Pomodoro crisis

Above: Tracie P and I have been thoroughly enjoying Chef Esteban’s housemade Tagliatelle with tomato sauce and housemade ricotta at Vino Vino in Austin. I think that Esteban could go a little lighter on the heat in the sauce (my only lament) but this is Texas after all.

Although Italy’s recently installed agricultural minister Giancarlo Galan (from Padua) claims there’s no crisis in the Italian wine industry (see his comments in our post today at VinoWire via Mr. Franco Ziliani’s blog), he is planning to convene a “task force” to address Italy’s tomato crisis — yes, tomato crisis.

The issue is not the sale of tomatoes in Italy (go figure) but rather fraud and counterfeit of Italian-grown tomatoes. The so-called “agropiracy” vehemently battled by Galan’s predecessor Luca Zaia.

Contemplating the Italian tomato crisis as I drank my tea early this morning, Aldo Cazzullo’s 2009 L’Italia di noantri. Come siamo diventati tutti meridionali (The Italy We [Southerners] Remember: How We All Became Southerners, Mondadori) came to mind.*

In it, he writes: Today, “Italians all eat the same things. Two generations ago in Piedmont, they used meat or butter to dress their food. Today, tomato is found in every sauce… The tomato has become a national symbol. If an Italian has a spot on his shirt, it’s a tomato spot.” (p. 43)

Leaving the racist and separatist (and even futurist) implications aside, I do think it’s interesting to note (probably to the surprise of many) that tomatoes were not widely consumed in Italy until the 1960s. I found hard proof of this when I researched my post on the origins of the name puttanesca.

There’s much to be said on this topic but, alas, my work duties call… I’ll leave you today with one of my all-time favorite scenes by one of my all-time favorite Italian actors, Alberto Sordi, in Un americano a Roma (An American in Rome, 1954). In the scene, he plays an Italian-American who claims that the food in America is better and better for you, drinking milk instead of wine. But in the end, you can imagine what happens. Note that the “macaroni” are NOT dressed with tomato. The year is 1954.

* The title of the book plays on the fact that the Roman inflection noantri for the first person plural has been commonly absorbed by the northern dialects (in the Piedmontese of the author’s grandparents, he writes, the first person plural was nuiautri).

Vinitaly observed from afar

Vinitaly went on without me this year. As much I was glad to spend some time at home this week, after already too much time on the road in 2010, I can’t conceal that I was disappointed not to attend this year. But I’ve been following a lot of truly great blogging from the fair. Here’s a round-up of some of the blogs I’ve been following so that I can get my virtual fair on…

Avvinare really took it up a notch with some great coverage of the tastings she attended. I really liked her post on the Franciacorta seminar (and highly recommend all of her posts from the fair).

I’m also dying to read Tom Hyland’s notes on the Franciacorta tasting but his not-yet-posted notes on a Vermentino Nero (!!!) are the ones keeping me on the edge of my seat and glued to my screen. He posted some first impressions here.

A lot of folks received fancy awards, including Eric Asimov who was given a Grandi Cru d’Italia prize for best foreign wine writer, as reported by the excellent blog Consumazione Obbligatoria.

Ale over at Montalcino Report posted about a prize given to his family’s importer Tony Terlato (and to other Italian American notables) by the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy. I grabbed that picture of Ale’s stand, above, where I taste every year, from Ale’s Facebook fan page.

I also read about Italian president Giorgio Napolitano’s historic visit to the fair over at the ANSA English-language feed and I translated some of Mr. Franco Ziliani’s thoughts about lame duck agriculture minister Luca Zaia’s braggadocio over at VinoWire.

And of course, Vinitaly wouldn’t be Vinitaly without at least one day of rain, as Ale reported, and some Miss Vinitaly watching by top sommelier Andrea Gori.

But the blogger that’s really been killing me has been Alfonso, who’s been “turning Visentin” without me!

