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Mondo Di Vino
Mondo Di Vino





[01/17/2021, 14:54] What Miles Davis and John Coltrane taught me about wine

On the Wine Trail in Italy

L
ately, I?ve been organizing my musical recordings. I?m a big jazz fan. Somewhere along the line, during college, while I loved to listen to rock, especially the San Francisco style in the 1970?s, I veered over to jazz. There was a great FM radio station in Los Gatos, California, KTAO. But even before that, I was interested. I remember going to a Miles Davis concert in1967 at UCLA. It was his quintet, with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams and Wayne Shorter. Miles didn?t allow any photography, we had to take our cameras back to the car. But the music was brilliant.

Living in California after college, I got into all kinds of jazz. John Coltrane, what?s not to love? So, when I got a Miles/Coltrane CD for Christmas, I was really excited. And then I got to listening to the music.

It was from the final tour in 1960. But it sounded different than the music I?d grown accustomed to hearing from those two jazz giants. It was vaguely familiar, but they were experimenting, taking the sounds out to a more intellectual ledge. It got me thinking about wine styles of late.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

There are many reasons to enjoy wine. I?ll admit that my main reason is for taste. And with that taste, I enjoy wines that convey a sense of deliciousness to me. Everyone has different inflection points in that regard. But I look for a good healthy dose of fruit. I enjoy acidity, in check, not overblown. I can deal with tannins, if they are part of the structure of the wine. And dryness, depending on the kind of wine it is. Lastly, balance. Without that, I find it hard to finish a glass, let alone a bottle. Again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Last month I opened up a bottle of Vitovska from Friuli. I?ve enjoyed wine from this grape since I first encountered it 10 years ago. Nice acidity. Good fruit, and often well balanced. There are producers who take the grape down a naturalistic path, which is popular among fledgling enophiles. And I?ve had ones I enjoyed, all the way to the edge with the orange wines.

This one I had, over the holidays, was from that camp. In its appearance, it was caliginous. I took a sip. It was like sipping on a just struck match. Hot and adamantine. I set is aside, for it just wasn?t the right wine to go with the food we were having that night. I was disappointed, but know sometimes wines, when they are first opened, are sometimes reluctant to go out into the world. Cutting the umbilical on this one just wasn?t going to happen. It would have to fall off on its own, in its own time.  I?d come back to it in a day or so.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

It happened with the music of Miles and Coltrane, with that compilation I got for Christmas. I could recognize some of the classic tunes, but I couldn?t quite decipher their meaning. And it was like that with the Vitovska, too.

I relate this experience because there has been this movement, or a trend, to take a position on wine, and winemaking, by many of us who have never made wine. But we?re experts, influencers, and our opinion matters, so we say to ourselves.  But I just cannot burrow down into that polemic rabbit hole. Something, call it an aesthetic constraint, draws me back to my initial notion of what a wine should taste like, and what music to my ears should sound like. I can appreciate the effort. But sometimes, I just can?t go there. Or, I just don?t want to go there.  I want to listen to Miles Davis and John Coltrane play the music that drew me to jazz, which I still love. And I wanted that Vitovska to match up with the Frico, not be a freaking antagonist.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

So, I put another record on the turntable. And I open another bottle of wine. And I search for beauty and balance and that ambrosial moment. It?s not an argument. It?s a longing, a pursuit. Just like Coltrane looking for that note that will transform an intonation into the call of a thousand cranes.

That said, I have and will follow Miles and Coltrane down a musical rabbit hole from an intellectual point of view. And I will try any and every kind of wine out there. And I will not relent from seeking out what it is that calls me to music and wine. And for that I have to thank Miles and ?Trane and all my winemaker friends who have made my exploration into wine (and music) so much more meaningful and compelling.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

 

 

 written and photographed by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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[01/10/2021, 18:24] The Epiphany (and the room where it happened)

On the Wine Trail in Italy

O
nce, on a fast run up the autostrada from Ancona to Verona, an old friend and I were talking about epiphanies. He?d had many in his life and had distilled it down to its essence. ?It?s a bolt of lightning - Il Fulmine.? I?ve thought about those moments lately, as it seems we?ve been having more than our share of ?Il Fulmine? in today?s world. And as we sail through time, many of us have those moments when our purpose is distilled in a flash, and everything is bright and clear, if only for that moment.

