Sunday, December 16, 2018

La fille Américaine in France, making wine (naturally) in Italy - Pt II

Uncle Emilio’s wife, Serafina, sent Anne Marie a note. “Uncle Emilio isn’t doing so well. After his last fall in the vineyard, he just hasn’t been the same. I guess, after 63 harvests, he’s been very fortunate. But the grapes won’t wait for him to feel better. Is there any chance we could have you here for harvest?”

As it turned out, this was good timing for Anne Marie. The winery she worked in as a cellar rat in was changing. The owner was leaving the winery to his kids. They lived in the larger cities and were more interested in the value of the land. She felt the call of Italy.

When she got there, things weren’t as bad as she had feared. Emilio had a good team and they knew what to do, more or less. In Italy, there are still vestiges of a paternalistic society, especially in the country. But with Emilio and his employees, it was first and foremost a matter of respect. Respect for all that he had done and what he brought to uplifting his locality and those around him.

Before he took on the task of turning his grandfather’s winery into a 20th (now 21st) century winery, he had to imagine how many years it would take. In that time, he witnessed, along with everyone else in the world alive, the magnificent changes Italian wine made. And how the world turned towards Italy, now seeing their wines as treasures, not bargain bin rejects. But that wasn’t without trial and error, and with evolution and being an agent of change. And, along with that, managing those around him and maintaining respect for the work, the wine and ultimately for the man. Emilio was one of the few fortunate ones, for his community respected him, even though his better days were behind him. And this is where Anne Marie came in.

She peeked into his study, where he would read deep into the harvest nights, and he motioned for her to come over. He kissed her on the cheeks and she sat down. A bottle of wine was open. “Let me pour you a glass of this red wine. It is from that special Sangiovese parcel I have been saving for you.” Anne Marie took a whiff and then a sip. It was clear and lucid in coloration, not too dark. A garden of roses flashed through her nose, followed by a salty-dustiness and completed with a dark cherry note on top. When she swirled the wine inside her mouth, it was as if her palate was being reborn. Every point on it was tingly. Waves of flavors searched every nook and cranny. This was like no other wine she had ever had.

“Uncle, what is this wine? How did you make it? What did you do?” She was fantastically intrigued with all the details. This was new territory for her.

“You like it, eh? I’m glad. Surprisingly, we have done very little. The vines are old, as you know. And they are fierce. When my grandfather went to replant his vineyards, when the phylloxera epidemic hit our part of Italy, this was the only parcel he didn’t pull up and replant with the American stock. He told me this when he was very old, that they ran out of root stock, and had waited to do this parcel last because it was such an irregular site. Rocky, uneven, with those winds that come up over the ravine. Maybe the vineyard had its own idea of what it wanted to be. Stubbornness does run in the family, after all.”

Yes, this was providential.

Emilio continued, “Dr. Scienza, came by the vineyard once for some cuttings. He told me that these are very old types. Said the only other place he found vines like this were in an ancient vineyard in Calabria. Even thought that these might be the ‘mother-clone,’ and left it at that. All I know is they produce well, manage through droughts and hailstorms, and are cantankerous enough not resist any modern pruning and trellising practices that have been tried upon them on the last 60 years. They are free spirits. And now it is up to you to go get them and make the wine.”

Anne Marie took another sip, outside it was getting darker and a shower of meteors lit up the window of the study. The wine tasted like a child of the stars, it was out of this world.

And now, the old parcel was being handed to her from Uncle Emilio. “Well, why not,” she mused, “after all, I’m not getting any younger either!”

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

And if you didn't already figure this out, this is part II of a fictionalized piece
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