Sunday, February 16, 2020

An Abruzzo Journey ~ Between the Tranquil and the Active

There is this reoccurring dream, one that has happened, even in waking hours, that sometimes I cannot distinguish between the two. This is happening more and more these days, as the reality of life becomes blurred between the tranquil and the active. It’s as if the meaning of life has swelled from merely what one does to also include one’s fanciful musings. As when we were children, so now, one may revisit that state of being, if only for a brief moment. And that is the way it is for this one when it comes to remembering Abruzzo. What was visible and what was envisioned?

Abruzzo was where I saw the birth of the golden age of Italian wine up front and personal. It is where I wandered vineyards and cellars, and talked to the old people and ate their roasted meats and drank their luscious, rich, generous red wines. It was heaven on earth and it remains a Valhalla to this wanderer, for there is so much for the mind and the body, the heart, the soul, and the eyes and the ears. And for those who thirst and hunger for the unfeigned.

Sunday, February 09, 2020

“Wine? I don’t care about scores, competitions mean nothing to me and I don’t collect anything!”

– The Gen Z interview

While writing a recent story for the paper, I sat at a coffee shop and scribbled. An apparition of a  person hovering nearby saw that I had a copy of a wine magazine and asked me what I was reading. Being the quintessential introvert, I squirmed. And then I showed it to her. She could have been young enough to be my granddaughter, if I’d had one. “Last year I turned 21,” she said, and have been thinking about wine and alcohol. I had no idea they had magazines about wine!”

I was on a deadline and was pressed to finish the piece, which had nothing to do with the magazine. So, I told her I was working on something else and could I send her some interview questions. We’d earlier determined that we had mutual acquaintances and thus there would be no risk from exchanging emails. “I don’t check my email that often,” she said, “but text me when you do, so I can pull them up.” And with that I finished my flat white, she disappeared, and I boogied out the door to my next appointment.

Sunday, February 02, 2020

Italian wine and the pursuit of power

Meanderings from the streets of Palermo

I’m back in my family nerve center, if only for a few hours. It is winter, the moon solitary above the deserted streets, save for a few cold and lonely Africans setting up a table to sell their wares. Soon, the Palermitani will sweep out among the streets and the alleys, on their way to market or church or coffee. In the meantime, Palermo is all mine, and I do what I often do in Palermo, camera in hand, notebook in mind – I walk in search of where we are.

Along the way I come across my little wine bar, the one in La Vucciria. I step in to have a coffee, maybe with a shot of Marsala, just for old times. The place is far from the bustling spot it will be at noon, but for now, it’s mine, just as I’ve always held it in my memory from the first time I walked in with my uncle. It seems so long ago, 1971.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Has the battle for Italian wine in high-traffic retail been lost?

Now that I’ve scaled down my activities in the wine trade, I spend more time shopping for groceries, including the occasional bottle of wine. But I’m finding something about buying Italian wine in high-traffic retail (groceries, convenience stores, drugstores) to be very discouraging, verging on the sinister. The battle Italian wine has waged, interpolating itself into the greater American culture in the last 50 years, has been lost. It’s disheartening. And it’s disgusting. Because it treats Americans in search of Italian wine in those outlets, as if they are a bunch of immature babies just looking for a sweet lollipop.

So, let’s dig in and take a look at this situation.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Black Coffee, Green Bananas and the White Fog of Winter

After a holiday season which bordered on indulgent, and passing through the time of the winter solstice, breezing right on into the new year, the days are getting longer. Every day, when it is born, will be the longest day of the year, until the summer solstice. It’s all uphill from here.

But the world of wine is lumbering in its own dark days, filled with fear, drama and uncertainty. It’s as if the bright place I would escape to, my little world of wine, has been infested with the same turmoil that the greater world is lingering over. It’s too much for this observer. There has to be a way out of this rabbit hole. Or, so says, the optimist within, the resilient one, the man in the back of the room who is not shouting “FIRE!”

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Where to, Now?

Let’s take a little skin trip. Step outside of your little world, just for a few minutes. Let’s go to Italy.

“Ahh,” you say, “Been there, done that.” And yes, maybe you have gone to Italy a time or two.

There is another Italy, one that is elusive to most of us, even those who speak the language fluently. It isn’t an Italy of words. It isn’t an Italy which mandates judgement, or even preference.

It’s something I have seen inside the viewfinder of a camera, and hints of it in films. I’ve felt it while hiking in Abruzzo and driving my motor scooter around Pantelleria. I’ve smelled it in the kitchens of aunts and grandmothers, and tasted it on numerous tables, both majestic and humble. And I’ve sipped it from the finest crystal glasses to the commonplace tumblers. Still, I keep looking, thinking there is something about Italy that evades many of us.

Sunday, January 05, 2020

Prohibition's 100-year Anniversary and the Disastrous 100% Tariffs - Analysis and Strategies

“Nothing uses up alcohol faster than political argument.” - Robert A. Heinlein

After reading a handful of pieces on the proposed 100% tariffs, and the plaintive pleas for it not to happen, I’m thinking: Is this all one can do, to ring the fire bell and ask people to write their leaders, sign a petition? There has to be more to it than the wringing of the hands and the signing of a petition. Those letters seldom get read. At best they’re put in piles: Yay vs. Nay. But no one is going to read them all, let alone respond. And a petition with 500 or 2,500 signatures, is that anything more than a feel-good gesture from the easy comfort of one’s laptop or smartphone? Come on.

I’d love to see someone dig in and ask the large distributors and importers what their collective plan of action is. Lobbying, donations, pressure? What is it? And also, if this is getting back at Airbus for subsidies, why should Boeing be a beneficiary when they are showing little in the way of cleaning up their own house? And why must wine (really, alcohol) suffer?

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