Blogs & Sites:
|[06/21/2020, 20:39] ||A Gen-Del Futr?spatch from Italy, Post-SARS-CoV-?: "We Made It Through!"|
|Dateline June 16, 2080 ? Father?s Day |
Dear great-great grandfather,
I am writing this to you (or it is meant to seem like writing) because when we learned we could travel in time, or rather we could go back in time, not forward, or rather we could send things back in time, not ourselves (yet), this seemed like a good time send this communiqu?st.
First, Happy Father?s Day, for without you, I wouldn?t be here. Secondly, thanks to the advances that have been made in the last 60 years, we?ve been able to finally get past COVID-79 and hopefully a few years of breathing space.
Little did we know how you and your living generations got past 19. It must have felt a little like what your great-grandfather, my 5th great grandfather, was experiencing. It moved fast in 1918, faster in 2020. In 2060, the year I was born, there was a global anomaly, and some of us were born with immunities, which scientists in Antarctica discovered came from less than 1% of our ancestor?s DNA. I guess I have to also thank Assuntino, along with you and everyone who passed along the immunity (I should send him a ?letter? too). I?m sorry you didn?t live to see this, but now the miracle of time travel allows me to send you back some good news.
I am living in Truscana, in a small village called Libbiano. We generate most of our power, still, from the hydro electric activity here which is so strong. But we also have gotten completely off of petro-dependency. And even with seasonal heat spikes, we have adapted. And so have the vines. In fact, it seems we have a small retro-climate, which allows for both Nebbiolo and Sangiovese to thrive in and around our locality. We have become one of the most important wine producing areas for Italy, especially since the horrible Strombolian episodes of 2029-32. Etna wines are but a memory, as are wines from Campania, Lucania (yes, we went back to the old name) and Calabria.
And while central Tuscany can still make good enough wines, the Golden Age of Chianti and Brunello are but memories lingering in cellars.
Piedmont, too. The 2nd 21C pandemic wiped out so many vineyards in the Langhe, and the temperature shift created a virus that scientists didn?t have time to address, so intent they were on trying to grapple with the human coronavirus. Again, many of what we think about Barolo and Barbaresco are now from wine vaults. That era has ended.
But we made it through! And our little region is thriving. The geothermal area was truly a ?sleeping beauty,? and it shielded us from the maladies of both the North and the South. The Italian population has altered, and we?re much more diverse than when you or Assuntino knew Italy. We now speak a version of English we call Linglesiano. That you can thank the American computer industry, for killing our language. But seeing as we sit in a place once made famous by Dante, the understanding is that language is like steam, and sometimes it can be very useful, and sometimes it can be very elusive.
I have about 250 words left so I musn?t waste them.
I am the benefactrix of all of you who came before me. We are living in a world that was brought to its knees, made to relinquish to the collective good all that had been purloined to the few for whom the pursuit of personal liberty (and materialistic gain) drove many Italians into the volcano, much like our ancestor Empedocles, although for different reasons.
My generation, ?, is ready and able to treat this wonderful planet, Terra, with the respect which it deserves. And to the people, all of them, as well. Not just the rich. Not just the white, not just the adults. All people. As you used to write in 2020 ? Every. Single. One.
We made it, dear great grandfather, even if some of you were more part of the problem than the solution. And we hope, by sending this back to you, that you will understand that your hope, your good will, your desire to open the world up to everybody, will grow. And we know it will, because here we are, back in the Garden. Paradise wasn?t waiting for all of us. Many died. Many suffered. Over many years. But we are here, we made it. We made it!
Love to you and everyone around you. Mother Akna is safe. I wish you well.
P.S. We are working on sending you back a bottle of our wine. Should be about to do this in less than a year. Don?t go anywhere!
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[06/14/2020, 16:36] ||A Pool, a Piano and a Painting|
|The times have a way of changing what one thought was important, once upon a time. Now, more than ever, the highly charged and emotional turmoil we find ourselves immersed in has illuminated abstract concepts, like legacy, fairness and respect. Along with more mundane things, like a pool, a piano or a painting. |
When I was younger and restarting my life, there were influences that compelled me to seek happiness, and peace, in both the practicable and the quixotic dimensions. I?m only human, just like the rest of us. And the notion that I could construct a fulfilling American life presented itself to me amidst the fog of longing for peace, love and family. Little did I know that road was pocked with landmines for one?s resources and one?s heart.
First it was about a swimming pool. We ?had? to have one, because the 17% interest rate on the mortgage went down to 13.25%. Hence, we had a surplus of leftover cash in which to be able to afford one. Mind you, the note on a $65,000 home with a change of 3.75% resulted in a monthly saving of $200 (but who saves at 28?). That was a huge note. But ?we? had to have a pool. Eventually I sold the house and moved. That?s how I got out of that.
Then it was a piano. And not just any piano. A baby grand piano. Another $4,700 dollar loan and monthly payments. For a piano that sat in a living room that nobody ?lived? in. Eventually I ?loaned? the piano to a jazz musician friend. And that?s the last I saw of it. And another shackle was removed.
Then it was a painting. But not just any painting. No, it was from the ?friend? who was one of the up-and-coming artists of our time in our town. So, another $3,000 plunked down, $100 a month until it was paid off. When it was, it left the wall with the person (that originally ?needed? it) who left town to pursue more happiness. At the time, it seemed traumatic. Now, it just seems like folly, of which I was able to extricate myself from, and get on with my life.