Xe sempre l’ultimo giosso queo che imbriaga…

Champagne, Xerox, and Kleenex

antonomasia [ahn-TAH-noh-MAY-zee’ah], the use of a proper name to express a general idea, as in calling an orator a Cicero, a wise judge a Daniel (OED, online edition).

Above: An unforgettable bottle of 1996 Billecart-Salmon that I shared last year with Jayne and Jon at Spago in Beverly Hills. We weren’t celebrating anything. But we were being treated by a famous winemaker.

In this week’s semiotic treatment of Champagne, we neglected to address one of the most fascinating semiotic implications of the lemma Champagne (at least, one of the most fascinating to me).

The term Champagne is a wonderful example of the literary figure antonomasia, from the Greek ἀντί (anti, meaning instead or against) and ὄνομα (onoma, meaning name), whereby a proper name is used to denote a general idea, in this case, sparkling wine.

Above: A bottle of Bollinger that we popped to celebrate pulling the first mix from Nous Non Plus’s 2009 release Ménagerie. The track? “Bollinger” (click to listen)! A song about our favorite Champagne and official band beverage. (We are a “French” band, after all, n’est pas?)

Other examples that immediately come to mind: Xerox and Kleenex. Both are proper names, in fact, brand names, yet both have come to denote generic items, namely, photocopies and tissue paper.

Let’s face it: even though we wine professionals and enthusiasts strictly use the term (toponym and proper name) Champagne to denote sparkling wines sourced from the place and appellation, Champagne, 99% of the intelligent lifeforms in the world interpret it as any sparkling wine. In his 1953 editio princeps of With a Jug of Wine, for example, food and wine writer Morrison Wood casually and regularly makes reference to California champagne.

Above: A bottle of Initial by Anselme Selosse that Alfonso opened for me and Tracie B last year to celebrate my move to Texas. Perhaps more than any other, Selosse is the most coveted and illustrious brand of Champagne in the U.S. It’s not cheap but it’s worth every penny. Check out this great post, from earlier this year, by McDuff.

Just this weekend, I was reminded of this fact when Melvin C and I visited a Walmart in Orange, Texas in search of some Prosecco for Tracie B, and I was greeted by a “stack” (as we say in the biz) of André California Champagne (“the best selling brand of sparkling wine in the U.S.,” according to the Wiki).

Whatever you plan to drink tonight for your New Year’s celebration, Tracie B and I wish you and yours a happy, healthy, and serene 2010. Thanks for all the support and love in 2009!

Breaking news: this just in from Italy

Thanks are due to reader Elaine from Italy who identified the champagne-method Nerello Mascaelese by Murgo (Sicily).

Also just in from Italy…

According to the Agenzia Giornalistica Italia, when all is said and done, Italians will have spent Euro 2.7 billion on sausage (cotechino and zampone) and Italian sparkling wine (spumante). “Salmon, oysters, and caviar” were no match for the famed boiled sausages of Modena (both delicious, btw). Nor did Champagne, with a “a 66% drop in sales,” rival its Italian counterparts.

On that part, according to a press release issued by the Prosecco di Valdobbiadene e Conegliano Producers Association, Italian agriculture minister Luca Zaia sent 60 “3-liter Jeroboams” of Prosecco to the staff of the “national radio and television stations.”

An early celebration of his upcoming governorship of the Veneto, no doubt.

Happy new year, everyone, everywhere!

Zaia watch: Italy’s agriculture minister’s tenure much ado about nothing?

It’s already been a big week for Italy’s agriculture minister Luca Zaia, left (note the signature black tie and the green pocket square, both very powerful and provocative symbols for a public minister who’s role is to protect the best interests of the entire country).

His recent and controversial call to arms, exhorting Italians to drink only Italian sparkling wine on New Year’s eve, has been the subject of a tide of chatter in the Italian blogosphere. I agree with Franco when he writes that the self-proclaimed prince of Prosecco is a servant to self-serving provincialism and his “despotic” exhortation reeks of the same self-serving italianità that prevailed in another era in his country when the trains ran on time.

