Above: Ignazio Giovine (center), owner and winemaker at L’armangia (Canelli), was one of the most interesting and nicest persons I met (and spoke to at length) in Asti earlier this month. As the interpreter that day, I wasn’t able to take photos and so I lifted this photo from the website of a Danish wine seller (left), Carsten Rex, who reports detailed tasting notes in English for Ignazio’s wines.
One of the disadvantages I faced on my recent trip to Asti for Barbera Meeting was that I simultaneously juggled the roles of meta-blogger, wrangler, and interpreter. As a result, there were many instances I wasn’t able to take photos and notes for my own blog. Another odd — surreal in certain cases — was that as interpreter for the group and for many of the winemakers we visited, I was not only gagged but also forced to be the literal mouthpiece verbatim for nearly all of the winemakers and enologists we visited. At one point, after a exhausting session of translating a heated debate during one of the conferences, Jon said to me, “wow, man, that was surreal: there you were, speaking to the crowd, saying things I know that you completely disagree with.”
My job there was to convey, transmit, relay the message, without any editorializing (for the record, I was trained formally as an interpreter when I worked for the Italian Mission to the United Nations back in 2003 and served as the Italian foreign minister’s personal interpreter; during that time, I translated for Kofi Annan and Colin Powell, just to name a few).
I wish I would have been able to spend more time with winemaker Ignazio Giovine (above) of L’armangia. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of his wines but I can say that I’m a personal fan of the man. Following our visit, he and I had a chance to chat at the evening tasting, where we had a fascinating conversation about wine, partisans (both his and his wife’s parents opposed the fascists), and the current state of Italian politics today. His wines are very well made, although they do not appeal to me personally. But I am a big believer that the objective quality of a wine is also derived from the people who make it (above and beyond my personal tastes). Ignazio’s radical opposition to the use of native yeast stirred some controversy between him and the group. (And my now good friend Thor, whose writing I admire greatly, wrote an interesting and polemical piece on our visit with Ignazio.) I think I did a fine job of translating for Ignazio but I wish I could have been a participant and observer that day instead of interpreter.
According to a report that I recently synopiszed over at VinoWire, the German and Swiss markets grew or remained stable for the sale of Italian wines in 2009, while Britain and the U.S. dropped significantly (not in volume but in gross sales).
Ignazio makes his wines almost exclusively for the “Nordic” market, as it were, like the Dane above, who is a big fan of Ignazio’s wines. Wasn’t it Sheryl Crow who said, “if it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad…”
If Ignazio makes wines that his customers like, is that so wrong? Let me play the devil’s advocate and say: de gustibus non est disputandum. In other words, if it makes you happy…