Contempt: Italissima “big mess” at Vinexpo in Bordeaux

Above: Produced by Carlo Ponti, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 Contempt, based on Alberto Moravia’s novel, Il Disprezzo, was an Italian and French co-production. The results were decidedly better than last week’s Italissima at Vinexpo in Bordeaux.

It would have been enough that Franco rightly chastised his French counterpart and longtime sparring partner Michel Bettane for the selection of Bordeaux-inspired Italian wines to be presented in Bettane’s seminars at last week’s Italissima, a would-be Italian wine fair held in Bordeaux in conjunction with but with no official affiliation to Vinexpo, the annual see-and-be-seen French wine trade fair.

“Instead of calling it, ‘Italissima, the Italy that you love,’” wrote Franco, “they should have called it ‘Italissima, the Italy that they love,” where the ‘they’ stands for presumptuous French critics who do not know the real Italy of wine. In fact, they don’t understand it at all and they wouldn’t understand even if they seriously tried to study it…”

Wouldn’t the French be offended, asked one commenter to Franco’s post rhetorically, if Italians were to present French wines made with Italian varieties as authentically French?

But making matters worse was a slew of reports and blog posts about how Italissima participants were left sadly disappointed by lackluster turnout and poor organization. One Italian blogger called it a pasticciaccio brutto, borrowing from the title of Gadda’s 1957 novel Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulano written in Roman dialect (That Awful Mess on Via Merulana).

Adding insult to injury, the French daily Sud Ouest called the event the “pavillion de la discorde,” a “monster,” and a case of “parasitism,” where the organizers were trying illicitly trying to piggy back on the exposure of Vinexpo just 200 meters down the road.

There was an even a report of wine destined for Italissima being hidden by Vinexpo organizers and a claim by the Italissima organizer that she had been attacked by one of the Vinexpo organizers.

Some of the greatest movies ever made were the French and Italian co-productions of the 1960s, like Godard’s Contempt. Maybe it’s best if dreamers of French and Italian partnership stick to movie-making.

Italy Day 8: prosciutto porn

Above: Brigitte Bardot probably wouldn’t approve but Céline Dijon posed with the prosciutti at my friend Marco Fantinel’s prosciuttificio in San Daniele del Friuli.

My trotter shots may not be as hot as the one posted the other day by Alice, the pork Picassos often published by Winnie, the ones found in harangues on ham by Eric, or the onslaught of slaughtered swine over at the amazing blog Culatello. But I can’t resist publishing these photos, taken in April when our band Nous Non Plus stopped for a visit at my friend Marco Fantinel’s prosciuttificio, Testa e Molinaro in San Daniele del Friuli, on our way back into Italy following our Slovenian appearances.

Not as sweet as its cousin down in Parma or as smoky as the Speck found in South Tyrol, Prosciutto di San Daniele has a distinctive slightly more piquant flavor that sets it apart in the pork realm and it is distinguished by the presence of the bone and hoof, traditionally not removed in San Daniele. Of all of Italy’s cured pig thighs (remember Prosciutto di Carpegna and Prosciutto Toscano, and there are many others as well), Prosciutto di San Daniele is arguably the most terroir-driven of the bunch. As for all prosciutti, naturally occurring enzymes “ferment” the pig thigh from within, trigged by changes in temperature. But in the case of Prosciutto di San Daniele, gentle sea breeze from the nearby Adriatic will cause the flavor profile of the prosciutto to vary with each “vintage,” making it more sweet or spicy depending on the timing of warmer and cooler weather. Pig thighs, salt, and terroir: these are the only three ingredients in Prosciutto di San Daniele, according to the lab-coat technicians who oversee the wondrous transformation of pig flesh into delicate prosciutto.

Above: Salting the pig thighs with coarse salt.

Above: The different aging rooms at the prosciuttificio simulate the changes in the seasons but the last phase of the process requires the naturally occurring breeze. The technicians literally open the windows and let Nature do her work.

Above: Following our visit to the prosciuttificio, Marco treated the band to lunch, including an obligatory antipasto of perfectly sliced Prosciutto di San Daniele.

Above: The show stopper at lunch was gnocchi dressed in Montasio cheese and prosciutto, served in a nest of fried Montasio (a frico) and paired with Marco’s excellent Tazzelenghe, an indigenous grape of Friuli — tannic, powerful, and fantastic with the rich dish.