Italian wine NEEDS YOU more than ever before. Help out with a virtual tasting.

Ever since graduate school, Italy has been my lifeline and my livelihood.

It started with a fellowship at the Italian Department at U.C.L.A. Then came my first non-service job as an Italian instructor and researcher. Later came a Fulbright and other grants and scholarships for study in Italy. And during four summers off from school, I made a living playing in a cover band in Belluno, Padua, and Venice.

After school, I shifted to commercial media when I got an assistant editor job at La Cucina Italiana in New York. That led to wine writing. That led to copywriting. That led to marketing consulting. More recent years brought a teaching position at the Slow Food University in Piedmont and a gig as an editor for Slow Wine.

For more than 25 years now, Italy, Italian culture, and Italian food and wine have helped me make a living.

And now Italy and Italian food and wine needs us more than ever before.

Just this morning, I received a press release from the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers outlining the Italian wine industry’s most urgent needs: debt relief, small business loans for wineries and restaurants, relaxed restrictions on retail sales and production limits, etc. It echoed an open letter to Governor Cuomo from a New York-based food and wine association that arrived last night. These were just two of the myriad pleas for help, support, and solidarity that have been flooding my my inbox.

We’re all facing similar challenges in this unprecedented health crisis.

That’s why I’m inviting you to open a bottle of Italian wine from your cellar and share it on social media. Tag me and I’ll share it, too.

My client Scarpa has just launched its “Scarpa Cellar Dive” program: open a bottle of Scarpa, share a video and they’ll replace the bottle.

My client Ethica Wines has asked me to lead a series of live tastings on its Instagram. Tomorrow (Wednesday, April 1) at 3 p.m EST (2 p.m. CST), I’ll tasting with Alberto Cordero from Cordero di Montezemolo (a super cool old-school estate that not enough folks in the U.S. know about).

And yesterday afternoon I shot my first virtual tasting video (below). My good friends at Folio Fine Wine partners generously sent me a care package of wines that Tracie and I have been enjoying over the few weeks of isolation (thank you Folio!). The Ricasoli 2015 Chianti Classico Colledilà Gran Selezione blew me away when I tasted it in Tuscany in January.

Buy Italian wine, drink Italian wine, order from your favorite retailer and/or restaurant (many states are allowing restaurants to sell wine with take-out orders). And if your finances don’t permit any of the above, open a bottle from your cellar and share the joy on social media (tag me and I’ll share it, too).

We can all use a little joy in our lives right now and Italian wine is a great way to find it.

Thanks for being here and thanks for supporting Italian wine.

Letter from Italy: “The day everything changed” by Giancarlo Gariglio.

Giancarlo Gariglio is the editor-in-chief of the Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of Italy, Slovenia, California, and Oregon. He lives in the town of Bra, where the Slow Food movement was founded in the late 1980s.

I was in America on February 21 when everything changed in Italy. That was when we became the first in Europe and the first outside of China to discover that the novel coronavirus was something more than the flu. It was something we had a read about in the papers, with a death rate of 1 percent. We tended to minimize the threat and even joke about it. Then everything changed in Italy. And it was immediately clear that despite our excellent public health system, it wasn’t going to be easy to face this disease.
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Taste Scarpa Barbera d’Asti with winemaker Silvio Trinchero and me at 10 a.m. CST

Today’s virtual tasting is going to feature Scarpa Barbera d’Asti and winemaker Silvio Trinchero.

Please join me live on Instagram @DoBianchi at 10 a.m. CST (Texas time) when Silvio and I will be discussing life in Piedmont during the health crisis as well open a bottle of 2015 Scarpa Barbera d’Asti CasaScarpa.

This is the second virtual tasting I’m leading with my clients and friends in the wine trade. I’ll be doing more next week.

Please join us! Evviva il vino italiano!

Taste Movia with Aleš Kristančič and me today at 11 a.m. CST @EthicaWines

At 11 a.m. CST today, I’ll be doing an live story with Aleš Kristančič of Movia on the @EthicaWines Instagram.

It’s the first of a series of virtual tastings that I’m leading with them. I hope you can join us.

Aleš and his family are great friends of mine and when I visited them in January of this year, we had a blast remembering when they brought my band Nous Non Plus to play a concert at the winery back in 2008 when we had a hit song in Slovenia (no joke!).

Please join us at 11 a.m. and please look out for more Ethica Wines tastings I’ll be doing.

See you shortly! We’ll be tasting four wines, including the Pinot Grigio Ambra.

Dispatch from Brescia: “I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of suffering.”

Above: a vineyard in Brescia province, a photo taken nearly a year ago to the day.

In what’s become a daily ritual, there’s a late afternoon-late night call to Italy when a couple of middle-aged wine professionals — one an American in Houston, the other an Italian in Brescia province — catch up on the ongoing health crisis in their respective cities.

Yesterday’s call was grimmer than most.

“I see the number of cases has actually begun to fall in Italy today,” said the American, noting that there was a drop, however small, in the number of new cases and victims with respect to the previous day’s reporting.

“But not in Brescia,” replied the Italian.

His words were echoed in a story this morning on the front page of the New York Times website: “Dip in Italy’s Cases Does Not Come Fast Enough for Swamped Hospitals.”

