Special thanks to Alice Feiring for bringing this text to my attention. It comes from a speech that the legendary food and wine writer, editor, publisher, activist, and — yes — anarchist Luigi Veronelli gave in Reggio Emilia in 2004. Translation mine. Click the links below to read about the anarchists and political activists he mentions.
I want to explain to the world why Lambrusco is the only wine of freedom.
I can explain it because I know them all well: Freedom and Freedomésse, Spartacus, Lenin, Emma “the Red,” Solidarity and Solidaritésse, Communisty, Revolutionée. Each and every one of them christened with Lambrusco.
In the people’s social centers, purposely built as an affront to local churches, the bubbly red sauce of grapes grown in Reggio Emilia or Modena streamed downed the faces of those kids. They were the children of socialists and anarchists. Using a spoon in the place of an aspergillum, they would say: “I christen you Freedom.”
Not names inspired by mythology but rather heavy names, strong names laden with meaning: Reclus, Élisée, Jenner,* Louise, Giordano Bruno, Juarès. Names that make you a grown up at birth. “I christen you Equality.”
Fascism made a massacre of them. Like beasts, the fascists even tore up their birth certificates. Communisty was reduced to Nisty.
That sauce came from a living product, rich with aromas of the land. It was effervescent and red, even black in the bottle. The stagnant, stale, still water of the baptismal font paled in comparison. Those little churches looked up to the heavens. Inside, the people’s noses were in the air, their thoughts directed elsewhere. In our social centers, we kept our feet on the ground and we made sure our centers were low and wide. The bigger they were, the more women and men could fit in. Our social centers were their proletarian paradise.
Lambrusco has been around since the dawn of time. Since Romulus and Remus. A wild, uncontrollable, rebel grape. Never easy to handle, it had to be treated with respect. Not just Lambrusco but Lambrusca as well. The anarchist women on Via Santa Croce,** with their lavallières dangling from their necks as sign of emancipation, loved it.
The old anarchists remembered proudly: “I was christened with Lambrusco.”
Just try to find another wine like this, anywhere in the world! A wine that knows how to wash down antifascist tortelli and cappelletti so well. A wine that makes you want to get up from the table and sing. Just try to find one but I’ll be raising a glass of Lambrusco for you.
Reggio Emilia 2004
* I believe but am not certain that Veronelli uses “Jenner” to refer to Gennaro Rubino.
** The offices of the anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova were located on Via Santa Croce in Milan.