Sunday, October 02, 2022

When an Italian Takes to Drink

Normally, most of us find it inconceivable to come upon an Italian with a drinking problem. Wine, and to a lesser extent, beer and spirits, have been an integral part of the Italian table. Moderation was something my Sicilian grandfather instilled in me as a young boy. I rarely saw anyone, at our family gatherings, mildly drunk or otherwise. It just wasn’t a thing, alcoholism, in our family or our Italian culture.

And then, we moved to the desert when I was a kid, and we lived across from an Italian family. The husband was a screen writer, although his wife once told me he was a gofer for a famous television producer. He always seemed to be hanging around the house when he wasn’t out running errands, or as he liked to say, polishing up a script. Actually, what he was really good at was polishing off a bottle, night after night. He was harmless enough when he was sauced up, as long as he wasn’t behind the wheel. But I saw, first-hand, how an alcoholic functioned in his world. And it wasn’t pretty.

It is no small thing, when an Italian takes to drink. In my travels in Italy, over 50 years, I’ve witnessed little, if any, examples of an Italian for whom alcohol have gotten the better of them. Americans, well, that’s another story. Countless times I’ve dragged besotted colleagues to their room and dumped them in their bed, dead drunk. How, I asked myself, did they get that way? I was with them the whole evening. I'd had my share of wine, but it didn’t waste me.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Eataly taken over by a global private equity conglomerate? Say it ain't so!

Recent news from abroad has it that Eataly has had a change of ownership. Investindustrial, headed up by Andrea Bonomi, has acquired 52% (majority) share for about $200 million. Not a ridiculous amount for a concept that started almost 20 years ago.

Now, according to the website, Grocery Dive, Eataly is in “more than 40 locations in 15 countries including eight flagship stores in North America and 16 franchise stores across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.” Quite a jump from their initial shop in Northern Italy.

$200 million seems like a small amount for 40 locations. I wonder how much debt the original company might have piled up. Was that debt erased? Who, if anyone, walked away with millions? What changes will come about? Expect  more expansion, and expect the Bastianich family will sell their shares, as part of the deal (as per The Financial Times).

Sunday, September 18, 2022

Wine, Watches & Cigars – Is There No Ceiling?

Recently, I popped into my local grocery store, Central Market, in Dallas. On the wall was a bottle of Château Pontet-Canet 2016 for $200.00.

On the Rolex website, one of their newest watches, a GMT-Master II “Pepsi” lists for $10,750 retail, but try and find one new for that price. On the secondary market though, you might be able to find one for twice retail.

I’m reading an article in Cigar Aficionado, and they’re talking about Cohiba Cuban cigars now retailing for over $100.

Before the great disruption event of 2016, you could have easily found a bottle of Pontet-Canet for under $80, still a price most people wouldn’t consider, except for maybe a special occasion, and well above the price I remember seeing the 1982 stacked in my local Safeway (for $12.99!). A Rolex, five years ago you could have gone into a local AD (authorized dealer) and picked one up, at retail. Still a pricey proposition, but reachable for folks with the means. And that Cohiba Splendido? Well, in Canada or Italy I saw them for about $10, back in the day. Still, a pricey smoke, but not a C-note!

Something is out of whack. Are we living in a world exclusively comprised of billionaires? Is there no ceiling on these consumer items? Have we all gone mad? Where in hell have we landed? Is there a way off of this planet?

Sunday, September 11, 2022

A World Without Italian Wine

Who among us could imagine a world without wine from Italy? Well, I’m sure there are those teetotalers who have and do. And there are those for whom alcohol is an addiction, and they as well could, and should, imagine such. But for those of us who are not controlled by alcoholic urges and for whom wine is a safe and healthy accompaniment to our meals and our friendships, wine no longer from Italy is unthinkable.

But not impossible. With threats from global climate change, changes in animal migrations, land wars, and general convulsive nature of our world, could Italian wine be wiped off the face of Earth?

Sunday, September 04, 2022

I Numeri Del Vino - My World in Italian Wine

P
eople who know me, know I have this thing about spread sheets. No, I’m not a bean counter or a number cruncher. I don’t even like the word “metrics,” as it triggers uncomfortable meetings with dull accountants. But I do like lists, and they often include numerical jottings.