All this to illustrate that we sometimes, if not often, think we must have something to make our life better, when, in reality, just the opposite will work and maybe even be an improvement.
It is desire? Lust? What is it that drives us over the cliffs of longing? And now what is it? Do we really know? I think, deep down, many of us know what the right thing to do is. But how many of us will do it?
Looks like I?ve really strayed off the Italian wine trail this time. But is a review of a Montepulciano d?Abruzzo really something you need right now? Can it wait?
I was hanging out a shirt to dry yesterday. It was sunny and clear and hot. And I heard the sound of a sparrow hawk above me. It was catching the thermals. There were actually two of them, the usual couple that hangs out and lives nearby. I followed their movements, a little jealous of their freedom to fly. But also, so happy that these creatures had the freedom to play, not just make it through another day of surviving. And then I saw the mockingbirds, four or five of them, darting about and trying to clip the wings of the hawks. The hawks, while disrupted, didn?t let it mess up their day. They turned it into a way of making a different dive, and then catching another thermal. It was play with a purpose. And they could fly higher and faster. What could be better fun on a Saturday afternoon in the spring? They didn?t take it personally.
I?m starting to understand that when I go out. If someone isn?t wearing a mask, I could imagine that person is not mindful of the community in which they live. They are not wired for the collective good. Freedom, for them, is just that. For them. #AllAboutME. And the rest of us had better fly out of their way. Ok, I can do that. I can play with that. I was brought into the world of dance in college, I know the moves I need to make.
I will not make it personal. But I will make it intentional. Perhaps my world, all of our worlds, will get a little smaller. And if that is one of the byproducts of this era, then I must face it and accept it. Not utopian, by any stretch. But at its core, carbon-based life is stark and survival-driven. I will survive.
So, I didn?t need a pool, a piano or a painting. What I needed was resilience, awareness and perseverance. I must remember this every day now. I can do this. We all can, each in our own way. Good luck out there, the mockingbirds are swarming.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[06/07/2020, 21:34] ||The short answer? Not right now...|
|The longest period of time that passed between trips to Italy was in 1997. I hadn?t been back since 1992. Now, it has been a little more than a year, but who knows when we can return?|
Looking at pictures from a livestream of Venice, it appears almost like it was in the 1700?s. Not many people, no large cruise ships in the water. A quiet, lilting kind of image, Venice has gone back to being La Serenissima. I?d love to see it like this. But not now.
Likewise, Rome appears to be more like I first saw it in 1971. Pictures from the Sistine chapel, where only 14 people at a time are allowed to view the paintings on the ceiling. 14! That?s even less than when I first saw it almost 50 years ago and during the heights of Ferragosto. Still, I?d love to revisit and see it without the hoards. For now, images and livestream will have to suffice.
What I can still experience, is food and wine. And while it might seem an indulgence, right now, when so many more pressing issues are upon us, we need a respite from time to time, even from the most urgent matters.
I?m not dying to go back into a restaurant, not right now. But I do make my way, once a week or so, to our local Italian oasis in Dallas, Jimmy?s. I go early, before the crowds get there, and restock. This past week, Mike, one of the owners, was throwing away a half box of overripe peaches. ?Take them,? he said, ?I?m just going to toss them.? So, I did take them, and made a couple of peach cobblers. The wine to go with that? Moscato D?Asti.
?The wine to go with that?? ? sounds almost absurd in a world turned upside down by fear and hate and inevitable change. Who cares ?what wine goes with that? anymore?
Taking a long walk this morning, and in an alley a young black man is jogging and passes me. We greet one another. I go first. I?m the old white male, so who the hell knows what I?m going to say? Relieved, he counters with a ?good morning to you,? as he speeds past me. Godspeed, young man.
My idea of Italy has become welded between a romanticized pondering of the place and the reality on the ground. What does that mean? Between the memories and the thousands of photographs, the countless trips to Abruzzo or Piedmont, Sicily or Tuscany, it still holds a draw on me. I know it isn?t a perfect place. But neither is the America my grandfather dreamt of coming to. We?re both flawed countries, in a world mangled by humankind.
How could I get to Italy right now, if the country would let me, without going on an airplane? Why would I want to do that? Why did my grandfathers and grandmothers want to risk it all to come to a strange land, America? There were no planes available then.
But that was then, you might say. And now, well, progress has?yeah, yeah. Yeah. Progress has?rendered it all a blank slate. We?re on our own now. There?s no cadre of grandmothers and mothers and aunts and sisters to protect us from the outside forces. We?ve ripped the bandage off.
I could drive to Panama, catch a steamer, some kind of a boat, and make my way to Italy, slowly. It wouldn?t be without its own challenges and risks. I could simply drive to the New York and take a freighter to Genoa or La Spezia.
And then, what? The world changes every day, these days. We are in full disruption mode and you want to go to your favorite little seaside trattoria in Castiglione della Pescaia and drink Toscana rosato, as if nothing has happened? Again, and then, what?
I?m hunkering down for now. I may be isolating myself on my little island, as I have done for almost three months now. It?s not an eternity.