Zaia was also the subject of a wonderfully satiric but ultimately poignant post by the Italian Wine Guy, “The Mark of Zaia.” IWG’s insights are invaluable here and his overview tracing the trajectory of Zaia’s meteoric rise is as frightening it is revelatory.

But the biggest news to arrive from Zaialandia this week was the breaking however much anticipated story that he has received the nomination from separatist, secessionist, racist, and xenophobic political party Lega Nord (Northern League) as its candidate for soon-to-be vacant governorship of the region of the Veneto. He even has a shiny new Facebook fan page for his candidacy.

As Franco pointed out in a recent post, the news is good and bad: on one level, many observers, including those of us who sell and promote Italian wine abroad, will be happy to see the Venetophilic pol leave a position he had no business occupying in the first place (I’ve been told that Zaia started his professional career as a nightclub bouncer); on another level, the news is bad since, in the light of the fact that Zaia will probably win the election and become governor of the Veneto, he will be the leader of one of Italy’s richest and most important wine-producing regions (home to some of Italy’s most important exported wines, namely, Prosecco and Amarone).

The news inevitably fills me with sadness. Ultimately, Zaia’s tenure as the steward of Italian agriculture and the Italian wine industry, was the product of political posturing and maneuvering. An ambitious and able politician, Zaia clearly had set his sights on higher political office and when Berlusconi appointed him agriculture minister, it was not because Zaia was the best man for the job but rather as a political payback to the Lega Nord for their support in Berlusconi’s 2008 bid to reattain the prime minister’s office.

Photo courtesy Alexnews.

Sadly — for Italy, Italians, Italian winemakers, and foreign lovers and promoters of Italian wines — Zaia has presided over one of the greatest crises in the history of contemporary Italian winemaking. And it was all much ado about nothing.

His frequently updated blog has never even made note of the recent news that a new adulteration scandal has surfaced in Tuscany.

In Lombardy, there’s a self-effacing, ironical joke that the intellectuals tell about the peoples of northern Italy, based on a folkloric paradox, probably uttered by an old man on the streets of Milan not so many years ago: Rasista mi? Ma se l’è lü che l’è negher! [You’re calling] me a racist? But he’s the one who’s black! (In an essay he published after Berlusconi’s famous gaffe calling Obama “tan” following the 2008 elections, Umberto Eco cites this phrase as an example of northern Italians lack of self-awareness.)

I can’t help but be saddened to think that the Veneto (my beloved Veneto!) will be governed by a racist, xenophobic man who has asked Italians to boycott Chinese restaurants, to avoid eating pineapple, and to open only Italian bubbles on New Year’s eve (Prosecco perhaps?), a man would almost certainly tell the above joke without the self-effacing irony.

But for him to achieve such self-awareness and to grasp its irony would be like the teapot calling the kettle black.

Reaction to news of the new Amarone DOCG

jeremy parzen

Above: One of these things is not like the other things. One of these things just doesn’t belong here. Photo by Tracie B.

In the wake of the post by Franco and me yesterday at VinoWire reporting the Italian government’s approval of the new Amarone della Valpolicella and Recioto della Valpolicella DOCGs, the enoblogosphere is reeling with tweets, retweets, pings, and posts.

First and foremost, Italian Wine Guy reacted quickly with an update of his Best Italian DOCG List post.

I also saw a lot of responses to a group message I did from the VinoWire Facebook group: it seems there are a lot of people out there, studying for their Master Sommelier exams, who find this info extremely useful.

There were also a number of retweets from top sommeliers like Jonathan Honefenger of Tony’s in Houston and Master Sommelier Jesse Becker of Wine to Match.

Those of you who follow the Italian enoblogosphere may have noted an absence of reaction. It’s my sense that the move to create the DOCGs for Amarone and Recioto was more a gesture of vanity by producers than a marketing coup and really just the result of political back scratching by the inimitable agriculture minister Luca Zaia.