It?s much like a photograph. 1/100th of a second. And then something else. Not gone, but no longer there with the energy and the force it initially struck with. I guess you could say it?s a bit like those times when you are intimate with someone and for a moment everything disappears and there is only light and passion, and emotion and energy.

And while it wasn?t quite that dramatic when it happened, looking back on that day, I realize I was then bound to wine, it made an indelible impression. Let me tell you about it.

It was harvest time, 1977, in the hills of Calabria, between Cosenza and the Tyrrhenian Sea. I was with my young, new family, traveling around Italy and Greece. We?d made it to Calabria and had found my mother?s family on her mother?s side. We were staying with them, getting to know them, and them, us. They were people of the land, working it, clinging to their little side of the hill and pulling out whatever they could to provide sustenance. It was right up our alley, as back in California, where we lived, we?d made the attempt to live simply. We were young and poor. The economy was faltering. And there was a movement to go back to the land.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

I saw that my relatives were living that life, not dreaming about it. Perhaps they were wishing for a more glorious life. But they had the basics of life. And with that they had fresh air, clean water and a place to live that was unencumbered with the useless detritus of civilization. And, they could see the stars at night.

One of those nights, after dinner, my cousin invited me down to the cellar. ?We have a little work to do,? he said, ?Vieni qua.? I followed.

As we ventured into the dim subterrane, several of his other relatives and friends, all elder men, joined us. I thought of the sweat lodge ceremonies a Native American friend once told me about, and wondered if this was going to be something akin, ala Italiana. Indeed, there was a prescience to that feeling, but one that would not materialize for years and miles.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

In the corner of the room the new wine was gurgling. In another niche, an ancient hutch held bottles of all kinds and sizes, filled with older wine. A solitary, bald lamp hung above, illuminating the cold, damp room.

I was almost expecting flames to appear above our heads, the stage was set for the possibility of a portentous juncture. I didn?t know what to expect. But, as with anything unforeseen, one can evade it or one can embrace it. I was all in, regardless.

When one falls in love, it does unpredictable things to the world around and inside of one. Time stops, then times speeds up. Then time disappears, along with space. Butterflies appear, amidst a cosmic storm of unheralded expectations. It?s a giant swirl of emotion coupled with a visceral grip that feels like a roller coaster gone off its tracks. It?s exhausting and exhilarating.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Have you ever been in a dream where some thing had you in its grip and wouldn?t let you go? It can be frightening if you tense up and fight it. It?s like being in a wave that has just pounded you. But, if you just relax and let go, eventually the waves subside and you pop up above the foam, just in time to grab a much needed breath of air. Free, and still very much alive.

As it happened, a simpler scenario played out. It seemed that the new wine needed to be bottled and the old wine in the bottles was taking up room. A fitting metaphor for life if I ever heard one. And one that shadows us all on the wine trail.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The grapes were ancient ones, with names like Greco and Moscato and Calabrese. The aromas were as seductive as the Sirens from the islands in that nearby western sea. The musty, ebullient sapidity of the older wines, released from their urns, stirred all who sat at that wobbly table, both veterans and inductee.

So, we went about the business of emptying the bottles, one by one until the wee hours of the morning. I swear my Italian was never better in those moments. I was being initiated into the mysteries of Bacchus. Little did I know this ceremony would portend a life, and a livelihood, that I didn?t know was stalking me. I?ve often spoken of being a slave to the wine gods. This was the moment I was conscripted into that legion.

Later that day, after much needed rest (and coffee) it dawned on me that I had witnessed something momentous, but I didn?t know exactly what. It would only be years later, many years, that the meaning of those hours in the room where it happened would shine a light upon the path that I had tread all these years. It was the epiphany, that bolt - Il Fulmine - that provided me with a purpose. 

And it unfurled among the humblest of places, with family and friends. 

