The future of Italian wine…

Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes.
Song of Solomon 2:15

english name marche marchesIn his predictions for “The Wine Stories That Will Shape 2016” published by PUNCH a few weeks ago, Jon Bonné included Italy… but only as an afterthought.

Actually, Italy is an after-afterthought in his view of the international vinous landscape.

“Greece,” he wrote in the last paragraph, “after years of being patted on the head, will rise from its economic muddle to become a serious contender to Spain and Italy.”

That’s all the space he devoted to one of the world’s largest producers of fine wine.

In the light of Italy’s uninteresting status in the global enonarrative, you might think that it’s time for all of us Italian wine bloggers to hang it up and call it a day.

But respectfully, I beg to differ with Mr. Bonné.

And my appetite for compelling Italian wine stories has already been whetted in 2016 by Mr. Cevola’s post yesterday, “What Will the Next Ten Years Hold for Italian Wine in America?” Whether you’re an Italian wine lover here in the U.S. or an Italian winemaker, I highly recommend it to you.

But the story that sticks in my mind this morning as I prepare to board a flight for Rome (my first trip of many this year) doesn’t have anything to do with indigenous or exogenous grape varieties, organic and biodynamic grape growing, or the world’s expanding and unquenchable thirst for Italian bubbles.

No, it has to do with the birth of a child in Verdicchio country (one of the coolest undiscovered categories in Italian wine today in my view).

In November of last year, a child was born to our dear friends Silvia and Alessandro in Maiolati Spontini (Ancona province in the Marches or Marche as the region is known in Italian).

Even in a time when consumption of wine is declining rapidly in Italy; a time when 70 per cent of Italian wine is exported and it’s virtually impossible to survive as a winemaker unless you are selling most of your products in foreign markets; a time when Italy’s economic and cultural challenges are so great that the nation seems locked in an unshakable malaise; a time when the country’s negative birthrate continues to dip even lower

Even in these trying times for Italian winemakers, there are those among them who look to the future with hope in their hearts and minds.

In the Marches, when a child is born, family friends fasten decorations like the swan above to the parents’ house. They won’t remove them until the newborn’s family invites them all over for a celebratory meal. It’s a local tradition, as Silvia explained in an email she sent me a few weeks ago.

Biodynamic farmers, Silvia and Alessandro grow grapes for wine and olives for oil without the use of chemicals or additives. They advocate for wholesome living and sustainable consumption. They count their carbon footprints down to the weight of the bottles they ship their wines in.

They’re confident that there is a future in what they are doing.

And from where I stand, there couldn’t be a more compelling story than their newborn son Cesare and the tender grapes they grow.

Happy 2016, everyone! Thanks for being here. I’m leaving today for Rome and then heading to Salento with a group of some of my favorite writers. I’ll see you on the other side… Stay tuned for more and new boring stories from Italian wine country.

2 thoughts on “The future of Italian wine…

  1. Jeremy:
    Your comment “…it’s virtually impossible to survive as a winemaker unless you are selling most of your products in foreign markets;” sounds worse than you mean it, right? It’s not bad to be selling your product in foreign (read the U.S.) markets, and it seems most Italian winemakers I’ve met at Vinitaly and elsewhere would be quite happy to lock up a lucrative “foreign market.”
    Enjoy the trip, I really appreciate your writing about Italian wine and all that accompanies it.
    Auguri e Felice Anno Nuovo…

    • Happy new year, Dave! Things are pretty tough right now for Italian winemakers and Italians in general. Their recovery from the crisis, as for all Europeans, has been much slower than ours. The fact that young Italians are drinking less and less wine makes the situation even more challenging. The bottom line is that only those who are shipping their wines abroad are staying afloat. I don’t think it’s “bad” to sell wine in foreign markets, of course. I’m just reporting, anecdotally, what I’ve heard so many — too many — Italian winemakers say.

      Hope to get to taste with you soon! Buon anno!

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