Raise a glass for Luigi Veronelli

Above: I furtively managed to make a scan of Veronelli’s autograph when I visited the Terlato Wines International Tangley Oaks mansion earlier this year.

Luigi Veronelli, “intellectual, writer, liberatarian, literally the inventor of wine journalism in Italy,” wrote Italy’s top wine blogger Mr. Franco Ziliani this morning on his new blog Le Millle Bolle, raising a glass of traditional method sparkling wine to remember the architect of the Italian food and wine renaissance on the sixth anniversary of his passing.

Regrettably, very little of Veronelli’s writing has been translated into English (aside from what I’ve translated on my blog, where he appears often).

It’s difficult for the solely Anglophone lovers of Italian food and wine to gauge the reach and scope of Veronelli’s legacy (would Eataly have been possible — even conceivable — without him?).

Check out this amazing video, from 1975, when Veronelli was 49 years old and had yet to publish his landmark catalog of the wines of Italy (1983). It was posted in the comment thread of Mr. Ziliani’s post by the brilliant Giovanni Arcari, one of my favorite Italian winemakers and a good friend (look for Giovanni in the Franciacorta pavilion at Vinitaly this year and he will BLOW YOUR minds with the wines he makes and pours).

In it, he demonstrates how to make spaghetti alla chitarra. Italian is not required for viewing but the Pasolinian implications of the subtle dialectal inflections will not be lost on the Italophones among us.

Please join Tracie P and me in raising a glass tonight to this truly epic hero and sine qua non of contemporary Italian food and wine.

Veronelli’s handwriting, Bartolo Mascarello’s backward thinking, and the “triumph” of barrique

You may remember a post I did not long after I launched my blog on Luigi Veronelli as Poseidon and a Trident of New Oak (and Eric the Red’s subsequent post). In that post, I translated a passage from Luigi Veronelli’s landmark 1983 Catalog of the Wines of Italy.

In my never-ending quest to apply the tools of textual bibliography* to wine writing, I chomped at the bit when I came across two subsequent editions of Veronelli’s almanac of Italian wine. After breaking away from the pack on a tour of the Tangley Oaks manor, where Terlato Wines International has its corporate offices, I found myself alone in the library: to my joyous surprise, when I opened the tomes to the title pages, I found Veronelli’s personal dedications to Tony Terlato.

I am very proud that Thony [sic] will use this book. Gino (LUIGI VERONELLI), May 12, 1989.

To Tony, in Bordeaux (but with my heart “in” Italian wine), with friendship, Luigi Veronelli, June, 22, 1989.

What a find! And what a wonderful document and example of handwriting! The “autograph” (or even better, the “idiograph”) as we call it in the study of textual bibliography reveals so much about the intentions of the author. In June of 1989, the renaissance of Italian wine in the U.S. had yet to take shape and both men played fundamental roles in the emergence of Italian wine as a fine wine category. The dedication in the second instance leads me to believe that the two men met in Bordeaux but their “hearts were in Italy.”

In Veronelli’s 1983 preface, he called the introduction of barrique aging a “provision” that “must not be delayed” in Italy. By 1986, only three short years later, he wrote of his dissatisfaction at the limited number of Italian wines he was able to include in the catalog due to space and time constraints. At the same rate, the increased number of wines “raised in barriques” marked his “triumph.”

He also writes of how he has lobbied for a single-vineyard (cru) system in Italy. He didn’t give his top rating (the Sun) to the “sublime” bottlers Bruno Giacosa or Beppe Colla in this catalog, he observes apologetically. But he did give it to Bartolo Mascarello, however reluctantly.

“Bartolo Mascarello,” he writes, [is an] “advocate of a theory that I’m forced, in his case, to accept: the best Barolo is composed by using different vineyard supplies.”

He also bemoans Violante Sobrero’s sale of his rows in Monprivato and Villero (to Mauro Mascarello?).

There’s so much more wonderful information to be culled from this bundle of sheets but that’s all I have time for today. In another lifetime, I hope to be employed by a royal court as a textual bibliographer of wine. In the meantime, I gotta make a living… thanks for reading!

* From the Bibliographical Society of America website: “Textual bibliography, the relationship between the printed text as we have it before us, and that text as conceived by its author. Handwriting is often difficult to decipher; compositors make occasional mistakes, and proofreaders sometimes fail to catch them; but (especially in the period before about 1800) we often have only the printed book itself to tell us what the author intended. Textual bibliography (sometimes called textual criticism) tries to provide us with the most accurate text of a writer’s work. The equipment of the textual bibliographer is both a profound knowledge of the work of the writer being edited (and of his or her period) and an equally profound knowledge of contemporary printing and publishing practices.”

Rolling with MZ at Jaynes

From the “I may not be a rock star but I get to hang out with rock stars” dept…

Above: we paired Ca’ del Bosco 2001 Annamaria Clemente — one of the greatest vintages for this wine, said Maurizio Zanella — with steamed Baja mussels at Jaynes last night. It’s a tough life, but someone’s gotta do it, right?

Flew in from Austin yesterday and rolled right into dinner with rock star winemaker Maurizio Zanella at Jaynes Gastropub last night. Friend and fellow wine rocker Robin was also in attendance.

I’ve met and tasted with Maurizio a number of times (and I recently tasted a 1979 Ca’ del Bosco disgorged à la volée at his winery). He is a true rock star among winemakers and his appetites and lust for life are stuff of legend. He’s also just a really cool guy who likes to talk about his experience as a student in Europe in 1968, about music, and about what it means to make real wine in a time when the marketing so often overshadows quality among sparkling wine producers.

I was geeked to ask Maurizio about the now legendary trip he made with Luigi Veronelli to California in 1981 (check out my post on Veronelli and new oak aging from October 2007): Veronelli wrote 1982, but Maurizio told me 1981 last night).

    “The real reason behind the trip,” Maurizio said, “was that [the great Friulian winemaker] Mario Schiopetto was suffering from back problems and had to go to Minneapolis to visit a specialist doctor. So, we decided to go with him and help him and from there we decided to California. We got off the plane in Los Angeles and headed right to Spago on Sunset Blvd. When the waiter took our order, I told him that we wanted ‘every thing on the menu.’ There were only four of us. So, Wolf[gang Puck] came out and said who are these guys? We ended up eating everything on the menu and Wolf and have been friends ever since. We asked him which was the best restaurant in Los Angeles and he sent us to Piero [Selvaggio] of Valentino. And it was Piero who organized our trip to visit all the great Napa valley wineries. I was completely amazed by the fact that the Californians were using the same winemaking practices that I studied in France [in Burgundy and then in Bordeaux]. I went back to Ca’ del Bosco and changed everything.”

Giacomo Bologna was with them, too. Bologna returned and created Bricco dell’Uccellone — probably the first and definitely the most famous barrique-aged Barbera. Maurizio made the first Italian barrique-aged Chardonnay. And Veronelli exhorted Italian winemakers to use new oak in his Catalogo dei vini d’Italia and he invited André Tchelistcheff to lecture at Palazzo Antinori in Florence.

Modernity had arrived. All because Mario Schiopetto had a bad back…

Yo, MZ, I like the way you roll…

Some how, some way, you just keep coming up with funky ass shit like every single day…