Barolo, the “sexiest” wine? Eric Asimov mistranslated by Italian news wire

My inbox greeted me this morning with a message of alarm and disbelief from my friend, top Italian wine blogger, Franco Ziliani:

“The Italian press decided to give the following title to an article about Eric Asimov’s recent and excellent articles on Barolo in The New York Times: ‘According to Americans, Barolo is the sexiest of all wines: it makes you wait just like a beautiful woman [does].’”

In the article, published by one of Italy’s most respected dailies, La Stampa, journalist Roberto Fiori erroneously reports that Eric, writing for The New York Times, calls Barolo “the sexiest wine in the world.”

In Franco’s post on this rigmarole, he points out — among other things — that:

a) Eric never used the word “sexy” (he used the words “seductive” and “sensuous”);


b) Fiori also incorrectly translates Eric’s “Burgundy” as “Bordeaux” (yet another instance of sloppy journalism).

Here’s a link to Fiori’s article.

The article in question was just one of a slew of reports that appeared today in the Italian papers, all based on a news flash released by AGI (Agenzia Giornalistica Italiana or “Italian Journalistic Agency,” similar to AP or Reuters):

“The sexiest wine in the world? Barolo, according to The New York Times. Especially when one has the time, patience, and opportunity to age the wine for at least ten years, because only in this manner will it become ‘austere, mature, and sensual.’ These are the words of Eric Asimov, official wine critic for the American daily.”

Evidently, neither the AGI reporter nor Fiori took the time to verify what Eric had actually written.

Adding insult to injury, Fiori writes that his readers should take “satisfaction” in the fact that “The New York Times has acquired a taste for Barolo: just one week ago [The Times published] a long article that listed Italy’s many ills but cited the noble wine of the Langhe as one of its few positive things” (the article to which he is referring was actually published — another instance of sloppy journalism — more than a month ago: Ian Fisher’s “In a Funk, Italy Sings an Aria of Disappointment,” December 13, 2007). Good news, he says, “for the 10,000,000 bottles of the 2004 vintage, on the market since January 1.”

I’m only reporting the facts and will spare you my editorial. But I am reminded of what Alessandra Stanley wrote in The Times some years back a propos the Italian press corps and the then Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: “the Italian press got the prime minister it deserves” (“A Virtuoso At Playing The Press In Italy,” August 21, 2003). Seems that things haven’t changed much since then…

2 thoughts on “Barolo, the “sexiest” wine? Eric Asimov mistranslated by Italian news wire

  1. Ms. Stanley was right and probably will always be right. And this is a country where the journalists are a self-defined breed apart with strict licensing and guild memberships and all the rest of the neo-medieval structures that protect them from the public, if not the masterly influence of Italy’s many pezzi grossi. (Big shots.)

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