After Napa, another favorite “misunderstanding”: Zachary Sussman takes a fresh look at Franciacorta for SevenFiftyDaily.

Above: the Arcari + Danesi flagship vineyard on Mount Orfano on the southern edge of Franciacorta.

It was wonderful to read Zachary Sussman’s fresh take on Franciacorta for SevenFiftyDaily last week, “In Search of the New Franciacorta.”

Zachary, one of the brightest stars in the new generation of English-language wine writers (and a lovely man, btw), is arguably the first to take a closer look at the new wave of Franciacorta producers who have (not so) quietly begun to reshape the appellation. (Interested readers should also check out a series of posts by Walter Speller for, “Franciacorta – are unripe grapes really the key?” published in 2018 and “What’s Wrong with Franciacorta,” 2015.)

“Ever since the 1960s and ’70s,” writes Zachary, “when a well-financed cadre of winemaking estates set up shop in this hilly patch of Lombardy with the goal of transforming it into a powerhouse of premium sparkling wine, Franciacorta’s identity has revolved around a single imperative: to imitate Champagne.”

But “a small but growing cohort of winemakers… have made it their mission to carve out an alternative path…. [T]hey’re asking a simple yet revolutionary question: what would it mean to reimagine Franciacorta not as a ready-made style inspired by somewhere else, but as a singular expression of place?”

Reading Zachary’s excellent piece, it’s nearly impossible not to think of critical theorist Harold Bloom’s 1973 landmark book, The Anxiety of Influence. In his seminal work, the Yale scholar argues that some of the greatest titles of the Western Canon are the result of a reactionary or “antithetical” approach to the creative process. Dante viewed Virgil as his literary model and his allegorical guide while he was writing the Commedia, one could posit. And so his work can be interpreted as a “reaction” to Virgil and even Homer, the author who was the putative source of the Latin author’s “anxiety.”

Bloom calls this a “misreading” or misunderstanding of the text that can produce spectacular results (the term he uses is “poetic misprision”). After all, Dante’s Commedia, a “misreading” of his precursor Virgil, makes for some darn good reading.

It’s also nearly impossible not to think of another historic “favorite mistake” in the annals of western wine: California’s obsession with Burgundy and Bordeaux, two appellations that couldn’t be more climatically different from the Napa Valley where growers felt compelled to plant the same grapes that their favorite wineries grew. Analogously to what’s happening on the ground in Franciacorta today, a new wave of younger California winemakers (most of whom buy their grapes) have been trying to forge a new path for their wines over the last 15 years or so. Like their counterparts in Lombardy, they speak of a new quest to “express place” and “terroir” where their predecessors were blinded by the enodominance of France.

Hegel (via Marx) might have called French wine (in both cases) the “thesis.” The Italians’ and Californians’ “reaction” to the French wine model (their inspiration) could be called “antithesis.” And then, following the Hegelian dialectical model, the wines that result from this misunderstanding could be called the “synthesis.”

As Zachary notes, “this evolution continues to unfold”:

    the contours of an alternative Franciacorta paradigm are now coming into view. And at a time when authenticity has become the most valuable form of currency among the next generation of wine drinkers, the groundbreaking bottles that have emerged from this shift have recently started to claim their rightful place on progressive wine lists and retail shelves across the U.S.

I can’t recommend the article highly enough and not least of all because of Zachary’s superb writing. And beyond his immense and welcomed ability to render the technical nuances of the “classic method” into intelligible and elegant winespeak, he also features the wines and reflections of my close friends Giovanni and Nico of Arcari + Danesi.

As we all gear up for the sparkling onslaught of Christmas and New Year’s, we could all use a fresh take on Franciacorta and the many new wines that are finally making it to the U.S. Check out the article here.

Come jam with me: PARTY at our house this Sunday!

Tracie, Georgia, Lila Jane, and I will be opening our home to anyone who would like to join us this weekend for our Blow Out Hanukkah Party and Open Mic 2021.

There will be wine (bring your favorite bottle or beverage if you like), food (bring your favorite dish), and lots of great music.

