At a recent dinner at his excellent restaurant Frasca in Udine province (Friuli), Valter Scarbolo treated a group of American interior designers and publishers to a vertical tasting of his Pinot Grigio.
It was incredible to see the looks on their faces as they tasted through the wines (stretching back to the mid-00s): however sophisticated and worldly this group of high-end travelers, none had ever experienced Pinot Grigio beyond the commercially produced brands that line the shelves of America’s supermarkets (you know the usual suspects).
I was reminded of this marvelous scene yesterday when one of Houston’s leading wine professionals and italophile wine lovers posted the photo, above, of “Prosecco-flavored” soda yesterday on his Facebook.
Like Valter’s guests, my Houston-based colleague’s reaction was that of astonishment, although in this case, the surprise was inverted.
“Words fail me,” he wrote in the caption.
He couldn’t have had a more apt response (in my view). His words echo a classic Veneto dialectal expression: no go paroe (non ho parole in Italian), in other words, I have no words.
Apropos for the very reason that my Veneto fellows will surely utter the same when they learn of the existence of Prosecco-flavored soda. After all, Prosecco isn’t just a favorite wine of Venetians and the Veneti: it is a synecdoche for the Veneto people.
Like Pinot Grigio, Prosecco has transcended its origins to become an über-brand in the U.S. and the greater anglophone world. Transcendence might imply amelioration, depending on your point of view (not mine). But anyone who’s ever tasted traditional-style Prosecco will surely recognize the disconnect between the citrus, salty, and slightly bitter flavors of wines made from Glera (formerly known as Prosecco) grapes and the notion of sweet-tasting Prosecco soda.
They say that in antiquity amphoras were filled with marzipan before they were shipped from the Middle East to the West in order to protect the earthenware vessels from breaking. According to the legend, by the time they would arrive, the recipients would mistake the contents for the container. The sweet paste, they believed, was the conveyed and not the conveyer.
When wines and wine brands travel across that vast misunderstanding otherwise known as the Atlantic Ocean, their continuity with their origins is often diminished.
As an adoptive Texan and a lover of our HEB and Central Market stores, it pains me to write that it’s gone too far.
I can’t imagine what it tastes like and I have no intention of ever drawing this beverage to my lips. But I seriously doubt that it tastes like Prosecco or anything even vaguely reminiscent of Glera that has been transformed into wine. And more importantly, why and how on earth did someone conceive of a soda that “tastes like” wine? I could write a dissertation on the wrong contained therein.
No, as much as I love the HEB where Tracie P and I shop nearly every day, this screaming lack of enogastronomic responsibility runs counter to a corporate ethos that purports, ostensibly, to nourish my community.
In fact, this
colonization rape of Italian viticulture egregiously harms our community by propagating mis- and disinformation.
I, who stand atop a Prosecco grape harvest crate, cannot stand for this.
And so, I implore you, o readers of this blog: do not buy or consume Central Market’s Prosecco-flavored Italian organic soda.
(But if you’re reading this, you probably wouldn’t drink it anyway.)