There are wines sitting in my little wine closet that have waited patiently for their next chapter. The 1970 Barolo from Luigi Pira, who passed away 40 years ago. The 1974 Montepulciano d?Abruzzo from Dino Illuminati, who is close to 90 years old now. Dino is waiting. These wines have waited. We can wait.
In the meantime, some of these wines will be opened, with or without any fanfare. They are labors of love and they should be loved. And loved, again and again.
Yes, this has been a long, dry spell without touching the earth of Italy under my feet, listening to the children play in the playground, take in the unforgettable aroma of flowering Linden trees that line the Viale dei Tigli in San Benedetto del Tronto, and sip on a crisp glass of Cerasuolo or Verdicchio or Trebbiano, while the gentle waves lap the shoreline. I miss it, we all miss it. But that world is not a world we can touch. Not right now. And so, we must persevere, and sit tight.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[05/31/2020, 19:09] ||Lost & Found - A letter from great-grandfather in 1920|
|During this down time, I?ve had the opportunity to go through boxes and papers, organizing my office. One of the packets I ran across were papers from my dad. My mom gave them to me before she died. In this packet there was a letter written to him in 1920 from my great grandfather. It was in Italian and was written in a beautiful script. His handwriting was meticulous. I gave the letter to a friend to translate. This is what it said:|
Palermo, November 15, 1920
I am writing this to you, a young boy, to hold and to give to your son and his son. I?ve had a good life in Sicily, a good business in Palermo and a fine family. We survived the war, and even though we lost our dear Serafina in 1918 from the dreadful Spanish flu, we mourn her loss, taken too soon, too young. Only 18 years of age.
I know you are too young to understand what I will write here. And there is no way of knowing if you will have sons or grandsons. But I feel I should recount my feelings about my life and what I have witnessed in these early years of the modern age.
I had no idea, when I was born at the same time as our country, Italy, was born, that we would see what we?ve seen. Electric lights, automobiles, telephones, airplanes and world to world communication. That my young son Alfonso, your father, could take a boat at such an early age, and go to America to expand our business, and that I would see him again, it was not even something I could imagine as a young boy in Sicily. But we live in an age of wonder, and who knows what you or your children, or their children, will witness in their lifetime?
Whether or not you follow your father into business, or go another way, will depend on you and the times. The future is unknowable. But here, in 1920, the future holds much promise. I hope you and your children, and their children, will find something to give them happiness and fulfillment. In an earlier era, it was enough to have a roof over one?s head and enough food to eat. But now that we have seen that man can fly, who knows what the shape of happiness will take? I only hope that all of you in the future will have lives of meaning and joy. But there is no guarantee for that. We saw that when Serafina was taken from us as she was flowering into womanhood. Nothing should be taken for granted. No one should expect things to be one way or another. One must push forward, sometimes with great challenges and obstacles. But we Sicilians are a strange race. We belong to no country and every empire. We dislike change, but our people have seen nothing but change since the beginning. We are strong willed, but we can also be short sighted. Stay alert, Luigi, and prepare your children for an uncertain future.
I hope to see you one day, in Sicily again, and watch you as you grow up and become a man. You are the future of our family in America, and that might seem like a great burden to a young boy. But in 100 years, who is to say what burdens your children and grandchildren will bear? Be prepared, isn?t that what your American boy scouts say? Yes, devi preparare.
Your loving grandfather,
One can only imagine what he might have dreamt our world to be. And that can be said for all of us, as well. Here we are, 100 years later, and the world has changed tremendously. But right now there is a shadow across earth, and it is making the future a dark place. I hope it is only a momentary lapse. But I cannot see how we get through this if only a few of us make it through unscathed, while many more must face unscalable walls. I had such hope for the world, but now, I cannot imagine writing a letter to unknown grandchildren or great-grandchildren in 2120. Who knows? The fog of uncertainty has yet to lift and reveal where we are going, and who will be going.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
And if you didn't already figure this out, this is (part I of) a fictionalized piece
|[05/24/2020, 18:06] ||Under the Influence...|
We?ve all had lots of time to think. I?ve written a dozen dystopian blog posts in my head. And I?ve pondered over Italy and what it means to me and others. And still, I can?t help thinking, how have these past three months influenced what Italy means to me, going forward?
Through the magic of photography, I can return to many familiar places in Italy, even to those before I was born. There are albums my mother made for me, with pictures of my grandparents, uncles, aunts and father in Sicily. I recognize the rooftop of the building in Palermo where my great grandfather and his extended family lived. I sat outside there in 1971 sipping a caffe latte that my aunt Vittina made for me. Years earlier, she made coffee for her daughter and parents, and they posed for a picture. The bay of Palermo, Panormus, and the bright, brilliant sun which shines in Sicily.
The dead center of Sardegna. All quiet, all still, no wind, the sun above, beating down. A large meadow in front and the bleating of the sheep and the occasional bell clang of the large white dogs who oversee the flock. A shepherd is taking us on his daily circuit. His wife will meet us for lunch, with freshly made malloreddus and ricotta, figs and a liter of Vermentino.
Who is it that comes to mind? Many, many people. But the one that is popping up is Francesco Giuntini, in Rufina. We?ve grown up and older together now. But his wit, his sense of timing, his devotion to the grape and wine and Tuscany and Italy, is memorable. And his wines, they are the sentinels of his youth and his children?s youth, and ultimately of their ageing in time, as well.