As wine writer Tom Hyland noted in his comment to our VinoWire post: “Let’s face it, Amarone is so famous that it doesn’t even need it. But given how many wines are now DOCG, it probably would have been embarrassing if it had never received this classification.”

You would think that Zaia and those who market Italian wines in the U.S. would wake up and smell the coffee: a definitive, officially sanctioned list of Italian appellations and detailed descriptions of regulations and production standards would be a no-brainer at this point. Americans love precision and they love technical details (California producers often write exact percentages of blends on the labels of their wines, for example). As it stands, Alfonso aka Italian Wine Guy’s list is the most comprehensive if not exhaustive list.

I understand why Italians don’t really care about the DOC and DOCG classification system at this point — especially in light of the recently implemented Common Market Organisation reforms. But in terms of marketing Italian wines to consumers in the U.S., an official list of DOCs and DOCGs would be an excellent tool for wine educators and wine professionals in this country (and would certainly help sales).

Dear minister Zaia, if you’re looking for a translator, I’m your man! (I even speak Trevigiano dialect!)

In other news…

There has also been a lot of reaction to my Tignanello post on Monday. I wanted to thank everyone for the comments: in the next day or so, I’ll do a post on what I think are the most interesting wines coming out of Tuscany these days. Please send me your comments, favorite appellations, thoughts, suggestions, by emailing me here.

In the comment section to the post, Cristiano pointed out rightly that “the father of the Tignanello is Giacomo Tachis, and not Renzo Cotarella.” (Renzo has overseen winemaking at Antinori for more than a quarter of a decade and was recently called the “father of Tignanello” by L’espresso writer Laura Rangoni.)

In other other news…

The photo above? Just for fun…

Mr. Zaia goes to Washington (and lets Montalcino down)


It’s seems like it was just yesterday that I was posting a sigh of relief that the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax, and Trade Bureau (TTB) was lifting its requirement of Italian government certification for Brunello di Montalcino imported to this country. Nearly every Italian news agency and feed (ANSA, Yahoo.it, etc.) had reposted agricultural minister Luca Zaia’s press release in which he announced — with cocksure nonchalance, I may add — that the requirement had been lifted following his successful meeting in Washington with TTB bureau head John Manfreda. Even Brunello producers association director Patrizio Cencioni issued a release praising minister Zaia and thanking him for a job well done. (You can read all of the press releases here.)

But it seems that minister Zaia was a little too quick to sing his own praises.

Late yesterday afternoon, another post hit the feed as the Italians were already sleeping: the TTB issued a press release in which stated plainly and clearly that the agricultural minister had falsely represented the agreement negotiated in the minister’s meeting with Manfreda last week. Despite claims otherwise, states the document, Italian government certification is still required. And it will continue to be required, according to the document, until the Italian government presents the Siena prosecutor’s final report on the investigation (the so-called “Operation Mixed Wine” inquiry into the suspected adulteration of Brunello and other Tuscan wines).


I spoke this morning to Brunello producer Fabrizio Bindocci of Il Poggione in Sant’Angelo in Colle and he told me that he and Il Poggione’s owner Leopoldo Franceschi were left dumbstruck when they read the news of the TTB’s clarification. “Maybe Zaia met with the doorman, not the TTB administrator,” Fabrizio wondered out loud with classic Tuscan wit. (Fabrizio’s son Alessandro has posted the entire series of press releases at his blog Montalcino Report.) “We feel that certification should be required and it should continue to be required,” said Fabrizio, whose wine has been certified by an independent Norwegian risk management firm since 2003, long before the controversy began.