For instance, I have a spread sheet on my cholesterol numbers going back to the mid 1980’s. And a list of all the foreign trips I have taken to Italy and elsewhere. I also have a spreadsheet which tells me what I have in my freezer. A list of my watches. A list of valuable coins I’ve inherited (watches and coins are vaulted up, folks). I have a spread sheet of the wines I have collected, so I can access any wine I want within seconds. Ditto for my vinyl LP and CD collection. You never know when one will want to spin Steely Dan’s Aja or Moondog’s Snaketime Series.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Narcicentricism

From the archives

Bagging 'n Bragging

How many times do we have to read about it? Yes, some folks out there get to taste some amazing wines. But to open up the wine magazines or blogs and constantly have to be reminded how lowly we are because we didn’t taste a 10-year vertical of Gaja Darmagi or an 1852 Naval Reserve Madeira Sercial, really, how much of this can we take? I am on a riff about Elitism again, because it is rife in the 21st century of electronic wine literature. A wine lover opens up a whole slew of rare wines and invites a friend or two over and, Pow! An enthusiast or blogger has to regurgitate every wine, every nuance, every breath of their so wonderful evening. As if us knowing about it will make it greater for us? As if their life was all "A" side with no "B" side. Maybe for them. But really, is it?

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Why you can’t find your favorite natural wine at the local liquor shop.

I’ve often ventured into random wine and liquor stores across the globe. It can give one a cultural snapshot of a sort. What people sell and what people buy. What’s on the shelf and what’s not on the shelf. I’m often baffled, sometimes surprised, but seldom disappointed. I mean, we’re not looking for King Tut’s tomb in Flower Mound, Texas.

What intrigues me about any selection one finds in their local liquor store is the polarity between what the buyer thinks will sell and what some of us folks want to see in the store because it personally resonates with us. And I have to say, natural wine and the selection, or lack thereof, can offer a sociological cautionary tale, here in the bowels of America.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Why do you wish to explain my world to me?

This is going to be a bit of a ramble. But humor me. I think I’m going somewhere with this. It’s just going to take time to unpack this bag of seemingly disparate notions that recently came into confluence. I promise I’ll get to it, eventually.  

So, we’ve been watching this TV series at home called, “This Is Us.” We’re into the 5th season of six. It was a popular series, seen on broadcast television. We’re streaming it. Of course.

All this to say, when they got into the season of 2020, with Covid and George Floyd, a lot of issues between White and Black people in the series were laid bare. And it got me to thinking about my blind spots, with regard to Bipoc and Apida peoples.

Sunday, August 07, 2022

How to destroy your Italian wine legacy in one generation

The following is a pirated Zoom transcript from a putative conversation between two old friends – an ancient matriarch (Maria, or, M) of a renown Italian wine estate and her venerable importer (Carl, or, C) in the US. Howdy-do from an innermost and very particular cyber-labyrinth, seldom penetrated by we mere mortals.  

C: Hello darling, how goes it in the bowels of Italy in August? Are you somewhere cool and wet, I hope?

M: I wish, my dear. No, I am sequestered on our family estate, as my three nieces have Covid. They came for a visit and brought this dreadful virus with them.

C: Oh no! You poor dear. I hope your satellite internet is working, so the children can document their every breath on their Insta.

M: Of course. They live such fascinating lives and we all must keep up with it. What a time we live in, yes?

C: Tell me about it. Shall we jump right in?

M: Of course. Fire away, maestro.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Are “The Best Italian Wines” the Best We Can Do?

From the archives
I thought we might have dodged the bullet. You know, the one whereby all the wines of the country are judged by a few? France has had that moment a time or two. Lately it’s been in China, where Lafite ruled. Now it’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti’s turn.

Italy, ah Italy, land of wine for the everyday person. Maybe in Italy. But in the rest of the world, has Italy managed to escape the curse of the wine snob?

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Exclusive: Interview with a Bottle of Italian Wine

It’s been a while since we last chatted, so I figured it was time to set up the recorder and ask my favorite bottle of Italian wine how their life is these days. Come along for the ride, let’s see what they have to say for themself.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

The Italian Table & The Venus Flytrap

I grew up in a home where most of the meals were made from scratch. We didn’t eat a lot of frozen anything, except for ice cream. And we didn’t live in a time when processed foods were as prevalent as they are now. So, when I went to Italy for the first time, it wasn’t the revelatory experience it might have been for the average American. Most of the foods were pretty familiar, with a few regional exceptions. None the less, when I went to Italy, and I went a lot, I always looked forward to dining at the Italian table.