The elderly waiter in Fiesole on a hot summer day. Both of us, dressed up in coats, he with a tie. Sitting in the loggia of the former monastery, eating a soup of beans and crusty white bread, washing it down with a Tuscan rosato. Humble food for such a majestic hotel. This is one of the places where I learned what ?to serve? meant. And to the career cameriere, it was everything.
Sitting in a bathtub at midnight in Positano, spraying water all over me to cool myself while sipping a Coca-Cola from the minibar. Meanwhile, sleep was impossible, for outside revelers were singing their beloved football anthems. My wife, imploring me to come back to bed, me wishing the room (and all of Italy) had a ceiling fan. And ultimately the clamor dying down, along with the heat, for a few last precious minutes of rest.
Walking in Pozzuoli, being swarmed by youngsters wanting a 20 lire coin, hundreds of them, tugging at my jeans and my army surplus shirt. Laughing at my desert boots. We stop at a nearby caff? where I get some change for my little friends. And then we go into a shoe shop, specializing in cork sandals, and they argue over which one I should buy, to replace my ugly boots.
San Benedetto del Tronto. My Emerald Coast, my Costa del Sol. I do long for a stay there. Take a room in a hotel by the beach, get up in the morning and take a splash in the water, and sit outside and read and bake a little, waiting for lunch. Those wonderful little seafoods they grill, langosto and calamari, washed down by a glass of Trebbiano d?Abruzzo or Falerio dei Colli Ascolani. And then, inside for a little pisolino, a snooze. The dreams that one has on those long, hot summer days, with the breeze from the window, which swirls the curtains as if it were an apparition. And now, in my mind, it plays out that way.
Paths high in the hills of Trentino Alto-Adige. July, summer, all of Italy is packing for their monthly vacation to the beaches, to the mountains, to Cuba, to the Grand Canyon. And meanwhile, I look at a map and decide which day hike will be the one that we take. We find one, about 10 kilometers in length, not too drastic, but a good day of hiking. We go downstairs to our little hotel, and pack a lunch of cured meats in little buns of bread, mini-sandwiches. And apples, and water and a little sweet chocolate treat. And off to see the mountain top.
To visit the relatives of my youth once again, to sit and play Briscula or Zicchinetta with my aunts. And for my grandmother Giulia to be there, as she was always the best cheater at cards and had the best stories. I long for, more than grieve. But as it is not to be, I lament the lost opportunity.
To take my mother to visit her relatives in the hills of Calabria. Not just a place, this Bucita is, for it has become to me a lost island, floating up in the morning dew. I?d love to have shown her the town, the fields, the buildings, to drink the wine and eat the eggplant and complete the circle. We had one moment when it might have been possible, but my wife was too sick to take the trip. And I couldn?t leave her at home. And so, we lost that connection.
My mother would be celebrating her birthday if she were alive. Alas, she would be even more ancient now than when she passed away four years ago, barely missing her 102nd birthday. But now she travels with me to Italy, from time to time, in the dream world. There we are, with my aunts and my grandmothers and my father and my sisters and everyone who is alive or no longer here, on this great big giant magic Italian pullman bus, going to all the places I?d love to show them and have them show me.
No doubt, we?ll all get back to our Italy, whether we live there or we live on an island far, far away. People still need to bury their dead and mourn their losses. I?m in no hurry to get on a plane. We?re far from a normal scenario, in any case. But the promise of Italy, the illumination I feel when I step onto Italian soil, still shines within. In the meantime, we wait, we hope and we look forward to better days.
Happy Birthday, Mom. See you in Italy. Soon.
written, photographed and photo-curated by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[05/18/2020, 04:59] ||The top 10 destinations for Italian wine exports in 2019? Once again, China wasn?t one of them. In 2020, Quo Vadis? |
|Young Italian wine professionals had been posing wistful pictures on their Instagram and Facebook feeds, when travel destinations such as China, Taiwan, Korea, Thailand and Singapore were de rigueur for building their Italian wine business. From first blush, one would think there?s a lot of business for Italian wine in Asia. I?m looking at the numbers from 2019 and prognosticating upon what the possibilities for growth in 2020 are.|
According to Istat data, 2020 (from Italian Wine Central): Of the 20 top destinations for Italian wine exports, 2019, China wasn?t even in the top 10. China might conjure up exotic and romantic visions, but from a business perspective, it hasn?t proven to be a top place to invest time and energy in growing your brand. Yes, it had been seen as a country with good growth potential with 1.2 billion inhabitants, but that was prior to COVID-19. And then everything changed.
Yet even in 2019 I asked, ?Is the investment in time and travel worth it?? Now, a few fateful months into 2020, I?m asking different questions:
What is there to return to, to try and build back business?
Do we know when that will even be possible, to go back, and to effect a strategy to rebuild?
And what about the larger import markets, such as Germany, the United States, England, France, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Russia and even Japan, which surpasses, if not altogether eclipses, China? This is a strategic nightmare, notwithstanding the impact COVID-19 has had on Italy?s domestic market, with millions of jobs lost, people untethered from their daily life and routines, the decimation of the medical infrastructure and education, not to mention a lumbering, at best, political machine.