In his post this morning, Franco published an image of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio and asked: “Just for the sake of clarity, can somebody — in Montalcino, Rome, or Treviso — help us to understand what’s going on?” (Minister Zaia hails from Treviso.) And making reference to Zaia’s bid to become governor of the Veneto (his home region), Franco asks rhetorically, “is it so hard to understand that it’s not possible and it makes no sense to run an electoral campaign in the Veneto using the supposed great success obtained in the [minister’s] campaign in Montalcino?”

@Mr. Zaia you are no James Stewart: if you need an interpreter the next time you head to Washington, feel free to give me a call!

Looking back at Brunello

On Friday, Franco and I posted the news that the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Tax, and Trade Bureau (TTB) has lifted the requirement of Italian government certification for Brunello di Montalcino imported to the U.S. The lift was agreed after Italian agricultural minister Luca Zaia met with bureau administrator John Manfreda last week.

I am happy to observe that despite the hail of the controversy (like the early-fall hail of 2008, that damaged but did not destroy the harvest; see above), Brunello and its producers — large and small — have emerged intact and healthy.

Looking back at the Brunello affair, in the glow of the Montalcino sunset, I am convinced of two things: that the controversy was a healthy wake-up call for producers (and that, ironically, it helped to raise positive awareness of the appellation abroad); and that, in many ways, it shed light on the importance and strength of the Italian appellation system.

At the same time, I believe the TTB’s response to the controversy was a trans-Atlantic misunderstanding: as the dearly departed Teobaldo Cappellano pointed out in the Brunello debate a year ago, the DOC/G system was created to protect the producers and the territory, not the consumer. And as much as I loath the thought of a Brunello producer “cutting” his Sangiovese with another grape variety, the transgression is a victimless crime as it relates to the consumer. If the consumer likes the wine and is satisfied with the perceived price-quality ratio, s/he is not molested by this misdeed.

The real victims were those producers who remained and continue to remain true to the territory and the territory itself. If unscrupulous enologists and calculating landowners did indeed adulterate their wines, and in doing so, co-opted and misappropriated an appellation tied to the land and the people who created it, therein lies the injury inflicted on their compatriots.

The saddest legacy of the Brunello controversy is the ill will it has created in the microcosm of Italian wine. On the same day that the Italian agricultural ministry issued a statement announcing the requirement for certification had been lifted, Franco (above, right; mentor, friend, and my partner in VinoWire) posted about a “cease and desist” letter he received from a lawyer representing a commercial winery. (For the record, Franco expunged any reference to the winery and wine in his post and I am merely speculating that the winery in question produces Brunello.) But the letter did not refer to something Franco had written: it referred to comments made by his readers! In one of the comments in question, a reader had made a remark about the unusual dark color of the wine by said winery. Has it really come to this? Do behemoth, commercial producers of Brunello really feel so threatened by a comment thread on a blog? Has it really come to this? Must a blogger feel threatened for merely allowing his readers to express their opinions in the comment thread of a blog?

Today, few who reside beyond Montalcino remember that Montalcino and its environs were one of the Germans’s last battlegrounds as they retreated in the face of the Allied advance in the last year of the Second World War. Even before the war, Montalcino and Tuscany were centers of the “red” resistance to fascist rule. Looking back on the whole Brunello affair, I was reminded of a little red book given to me by the mother of three brothers in Montalcino, whom I’ve known well since 1989. The locally published tome is by political activist, later partisan, and then local politician Carlo Sorbellini (above): Le mie memorie (My Memories). His descriptions of the years leading up to the war and the sacrifices made by him and his compatriot partisans during the German occupation are among the most humbly written and most moving narratives I have ever read. Many people shed their blood and gave their lives to protect this unique place: the same mountainous geography that made it a German stronghold also made it a great place to make fine wine after the war. And this Unesco-protected valley is among the most beautiful places in the world.

One thing I know to be true: I heart Brunello and I heart the people that lived, loved, and died to make it what it is today.

