Following my post on La Terra Trema the other day, a number of friends and fellow bloggers have written me and shared their experiences.
Above: “Rebellious Land and Critical Wine.” Alice took this photo of the Skinny Food Writer on their way to Villa Matterana (click the image to read her post on Vini Veri).
My friend Wolgang Weber also weighed in with a piece he wrote on Critical Wine for the April 2007 issue of Wine and Spirits. The piece wasn’t available online and so I’ve cut and paste below:
Terra e libertà/Critical wine
by Wolfgang M. Weber
My friend’s Vespa was parked at the end of a long street near a pile of scooters forced up against a crumbly brick wall covered in graffiti. I pulled my scooter in as well and walked over to an entryway in the wall that opened on to a worn path. The massive stone bulwarks of the 18th century Forte Prenestino spread out before me, and there was a large red banner with Terra e libertà/Critical wine stitched in white cloth over a black pitchfork. This was a wine tasting?
Forte Prenestino is a centro sociale, most commonly a large abandoned structure like a train station, factory, or, as in the case of the Forte, a former military structure, that has been taken over by squatters who often make creative use of the space. The Italian government turns a blind eye if the squat is used to host public concerts, film screenings or lectures; add public wine tastings to that list now that Critical Wine is on the scene.
Critical Wine aims to raise awareness of the potential ills of globalization—industrial agriculture and food production, environmental concerns, GMOs, international economic inequality—through public wine “happenings” where they bring together artisan wine producers from up and down Italy. Most notable, perhaps, is the insistence that participating wine producers work with indigenous grape varieties, practice organic or sustainable viticulture and show wines that exhibit some sense of their particular territorio. A sign displayed on the wall behind the producers from Basilicata read “Autoctono [indigenous]; No barrique; No cabernet; No merlot; No syrah.”
The organization originally formed in Milan with the help of Italian gastronome/intellectual Luigi Veronelli (who died in 2004), and staged its first wine event at Verona’s La Chimica centro sociali concurrent with Vinitaly in April of 2003. Similar events have since taken place in many of Italy’s major cities, attracting large numbers of Italians from all walks of life. Critical Wine returns again this year to Verona from April 3–4.
Slow Food International, also an Italian organization, is similar to Critical Wine insofar as it aims to protect and promote smaller, regional food and wine artisans against a rising tide of internationalized tastes and global production. Critical Wine, however, is probably better described as a collective promoting worldwide social change through a focus on mankind’s relationship to food and wine.
That’s a lofty goal for any organization, let alone one built around staging wine tastings with a quasi-socialist bent. But then the cultivation and consumption of wine and food in western culture has always had powerful connotations. Whether it’s the relationship between a grower/winemaker and the plot of earth he tends, or a group of people coming together at table to share a meal, wine and food possess the ability to inspire a reflection beyond the narrow parameters of everyday life. Can that save the world? Who knows, but it’s worth trying.