They say we?re all in this together. Well, we are all in this same storm, but we?re not all in the same boat.
And winemakers span the economic spectrum just like other segments of society. There are the uber-wealthy landowners, who have resources and cash, and can wait out the storm, no matter how painful that seems in these uncertain times. But families who have known nothing for the last 100 years but their little plot of vines in Tuscany now are being exposed to dangers they might not be strong enough to overcome. Add to that the expense and uncertainty of building up foreign markets. In the best of times, it was a crap shoot. Now it is more akin to Russian roulette. And what if you?re 33 years old, and you?re just a few chapters into the book of your working life? This is monumental, life-altering and all pervasive, so it seems.
Now we need to look at our altered world with an eye to strategies for survival.
Starting with strengths. One is the ascent of Mediterraneanism in American consciousness. What do I mean about this? Italian wine producers, and to a degree, Spanish and French, benefited from two generations (roughly 1958-2018) of building the brand of wine in league with changing American cultural and culinary customs. It?s not like it was in 1988, when this was still a far-fetched idea.
I know, because I was on the front lines working six days a week as one of thousands of brand ambassadors, building the idea of wine with food. And in my case, Italian wine with all kinds of food, not just Italian. And in my career, I saw explosive growth from 2004 until 2018, such that the rate of growth was almost unbelievable. Big thanks to Pinot Grigio, Moscato, Prosecco and Chianti, the four workhorses of this Golden Age of Italian wine. And yes, of course, Barolo, Brunello, etc., all the fine, small-batch wines also buttressed the reputation and esteem of those two generations worth of effort.
Now let?s check the data. Look at the figures for 2019 ? the top 10 countries that imported wine from Italy didn?t change much from 2018, albeit with modest growth. But forget that happening in 2020. What I would do, if I were an Italian wine producer would be to whittle it down to a bare-bones strategy for the rest of the year. Pick five (5) countries that look to have hope for salvaging your brands this year. Do not expect growth, expect lesser losses. Got it? Losses, but not apocalyptic ones.
Which countries should I pick?
Well, for one, America, because it?s a big country and hard-headed enough to not stay sequestered in our homes. And the infrastructure for selling is still in place with salespeople, supplier reps, import companies, etc. I know it sounds like an odd strategy, but America will probably get herd immunity (the hard way) and during that time, there are going to be a lot of restaurants re-opening. In addition to that, there will be those who will still shelter-in-place, more careful of their movements. And they will get their Italian wine fix from their retail store, online and even from some restaurants that can now sell retail, if the price is right.
One unknown factor in this is the tariff issue. If the current administration continues to weaponize tariffs, it will be increasingly difficult to keep one?s head above water. I know some folks have been using creative solutions for getting around the tariff issue. Let me just recount something an old Italian importer once told me: ?You want to make 20% on $10,000 or 0% on $100,000?? Yeah, your margins are going to continue to suck, unless to can get around the tariffs or utilize more direct-to-consumer sales.
Online retailing presents one of the most alluring opportunities. 2020 will be a landmark year for DTC imports, although in 20 years it?ll look like a trickle, I hope.
Where else? Look at the data ? Germany is close, drivable and another opportunity. It also has fared better than many countries during this virus.And it is a large volume customer. It might not help the small producer, but the larger, more commercial companies will keep knocking on Germany's door.
Number three? England, for similar reasons to the American one. Anglos are obdurate, and maybe this will serve that population well. In the meantime, it is also reasonably easy to travel to, by car and Chunnel, if you must. That is, if travel restrictions ease up. And if they don?t? Well, how about spending more time talking to your customers, not just on social media channels, but by giving them a call? Or better yet, start writing them letters. Do something out of the ordinary ? keep your relationships going and make them stronger.
Right now, no one wants to see anybody showboating on SM channels. Now is a time for a humbler approach. Hat in hand kind of thing. And S-I-N-C-E-R-I-T-Y. Truly heartfelt emotions. We know if we sent all the politician in a spaceship on a trip around the sun, in six months we wouldn?t notice they?d left. But put all the farmers in that same spaceship instead, and in six months we all would starve. So, use your strengths, not as a weapon or a threat, but as a promise for a better life and a better time. And wine plays right into that dreamscape, as far as I see it. But hat in hand, humility. Intention.
The last two countries of your five? This is where you will need to personalize your strategy to fit your model. Look where your past business was good, but make sure those two countries are in the top 10 - whether it is Canada, Switzerland, France, Sweden or Denmark. Choose two, and keep in mind how you are going to work with those countries, whether it might be in person, or via some remote set-up that we all seem to be embracing out of necessity these days. But build them, and build slowly but with good foundations and again, intention. But again, as I wrote last year, forget China ? for now. China might conjure up exotic and romantic visions, but from a business perspective, it shouldn?t be in your top five picks.
Let?s talk about the 900-pound gorilla in the room ? money and pricing. No getting around it, the monetary channels have shrunk. There is just less of it to go around these days, whether people are hoarding it, or they took gain losses in the stock market in February and March. Or if businesses, like restaurants, operated, as has been widely reported, with so little reserves, that the last two months stretched their finances down to the coin jar. You will not make normal margins this year. Even taking tariffs or trade sanctions out of the equation, gains will be vaporous. But the grapes keep growing, and you have to rotate and make room for the future harvests. So, take an account of what you can really live with, for this special time, and see movement in your inventory. A lot of wine producers from all around the world are sizing this up. And those who rise out of this rabbit hole will be the ones who asked a little less than they wanted to, or maybe even needed to, in order to get the sale. This is a short-term issue. But a critical one, in my opinion.
