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|[03/22/2020, 22:10] ||Life on "the island" in 2020|
|In writing this post, I want to be mindful of the pain and suffering any of us might be having or will be having in the future. So as not to trivialize the bigger phenomenon we are all collectively experiencing, I will attempt to keep what it is we are involved with in our lives and our careers in the wine trade in perspective to larger events shaping our world.|
Wine is not essential, but right now it can be very, very comforting. A prized magnum of Barolo you might have been storing for a special occasion might now be just the thing to open with that mushroom risotto you are making and will be eating on for several days. That?ll be fine with the magnum, as you will be able to drink on it during those days as well.
To make a list of the 10 or 50 or 100 most important Italian wines might be an excess that could look unimportant 6 months or a year from now. So, you won?t be getting any of that here. But that?s not to dismiss such an exercise, if someone out there feels the need for a list like that. Everyone is coping and grieving in their own personal manner, and it is not for me to say if one is right or wrong. For me though, it doesn?t feel right. I want to share something different, something personal, but also something that you might be able to identify with. I?m not sure I?m that good of a writer. But one thing I do know, and that is love and loss.
Months from now we might be reading about this winemaker or that wine person who no longer is with us. We will feel their loss next month just as we did last month. This predicament we are all in doesn?t change that. What has changed in the last month, though, is our collective ache for a better world, for a world that once was and might not be ever again as it was. But that really always was the case, for as we breathe in and out, every time, we lose a moment and we gain a moment. It never really comes back. What can change that mutual assemblage of pain that we are feeling will be the way we go to those new breaths and moments. I?m probably not saying this as clearly as I?d like to, so let me tell you a little story.
When my wife was in the last six months of her life, everyday we woke up, it was like getting hit on the side of the head with a baseball bat. It was brutal. It was painful. And it was relentless. But everyday we got up and faced it. We were mostly at home, which we called our little island, Isola da Cevola (and yes, I know that is not the proper way to say it in Italian, but that?s the way it is and will be).
And at times we did feel isolated. And scared. But on our little island the sun shone and the birds sang and the flowers bloomed. So, we weren?t really alone. And there was love to help us through the darkest nights. And there were some pretty dark nights.
But we got through it, each in our own way. My wife passed away and can no longer feel pain or sadness. I, on the other hand, took years to heal, making my way through a very dark and long tunnel. I?m still in it, will probably never get out of it. But my tunnel now has galleries to let more light in, and I am a hopeful old sod who believes in believing in something.
So, I will get back to telling stories about wine and Italy and that old rugged wine trail in Italy, someday. But not today. Today, I am fortifying my island with hope and resilience and pasta and Pecorino and yes, with generous amounts of Italian wine from the closet. For surely this isn?t going to be a three-hour tour. We?re going to be here for a while. But we?re going to be of good mind and heart and breathe in affirmative breaths until the cloud passes over this island and the sun shines brightly again. And I wish the same for you on your island, wherever you may be.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[03/15/2020, 19:51] ||[With all respect] A Personal Punch-List for the Quarantined|
|Right about now, 60 million Italians are most likely climbing the walls, with the Spaniards and the French lining up to do the same. Warm blooded Latins, emotional and often uber-extroverted (well, maybe the Italians and the Spaniards). With a lot of extra time on their hands, what can I offer them, from the perspective of one who about two years ago stopped my world and got off?|
I got to thinking what would be a healthy and affirmative blog post in which my brothers and sisters in the wine biz in Europe could be doing right now to get through their time of isolation. So, let?s dig in.
[ Please note: This is in now way meant to minimize or trivialize the crisis many of us are in or will soon be in. Please know this is offered with the utmost of respect for our collective condition and is a way to temporarily find a path we can take from this traumatic time.]
1) The Coronavirus Diet ? Now is a good time to shed some of those pounds you have put on from constantly being on the go, in a plane, doing a wine dinner and sitting at a communal table, where all of a sudden 12 appetizers show up (for a party of six) in those endless supplier/importer/distributor/client luncheons. Now you can breathe again, and regulate your intake. Fresh vegetables, whole wheat pasta, simple meals. Green or herb tea in place of the never ending (and usually awful) cup of espresso that really finishes off a marathon meal that you knew, going in, wasn?t good for you. But it was good for business and the relationships in the business, so you did it. And you did it, year after year. Well, now you don?t have to and you don?t have that as an excuse or a crutch. So, get out your notebook or your app and give it a whirl.
Note: two years ago, I did just that and pulled up an app called MyFitnessPal. And for two years I have been faithfully recording everything thing I eat of drink and because of that have lost 13 pounds. And kept them off, with more to come. Think about it, this is a good time.
