“Thank you Northern League, thank you minister Zaia.”

Historically and traditionally, Tuscany is one of Italy’s “red” states. And “red” in this case, does not denote “republican” but rather “communist.” (Emilia-Romagna is Italy’s other traditionally “red” region.)

So it came as something of a surprise to many when Montalcino residents draped their village with the following slogan on the occasion of Agricutlure minister Luca Zaia’s press conference last month, where he announced the “resolution” of the Brunello crisis: “Thank you Northern League, thank you minister Zaia.” That’s Zaia, pictured left, in his “I saved Brunello” press photo. Note the green pocket square — a symbol of the Northern League — and his black tie, a powerful and ideologically charged statement in a region where many still remember the thuggery of Mussolini’s camicie nere or black shirts.

Italy’s separatist Northern League is a secessionist, xenophobic political movement, led by anti-Italian, racist Umberto Bossi. Bossi, pictured left, recently caused a furor in Italy when he began flipping off the Italian national anthem. He has also said he believes the Italian flag should be used as toilet paper. The humor in the video below may be lost on some of you who don’t speak Italian but watch it anyway. You’ll notice Zaia in the front row at one of Bossi’s speeches. The Lega is part of prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s current center-right coalition and when Berlusconi returned to power in May 2008, he made Zaia agricultural minister (no doubt, payback to the Lega for its support).

In nearly every one of Zaia’s press releases and statements on the Brunello controversy, he has been quick to accuse Italy’s center-left coalition, led by Romano Prodi, of inaction and ultimately has laid blame on his predecessor for the current crisis (whereby a local investigation of Brunello producers suspected of adulterating their wines has led to a U.S. block of imports from Montalcino).

So it must have come as a great surprise to Montalcino’s neighbors up in Montepulciano when they learned Friday that the U.S. Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has now blocked imports of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. According to a report published by my friend Mitch Frank over at The Wine Spectator, the TTB made the move after receiving no response to requests for information on the current investigation of Vino Nobile producers (who are also suspected of adulterating their wine).

In the meantime, Zaia has been working to improve perception of Italian wine abroad by authorizing the bag-in-box packaging of DOC wine. I guess he thinks that Sangiovese will be easier to market in a box. He just needs to remember to open the mail from America first…

Nice going, Zaia! Thank you Northern League and thank you Minister Zaia!

Italian Wine Guy did this fantastic post on Zaia in July. I only wish Zaia could speak English well enough to understand the paronomastic parody!

I’m not a fan of Wikipedia but this entry on the Lega Nord is informative.

9 thoughts on ““Thank you Northern League, thank you minister Zaia.”

  1. That’s because these Lega people are the real “terroni”. In Venetian (and Veneto too) slang the word “teron” has nothing to do with a person coming from South Italy, is just indicating a “bifolco” a person behaving badly with no respect of the others; a barbarian. These people that now use that word with disdain to the others but they are the real barbarians. They spit su Roma and then they are attached to Roma’s money money like ticks. Isn’t funny to see Mr. Zaia now down in Sicily pretending to harvest the chard. at Donnafugata?

  2. so montepulciano thought it could hide in shadows of its frate’ brunello?

    love the video–i recognize all kinds of colorful sign language from the signore–my favorite is the “c’ha fatto un un culo cosi'” and then there’s the napoletano…

    speriamo che passi tutto questo con una buona soluzione–e piu importante, vino superiore.

  3. Thanks to everyone for stopping by 2bianchi. I was a little hesitant to post this but am glad that I’m not the only one out there who’s fed up with Zaia’s arrogance.

    Terry, it’s bad times in Italy these days, but it’s nothing new… Zaia has really taken it too far, however…

    Adrian, it is Benigni at the end ot he video: the other guy is Massimo Troisi and the film is Non ci resta che piangere.

    Paolo, welcome to Do Bianchi… It’s remarkable to think about how people suffered to create a unified Italy and how the Lega now spits on it… The thought of Zaia picking chardonnay in Sicily is HILARIOUS!!! thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    Alfonso, the black tie is no coincidence… a powerful and in my opinion obscene statement…

    Tracie B., at least Italian know how to make fun of themselves… it’s one of the great things about living there, no? That even in the face of darkness, you can find something to laugh about… That segment from You Blob shows just how ridiculous they are. The part that really bugs me is the Romani Prodi pig (Adrian, that should speak to you too!).

    thanks for stopping by!

  4. Dottore J:
    This is a great post, with tons of information about so muchof what’s happening with Brunello and the political scene.
    The movie title is so apt. Sometimes we laugh because we can’t cry anymore.
    Parts of the video is so funny it’s scary.
    You’ll be in the midst of this in Tuscany.
    Buon viaggio.

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