Sunday, December 29, 2019

14 Year Anniversary - On the Wine Trail in Italy - The Year-End Review

This year marks 14 years on the wine trail in Italy. 2019 was also the year I transitioned from the hectic wine trade to a more tranquil life. I now write about wine for publications other than this blog, and I devote time to more reflection and am dedicating energy to other aspects of my being. For many in the wine trade, what one does seems to define who one is. I am not a fan of labels, never have been. Everyone is trying to cube us up, put us into a box, so that they can explain who we are by what we do. That’s typical Western Anglo-Saxon American silliness.

So, you have the magical postnominals behind your name? I’ve met many with those letters and some of them still show a distressing lack of knowledge and understanding of Italian wine. However, they get to stand on the dais in the seminars and sit in wine competitions. They got into the big boys’ club. What they do from there will be more of a reflection of their character than their memorization skills. But this is all in the rear-view mirror now, I really don’t care about the big boys’ club of anything.

About the course of the wine blog. If I were being 100% realistic, and if I had the courage, I’d pull the plug right now. Be done with it. Drink what there is in my wine cave (including the $900 bottles!) and sail off into the sunset. And that will ultimately happen. But the blog has become an exercise for the brain and a way for me to express thoughts, not always about wine, for myself and anyone else who cares to read. I don’t chase wine news or catchy headlines or the drama of the wine trade. Oh, like the rest of you, I slow down when passing an accident on the road (if only to avoid the people in front of me who are really more interested in the blood and guts and crushed metal and glass). But I’m more concerned with getting on down the road.

Wine writing has become a pitiful thing. There are so many bad articles about wine, misspelled, written from a perspective that sounds more like someone is pushing a (p.r.) agenda rather than trying to educate the readers. And then there are the endless pieces from folks who go on a wine junket and feel compelled to vomit their every activity on the pages. That’s what Instagram is for folks, put your bird droppings there. Or TikTok. But real writing, real good writing? Admittedly, wine blogs are not always the best place to suss out the good stuff. That said, be on the lookout for an announcement early in 2020 for news about my extracurricular wine writing.

Another aspect is the difference between public and private engagement. While this site is public and open to all, it has diverged into a more private space in 2019. Coupled with “getting small,” which is a movement towards a more intimate space among listeners, who don’t necessarily crave another’s influence as much as another’s vision, or perspective. The world is turning, rightfully, to the younger generations. They have energy, passion, they have the bandwidth of time that older generations have already consumed. In other words, time is on their side. For now. But as those who have gone before have said, time has a way of dispatching everyone to the same place, eventually. So, while all eyes are on youth, there is always an argument to be made for those who have plowed and pruned through many moons. Experience, after all, isn’t such a bad thing, if it doesn’t become preachy or patriarchal.

Therefore, I go into my 15th year as a wine blogger. I am, as the CEO of the company I last worked for called me, the “oldest millennial.” Ha! I am in my terrible teens for sure. But before we go into the next year, let’s take a quick look at some of the posts I wrote, why I wrote them and what they meant to me.

In February I was the guest of Collisioni and Ian D’Agata’s group for an event called Gastronomix. We spent several days studying the other wines of Piedmont along with the foods. It was a fabulous trip and these posts came of it:
My long history with Ruchè

Erbaluce, where have you been all my life?

Grignolino and its Indomitable Illuminance on Individuality

Carema - “Strong and Likeable as the Sun and the Stone”
These are personal stories but they also were meant to convey a sense of the place as well as what the actual wines might taste like. Everyone chases Barolo and Barbaresco, and for good reason. But for those looking to tap into the indigenous nature of Italy, grapes like Erbaluce and Grgnolino are a good (and more affordable) place to journey. I love these wines, and this part of Italy, and they have enabled me to stay connected to their (our) timeless and precious heritage.

In June I tried an experiment with:
An Epic Journey in Pursuit of the Evolution of Native Wine
While there were some experiential-based facts behind this story, my intent was to push beyond memories and try and capture an elusive spirit that I feel in the vineyards of Italy. It eventually expanded out to seven parts:
Pt. II - In Tuscany, Leaving it all Behind, for the Odyssey of a Lifetime

Pt. III - Living Free in a World of Chains

Pt. IV – Creating Your Own Current in the Sea of Life

Pt. V – A Symphony of Wine in 100 Movements

Pt. VI – Cracking Open the Corycian Cave (and the Key to Peace)

Pt. VII – "There are no interlopers in my vineyard - they all are indigenous living things"
My intent was to fall underneath the spell of “the greatest winemaker the world has never known.” And she transmitted her philosophy in this seven-part series. Probably a bit too much for the eno-blogosphere. But it was a very rewarding exercise for me and it changed how I saw Italian wine.