2) Spring Cleaning ? Well, it will be Spring in a few days, so why not start that task you have been putting off? Maybe your room, your closet, your office, your whole house or apartment, isn?t there someone in your community who could use some of the clothes and book and furniture and electronics that you have discarded in your drawers, shelves and closets? Start with what you wear and go from there. Are you really going to ever wear that custom-made suit that no one wears anymore? Maybe a poor soul who didn?t make it through this pandemic and paid the ultimate price could use a good set of garments to wear as he or she make their way into their next life? I know, that?s a little extreme, but now is time to think about those little acts of kindness that will help ease the pain of your neighbors and countrymen and women.
Shoes, especially for the homeless, who are on their feet most of their waking hours? Do you need five pairs of the same Nike walking/running shoe? Think about it. Lighten you load and give someone a leg up in their already challenged life.
And while we?re at it, how about your digital life? Isn?t it time to go through all those files on your computer and external hard drives and give them a good dusting? If you?re like me, you?ve accumulated thousands of documents from work, files, jpegs, press releases, emails and any number of things clogging up your lap top, that you have saved in the name of your ?legacy,? that which you will be remembered for in the wine world. Well, let me tell you, that?s not how they?re going to remember you. They will remember the time you looked them in the eye, or when you offered a kindness, or maybe something no-so-kind, and all those things that aren?t ?in the cloud,? but which rests in their heart - that?s how they will remember you, that?s your legacy. Not paper, not hard drives, but real, intangible, emotional moments. And if you?re like me, sometimes you did really good, and sometimes you were a real stinker. None the less, clean up your crap, you have the time now.
3) Feeding your mind and your soul ? There might not be a cure for COVID-19 right now, and in that we are powerless. And for some of us, it will pass over, while for a myriad of our friends and neighbors, some will not be so fortunate. But you are alive, make these moments worthwhile. Read one or two or all of those books on your tablet or nightstand. Get through that trilogy, read everything you can get your hands on. Read to your kids, your mate, and elderly family member. You can help heal someone?s mind, maybe even yours.
And when your eyes get tired, you can always find a film you wanted to see on Amazon Prime or plundering the secret Netflix codes, or the Paramount Film Vault or Cinecitta Archives. There is a wealth of images, sounds and stories in which to fill up your soul and make you more whole and to get you from obsessing on every statistic that this pandemic is throwing at you. Look, either we will survive or we won?t. That is the deal we make in this life, to see how long we will make it. But, in the end, well that?s the point, there is eventually an end. No need to rush it or to be maudlin or morose about it. Find the resilient button inside of you and reset it ? now.
4) Nature is the greatest healer ? While Nature might be using this pandemic to heal herself from the plague of humanity, for those of us who have not anthropomorphized the Coronavirus, think a Nature as the great healer rather than the great destroyer. Do you have a garden? Isn?t it time to make it ready for Spring? Oh, you are isolated in an apartment? Do you have a patio? Can you plant, or prune the herbs in the pots, fertilize the begonia, the geranium, or simply watch the Wisteria as it blossoms or the Bougainvillea. It?s the beginning of Spring, take a walk in a country road (walk to the pharmacist in the town over from you, if you?re in Barolo, walk to La Morra. You?re in Siena? Walk to Poderuccio. You get the idea? Take your dog with you, they are innocent creatures. Or ride your bike and go visit a farm, get some fresh milk or some aged Pecorino. Support your farmers, we need them much more then we need the politicians. Or just ?be? out in nature, walking on a path somewhere. This is part of your journey; you don?t need to curate it on Instagram right now. It can wait. Just ?be.?
Look, you aren?t alone. It might feel like it. This might be the moment when you want to panic. But know this ? we are in this together and this will pass. I?m not saying to go out and shake everyone?s hand and sneeze and breather all over everyone. No, be prudent, be sensible, and be careful, right now. But also have hope. This is a trying moment for humanity on Earth. But we will get through this together. And when we do their will be plenty of time for double appetizers, ridiculous amounts of wine flowing on your Instagram feed. But for now, just be in the joy of the moment - one that burns like an eternal flame. No virus can touch that.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W
|[03/08/2020, 22:27] ||Should you go to Italy right now?|
|Yesterday I had the idea to poll friends and colleagues in the wine trade, around the world, with the question, ?Should I go/come to Italy right now?? I received a dozen or so responses, all across the board. But within hours, their answers were rendered moot. Later that afternoon, Italy announced they were quarantining 16 million people on the north and restricting travel to and from the designated areas. |
So, I put on my creative thinkers? hat and pondered ?What kind of response would be appropriate, considering the circumstances and lightning fast speed this outbreak has been traveling at??
