The (de)criminalization of alcohol in Italy

September 1, 2009

Above: Italy’s agricultural minister Luca Zaia is widely recognized as having an ego the size of the world’s largest panettone. Note the signature green pocket square (a nod to his separatist, xenophobic Northern League party) and his black tie (I’ll leave the semiotic analysis to the reader but fascism is always in the eye of the beholder).

“Incredible but true: I am in agreement with Zaia!” This was the title of a Facebook note that Franco posted yesterday after the ever-patriotic (patriotic, that is, if you consider the Veneto a sovereign state) Italian agricultural minister was quoted in a magazine interview as saying that Italy’s new “zero-tolerance” drunk driving law is excessive. Currently, “0.2 grams per liter of blood” is the legal limit, making the consumption of even one glass of wine illegal if you get behind the wheel. In the interview, published in Italy’s leading consumer automotive magazine, Quattro Ruote, Zaia proposed that it should be raised to 0.5 grams so that drivers will be allowed to have 2 glasses of wine as long as the alcohol content of the wine does not exceed 11%, in other words, as minister Zaia put it, as long as drivers are not consuming “structured” wines. (In a subsequently posted FB note, Franco suggested that minister Zaia take a full-immersion sommelier course: “where,” asked Franco, throwing his hands in the virtual FB air, “does he find wines with 11% alcohol content?”)

Zaia should know something about drinking and driving: although you won’t find it in his ill-translated and prolix Wikipedia entry, the forty-something minister used to work as a nightclub bouncer, or so I have been told by someone who knows him well.

I’ve been known to indulge in some of my own Zaia bashing, but today I’ll leave it to the experts.

And not that it’s any of my business, but Zaia is right: the new legal limit, which went into effect earlier this year and has been rigorously enforced with myriad check points, has led to senseless arrests and steep fines for food and wine writers, like Andrea dal Cero who lost his license in May after attending a spumante presentation in Emilia-Romagna.

Above: Just days before the event was to be held, organizers of the Taurasi Wine Fair canceled the convention, citing recent legislation that makes it illegal to serve alcohol at public events in town squares.

Italy (like Europe in general) has been wrestling with its relationship with alcohol and in some cases, the results have been disastrous, like the recent cancellation of one of the most important wine festivals in southern Italy, the Taurasi Wine Fair. See this editorial posted at VinoWire by the author of Divino Scrivere, Luigi Metropoli.

I sure hope that Italian pols will look closely and carefully at current legislation and I’m glad that Zaia is taking this issue seriously. After all, can you imagine how many folks will lose their licenses as they roll out of Vinitaly next April? If you’ve ever been caught in the post-fair traffic of the trade show (where there are never any traffic police to guide traffic and avoid grid lock), you get the picture.


Memories of Baldo Cappellano

February 21, 2009

Above: Teobaldo Cappellano in his cellar (photo courtesy of Polaner).

I met Teobaldo Cappellano on a number of occasions and enjoyed his wines immensely. He was a staunch, vocal defender of traditional winemaking and his Barolo was aged in large, old-oak casks. He fought tirelessly against the homogenization and over-commercialization of wine and was a steadfast opponent of the use of international grape varieties in Italian wine. His uncle, a pharmacist, was the creator Barolo Chinato, and Cappellano’s chinato was widely considered the best. It was a treat to get to taste with him over the last few years at Vini Veri and I felt honored to report on his contribution to the Brunello Debate in October 2008. If you speak Italian (and even if you don’t), I encourage you to watch the archived stream of the debate at Franco’s blog (just visit the blog and you’ll find it embedded to the right). His cadenced authority is matched only by his emboldened passion.

In his post today at Vocativo, Luigi Metropoli reminded us of Baldo’s motto: io evolvo all’indietro, “I evolve backwards.”

The world of wine has lost one of its great rabbis — if not the greatest.

Today, the blogosphere is flooded with tributes and memories of Baldo, as he was known. I’ve collected and translated some passages below.

The world of wine — and not just Piedmontese wine and not just the Barolo and Langa community (which he represented with authority) — is in mourning today for the sudden and cruel passing of Teobaldo Cappellano. He was a tireless activist and an advocate of lost causes — causes even more worthy for the very fact they were lost — because when you know that you have no chance to prevail, defending your beliefs is even more righteous.
—Franco Ziliani, Vino al Vino

Langa and the entire world of Italian wine are orphans today. Everything will be more complicated now that destiny has shown us high noon.
—Marco Arturi, Porthos

One of those gentle giants, long and weedy, he is winemaker, jokester, philosopher.
—Alice Feiring

The last of the Mohicans.
—Gigi Padovani

Barolo has died.
—Consumazione obbligatoria

Someone like Baldo Cappellano cannot die.
—Divino Scrivere

He was a winemaker philosopher.
—acquablog


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