On the Wine Trail in Italy

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[01/03/2021, 17:00] How Italian wine will thrive in the 21st century

Transformational over Transactional

On the Wine Trail in Italy

S
omething I am detecting, acutely, in these early days of 2021, are the relationships that were shaped while working in the wine trade. How many times did I sit at someone?s mother (or grandmother) table enjoying a home-cooked meal while tasting the wines they also made? What did they get out of it? Another meal for a bunch of American wine buyers. Another lost night. More free wine consumed, eating into the margins.

It?s something I ask a lot. Then, maybe it was because they knew I had buying power. But not now. I?m done with that. So, why, if at all, do some of those folks still stay in touch?

On the Wine Trail in Italy

I?ll go you one even better. How many times did I send a consumer to a winery in Italy for a visit and those folks at the winery rolled out the red carpet? I mean wine, dinner, maybe even a place to sleep. And for what? Maybe a couple of cases in someone?s cellar, at best?

There has to be more to it than a mere transactional sentiment. It doesn?t make any sense to spend time and money and labor and all that only for a couple of cases of wine. I say this not because I am cynical of my Italian winery friends motivation.

No, I really think many of my Italian friends in the wine trade in Italy aren?t thinking about the transaction as much as the need to transform the hearts and minds of Americans (and other nationalities too). It wasn?t that long ago that they (we) had to spend an inordinate amount of time apologizing for the wine we made (or sold) because they (we) felt it might not be rising to the standards set by our French cousins. I know, that seems like a lifetime ago. But the need to please can often outweigh rational and proper business practices. In other words, transformational relationships surpass the merely transactional ones, over time.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

And that is so funny right now, to me, because I have been examining my old wine trade relationships and have found too many of them were merely (to them it seems) the price of doing business. The newly landed wine blogger who didn?t know anybody, who was short of cachet and needed a little support, emotionally (and maybe even financially). The executive who was trying to make inroads into the greater world of Italian wine and wanted to tag along to make some of my relationships also theirs too. The wine buyer, the sommelier, the list goes on. Sadly, those folks, in the post-Covid world of stark, brutal reality, have fallen by the wayside. The friendships have dissolved, gone. Sad.

But, in the transactional world, one knows that nothing is forever. You get a great by-the-glass placement that?s making everybody a bunch of money, and the competition takes the wine buyer to a strip club and gets him a lap dance, and badda-bing, you lose the placement. The wine buyer got a better deal. It was just another transaction. Not even a good business decision, by the way.

So, back to the Italians who have made transformative relationships more important than their business transactions. An example.

There is a wine producer in Piedmont, and I will not use his name, because the person is a very humble person who would be embarrassed by the story I am about to tell you. But for years this person has had me in their home, taken me to dinner, spent time with me, both in Italy in in my own home. We?ve become friends.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Yes, for a short while we did a little business together but the importer changed and it became almost impossible to do business in the future. But always at Vinitaly there was a moment to have an espresso, talk about books, ideas, or the blue sky, even though this person never made a bloody red cent off of me or my influence.

I felt guilty, for sure. I always wanted to do something, something more. But the stars never aligned.

But I also realized that both of us are doing fine in the world. Why couldn?t it be more than a transaction, a real relationship, a friendship? And that was really what it was and is.

[I know, not a tasting note in sight. Alfonso walking the plank with another one of his cockamamie ideas.]

On the Wine Trail in Italy

We?ve all had a lot of time to think. We?ve shed a lot of things. Some of us have died. I?ve given away books, clothes, tools, music, money, and yes, stepped away from people I thought were my friends, but for some reason or another are no longer. We?ve all sacrificed something in this past year.

But my friend in Piedmont, is still my friend. I drink his product at home from time to time. I think warmly of him, and he isn?t the only one. There are scores of people in Italy whom I think about in that regards, even though they have nothing ? I repeat ? NOTHING ? to gain from my present position.