The (de)criminalization of alcohol in Italy

Above: Italy’s agricultural minister Luca Zaia is widely recognized as having an ego the size of the world’s largest panettone. Note the signature green pocket square (a nod to his separatist, xenophobic Northern League party) and his black tie (I’ll leave the semiotic analysis to the reader but fascism is always in the eye of the beholder).

“Incredible but true: I am in agreement with Zaia!” This was the title of a Facebook note that Franco posted yesterday after the ever-patriotic (patriotic, that is, if you consider the Veneto a sovereign state) Italian agricultural minister was quoted in a magazine interview as saying that Italy’s new “zero-tolerance” drunk driving law is excessive. Currently, “0.2 grams per liter of blood” is the legal limit, making the consumption of even one glass of wine illegal if you get behind the wheel. In the interview, published in Italy’s leading consumer automotive magazine, Quattro Ruote, Zaia proposed that it should be raised to 0.5 grams so that drivers will be allowed to have 2 glasses of wine as long as the alcohol content of the wine does not exceed 11%, in other words, as minister Zaia put it, as long as drivers are not consuming “structured” wines. (In a subsequently posted FB note, Franco suggested that minister Zaia take a full-immersion sommelier course: “where,” asked Franco, throwing his hands in the virtual FB air, “does he find wines with 11% alcohol content?”)

Zaia should know something about drinking and driving: although you won’t find it in his ill-translated and prolix Wikipedia entry, the forty-something minister used to work as a nightclub bouncer, or so I have been told by someone who knows him well.

I’ve been known to indulge in some of my own Zaia bashing, but today I’ll leave it to the experts.

And not that it’s any of my business, but Zaia is right: the new legal limit, which went into effect earlier this year and has been rigorously enforced with myriad check points, has led to senseless arrests and steep fines for food and wine writers, like Andrea dal Cero who lost his license in May after attending a spumante presentation in Emilia-Romagna.

Above: Just days before the event was to be held, organizers of the Taurasi Wine Fair canceled the convention, citing recent legislation that makes it illegal to serve alcohol at public events in town squares.

Italy (like Europe in general) has been wrestling with its relationship with alcohol and in some cases, the results have been disastrous, like the recent cancellation of one of the most important wine festivals in southern Italy, the Taurasi Wine Fair. See this editorial posted at VinoWire by the author of Divino Scrivere, Luigi Metropoli.

I sure hope that Italian pols will look closely and carefully at current legislation and I’m glad that Zaia is taking this issue seriously. After all, can you imagine how many folks will lose their licenses as they roll out of Vinitaly next April? If you’ve ever been caught in the post-fair traffic of the trade show (where there are never any traffic police to guide traffic and avoid grid lock), you get the picture.

Pineapple prohibited: “xenofoodism” in Italy

Above: Self-described “gastronomad” Vittorio Castellani published this vignette today on the Acquabuona blog. He grabbed the cartoon from somewhere on the internet and rewrote the caption: “Now that they have finally closed all those kebab houses, sushi bars, and Indian restaurants, we can start going out to dinner again!” The “Lucca” on the back of the man’s shirt refers to the city in Tuscany, where “ethnic food” was recently prohibited by the local government.

As I sit here translating La cucina veneziana (Venetian Cuisine) for the Oronzo Editions (New York) series of regional Italian cookbooks (to be released this spring), I feel a certain if modest confidence of my status as a purveyor of Italian gastronomic culture. After all, since my early days writing for La cucina italiana, I have been involved in Italian wine and food writing and marketing for more than a decade.

In the light of my interest in (and love and passion for) Italian culinary tradition, I feel duty-bound to share some disconcerting news that arrived today from Italy (ironically, in the same GoogleReader page of feeds informing me that Prime Minister Berlusconi has called Italy’s 1938 adoption of the Race Laws “a deep wound”): according to a report published on Tuesday in the daily La Repubblica, the township of Lucca has officially banned any “ethnic” food vendors from its historic center. The text of the new law, passed by local legislators, is as follows (reported by La Repubblica):

    “In order to safeguard culinary tradition and [Lucca’s] unique architectural, structural, cultural, and historic character and urban design, the commissioning of administrative operations is not allowed when such activities are ascribable to different ethnicities” (translation mine).