And at those tables, whether they were commercial enterprises like a restaurant or a trattoria, or a farm side or village meal, made by the local people who were involved with the farm or lived in the villages, it always seemed to be an uplifting experience, compared to what I was experiencing back in the US when working in the wine trade. Mind you, I had to eat at a lot of Italian restaurants in America for business. But they rarely achieved the heights of enjoying a meal in Italy.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

The Wine Trade’s Dirty Little Secret

For the past three weeks I’ve not been imbibing in alcoholic beverages, part of a seasonal cleanse, taking an active part in becoming healthier. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying wine isn’t healthy for you. Actually, wine has alcohol in it, and alcohol is pretty toxic. But we usually give wine a pass, because it is so delicious, and we have it with meals. And we age it, and fetishize it, and worship it. So, that must make it OK.

But really folks, the wine trade has a problem. A drinking problem.

Sunday, July 03, 2022

How to Optimize Your Wine Brand ~ A Press Junket Punch List

As promised, a constructive follow-up from an earlier post, Keep On Trucklin’ – Press Junkets in the Age of Disruption.

If you are a winery owner or a winemaker, here are some simple suggestions for you when pondering over sponsoring a wine junket for journalists/bloggers/micro bloggers, whether it be to Italy, South Africa or California’s Central Coast, etc.

First thing that I’d suggest is to consider why you are inviting strangers into your home. Are you trying to grow your brand? Increase your brand awareness? Throw some marketing money at the wine in the hopes it will differentiate you from your neighbor? You want it to stick, yes?

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Gone Fishin'

wine blog +  Italian wine blog + Italy W

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Featured Father ~ Albert Moulin

from the archives...He's been gone fifteen years, this son of New Orleans, father and mentor to so many of us. Al was one of the forefathers of wine in America. He was there at the beginning, right after World War II, when the budding wine industry got its start. A great story teller, a proud grandfather, a lover of women, a classic New Orleans chef, and a slave to the wine god, in the very best sense.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Keep On Trucklin’ – Press Junkets in the Age of Disruption.

Sunday, June 05, 2022

“For Chrissake, enough about the evils of the world and the unfairness of life. Just tell us what wines you are enjoying lately. Is that so friggin’ hard?”

How’s your week been? Here, the past week has been challenging. Family health issues, the heat, the economy, the war, the dead babies, the endless gun battles, ya feel me? Yeah, I bet you do. Well, (at least) one of you out there has had it with my perpetual hand-wringing and endless jeremiads. And this person wrote me to tell me so:

“Look, man, we’re all seeing it, feeling it, hurting from it. I didn’t come here to have more of it shoved in my face. I came here to escape. I know how you loathe wine writing and wine writers, but for Chrissake, enough about the evils of the world and the unfairness of life. Just tell us what wines you are enjoying lately. Is that so friggin’ hard?”

OK. Alright. I surrender. Truce. I’ll write about wine. Even some wine notes. Will that make you happy? Because I want you, all of you, to be happy. Oh, at least those of you who have survived the last few years of pandemic, war, active shooters and the general (and rapid) dissolution of civil society. So, let’s go!

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Looking for a safe place to tell my stories

…or, looking for a safe place to buy groceries…

…or, looking for a safe place to worship…

…or, looking for a safe place to go to school…

…or, looking for a safe place to live out my life in peace…

So, it has come down to this. Americans committing genocide upon Americans. Not Russians upon Ukrainians. Americans killing Americans. First the bang, and then the whimper, the endless recitation by our “leaders” telling us it’s a mental issue. Ya think? Starting with the pols. We are watching the killing of our country, in real time, in our lifetime. Not by the commies. Not by the Nazis. Not by the Jews, or by the Blacks, or by the Mexican immigrants or by the Irish or the Italians or the Poles. By Americans. On Americans. We are burying ourselves.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Want To Be a Better Italian Wine Expert? Study French Wine

I
don’t know how it happened, but recently I was talking to an acquaintance who never knew what I did in my career. I mentioned something about being a wine guy, with a particular focus on Italian wine. Right after I said the word “Italian” I noticed a facial micro-expression on the person I was chatting with. It was as if to indicate, “What? No Californian? No French? WTF?”

