all just want a little of that to be true as part of the how and why people will remember us? Is that the goal of human interaction, to leave behind an admired aura of lifetime achievement culminating in the knowledge of a subject so far beyond what most people could imagine? It seems a bit delusional. I don’t care what I know or have forgotten about Italian wine. That is not why I took this path on the wine trail in Italy for the last 40 years. Facts, data, information, that can be put into a database. And it can be remembered or memorized and categorized and quantified and have the life kicked out of it by over-analyzation. Some folks love that kind of thing. More power to them – Give ‘em a lapel pin. Salute!

I say all this while in a familiar position to the old Romans, who would recline while taking repast. I’m eating waves, right now, listening to them fill me up inside with their rhythmic encores. Rushing in, cleaning out the small pebbles in my mind, ridding the shore of useless detritus.

So, for those of you who are actually on some beach on the Adriatic or on the Tuscan coast, or Calabria or Sicily or Puglia, or anywhere there’s a wave and a seafood bar nearby, I hope you appreciate and enjoy your time there. We live in a world in which anything could happen, and these moments are precious. If your Ferragosto only lasts a day, that’s not so bad. After all a Mayfly only has a day to make hay.

As I see it from here on, I must realign with the spirit of play and exploration- my inner Mayfly. To those creatures, every day is Ferragosto forever.

written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

My first Ferragosto - Rome Aug 15, 1971
wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

1 comment: said...

mesmerizing and said so well. I join you in your ferragosto

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