“In Brescia,” write the paper’s editors in a caption for the lead image, “hospitals have been reporting hundreds of new cases a day.” The photo that appears at the beginning of the article was taken in the intensive care unit of the Spedali Civili hospital in Brescia.

While the numbers are beginning to level off, just barely, in the rest of Italy, the situation in Brescia and neighboring Bergamo province is getting worse. Bergamo and the Italian region of Lombardy where Bergamo and Brescia are located are the epicenter of the ongoing health crisis.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a concentration of suffering so intense,” says
Dr. Intissar Sleiman in a video the man from Brescia shared with his American friend during their chat. She’s a Brescia medical professional on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic in Italy.

“We’re not used to losing so many people in such a short period of time,” she says as she holds back her tears.

The video left the American wine professional with tears streaming down his face. Just a few months ago, he was there in Brescia province visiting his Italian friend. He was supposed to be in Italy this week. How he wishes he could embrace his friend in Brescia right now! Magari!

The wine professional from Brescia and his partners are donating proceeds from the sale of one of their wines to a fund that supports the struggling Brescia hospital system.

Walter Speller wrote about it for this week.

G-d bless Brescia. G-d bless us all.

Letter from Italy: “I’m proud to be an Italian” by Paolo Cantele.

According to a report published just minutes ago by the Associated Press, “Italy, a country of 60 million, registered 2,978 deaths Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given that Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths a day since March 15, it’s likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead — in a country of 1.4 billion — when Thursday’s figures are released at day’s end.”

Above: Paolo Cantele, one of my best friends in the world and my client of many years, standing in front of his family’s winery in Guagnano in Lecce province. He calls me “Jar,” my nickname since I was a teenager.

Dear Jar,

It took me a little time to write you because, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t in the right mood for it.

Writing is supposed to be therapeutic. It’s meant to help you overcome you’re the fears and doubts that grip your brain even as your mind, despite its efforts to remain cool and collected, continues to focus on that damned list of infected and dead.
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Letter from Italy: “We will be reborn” by Angela Mion.

Angela Mion is a wine writer and sommelier who lives in Este in the Euganean Hills outside of Padua. She posts regularly for the popular Italian wine blog Intravino.

Above: in the place of weekly hours, a handwritten note in a restaurant in Este reads “everything will be okay” (photo by Angela Mion).

Close but faraway.

Italy doesn’t know what day it is today as it looks out onto the world from its windowsill, whether from home or the hospital.

We have never felt so equal. We are all being chased by the same invisible enemy that’s upending all of our lives.

An economy, probably in need of a rewrite, now seems a post-war economy.
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Letter from Italy: “We’ve been through two wars. We’re still here and we’re not giving up now” by Andrea Gori.

Sommelier and wine writer Andrea Gori is the current generation of a Florence restaurant legacy: Trattoria da Burde, one of the Renaissance city’s most beloved dining spots. “We’re hanging in there,” he wrote me when I asked him to write a post for the blog. “Italians are fantastic team players.” Earlier this week, in its ongoing effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, the Italian government ordered all restaurants, bars, and cafés to shutter.

Above: There are no lines this week at the famous Uffizi museum in Florence (photo by Elena Farinelli). All public gatherings have been banned in Italy until April 3.

Does 16 days seem like a long time to you? Or a short time? Just 16 days ago, we were counting our covers, ordering wine and meat, we were planning wine dinners. Covid-19 was already here and things had already slowed down as if a spell had been cast over the outskirts of the city where our restaurant is located. Things were slowing down for us but in downtown Florence, the tourist apocalypse had already taken shape three weeks ago. The initial reaction was one of pride enabled by the inability to accept that the entire world had turned its back on us — all at once.
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Letter from Italy: “Hopeful a better human race will emerge (and ‘Nutella Biscuits’)” by Giovanni Arcari.

Yesterday, in its ongoing efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Italian government issued a decree closing all businesses except supermarkets, pharmacies, and health care. The entire country has been under lockdown, with a near total ban on movement, since Tuesday. I’ve asked a number of my friends and colleagues there to share their experiences, feelings, hopes, and fears. Today, I’ve translated a letter from my best friend Giovanni Arcari, a winemaker in Brescia province.

Dear Jeremy,

Here in Brescia, the situation is intense. The hospitals are about to fall apart and the number of infections continues to rise. This is all attributable only to ourselves. We believe we know everything and we have become egotistical beyond measure, so much so that we are convinced that no one can be as intelligent as us. Today, we are facing the unknown and it’s beginning to permeate our consciousness aggressively. It’s something that only unexpected death can manage to create.
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Letter from Italy: “Not prayers but bottles” by Raffaella Guidi Federzoni.

A guest post today from one of my best friends in the Italian wine business, Raffaella Guidi Federzoni, who’s hunkered down with her family in Montalcino.

Above: unaware of the health crisis that surrounds them and threatens their stewards, the vines in Italy continue to grow (photo by Raffaella Guidi Federzoni).

Americans love Italians? Yes, they do. They love us very much, even too much sometimes, because we are funny, we know how to cook and how to live. They love us and forgive us for our shortcomings.
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