Accattone and old Italian Cabernet

June 24, 2009

Above: The label on Gasparini’s Capo di Stato (Head of State) depicts Charles de Gaulle as Alexander the Great. The original owner of the estate, Count Loredan Gasparini, was the descendant of a Venetian patrician and doge. Imperialist leanings with your Cabernet, anyone? I used to drive through Venegazzù in the Trevisan hills where this wine is made nearly every week on my way to play gigs when I was a student in Italy in the early 90s.

Last night, following meetings and a business dinner in Dallas, I headed over to Italian Wine Guy’s house for a killer bottle of wine and one of my favorite films, Pasolini’s Accattone (1961)

In my view, Cabernet Sauvignon is a terribly misunderstood grape. In the U.S. and Italy people tend to drink it when it’s too young and too tannic (and as a result, too many modern-style winemakers trick it out to make more “drinkable” early on). This nearly 30-year-old beauty was stunning: lively acidity, truly silky tannin, and gorgeous red fruit. I haven’t tasted any recent vintages of Capo di Stato lately but this wine was made before the barrique craze took off in Italy (following Maurizio Zanella’s historic trip to California with Luigi Veronelli).

There was some irony in sipping such an extravagant bottle of wine and watching a film about a Roman small-time pimp, set in the squalor of the outskirts of Rome. Accattone was Pasolini’s first film and it launched his career as a leading and highly controversial filmmaker and intellectual.

In this sequence, Accattone, played by Franco Citti (remember him from The God Father II and III?), has accepted a challenge and bet that he can survive a dive from a bridge into the Tiber after consuming a large meal. The danger, as is perfectly clear to any Italian, is not the dive itself but rather the contact with water immediately after eating. Throughout the film — which is sometimes funny and ultimately very sad — Accattone (The Sponger) is constantly complaining about how hungry he is and devising schemes to get a free meal.

In other news…

Check out Tracie B’s Joly post over at Saignée, part of the 31 Days of Natural Wine series there. I’m at a Starbucks outside Waco right now catching up online. I’ve had a rough couple of days with work and other stuff. But knowing I’m going to see that lovely lady tonight is like sugar in my bitter coffee.

In other other news…

You can download a really cool new Italian DOC and DOCG map here.


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