This is the golden nugget that makes Italy and her people and her wine so indisputably ascendant. Because these people know something about the value of real relationships, they are and will continue to succeed even in these trying times. And you know what? I?m going to be there with them, raising glass after glass for them, and with them, because that?s how you succeed in the wine business. When you give it all your heart, and then some.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Happier new year, y?all!

 

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[12/28/2020, 22:21] Happy Birthday to the Dinosaur ~ On the Wine Trail in Italy Turns 15

On the Wine Trail in Italy
If only this blog were a young girl who was turning into a woman. It would surely be more apt for these times. But a quincea?era it is not going to be for this old dinosaur of a blog, on the wine trail in Italy.

Fifteen years in most cases is a relatively young age. But for a wine blog? It?s ancient. Some would say pass?. Lord knows, I?ve tried a lot of different things to keep it upright and sailing right along. But It is work. No doubt about it. Although it is also a labor of love.

Don?t get me wrong, I?m not quitting or hanging it up. Not yet. I still have things to say, and if there are people who still want to read what an elderly white male who came from the wine trade has to say, I?ll forge on. But there is a life to everything, whether it is a bottle of wine, a human life or a relatively insignificant wine blog.

All this to say, I?m glad to have made it this far. And grateful to the impressive volume of readers who come to this site once a week for my essays.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
But blogging, and wine blogging in general is in a bit of a slump. Maybe we?ve all said everything there is to say. I know some folks have just stopped, while others have morphed into a pay-to-play newsletter format. Some have gone on to work in journalism, while others, some, have passed away, or just faded away. Nothing is forever.

What still gets me excited about my ?Sunday sermons?? Well, there is no lack of drama or change in the world of wine. And as I?m, more or less, specialized on this blog in Italian wine and culture, for sure there is plenty to write about. But, that said, I?ve pivoted from the newsy and gossipy to what most people perceive to be a bit more esoteric of paths. And there is more than one path. I?ve been experimenting with this blog in those areas, for those who have been following. I love science fiction. In fact, I love stories. And I don?t think they always need to be the hard factual stories a journalist cuts their teeth on (I have my wine column in the Dallas paper for that). I?ve probably written this a time or two on these posts, but one time when I was sitting there having a bottle of wine with Eric Asimov, he asked me ?What is it you?d really like to write about?? I cannot believe I spontaneously answered to him, ?Oh, I?d love to write a science fiction novel!? Yeah, I said that to the nephew of one of the greatest science fiction writers of all time, Isaac Asimov. But I did do that. And even though it was momentarily embarrassing (to me) there was more than a kernel of truth to my affliction for science fiction. And some of that has been bleeding onto these pages.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
Also, I?m very curious about the elasticity of time. The past. The present. The future. All that. I?ve gone into the past and interviewed winemakers and ancient souls. I?ve time traveled to the future to talk to Italians and wine makers hundreds of years from now. Why not? It is my blog, after all. And nobody is charging anyone to read. Yet. It?s fun. It allows me to press my creative juices, possibly making for a good bottle of who knows what? I?m very interested in the child inside all of us. And during my career in the wine trade, I spent a lot of time and effort trying to be a good, reliable, responsible adult. But now that activity is for the younger adults in the wine trade. My time, now, is to reconnect with ?little Al,? as my nonna called me, and see what I can come up with. Again.

But writing is not at the top of my queue. Nor is wine, really. Italy still commands a lot of space in my world, real or imagined, for sure. But it?s the visual part of this world that really has me hooked. I?ve been a photographer for 55 years. That?s 80% of my life. My (analog) darkroom is fifteen steps from my (digital) office. So, there?s a reckoning coming. Everything is ready. I?ve been to Italy more times than I could remember, if I didn?t keep a spread sheet of those 59 treks back to the wellspring of so much inspiration and affection.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The Italy I knew in 1971 is nothing like the Italy I hope to revisit in 2021. Think about it, a half century. Holy crap, it?s a little scary! But I like what I see, even when I close my eyes and imagine what it must be like. Thanks to films, music, friends, and any number of other connective ways, Italy stays in touch with me. And when the screens go dark, there is always the invisible, the imagination, the dreamscapes that keep sending me messages, keep staying up with those of us who are listening.