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case of what “gastronomad” Vittorio Castellani has called Italian “xenofoodism” in a comment he left on the newspaper’s website and on the wall of his FB group The Couscous Clan (even though his neologism, etymologically, doesn’t really mean fear of the food of others; it actually means the fetishization of foreign foods, if you read the suffix -ism in the sense that it is used in sexism or racism, “Forming nouns with the sense ‘belief in the superiority of one over another'” [OED Online Edition]; xenophagophobia or xenoanorexia are more apt terms, the latter being particularly fitting in my opinion).

Above: Italy’s agriculture minister Luca Zaia has adopted nationalist and protectionist policies with racist undertones since his installment in April 2008.

In fact, since Berlusconi took office last April and installed Luca Zaia as agriculture minister, the Italian government has adopted an official policy of agricultural protectionism with racist undertones. As Christmas approached last year, Zaia published this astounding declaration of karpophobia in his blog: “Zampone [pig trotter stuffed with head cheese, boiled], cotecchino [pork sausage encased in pork rind, boiled], and lentils will surely not be missing at the Zaia residence! No pineapple, but fruit from our [Italian] farms…”

In November, he asked his readers: “How do you select restaurants for your dinners and lunches? Have you ever visited Chinese restaurants or restaurants with other ethnic origins?” Thirty-one readers responded to this racially charged survey.

Above: Traditional “tramezzini” (literally, “in-betweens”) at Sant’Ambroeus in New York, the North American satellite of the Milanese classic cafè, opened in 1936. I highly recommend it in NYC or Italy.

What business do I have posting my editorial on Italian or even Lucchese “ethnic food” policies? None, aside from my knowledge that Italian cuisine became a universal gastronomic language thanks to its absorption and incorporation of foreign culinary traditions. Dried pasta? From the Arab world (yes, the Arab world). Tomatoes? From the New World. Corn for Zaia’s beloved polenta (I love polenta, too, btw)? From the New World. Stockfish (baccalà)? From Norway.

No polenta e baccalà? I can’t imagine a world without it nor do I know of another country where these two foodstuffs could be brought together so deliciously!

I’ll say no more but leave you with food for thought. At the height of fascism, Italian “purist” linguists created the world tramezzino to purge the Italian language of the English sandwich (used to denote what were called tea sandwiches in Britain). Where would the world be today without the Italians amelioration of English cooking? If only Italian winemakers would develop a fear of foreign grape varieties!

Thank you for reading this far…


Se il mare fosse de tocio
e i monti de polenta
oh mamma che tociade,
polenta e baccalà.
Perché non m’ami più?

If the sea were made of gravy
and the mountains of polenta
oh mama, what sops!
polenta and baccalà.
Why don’t you love me anymore?

— from “La Mula de Parenzo,” traditional folksong of the Veneto and Friuli

High Noon in Montalcino

Italians love westerns. At least, they used to. In the 1960s and 70s, the Italian film industry produced some of the wild west’s most enduring iconography.

A showdown of epic proportions is beginning to take shape in Montalcino, as the Brunello producers association braces for an October 27 “once-and-for-all” vote on whether or not appellation regulations will be changed to allow for the use of grapes other than Sangiovese. See this report that Franco and I published today at VinoWire.

The stakes got higher yesterday when 149 producers signed off on an open letter to separatist agricultural minister Luca Zaia and supporter of “more elastic” regulations informing him that they don’t want to change current legislation. My friend Alessandro Bindocci broke news of the letter over at his blog Montalcino Report.

Zaia recently began blogging, but before you add his feed to your Google reader, be sure to read this post by Italian Wine Guy.

Me? I’m glued to my seat and my keyboard. Stay tuned for high drama from Montalcino…