The answer: Travel, for now, to the Italy of your mind, for as of March 10, Italy is extending its strict coronavirus quarantine measures, which include a ban on public gatherings, to the entire country.
Find a book centered about Italy, the one you?ve always wanted to read, but never had time for. You can even pretend to be on the plane to Italy, only you will sleep in your bed, on your sheets, with your pillow, and wake up in the morning without jet lag or after having eaten a gloomy airplane meal.
Now pair the book with an Italian wine, say for instance:
Umberto Eco?s ?The Name of the Rose? with a wine from Piedmont. Bring out your old Barolo or Barbaresco, or if you have one, a Baratuciat or a Neretta, and drink it, and read away the hours.
Or, how about opening the pages of a beloved classic like ?On Persephone's Island: A Sicilian Journal? by Mary Taylor Simeti. Oh, how I?ve loved this book over my lifetime, and now is perfect to discover a new love for Sicily within the pages of her dazzling tome. Pair it with a heroic wine from Mt. Etna or a Cerasuolo di Vittoria. Either way, we will die like heroes or we will be victorious, as we conquer our fears and stay out of the way.
You get the idea? The important thing is to not further burden the Italian healthcare officials who are trying to contain and eradicate this developing pandemic.
Oh, I get it, you want to rush right in and hug and kiss your friends and family and you want it all to be alright and ok and right now, be over and fine. In that case, if you are still engaging in that kind of magical thinking, might I recommend a book like ?The First True Lie: A Novel? by Marina Mander.
This is a wonderful read, one which I would pair with a nice beaker of Alta Langhe Brut or Franciacorta. I read this book after I met Ms. Mander and had dinner with her and a mutual friend in a Sicilian trattoria in Milan. She?s a great talent and one that Americans (and Italians) should be reading more of, especially in these times. This book hits home right now.
If you want to stay in the vein of wine, how about some of those heavy books that you couldn?t wait to buy, but have yet to read, cover to cover? I have three to recommend:
Ian D?Agata?s twin companions, ?Native Wine Grapes of Italy,? and ?Italy?s Native Wine Grape Terroirs.? Open those big boys up and Read.Every.Word.
And another ?light reader,? Alessandro Masnaghetti?s ?Barolo MGA,? an encyclopedia of the grand wines of Barolo. You might not be able to travel freely in that area right now, but you can still armchair travel and keep your inner learning channel on. Open up that book and press on.
I had a friend tell me last night, over a glass of Rossese, ?This moment might be a time in which we are experiencing a fundamental change. Maybe we aren?t meant to be always up in the air, travel here and there. Maybe this is a time to think about why we travel, and how we should travel in the future.? Food for thought.
One of my friends wrote from France in answer to my initial question, ?This whole mess has been exponentially magnified in its spreading worldwide by our absolute bulimia in traveling. Having to checklist a thousand cities visited a year, low cost flights every weekend zigzagging the world, or long-haul flights at the frequency our grandparents had a neighborhood dance. What if this just taught us the lesson of staying put for a while? And really is our reality that grim (before coronavirus) that we need to always be escaping elsewhere to fill in a void??
Look, Italy doesn?t ?need? you to show up and save them. We all should be mindful of the resources we could take from other people who might not have anywhere else to go, and whose life might depend on getting timely medical attention. I?ve been in more ER rooms in hospitals in Italy (and France) than I care to claim, and I know those people care about people whose health and wellbeing has been compromised. I survived several automobile accidents, and the last one, in Sicily, could have taken me out. But, they ain?t gonna kill me that easily.
For now, do us all a favor, and find another time and another way to travel right this moment. Stay out of the way. Like one of my colleagues said in response to my initial question, if you care about Italian wine, ?keep Italy?s spirit alive and continue getting their wines on people?s dinner table.? Help our Italian friends, family and colleagues in the wine trade, right here, at home, in the USA. Go sell something and send the money back to Italy.
Should you go to Italy? Right now, maybe not. In the future, yes of course. And right now, you can plan that trip. Vinitaly has been rescheduled to mid-June. I?m planning on going, if the coast will be clear then. But right now, travel in a different way ? use your mind ? I?ve got to tell you, since I stopped the world and got off, it?s been a great ride. I don?t need to be like Zelig, everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Like my French friend said, is there some reason you ?need to always be escaping elsewhere to fill in a void??
Stay home ? hug and kiss and watch over your kids. Make yourself strong, beef up your immunities. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
wine blog + Italian wine blog + Italy W