Sunday, December 15, 2019

Memo to the Italian Wine Trade: Tell Me “YOUR” Story!

Roberto Bava (L), one of Italy's great wine story tellers,
with his daughter Francesca at Vinitaly
It seems like I’ve written about this in the past. Maybe it’s just déjà vu. But for some reason, my Italian wine trade amici still need to read this. The funny thing is, my French cousins will, because they still read wine blogs. The Italians? Not so much. But I will persevere, try to help them to help themselves, even if they don’t think they need it. So, here goes.

Alright, we in America are done with listening to how much oak or how little oak you use anymore. It is a dull fact, doesn’t even look right when I make notes in my little note book. Stop now.

So, you’ve been organic since the crust of the earth started cooling? And so what? So has everyone, at least everyone now who talks about their vineyards. The reality is, for those folks who give a shit about it, if you aren’t certified, it won’t get you far with that crowd. Oh, it sounds good, all warm and toasty, good feeling kind of stuff? It’s verbal fluff, and it is MEANINGLESS. Ditch the organic pitch. We got it; you care about the earth. Move on.

Sergio Mionetto, another Italian story telling national treasure
Tell me your story. Sing it! Tell me what it was like growing up on the property you now make wine for. Tell me about the trees, about the birds, about the way the fog rolls in, about how cold the winters are and what you do to keep yourself from going crazy, mid-winter on Cartizze hill. Tell me something that 1,500 other people don’t tell me. Give me an authentic piece of yourself. Make me remember your wine, not because of the oak, or the organic aspirations, or the scores. Make me remember you and your wine because you give me something unique to your story. How hard is that? Do we need some B2B seminars somewhere in Italy, a “master class” in saga-making?

Ok, let me give you an example:
My name is Mario, and I was born in Montepulciano in Tuscany. You might get it mixed up with the wine in Abruzzo. That’s a common mistake. But nobody mixes up eggs with eggplant or grapes with grapefruit, do they? So, let me tell you how I got here.

My grandfather was not an ambitious man, but he was a lucky one, because he married my grandmother, Maria, whom I am named after. She had vision. So, she and my grandfather, Vittorio, started replanting our vines after the war. Actually, they recovered the vines that had been trampled, bombed and abused over those years. In time they found they had a number of types of grapes in the vineyards, although everyone called them Sangiovese. But back then it didn’t matter, because it was a field blend and the wine was rustic and stout and rich and wonderful. And my grandparents grew their life on it, and had children, my mother, and the little property supported several families. And we all worked together, and celebrated the holidays together and made wonderful memories.

But more than that, they gave us a direction from a country that was devastated from war and emigration. No one wanted to live in Montepulciano when I was born in 1978. My father worked in Florence and we had a small apartment there. But my mother kept me and my brother and sister back in the country, by nature, by what it was that supported us and defined us. And over the years, my father left his job in Florence and returned to us and we made our wine better.

Now my sister and brother and I travel the world, to America, to China, to India, and to the smaller countries too. Never in my life, my parent’s life or my grandparent’s life, did we dream that we would have a life like this: to travel the world but to come home to our country, our rivers, our birds, our wildlife and the birthplace of wine.

Now, why buy my wine versus my neighbor? Well, why not try my wine and see if you like it? It is still made with respect to the nature as we did when my grandparents started this. But we also have become better educated and we use our education to improve the little things for the wine, so it will travel more safely, and get to your home and taste as close as it can to the way it tastes when you will come here and visit us. And when you do, then you will see, what an amazing gift Italy and Tuscany and my family have given not only to me, but to the world. For this is a timeless jewel, an example of all that is good about Italy and humankind, inside this little bottle. It’s joy, it’s peace, it’s creation. It’s its own world of contentment. And we would love to share it with you.

That’s one example. What we really, really want, though, is your true story. The one with passion, not oak. The one that isn’t lined up in neat rows of Guyot or Cordone speronato. The story that is filled with emotion, not numbers. Give me a tale of overcoming great obstacles over a “95-pointer” any day. We’ve heard all the numbers, all the various iterations about organic and bio-dynamic. We know you are in love with wine made in the vineyard, not by the winemaker. Tell us about the butcher in your town. Tell us where you go to buy rootstock, who the old guy is who sells you the new vines from the ancient varieties.

Paint us a picture, don’t paint by numbers. Give us some of your flesh, raw like a bistecca Fiorentina, so we can chew on it while we try your riserva (figuratively, not literally). Bring us there, let us smell the macchia (or for my French cousins, the garrigue) – do you see where I’m going with this?

And if you do, you won’t be so lonely that all you can think of, after two weeks on the road, is to return home. Because you will have brought a little part of home with you, to share. And isn’t that so much more fulfilling than the endless recitation of a tech sheet?

Give it some thought, over the holidays, and resolve, in 2020, to tell America, and the world, “YOUR” story.
Valeria Losi pours an ancient Vin Santo for her father, Pietro
- both awesome story tellers in multiple languages

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

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