One day I was having lunch or coffee with my friend, Eric Asimov, and he asked me what did I wish for in my path of writing. Without thinking, I blurted out, “Well, I’d really like to write a kick-ass science fiction novel.” Immediately I went flush in the face. Here I was with the nephew of one of the greatest science fiction writers, and himself a wonderful and sensitive wine writer.

That said, I meant it. I know I come late to that game and there are plenty of great sci-fi writers already. None the less, I used the occasion of my blog to try some speculative pieces. They were:
Burning Man At 50 - Five Gen ΑΩ Women Who Are Changing Wine and the World

The Scandal that has Shaken the Universe of the Masters of Ŝophisticated Ҫannabis

“喜劇結束了” - The State of Italy - Wine, Culture, All of It - in 2120
All very different pieces. But they all reflect my interest in “what if?” and how we might frame the future from present time. This is an area I intend to expand upon in 2020 and beyond (2120?). I offer them up here, not as a series as much as a collection of my intent to pursue speculative writing about wine in the future.

As well, I like to fantasize not quite into the science fiction realm, but definitely not factual based writing. These two pieces were great fun to write and received pretty well:
The Elite Cabal and Their Conspiracy for the Future of Wine

A late-night dispatch from a tired and wary Italian wine export agent in China

What ifs taken to the ledge and thrown into the abyss.

China is emerging in my writing, as witnessed above in the sci-fi series and also one of the fantasy pieces. I also wrote a more serious piece about China, which got some pretty good traction:
The top 10 destinations for Italian wine exports? China isn't on the list
I have nothing against China, and the wine folk I have met have been the kind of people I’d love to get to know more. China is a big target and she will be here long after we’re all gone. But for now, I wanted my Italian colleagues to know some of the facts about where we’re at, so they could consider the investment of their time and money (and children’s lives too). Building the Italian wine brand outside of Italy is something that isn’t done in one lifetime, as witnessed by the spread of Italian wine in America in the past few generations.

Which brings me to one of my favorite subjects, which I wrote a few pieces on in 2019, namely Italian wine in America:
Italian Wine in America - An Array of Abundance

So you think you want to import Italian wine?
Italians bringing their wine to America and Americans importing Italian wine are reoccurring themes on this blog for many years, and this year was no exception.

Almost finished - a few pieces that either struck my reader or that I just liked a whole hell of a lot.
Regarding Wine, Writing and “Influencers”

Are Wine Ambassadors Worth the Time and Money?

Oh, The People You’ll Meet! (at a wine media luncheon)

5 Italian Wine Buyers (that I wanted to challenge, gag and thank)

The 2nd Most Important Book About Italian Wine – Ever
The first two ranged from naval gazing to an ardent attempt to ask if wine ambassadors pay their way. And the third and fourth posts were just me trying to lighten up a bit. The last one, a serious post, revolved around the recent book published by Ian D’Agata. Worth buying.

And finally, another diversion:
Altamont, December 6, 1969 - The end of the '60's or, simply, childhood's end?
Since the mid 1960’s, (when I was actually 14) I have carried a camera with me. Photography is my North Star, my tether, my cypher and my mirror. I love photography more than wine. There, I’ve said it. With that, I dug into my archives and posted a short piece with 30 photographs from that fateful day in California. It was a day that changed many young lives, and I was there to capture it. It changed my life too.

As usual, I’ve gone over words (TL;DR). My spell and grammar checker, Gerald, will be having one hell of a time with all these words, so I better stop now and give the poor guy a break. After all, he just did his 40-someteempth O-N-D.

Thanks for reading. I’m not going anywhere fast. (Don’t we all know that?) Happy New Year and keep flossing!

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W


tomfiorina said...

As a long-time admirer of your blog, Alfonso, I look forward to wherever your exceptional writing (and photography) skills take you.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thank you, Tom. and thanks to everyone in your country for reading - you and they have been really wonderful and steadfast all these years!

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