Sunday, August 16, 2020

A most unusual Ferragosto

Ever since I have been decamping to Italy, almost 50 years now, the middle of August (Ferragosto) signaled a time to recharge, rest, play, sun, eat, drink and love. I cannot remember a time in my life when that cycle has been interrupted for so many Italians, and really, anyone who is in Italy in this moment. 2020 - It has been a most unusual Ferragosto.

From what I am reading and seeing from my Italian friends, it’s a mixed bag. The young ones seemingly are unphased over the virus, and if they are economically advantaged, they are enjoying a moment of rare privilege. The older adults in my feed tell a different story. They are exhibiting a more sedate moment in time. After all, 35,000 of their countrymen and women died this year from the virus. It certainly is not anything to celebrate over a bottle of growers Champagne and beluga caviar.

It is as if Italy, and by extension, the western world is split. Many have hunkered down, and are still laying low. It isn’t as if anyone has found a cure. And it isn’t like the virus has magically disappeared.

There are, however, a surplus of folks employing magical thinking about the world they live in. But is that really anything new? Haven’t there always been scores of humans who live in a world of their own facts and fantasies, often with rarely a distinction between the two?

Meanwhile, the grapes are growing. Harvest is coming. And the summer of 2020 will soon fade into the past.

I am not someone who lives in fear of the future. I am hopeful it will be better, but I cannot simply will it to be so by wishing it so. My Italian friends who have vineyards, though, must prepare for harvest, even if the virus is resurgent. Even if there are fewer workers to pick the grapes. And even if the demand for wine in the near future might not be so great. That’s a farmer’s fate.

What will the wines of 2020 be thought of, say, in 2040, or 2060? I won’t be around to find out. And even if I make it to 2040, I will still have wine enough from the 1990’s and the early 2000’s to supply any need for wine. So, once again, I am an observer. As we all are right about now.

What would I like the wines of 2020 to be remembered as? Well, for one, as having been made, first and foremost. Look, 2002 and 2003 were very challenging years. But we made it through them, and the wines that were made, managed to give pleasure to some. Not great, in general, but the show went on.

And in 2020, the show must go on, too. I look forward to Verdicchio, Trebbiano, Soave, Vernaccia. And Pelaverga, Arneis, Barbera, Montepulciano. These, and others, we will be able to dip in and try relatively soon. Maybe even before we find a total solution to this worldwide scourge.

If not, we might have to crash the Ferragosto 2021 party of the young and the privileged, and help them drink all their fancy wine and food that they have so carefully curated, as they are #LivingTheirBestLife somewhere, on a secluded, and, most likely, exquisite island.

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