Sexy girls and sommeliers: an Italian recipe for controversy

Anyone who has ever been to Italy (and especially anyone who’s ever watched an Italian primetime variety show) knows that sexy girls often appear there in the strangest places.

The models are called veline (a word that doesn’t come from velo or veil but rather the French vélin, akin to vellum, i.e. fine parchment obtained from calves’s skins; it was first used in its current meaning in the late 80s on the show Striscia la notizia where, by metonym, it was used to denote the models who presented cue cards, called veline in Italian editorial parlance, to the show’s stars).

The Italian Sommelier Association’s (AIS) use of a velina (left) in one of its promotional campaigns stirred controversy late last year (December 27) when one of Italy’s top wine bloggers, Alessandro Morichetti, pointed out that the model is holding her glass incorrectly. The story was picked up on Monday of last week by Luciano Ferraro, a blogger for one of Italy’s leading newspapers, the Corriere della Sera. “The veline sommeliers have arrived,” he wrote.

Later in the day, in a post entitled “AIS, Good Taste, and Blow-Up Dolls,” Laura Rangoni, blogger for one of Italy’s leading glossy magazines, L’Espresso, wrote that she was offended by the campaign’s sexual and body-image implications, saying that she was going to cancel her membership in the body (no pun intended). The “good taste” of the association had sunk to new lows, she wrote, especially when the campaign centered around the slogan: good taste: either you have it or you don’t (playing on the assonance between the second personal singular of the verb avere, hai, and the association’s acronym AIS).

By Thursday, a spokesperson for the AIS issued a press release in which he reproached Morichetti for posting false information and Rangoni and Ferraro for alleged sloppy journalism.

It’s enough to drive you to drink!

Another AIS controversy unfolded late last year when the body ended its longstanding relationship with top Italian wine blogger Franco Ziliani, who, for more than three years, curated a recurring “WineWebNews” column for the association’s site, a monthly round up of wine blogging from Italy and around the world. It enjoyed a wide following in the Italian enoblogosphere, in part because it offered readers a view beyond Italy (Franco synopsized and translated salient quotes from English-language blogs). As southern Italian wine blogger Luciano Pignataro observed, the move came after the AIS hired ex-Gambero Rosso editor Daniele Cernilli as its head of marketing. (De gustibus non est disputandum.)

“An Aristotelian syllogism could be applicable in this case,” wrote Luciano. “Cernilli is named as director of marketing. Cernilli detests Franco Ziliani. Cernilli rubs out Franco Ziliani.”

Inspired by a tide of appeals from readers, Franco has relaunched the column on his own blog.

My goodness… It’s enough to drive you to drink… and blog…

Taurasi, a guest post from Naples (and a vertical of Taurasi tomorrow in LA)

I’ve been doing my homework, getting ready to present a mini-vertical of Taurasi by Struzziero tomorrow, Friday, and Saturday nights at Sotto in Los Angeles (where I curate the wine list). Yesterday, I reached out to my friend Marina Alaimo who works with top Southern Italian wine blogger and journalist Luciano Pignataro in Naples. Here’s what she sent me. Buona lettura!

Dear Jeremy,

In the attached photo, you’ll see old plantings of Aglianico Taurasino. This type of training method is called starzete: it’s a type of high trellis, with four long canes. It allowed the farmers to grow vegetables and other crops below the vines and to bind the canes to trees. As a result, the farmer could use the available land to its greatest potential by employing integrated farming. Furthermore, the starzete training system guaranteed an abundant crop of grapes. As you know, in the past, grape growers aimed for quantity. I’ve also sent you a photo of the Castello di Taurasi, symbol of the appellation.