Sunday, July 16, 2023

What kind of life have you had?

 In memory of Luigi Pira and Dino Illuminati

I was in the room next to my wine closet when I thought I heard the murmur of low voices. There was no one else in the house, and it startled me a bit. But as I inched closer to where the wine was, I realized the voices were coming from inside…

I peeked inside to where I thought I heard the voices and standing up on a table were two bottles of wine. A bottle of 1970 Barolo (B) and a bottle of 1985 Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo (M). They had been staying in the room for more than 20 years, living out their life in the coolness, the darkness. Here is what I heard:

M: Tell me old friend, what kind of life have you had?

B: You know, I have been here for much of it, but the life in the Langhe that preceded this period was joyful. I was in the hands of a master winemaker, who knew how to make great wine even in not the greatest years, as I can personally attest to.

M: I understand. My life started in the rolling hills of Teramo. I could see the Adriatic from the vineyard where I was born, and even as I was harvested, the area was a mellow and rich place to grow up. It was a joy, as well.

B: What were your wine masters like?

M: they were country folk. Vegetable and fruit farmers. They were simple people who loved to eat and drink and work hard. They lived quiet lives, but lives of meaning. And when it came to making wine, they didn’t manipulate me much. Just kind of let me be. 1985 was a good year for Abruzzo wine, and they must have seen something in me to make a Vecchio (riserva) out of me. It was a good year for fruit and the weather was very good. Our autumn harvest was cool with no rain or inclement weather. The idea at the time for a wine like me to age was not what most folks in Teramo were considering, this was a region of high production. But the farm I came from had people who looked into the future and saw greater potential coming from Abruzzo and from Italy.

B: Here too. 1970 was an awakening year in the region. And although Barolo had a good, if not great, reputation, the area was still coming out of a deep sleep. The road nearby where I was born and raised had only recently been paved. For many years it had been a dirt path, trod by carts and cows, not tourists and wine critics. But still there were people who knew of the potential for great wine from this area. In that regard, we might have been a few years ahead of your region. But as we have aged and witnessed, Italy be
ame more important to the world of wine. The young man who brought me to my final resting place where I met you must have felt something.

M: Oh, yes, he spent many days in my home. He was like a nephew or a cousin to the winemakers, they really had a great affinity for each other. And happily, for me and my kind.

B: Yes, he was young when he got me and took me to America too. I remember traveling on a plane in his hand valise, the only time I have ever been in an airplane. It was quite an exciting trip.

M: Now, for wines, we are elderly. Most of our colleagues have been consumed earlier. And here we stand waiting for our final moment, to be opened and relished.

B: Yes, I can hardly wait. I can feel my cork wanting to burst!

…at which point the two bottles got wind that I was overhearing them and they resumed a sublime stillness. I felt like an interloper, even though I had husbanded them over a long period of time, making sure they were dark and cool and not disturbed too much. So, I closed the door and left them in peace.

But much of what we experience in the wine world is about posturing and power. To hear both of them speak of joy was a revelation to me. I had forgotten about that word when it came to the world of wine. Perhaps many of us have, what with the competition and the coming and going and the pressure and the changes we all have seen in the wine world in the last 30 years. It rejuvenated me to hear these two golden agers speaking with such nostalgia, but also with elation and wonderment and most of all, expectation of what to come. Something we all can use more of in any world

 Tell me, what kind of life have you had?

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