I?m not an economist, or a sociologist. But I have been working in and watching the wine trade for the better part of my life. I?ve never seen anything like this. But I believe in a resilient approach and a positive mental attitude.
Wine is a glorious, delirious delight. And it offers us comfort and security. Eating dinner at the table with our family, with a hearty, refreshing bottle of wine, restores one at the end of the day and gives many of us the spirit to take on another day, or in this case, another year or two of unforeseen challenges.
Wine is a civilizing element for many of us. And as we peer into the abyss of a dearth of civility, ongoing political unrest and societal fragmentation, it can be a frightening future that awaits us. But it needn?t be. We didn?t rise up from the ashes of World War II and spend two generations slowly rebuilding, only to throw it away now.
So, we must think like that bottle of vintage red wine that we put in the cellar many years ago. It takes time, and patience, and perseverance for a great wine to become greater. And likewise, with us humans too. I know Italy can rise up and do this, just as I know America can as well, and the rest of the world too. For a world without wine is a far gloomier proposition than I care to envision.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[05/11/2020, 04:59] ||When darkness falls on the island |
|?It can?t always be sunny, even in Texas!? I remember hearing momma shouting out to me, many times. She would know, having been born a few years before the 1918 Pandemic, and living the early years of her childhood, in Texas, in an orphanage, because her father had abandoned her mother and five children, one a baby boy.|
Nonetheless, my mom was extremely resilient all through her almost 102 years on this earth. I often wonder how she?d deal with this ?where we?re at right now? moment. It would be her very own take on things, and no doubt, she?d survive.
Many of us have time to think about things. Clean stuff up. A spring cleaning of sorts, for our things, our connections, our ?friendships.?
One of the interesting things about times like this is how people deal with critical and urgent issues, how they respond and forge their ongoing relationships, especially in the virtual world. I think I?ve just about done all the Zoom master classes I?m going to do. There is something about a screen experience that, right now, just isn?t making the connection for me. I?d rather go outside and look into the sky, check on the sparrow hawk family, or the tomatoes. Muse upon when the two other artichokes will be ready to pick, to join the one I picked the other night before the storm.
That night, when I plucked that purple artichoke from life in the darkness, it gave me pause. What are we doing in our lives these days that mirror what a grower does all the time with the plants? Give them the requisite water, give them air and make sure they get light. Listen, really listen, to the growing things around you. And, of course weed and thin the crops out, so the healthy ones can grow and thrive.
I?ve noticed friends around the globe doing that with people. Many are weeding out their friends, real and virtual, making sure the ones they keep are given plenty of air and light. I am as well. There are people who used to be in my life that aren?t anymore. They?re just gone. Our paths diverged, taking different peregrinations. It is really hard to pull a tomato plant out of the ground, when you know it wants to make fruit. But the other ones nearby need the space and the water. So, it is a natural thing.
?Don?t take it personally.? I heard recently in an older Italian film.
For those who are still in the thick of life, younger and career-driven, I get it. You can?t look back. Your future is the thing. And older people, in our society, don?t have the future in front of them that they once had. We don?t implore our elders to remind us of how we should proceed. Telling stories around the campfire belonged to another time and another culture. It is irrelevant for many now. And so, the sun sets, and the island darkens.
I promise you; I won?t be like this forever. In fact, writing this is my 20 seconds to wash my hands and be done with it. I saw and heard too many older people trying to ?learn? me with their stories about the past. A past they lived in more than the present. Some of them were good storytellers, but most of them were just citing memories, sometimes over and over. Where were the lessons? Maybe I just wasn?t a good enough listener.
But those elders who got through to me, several of them, were always looking forward. They?d had amazing, fascinating past lives. But they were living in the present, but had no desire to stop living that life to spend it in the past. And while I take the time to reflect, I agree with them.
So, if some of you have fallen off, addio to you, wherever you are going and whatever it is you are looking to make sense of your life. I hope you find what you?re looking for...
...and sunnier days to come
Happy Mother's Day, momma
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[05/03/2020, 14:42] ||Life on the Island - The World As It Is|
|For Marco Moltinomi|
Lately, I?ve been watching Italian movies by Cristina Comincini, notably ?Follow Your Heart? and ?Latin Lover.? We?re back in an Italy that once was, the scenery, the subjects, the people sitting together at a table, eating, drinking and talking, sometimes arguing, crying and laughing. It?s a scene many of us have witnessed or experienced numerous times, all around the world. And for the time, that world has stopped.
In college, one of my teachers taught a class in a very unorthodox way. So much that I remember him and his teachings over all the other professors. He was a visual person, and relied upon seeing, maybe even more than hearing the words people were saying. One semester he taught a class in which seeing and stopping the world were the main syllabus of the class. It was the 1970?s in Silicon Valley in the San Francisco Bay area, and this kind of class was not uncommon in those times.
What struck me then was that so many of us want the world to be the way we want it. And often the world is as it is.