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Living My Best Life in the Age of Social Media

Sunday, May 08, 2022

“All Italian White Wines Taste Alike”

from the archives
I’m sitting at a table, in a restaurant, with a seminal figure in white wine. The beverage director comes up to us to say hello. A few pleasantries are exchanged. After all, we are guests, even if we are part of the “trade.” Our money spends as well.

We’re talking to the beverage director about which wines do and do not work in his place, which is seafood centric. We come to find out that in this place of his, he says his best-selling category is Cabernet Sauvignon. We are close to a huge body of water; the city is cosmopolitan and diverse. The clientele is well-heeled. The menu is seafood. And Cabernet is the big hit here.

We then approach the subject of Italian wine. I’m beginning to think this fellow isn’t a white wine drinker. But he confirms it when he declares “all Italian white wines taste alike.” He then went on to remark that he had never had a memorable one.

Sunday, May 01, 2022

Monday is the new Saturday

Ten years ago on this blog, I was still working, and I wrote a post called An Eternity of Mondays.

“Your job isn’t who you are,” the little monkey voice inside the head kept chattering. Yeah, yeah, heard it all so many times before in a been-there-done-that kind of way. Wave after wave of images roll onto the shores of my short-term recall, trying to evoke a response or any sign of life. Only to return back to the abyss of the deep sea of memory. It’s going to be a long night, but when it’s all said and done it’ll be another Monday.

Ten years later Monday looks a lot different. On Saturday I start looking forward to Monday. I know that’s when I get my world back. It’s when folks go back to work, and the stores are less crowded. The traffic is less congested. And a day when I once felt trapped and pinned in, now fells like I just got sprung. It’s liberating.

Flora Purim sang, when she was with Chick Corea, these lines:

Look around you my people

If you look then you will see

How to love, life is paradise all together

What game shall we play today?

 

Monday has become the day I ask that question, what game shall we play today?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Love Me! Love My Wine!

One of the distillations I’ve arrived to, at this late hour, is that ultimately everything is about love. And that includes any and all things that have to do with wine. Oh, yes, there is science and technique. And style. And safety and health and marketing. And sales. But if people don’t love your product, you’re going nowhere. And in today’s climate, in our information-barraged world, with our upside-down state of affairs, when it comes to world health and world peace and world travel, how do you get someone to love you and love your wine?

When it comes to the way we used to do it, pre-Covid19, there was a, more-or-less, expected path. After the wine was made, and assuming it was a reliable product (tasty, attractive in appearance to more than just the creator and priced appropriately for its category) there were well-trod paths that one would take to assure the wine would get to the end-user.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

#Ciao, #Vinitaly2022, #WellDone!

That was the conveyance via the social media thoroughfares on Wednesday April 13, 2022 as the most recent iteration of Vinitaly was winding down. For those who did go to “the show,” the reactions were varied. Some were relieved, that they got through it, Covid or not. Some were simply exhausted. Some were ecstatic. And some left shaking their heads, saying, “We waited two years to come back to the same ‘ol, same ‘ol?” Was the show a success? Or was it a dinosaur, restored, bone by bone, and put on display to exhibit that some things never change? 

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Dispatch from Kyiv: Why I won’t be going to Vinitaly this year

The following is a speculative compilation deriving out of anecdotal missives from friends in the wine trade who are in Ukraine. This is only a drill. Слава Україні!

 I’m in the basement of our apartment building, where I now live. I am a young Ukrainian in the wine business (mainly p.r. and sommelier studies), but right now, me and my family, and our country, are fighting for our lives. So, I won’t be going to Vinitaly this year.

My mother-in-law has taken our children across the border to Poland, where now they are safe. My husband is fighting for our freedom in eastern Ukraine. I’m here with my mother, who is a widow and needs my attention, for she cannot travel far these days. And my father-in-law, we haven’t heard from in days. He’s back at the farm north of Kyiv, tending to the land and the animals. We are very worried for him.

I looked forward to Vinitaly every year, to meet with winemakers and my social media community. Especially hard it has been in the last two years because of the Covid. But now we face an even greater enemy to our being here in Ukraine.

I love Italy, their wine and food and people. I love how free the country is. I would bring back a little of Italy every time I went. I even loved Vinitaly. I didn’t mind the crowds, the confusion or the uniquely Italian form of organizing a large event like Vinitaly. Now I wish I had a bathroom here in Kyiv like the worst one I would ever find at Vinitaly. Or a dry panini and an overpriced bottle of frizzante water. It sounds like heaven to me.