For the adult open mic, there will be complete backline, plenty of guitars and keyboards.

And our backing band, wow, our backing band!

Grammy-award-winning bassist Tim Ruiz will be here (no joke). And Richard Cholakian, one of Houston’s go-to session drummers, will be on my Ludwig kit. And rounding out the lineup, I’ll be playing my beloved Telecaster.

And at some point, Katie White (above, vocals) and Lucky Garcia (bass) will be joining me for a miniset by our 80s cover band Biodynamic.

1 p.m. DOORS
2 p.m. KIDS OPEN MIC (this is something really fun, you’ll see)

Happy Hanukkah everyone and please ping me for address etc. I hope you will join. ANY AND ALL ARE WELCOME!

Roe v. Wade wasn’t for me. It was for the most vulnerable among us. That’s the thing that conservative judicial activists don’t get.

Image via Adobe Stock.

What a surreal experience this morning at the breakfast table explaining to our daughters, 8 and almost 10, that Roe v. Wade will soon be gone. They’re too young to understand the broader implications of yesterday’s arguments before the Supreme Court. But their lives and the lives of their fellow Americans will be affected by it in ways that, sadly, we all know too well.

But even more surreal was Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s comment yesterday during arguments that “women don’t have to parent if they don’t want to.” In her questions to the lawyers presenting their cases, she suggested that women who don’t want to parent can simply put their children up for adoption, an easy solution — in her mind — to a much more complicated issue than she can evidently imagine.

Was Barrett paying attention when her colleague Justice Sonia Sotomayor asked the following?

    When does the life of a woman and putting her at risk enter the calculus? Meaning, right now, forcing women who are poor — and that’s 75 percent of the population and much higher percentage of those women in Mississippi who elect abortions before viability — they are put at a tremendously greater risk of medical complications and ending their life. [It’s] 14 times greater to give birth to a child full term, than it is to have an abortion before viability.
    And now the state is saying to these women, we can choose not only to physically complicate your existence, put you at medical risk, make you poorer by the choice because we believe, what?

And that’s the thing that people like Barrett just can’t seem to wrap their minds around. Not everyone grew up in a picture-perfect, idealized white-bread world like hers. Not everyone in our country has the resources to ensure their reproductive health rights. Not everyone in our country has the means to allow them to choose not to parent.

Imagine a financially challenged white woman who lives in one of Houston’s depressed neighborhoods and already has children. Today in our state, unless she realized she’s carrying a child before six weeks into an unplanned pregnancy have passed, she would have to travel to another state to obtain an abortion. Given that it’s nearly impossible for her to do that, the natural outcome would be that she would have the baby. Can she simply decide not to parent the child? That’s where Barrett’s pie-in-the-sky argument falls apart. Not only would said American citizen have to risk her own health to deliver a child without the financial resources that Barrett enjoys. But she would also have no other choice than to parent a child for whom she doesn’t have financial resources to support.

Well, Barrett might say, she can simply put the child up for adoption. But think about for a second: is a woman living in poverty going to have the resources and the community support to start that process and take care of the child in the meantime? No, it’s not that simple. Nor is it that easy.

And that’s where Barrett and the anti-reproductive rights activists just don’t get it: not everyone in this country looks and lives like them.

Roe v. Wade wasn’t for people like Tracie and me who grew up with financial and health security. Roe v. Wade wasn’t for people like Tracie and me who have had unfettered access to health care and community support throughout our lives. Roe v. Wade was for the woman living with limited options and choices about how to care for her own body and how to provide for her children.

I was just a child when Roe v. Wade became the law of the land. Tracie wasn’t even born. Throughout the course of our lives, it has ensured reproductive health rights for women from all walks of life — and not just the privileged like Barrett.

I’m not “pro-abortion.” I’m pro-reproductive rights for all women. I pray — I believe in G-d and pray genuinely — that our daughters will never have to face such challenges. And it’s more likely than not, given that they are growing up with privilege, that they won’t.

Roe v. Wade wasn’t for me. It was for the most vulnerable among us. And now it’s gone. That’s an American tragedy.