Accattone and old Italian Cabernet

Above: The label on Gasparini’s Capo di Stato (Head of State) depicts Charles de Gaulle as Alexander the Great. The original owner of the estate, Count Loredan Gasparini, was the descendant of a Venetian patrician and doge. Imperialist leanings with your Cabernet, anyone? I used to drive through Venegazzù in the Trevisan hills where this wine is made nearly every week on my way to play gigs when I was a student in Italy in the early 90s.

Last night, following meetings and a business dinner in Dallas, I headed over to Italian Wine Guy’s house for a killer bottle of wine and one of my favorite films, Pasolini’s Accattone (1961)

In my view, Cabernet Sauvignon is a terribly misunderstood grape. In the U.S. and Italy people tend to drink it when it’s too young and too tannic (and as a result, too many modern-style winemakers trick it out to make more “drinkable” early on). This nearly 30-year-old beauty was stunning: lively acidity, truly silky tannin, and gorgeous red fruit. I haven’t tasted any recent vintages of Capo di Stato lately but this wine was made before the barrique craze took off in Italy (following Maurizio Zanella’s historic trip to California with Luigi Veronelli).

There was some irony in sipping such an extravagant bottle of wine and watching a film about a Roman small-time pimp, set in the squalor of the outskirts of Rome. Accattone was Pasolini’s first film and it launched his career as a leading and highly controversial filmmaker and intellectual.

In this sequence, Accattone, played by Franco Citti (remember him from The God Father II and III?), has accepted a challenge and bet that he can survive a dive from a bridge into the Tiber after consuming a large meal. The danger, as is perfectly clear to any Italian, is not the dive itself but rather the contact with water immediately after eating. Throughout the film — which is sometimes funny and ultimately very sad — Accattone (The Sponger) is constantly complaining about how hungry he is and devising schemes to get a free meal.

In other news…

Check out Tracie B’s Joly post over at Saignée, part of the 31 Days of Natural Wine series there. I’m at a Starbucks outside Waco right now catching up online. I’ve had a rough couple of days with work and other stuff. But knowing I’m going to see that lovely lady tonight is like sugar in my bitter coffee.

In other other news…

You can download a really cool new Italian DOC and DOCG map here.

Americanata: Mondavi in Italy

From the “no go paroe” department…

big_gulpAs much as Italians generally like Americans and the U.S. of A., they also love to make fun of us. They even have a word for it, americanata: the word (a noun) is used disparagingly to describe Americans’s tendency toward the grandiose, the overblown, exaggeration, bad taste, and kitsch. A classic if banal example of an americanata would be the Big Gulp. According to Wikipedia, the Big Gulp was introduced by 7-Eleven in 1980 and in its largest size, contains 64 fluid ounces of soda pop. Is it humanly possible to drink 64 ounces of Coke in one serving? That’s a lot of corn syrup. The Big Gulp is clearly an americanata.

tiziana nenezicThere is an entire genre of commentary on Americans and their americanate in Italian journalism. Vittorio Zucconi writes about the U.S. from an Italian perspective for the Italian national daily La Repubblica and is perhaps the most famous chronicler of americanate. There is even a blog called Americanata, authored by an Italian writer living in the U.S. Tiziana Nenezic has published two books: How to Survive New Yorkers, the Tale of a Woman Who Managed to Do So (Maybe) and Love in the Times of Globalization.

Over the weekend, Franco and I reported on a new and disturbing wine industry partnership that represents another step in globalization’s seemingly unstoppable march of progress: the behemoth Cantina di Soave has become the exclusive distributor of mammoth Constellation Brands in Italy and will begin to market and sell “new world products of excellence” like Mondavi.

Do Italians really need another barriqued and oaky, overly extracted, jammy, hyperalcoholic Merlot? From California? I fear that this merger does not bode well for those of us who love Italy for its mosaic of indigenous grapes and who crave food-friendly wines made in the traditional style (wines for which no new oak has been used, no artificial concentration has been employed, and wines that express grape and place and people). It will only foster the continued Coca-Colization of the Italian palate. I can’t think of a bigger americanata.

I’m going to get down off of my soap box now but before I do, I invite you to watch the following Coca Cola commercial that aired recently in Italy. In the spot, a girl named Giulia from Pisa says, “lately everyone’s been talking about [the economic] crisis.” But she’s an optimist because she likes “simple things.” She eats pizza instead of sushi, a sandwich with salami instead of caviar. She likes to stay home and eat with her family instead of going to “gala dinners.” The spot ends with a message from Coca Cola, la felicità a tavola non va mai in crisi: “happiness at the table is never in crisis.”

Now watch the parody. In the original version, the girl has an Italianized Tuscan accent in the voice over. In the parody, she has a strong Tuscan accent (the use of dialect and dialectal accents is important and very Pasolinian here, btw). Bear with me if you don’t speak Italian: it’s worth it for the images.

No go paroe, I am speechless, as they say in the Veneto.

(Thanks Ale for sending me the “Real Giulia Commercial”!)