While I?ve gone over my 800-word limit (again) I want to thank you for being here all these years and for commenting and reading and coming back from time to time to check in. I?m not going anywhere, yet. There still is a lot of Italy, her wine, and my real (and imagined) realms to discover.

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[12/20/2020, 15:18] The Alacrity of Hope
On the Wine Trail in Italy
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[12/13/2020, 21:20] 5 of the greatest Italian wines (that I want to drink in 2021)
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[12/06/2020, 17:59] The current state of Italian wine in the world

On the Wine Trail in Italy
I remember as a kid, going to a birthday party. I was living in the desert of Southern California, Palm Springs. And the parents of the birthday child were proud Mexican-Americans. The food was great (they had a fabulous restaurant), the music was cheerful, it was a fun, fun party. And to top it off, after the birthday girl opened all her presents, we all took a swing at a stuffed pi?ata shaped like a donkey.

When all the kids took their swing, the poor creature finally burst opened and all manner of shiny and sweet things flew about the field and we all scrambled for the treasures. I don?t know why, but that memory reminds me of 2020 and Italian wine.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Over the past year, many of us have had to look at Italian wines from a distance. Save for the few brave (or foolish) souls who ventured from America to Italy, or those who were already ensconced on the peninsula, we all have had our bottles, our pictures, our memories and our longings.

And how has that worked out, you might ask?

For myself, I see it as a reset. I have looked long and hard at what Italian wines I have gathered, which account for 75% of what sit in that cold, dark closet, awaiting their release or their rendering. Most of them are well, but ready anytime from now until the next 20 or so years. I guess one could say I?ve created my own little Italian wine oasis on this island, these islands, we all call home during this dilemma.

Yes, I have scores of pictures and films and music and all the necessary hooks to catch my attention, to not let it sway too far from the heart, this love for Italy, her wine, her food, her art, her culture. Meanwhile, back in Italy, though, nothing stands still. The grapes still grow, as do the inventories. The wine has got to go somewhere, even if we won?t be opening them up in front of a fantastic vista overlooking the Roero or the Arno.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

?All travel is circular... After all, the grand tour is just the inspired man's way of heading home.?
? Paul Theroux

It seemed that, for many of us, the ease and relative affordability of air travel conferred a right that one might have taken to be immutable. An obscure virus from the Hubei Province in the People's Republic of China changed all that. The forces of destiny shattered the pandemic pi?ata and spilled the virus to all corners of the field, this time the whole earth, and many of us took up the bounty with ensuing consequences.

Still, many of us wax and wane (and whine) about what we?ve lost. If you?re reading this you haven?t lost the ultimate gift, that of life.

Yes, you cannot go to your favorite trattoria in Rome and drink that amazing bottle of wine with your pasta alla Amatriciana. For now. Not forever.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

But the winemakers and the wineries and the works in those ventures, the lab technicians, the gardeners, the pruners, the cellar rats, the marketing pros (the ones who stand all day long, every day, behind the counter at Vinitaly and Prowein, and explain for the umpteenth time, their wine), and on and on. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of souls who rely on the orderly transition of the grape harvest from year to year, into the bottle, into the glass, moving, always moving. Not a circular grand tour, as Paul Theroux waxes elegiacally. And those souls also have to fend off the Corona pinata prizes that scatter across their world. They are not thinking about going skiing this month to Cortina d'Ampezzo or Courmayeur. No one is booking flights to Phuket Island or Tahiti, or if they are, they sure as hell shouldn?t be.

So, all this to say, what? You?ve walked us out to the end of the plank, now what are you, what are we going to do?

In reality, who knows. But with what I have to work with, right here and right now, in the present moment, here is what I propose:

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Keep drinking and enjoying Italian wine, or wine, in general.

Enjoy it with your family, or your pod, for the time being.

Try not to think about the way things used to be. They were only that for a moment. And now they are something else. Deal with being in the present moment.

Drink up some of the old and rare bottles, for no reason other than you have made it through alive so far. Who knows about tomorrow? No one does.