One of my neighbors is lamenting that he couldn?t go out to eat for the last month. It?s a complaint we hear often these days. ?I just want to go down and sit in the booth of my favorite Tex-Mex restaurant and get my plate of cheese enchiladas, is that so friggin? difficult??
Another person I read said something similar, ?I want to go to the steakhouse and have someone cook a steak for me. I?m tired of cooking for myself. I want someone to wait on me. I?m bored to death. I?ve been waiting on this damn virus since March 15. I?m sick and tired of waiting.?
But our world has stopped, or at the very least, it has altered its arrangement with the humans on board, and we humans are stymied.
Some other challenging times to note:
? The Siege of Leningrad lasted from September 1941 to January 1944.
? The Warsaw Ghetto lasted from October 1940 to May 1943.
? The Blitzkrieg of London went from September 1940 to May 1941.
? The Black Death raged from 1342 to 1353.
And we?re "bored" with cooking our T-bone steak in the backyard for the last month?
When I view Italian films lately like the ones I mentioned, it is much like looking at the many pictures I have taken in Italy in the last 49 years.
I remember my first day, landing in Rome. I was 20, it was August 15, 1971. What a day. The Vietnam war was still taking lives and creating havoc around the world. The economy was tanking. In fact, on the day I arrived, Richard Nixon, devalued the dollar. So, I was thrust into a world I was unfamiliar with, and with new conditions. There weren?t ATM machines. I couldn?t WhatsApp home and get them to wire me money. And I was jet-lagged.
Fortunately, the pensione I was staying at, the people were kind and understanding. It was like a family situation. I had a room, they had a kitchen, would occasionally offer me something to eat, and were patient about collecting money from me. ?Don?t worry, it will all work out. Sit down, have some pasta.?
I look back at that world with wonderful nostalgia, but I don?t mourn its loss. Time takes everything and changes it, with or without a pandemic. We are in extraordinary times, no doubt. But adaptation to change is a key survival attribute in this moment. Which by the way, this moment is all we have ever had. So, for me, adaptation is essential.
It could get worse. But moaning about a world that no longer exists is probably not a good survival strategy.
I think about the neighbor and his craving for Tex-Mex. And the other one and his yearning for a steak cooked by someone other than himself. And the young woman who just wants to go back to Neiman Marcus and buy that Yuzefi shoulder bag. And the group of friends who just want to go to a Happy Hour at their favorite bar. I?m sure the people of Leningrad, London and Warsaw had their desires for normalcy too.
My question, more for myself than anything else, is this: So, you get what you wanted, the meal out, the personal indulgence of a chic and stylish objet du d?sir, the facetime with your old gang. And then you go home, and later in the night, let?s say around 1:30 AM you wake up in bed. And you have a big pain from the hole in your heart that all these things could not fill. They could not ?make? you happy. What then? Where do you turn if your world has stopped turning?
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[04/26/2020, 18:36] ||Life on the Island ? When This is Over ? Promises to Keep|
If there is a theme to what has been scrolling past my screen lately, it is that there are many of us who want to do it a little differently when this wave passes. And while there are as many hopeful iterations for the future as there are of us, my thoughts today are with the hopeful and affirmative ones who understand that resilience is an unbounding strength, not only in these times.
|Palermo - Isola delle Femmine |
So, how will things be different, when this is over? What does your crystal ball reveal to you? Here are some of the musings I?ve gathered.
From Italy, a friend wants to spend more time with his real friends and family. ?For too long, I?ve immersed myself in a world of the virtual, spending more time on building my brand than shoring up my foundation. In the meantime, my children are growing up, too fast, and they are immersed in their own little worlds. We were supposed to be more connected, but what I now realize is that we have grown apart. These little conveniences, the phone, the always-in-touch, the going here and going there, and telling my world about it, as if I had such sway on them, while we all are doing it ? who is listening? Who is receiving all this influence? It now seems like jetsam, just a bunch of stuff we?re shooting out from the bowels of our ship. It looks silly. And now, I can change my world. I?m not waiting for when this is over ? lesson learned.?
|Piazza Bodoni - Torino|
From a mountain retreat in New England, this missive: ?For years I traveled the world. You name it, I?ve been there. It was work, but it was a joy. Looking back, I have no regrets. But now, I?ve been traveling in a different manner. I take long walks in the forest. I?m learning how to survive on the land, if need be. The animals are my community, for up here we rarely see humans. And as we moved here before the crisis, we settled into a way of life before it was imposed upon us. So, this is all natural to me now. But, when I was back in the default world, it all seemed so important, so thriving, so essential. Now, I am in another part of the essence, and this one is much calmer, more peaceful, and it is really timeless. When this is over, I don?t think I can go back.?
|Holderness, New Hampshire|
It?s not that simple for people who have jobs and young children. They cannot retreat from the world; they must face it. A father writes, ?I have two young children, and I?m years from retiring. I cannot stop the world and get off. But somehow the connection I?ve made up to now, when this is over, I think those will be different. I don?t need ?friends? ? I need friends. I don?t need ?likes? ? I need love. And I need to give love to my friends and family in a more connected way. So, yes, when this is over, my world will shrink, but I think it will be a better fit, because what will be in it will be what is meant to be. Not all this wishing and hoping. Real friends, real family connections and, hopefully, enduring love.?
