Congratulations to my friend Laura Castelletti, the new mayor of Brescia! In a right wing northern Italy, she and her city are a glimmer of leftist hope.

De humanis illustribus…

Congratulations to my longtime friend Laura Castelletti on her win as the new mayor of Brescia!

Her city is part of Italy’s northern industrial corridor, a network of metropoles that stretches from Turin to Venice.

In recent decades, those cities, once hubs for labor unions and progressive movements, have increasingly shifted toward the right. Parties like the Northern League (now called the League for Salvini Premier, a reference to its leader, the autocratic, xenophobic homophobic, and Russophile Matteo Salvini) have long dominated local politics.

Historically, Brescia has had both conservative and progressive governments. But it has remained a center for leftist thought and policy. Today, its historic downtown is known as the “Stalingrad” of Italy, one of the last bulwarks of progressivism in an increasingly “post-Fascist” Italy (last year, when Giorgia Meloni was elected as Italy’s prime minister, she was widely called the country’s “first post-fascist leader” and “first hard-right leader”).

For the last 13 years, Brescia has been my home away from home and Laura has been a warm and generous friend. I couldn’t be more thrilled to see her achieve this long-desired goal. My beloved Brescia couldn’t be in better hands.

Evviva Brescia e i bresciani! Evviva la sinistra!

Long live Brescia and the Brescians! Long live the Left!

Robert Camuto’s wonderful profile of Darrell Corti for Wine Spectator, in case you missed it.

More than any others, two people have been the inspiration for my career: my dissertation advisor Luigi Ballerini and Darrell Corti.

While Luigi gave me the academic skills and rigor to fulfill my scholarly curiosity, Darrell showed me how that passion for inquiry could be balanced with making a living in the food and wine world.

Every time I’ve had the opportunity to interact with Darrell, it’s been nothing less than a wholly exhilarating gastronomic and intellectual experience.

That’s Darrell last year when he came to speak at the Taste of Italy trade fair in Houston.

In case you missed it, be sure to check out Robert Camuto’s profile of Darrell for Wine Spectator, “The Wizard of All,” published earlier this week and free to all.

Have a great weekend! Thanks for being here.

The tale of a social media influencer: Imp of the Perverse.

Above: Alicia Lini, right, with my longtime friend and social media influencer, Giovanni Contrada, aka Imp of the Perverse.

When Italy first went into lockdown mode in March 2020, my longtime friend and fashion designer Giovanni Contrada (above, left) was living in Milan where he was building his Imp of the Perverse label and brand.

The boredom of the closures led him to start documenting his (at first modest) culinary adventures in Italy’s fashion and culture capital. What started with handful of simpatico videos on TikTok, where Giovanni would interact with owners of neighborhood cafés and restaurants, soon blossomed into an increasing number of likes and shares. And before long, that number started to grow — exponentially.

When he called me at the end of the year, he told me, “dude, I’m huge on TikTok.” And he wasn’t kidding.

He already had close to one million followers at the time. Today, he has 1.5 million followers — yes, one and a half million.

He also has an agent and scores of requests for product placements and endorsements. And his fashion line has exploded as well.

When Giovanni’s unique line of jackets and suits first took off, he was a favorite among the glitterati crowd. Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Etheridge were among the first celebrities to wear his clothes. Remember when Melissa Etheridge performed at the Grammys during her battle with cancer in 2005? She was wearing a Giovanni jacket.

As Giovanni was rising in the fashion world, he would often dress our band Nous Non Plus for our shows. Over the years, he’s even designed a few special pieces that he’s gifted to me (including “The Jar” hoodie). When I was up for a prize in Milan some years ago, he dressed me for the awards ceremony.

Last week, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet another dear friend and longtime client of mine, Alicia Lini. On Thursday morning, we sat down with Giovanni for breakfast at this fantastic Italian bakery and café on Sunset Blvd. called Ceci’s (everything was great, the erbazzone exceptional).

Click here to see the TikTok they made together. Click here for the Instagram. Giovanni also posted a wonderful clip of him enjoying Alicia’s traditional balsamic vinegar.

It was one of the ages. But that’s no surprise. Giovanni has always been such a loving and generous friend to me, a big brother who has comforted me in my worst times and shared my joy in my best.

Giovanni, I love you. Thanks for carving out an hour of your morning for us. I’ll never forget that chilly overcast day in LA as long as I live.

If you’re wondering where the handle “Imp of the Perverse” came from, look no further than Edgar Allen Poe.

Italian wine world mourns loss of Lorenzo Corino, natural wine pioneer and esteemed scientist.

De humanis illustribus…

The following obituary by Filippo Larganà has been excerpted and translated from the popular Piedmont-focused wine, food, and agropolitics blog Sapori del Piemonte. The photo comes from the Maliosa winery website. Lorenzo Corino’s Maliosa estate in Maremma, Tuscany, was where he put his theories on natural wine and organic viticulture to work. Corino — a towering figure of Italian viticulture, writer, researcher, and a “fierce advocate” for natural wine — died this week at age 74.

    Lorenzo Corino was born in the hills of Costiglie d’Asti. Immediately after receiving his degree in agriculture, he was hired by [Italy’s prestigious] National Research Council, became a scientist, and then was appointed as director of the Asti campus of the Institute for Viticultural Research at Conegliano Veneto. He was later named director of the Enological Research Center in Asti where he would oversee countless research and viticultural projects. He died after a long illness on November 4, 2021.
    He was one of the leading figures of Piedmontese and Italian wine. Those who knew him often spoke of him a rigorous scientist who loved his work, who loved science and his land… Some called him a dreamer, an indefatigable utopian.
    Corino was a fierce advocate for natural wine. He created a website especially to share his definition of natural wine and he developed a vinification method today known as the “Corino method.”

Leading wine writer and vineyard consultant Maurizio Gily remembered him on his blog as “my maestro.”

Corino, wrote Gily, was “a gentle, passionate, and meticulous man who was generous with his time. He was a Piedmontese through and through and he never wavered from his sense of right and wrong — no matter what the cost… For his entire life, he was guided by his vision for ethical viticulture and farming practices that would have the least impact on the land.”

Never one to shy from controversy, Corino was also an active writer and blogger and he regularly translated his work into English. Visit his English-language blog here.

See also this profile of Corino on the Raw Wine website.