Sunday, April 05, 2020

Life on the Island - The Resurrection of Italian Wine

From the archives
It is truly a miracle to consider what we humans do to the land and the resilience that land exhibits. We pour chemicals on it, stir them up and grind them in. Then we put more poisons on the plants that grew up from that chemical baptism. When the leaves send their shoots and the flowers send their fruits, we then trim them, shave them and cast them to the ground.

If that weren’t enough, when the remaining fruits are finally ripe, we pick them, grind them up and set them in a dark, hot, musty tank and let them boil for days. When that is being done, we stir them, shake them, agitate them and pump their liquid over their flaccid, lifeless cores. But we aren’t finished with them. We then move them, filter them and stick them in barrels for months, even years, in a cold, dark place. There they sit after a most traumatic birth, feeling more like torture and death. They are sequestered like some unknown combatant that had been rounded up and sent to some isolated corner of an untouchable island. Waiting for their sentence, years pass.

And then they are separated and isolated in little glass prisons, again to wait for months, years, even decades. Sometimes forgotten, traded, shown off like the latest new whore in town. More than once they will be humiliated debased, mistreated. And what was their crime? Their transgression was merely to be selected for resurrection. Their charges included bringing joy to their beholder, clarity to their recipient and conviviality to the tribe seated around the candle lit table. The bring light to a dark room, warmth to a cold castle, and pleasure to a rough-hewn table, and in order to do this they must be born, die and resurrect in this new vinous mode.

Multiply this once a year for hundreds, thousands of years. Add a deity or two for cosmogonical complexity, for texture, for a compelling tale. Place all of this in an ancient land, the crossroads of civilization, a place where empires rose and crumbled, where slave and king alike was servant to this liquid god, vinum. Bring it forward into the present time, through wars, though technological change, through religious foment. Nothing was missed, everything touched it. Nothing was as gentle as it stretched and sloughed, mangled and cut. This carbuncular minion.

This is Italy and this is wine. Having arrived at this moment, instead of being old and tired, nothing could be further from the reality. After, famine, plague, war, technology, religion and innumerable scandals, Italy has arrived to the top of the summit, the victor. Once it might have been France, always faster and smarter. But Italy is resilient. And full of hope. And faith. And the world loves their mangled, beat up grapes, that die and are resurrected into a liquid fit for the gods on Olympus. Or even for us mere mortals.

There will come a day when each and everyone us will cease to live in this plane. Our short little lives filled with the pathos of the drama we have drawn around our mortal coil. This will be cast off and we will be invited to our own resurrection. If only I could be so lucky as the Sangiovese or the Nebbiolo or the Mascalese, and the thousands of other lucky offspring of vitis.

One can only hope. And dream. Until then, the goblet passes around the table. Drink up. Breathe in. Live. Love. And start all over again.

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