But I am now part of the resistance against one of the most evil of humans, I cannot even say his name. But you know who I am talking about.

My husband has seen things no one should ever have to see. We are a peace-loving family. My children are innocent. We are innocent! But cruelty doesn’t distinguish between the guilty and the guiltless. No, the bombs from above are indiscriminate in their path of destruction. But we are not beaten. We are bloodied, yes. Our hearts are broken, but our spirit is unscathed. And we will win!

I’d love so much to see my friends at Vinitaly. But I’d love even more to see my father-in-law, my mother-in-law, my dear husband and my sweet, sweet children. I cannot even think about a wine fair, although I am guilty to say I dream about it. Maybe one day, in the future. But for now, we have more important things to attend to: Our Existence.        -Марія Павліченко

 


DONATE:

UNICEF USA Official Site - Help Children in Ukraine

SAVE THE CHILDREN - Ukraine Crisis Children's Relief 

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS 

INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR THE RED CROSS 

UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES - Ukraine Aid


Sunday, April 03, 2022

The Death of an Iconic Italian Restaurateur

In the book, “The Sicilian,” by Mario Puzo, there was a passage on a curved archway above a cemetery near Palermo. On that archway was the message: “WE HAVE BEEN LIKE YOU – AND YOU SHALL BE LIKE US.” Sobering words for any and all who are fortunate to breathe these few short moments on Earth.

Restaurateurs come and go, just like all of us. Some of them leave a bigger mark. Maybe it was the time they were in. Maybe they were just lucky. Maybe they were exceptional. Or all of the above. But nothing is forever.

Sunday, March 27, 2022

From the Archives: The Stake Behind the Sizzle

From the archivesDriving along the scuttled roads of urban Austin, I finally found a parking place, after 10 minutes of searching. By some twist of fate, I managed to find a place in front of a building that once sheltered one of the most wonderful Italian spots in Texas. It was long gone now, replaced by serial restaurateurs with cash and concepts. The place was called Speranza’s, run by a young couple, Michael and Hallie Speranza, and it was a Mecca for anyone trying to show offbeat Italian wines in those days. The era was the early 1980’s and in the years since, many places have come and gone, and come again, professing to hold high the banner for all things Italian.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Vinitaly – Should I stay or should I go?

In three weeks, barring any further unforeseen crisis and impending world events, Vinitaly 2022 will commence. Having test driven Vinitaly last autumn, and forestalling and then cancelling the 2020 one, all indications are that it is safe to proceed. It’s time to get back on the saddle. Let’s go to Verona!

But are some of you are still hesitant? Well, first off, if you haven’t made flight plans, hotel reservations, secured your entrance badges/tickets and so forth, it’s probably a little late to consider going. However, if you live in Italy or have already, somewhere in the world, made travel arrangements, and you are having last-minute doubts, is there any substance to your fears? I’m going to try and lay it out, just in case you needed it.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Why blog about wine now?

I’ve got to say this: with what the world is witnessing right at this moment, I find it exceedingly difficult, if not absurd, to think about writing a post on a wine blog. Oh, two of the greatest Italian wines I’ve had this year? Who could, in their right mind, right now, care? A seminar on Italian wine? Big whoop. News flash: Another wine competition? Yeah, wow.

That, my friends, is where my head is at. I cannot tear myself away from the absolute horror that innocent women and children are experiencing in Ukraine. I feel powerless. It is depressing. It is bringing up memories from the cold war, such as October of 1962, and scaring the hell out of me. For all of us.

So, forgive me for not giving a shit if the pointless subject of Italian wine match-ups with Tex-Mex food is the furthest thing from my mind, at this time. Or the benefits of orange wine made in an artisanal manner vs. the commercial/industrial manufacturing of rosé wines. It just seems inconsequential in the scope of the greater forces of destiny swirling all around us.

Maybe things will change. For now, I’m stuck. I cannot see the forest for the trees. All I can see is the firebomb, the crater, the lifeless bodies of innocent babies being held by nurses who can do nothing to bring life back into their poor little bodies. That’s all I can think about, see or dwell upon. Until the madman who is causing this is rendered silent and lifeless himself.

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