My young friend is so hopeful. But isn?t hope an integral part of resilience? I certainly think so.
I?ve been watching video webcams from all over the world. Mainly of eagles and other animals. But occasionally I turn on a camera in a city in Italy. Today I looked at Verona, where last week Vinitaly was cancelled. And virtually traveled to Venice, went down to Rome and then headed to Sicily. All quiet, Naples especially, which commonly promises a cacophony of hubbub. Nothing commonplace now. What will common be, when this is over?
Another young friend from Asia, writes, ?My world was just opening up. After years of servitude and toil, my parents thought my generation would be the one to break out of the shell we?ve been in for so many generations. I was getting my career together, making friends, developing my craft. And now, Italian wine studies seem like something abstract, like philosophy. I?m at a turning point but I don?t know where to turn to. The world has stopped turning for now. So, I must make my way, tiny steps for now. No ?get on a plane and fly to Rome,? for me. I must go inside and find my inner Italy. Which sounds strange, but I think finding a way inside will prepare me for the future. When this is over? I?ll still be young, I?ll have time. I?ll make my way.?
|Piazza Pantheon, Rome|
19 years ago my world was in ruin. My wife had suffered and died after an unbearably long descent, afflicted with multiple sclerosis. Her life was over and I didn?t know what to make of mine. I went to Pantelleria and detached from the outside world for 14 days. And I thought, and walked, and grieved. And decided then, to honor her life and all the struggles she went through, I had to be more resilient, and embrace the life in front of me. And I think that is what many of us are doing now, in this time.
I wish you all well, and when this is over, let?s not forget to have dinner, or drinks, or coffee, or just because, with those who are near and dear, to each and everyone of us. Let's shake on it.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[04/19/2020, 14:25] ||Life on the Island - ? grands maux, grands rem?des|
|Every time I start to write something down for a blog post, I stutter. Who cares what we?re drinking or who we?re drinking it with? Or if we?re alone or with another? Or if it matches with the food we?re having? Or if the wine was made by someone who is suffering from this virus, or maybe even died from it? That level of omphaloskepsis in times like this seems a bit inane. It may be your life, what you do. Wine. But in the meantime, there?s been a seismic shift on earth. |
So, I?ve come up with my plan, here on the island where I am marooned for the time being. These are my remedies in this era of the great ailment.
Be here ? now
Food and wine in this moment, when people are hanging on by a thread, struggling to find money to put the bare essentials on their table, is not paramount. Yes, I go to the grocery store and buy food to eat. And yes, I have wine stored from a lifetime and career in the wine trade. But this is not a time to celebrate. So, I will eat carefully, and not too much. And I will occasionally have wine. My personal allocation is 250ml.
I will continue to get up in the morning, eat a healthy breakfast and shave and shower. And exercise. I will check in on the outside world, news and friends. But then, I will close the laptop, put the phone down and go outside. There is a mockingbird in the back who chants, ?Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio,? and I am fascinated by her dilemma of choice. It?s probably the best thing I?ve heard (or read) about wine in the last two months.
The wild parrots, and we have a pandemonium of them, all of them quite insane, interrupt the mockingbird, regularly. At which point the mockingbird, recalibrates and goes back into her vinous mantra. But she isn?t judgmental towards them or me, as she sings alone up in her high place. She is simply sharing her music with those of us all around, even if parrots scream and shout and fly about. Coping. It really is a wonderful diversion, even if I have anthropomorphized their actions.
Further up above, on the power lines, is a sparrow hawk couple with their new brood. The papa loves to soar and hear the sound of the breeze beneath his wings. He catches a thermal from time to time, which reveals to us his mastery of his world. Meanwhile, the mother finds little bits to eat for her chicks. I can hear them squeal with delight when she brings something she hunted in the green space beyond the island.
Even higher is the bluest sky I?ve seen in years. And in the sky is the moon, the sun, the stars and the galaxies beyond. This might seem awesome and terrifying right now, but we?re on this spaceship, speeding through the universe at 80,000 miles per hour. It is awesome and terrifying.
Down below, in the garden, the fire ants are waging a campaign to survive among the basil and the eggplant. They seldom win a battle, but they haven?t lost the war, not by a long mile. They are survivors, they are resilient and they are built to adapt to change.
The anole spied me yesterday, while I was watering. So I thought. I kept my distance, not wanting to impinge upon his space. But he was in his zone, and couldn?t care less about me. He was on the hunt. It was lunchtime.
After lunch, I laid down in the grass with my old yellow cat, Buttercup, and we fell asleep in the sun. And I had the strangest dream.
Buttercup was talking to me. ?I?m a good girl,? she told me. Yes, she is a good girl. In fact, she, like all the wild things on this island, is a comfort. I don?t know if I can go back to the humans so readily. Off the island, they still seem to be in denial that there has been a "change of plans."
The rose bush that I planted on the east side 22 years ago never liked it there. Too dark, damp and lonely. I pulled her up last year and planted her on the west side, sunny and bright. Now she?s blooming more in April than she did in all of the last 22 years. A small victory.
?I?m so glad he finally heard me,? she said. 22 years.
The lettuces in the nearby garden chuckled. ?Omphaloskepsis, indeed,? they all chanted in unison.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W