Plan? Yes plan, but don?t lose sight of today for a tomorrow that really is indeterminable. Work with what you?re given.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Find new ways to connect with Italy and Italian wine. Read books, like the recent one by Ian D?Agata, Italy?s Native Wine Grape Terroirs, or his classic, Native Wine Grapes of Italy. Or a harder to get one, like The Modern History of Italian Wine, edited by Walter Filiputti.

Watch movies. Italian movies. Old neorealism one or newer ones from the likes of Paolo Sorrentino, Edoardo Ponti, Alice Rohrwacher or Laura Bispuri.

Write to your friends in Italy. Letters, not emails. Not just zoom calls. Not just WhatsApp conversations. Write a letter and see how long it takes to get there. Those kinds of things received these days are precious, pre-pandemic gifts from the soul. Don?t just expect to receive. Give.

Whether it is olive oil or Pelaverga, mineral water or pasta, embrace all that Italy is sending to you through this time. Yes, we can?t be there, most of us, but there is not the plane that can take your spirit to the place that your spirit cannot already get there on its own. Look up, move forward, don?t look back. 

And keep swinging.

On the Wine Trail in Italy
 

 

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[11/29/2020, 19:03] Everyday Italian Wines for Everyday People in Extraordinary Times

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For some, this is a way with a deep-seated furrow. The road often taken. The commonplace. The not-so-out-of-the-ordinary. But predictable? Not necessarily so. Wine is a living, breathing, evolving thing. And with that, even an ordinary wine can act extraordinary in these unprecedented times.

That was how I started out with this odd holiday, Thanksgiving. Like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving has come under fire by some who see it as having racist origins, representing a celebration of the conquest of Native Americans. I get that. I also know we, as a country, need something to unify us in this time of discord. I don?t think cooking a bird or smoking a ham will save us, I?m not that na?ve. But I do see people finding ways to make moments for peace and serenity. And if celebrating Thanksgiving in the old way that the story was told to us is behind the times, can we not shift from that to a less highly charged observance? We cannot go back and undo what the Anglo-western world did to the indigenous souls here in America. But we can recast the day with thoughts of gratitude and clarity. No, we Americans aren?t the greatest nation the world has ever seen. We aren?t even handling something like this pandemic as well as many other nations on the planet. We have failed miserably. But we cannot shirk away and pretend that all that came before didn?t. We must admit, even concede, that we are not great again, and we must start over again, with the hindsight that we didn?t do it right, all these years. We must change now.


And what does that have to do with wine? Well, this is, sometimes, a wine blog. And over the last few days, many of us have been hunkering down and eating foods that provide comfort, maybe even solace, away from our families and normalcy and the world we once lived in, which is no longer.

I often come back to one word ? resilience ? to chart my course in rough seas. It has worked many times. And now it is a big part of what I believe will get many of us through this cultural dust storm, which has blinded so many from seeing the simple truth.

And now, on to food and wine. This is where it gets tricky. Why? I know well enough that there are scores of sites with wine notes. People attempting to talk about this wine or that wine, with superlatives and adjectives and a laundry list of attributes that we?re all supposed to understand, nod our heads in agreement, and rush to the store, or our online merchant, and order up. Those notes are really more for the individual writing them, a journal of sorts, of their perceptions and observations about a particular wine. I get little or nothing from them when I read them, and there is no reason to think if I were to continue with that kind of exercise here, that any of you would really get to ?know? a wine with my words.

But two wines in the past week have given me pause to think more about them and their context in my life. They were accompanied by food, and they caused me to consider how ordinary wines might become extraordinary, when the times are out of the ordinary.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The first, a 2011 Abbazia di Novacella Gew?rztraminer. My son, on Thanksgiving Day, came over early and took the helm of the HastyBake to smoke a turkey breast. He asked me if I had any Gew?rztraminer on hand, as it was a wine that he had cherished memories of. I pulled out an older one, from 2011, and we chilled it up.

I noticed two things about the wine right off. It was too cold, and the flavors were closed in. So, we let it warm up and breathe. Now, I?m a fan of Abbazia di Novacella. I love their Kerner and their Sylvaner. During a visit to the winery, probably ten years ago, I marveled at the amazing repository of knowledge their library held. It is on the Via Imperii and was one of the stops along the way for religious pilgrims on their spiritual path to Rome. One of the oldest wineries in Italy, it oozes history. One can spend a moment in the chapel or the library, for reflection, meditation and the hope of clarity.

The wine wasn?t oozing with spice as Gewurztraminer is often cast. It was more like a pulse, a heartbeat. I watched and listened and sipped this wine over several days. At nine years old, a white wine, and an ordinary wine at that, it was full of life and balance and even pleasure. It doesn?t qualify as a vino da meditazione by the usual parameters one expects of such a wine, but it nonetheless ignited a moment of contemplation.

The wine was so pure, so clear, so focused and clean and balanced, and it matched well with the smoked turkey my son labored over for hours. In one word? A joy.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

Over this time, I had harvested the last of the eggplant from the garden. Those scraggly, twisted weather-beaten aubergines would be a challenge when making the Parmigiana. It would be a rustic version. I am already predisposed to a grittier version of the dish, as my cousin In Calabria taught me.

And this time, the Parmigiana was coming together like a nest of hornets. If it was music, it was Bartok and his peasant singers, not Leonard Bernstein and his West Side street gangs dancing till their last breaths.

A funny way to look at food? Maybe. But everything?s a little funny right now, isn?t it? So, why not?

On the Wine Trail in Italy

For the wine I wanted something red and not too old or important. I chose a 2014 Barbera d?Alba ?Il Cerreto? from RobertoVoerzio.  Not the cheapest Barbera by a longshot, but probably one of Voerzio?s more affordable wines. I was in the mood for a Barbera with a Parmigiana, so Voerzio?s it was.

I didn?t look at the vintage when I opened it. When I cut the umbilical cord, and the wine entered into the world at 6 years of age, at first sniff and sample, I?ll admit I was a bit disappointed. I remember saying to myself, ?Why didn?t I just open a bottle of Montepulciano d?Abruzzo?? The answer to that question would have been, ?Because I didn?t have a normal, young, everyday one in sight.? So, I set the Barbera aside and proceeded to direct the oven to make a hearty, rugged crust on the top of the Parmigiana.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

The Parmigiana came out bubbling and frothing, sizzling and whistling. A musical Parmigiana, it was not Pavarotti. But it would dance well enough to Bartok?s Romanian polka.

Meanwhile, the wine, 20 minutes later, was warming up to its new life.

I was engrossed in the Parmigiana, because it was one of those times I made it and it rose above the ordinary, the just good. It was, can I say it? Yes, I can. It was perfect. It was ?last meal on earth? perfect.

So, it went from an ordinary, husky dish with an everyday Barbera, to a lightning bolt moment. The wine was right there with me and my Parmigiana.

It was like an octopus, a shape-shifter of a wine, in which one moment it was scratchy and tannic and fruit-laden, to the next, when it was velvety and rich to the point of plush. But there was no self-awareness imbued within the walls of that bottle. It was rocking into its life, dancing and swaying. Such a pleasure. No, I didn?t need to open a 20-year-old Brunello this night. Or grab my one of my last ancient bottles of Hermitage. The Barbera would suffice. And then some.

It wasn?t meant to be a night for such an epiphany. It just happened that way. And the reason why I started on this lengthy post and this perambulation was for this: You don?t always have to grab for, or hope for, a ?great? wine. You don?t need to be jealous of your friends in New York or Singapore, when they post their umpteenth bottle of Soldera or DRC. It isn?t necessary. Sometimes the shy little one in the corner is as good of a dancer as the princess or the queen, maybe sometimes better even. It really relies upon your soul and the way you look at things, to take their gifts in. If you have an open mind and an open heart, you will be rewarded. You may not get 300 likes, but really who cares? The ?like? will come from you. And that is something no one can ?block? or take away.

On the Wine Trail in Italy

And that is the little secret about everyday Italian wine for everyday people.
 
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