Looking for the ethos of southern Italian wine…

Above: A scene from last year’s Radici (Roots) Wine Festival in Apulia (photo by Brunellos Have More Fun).

My year in southern Italian wine continues as I prepare to head back to Apulia in a few weeks for the Radici (Roots) Wine Festival in the province of Bari, where I’ll be tasting literally hundreds of wines made from native southern Italian grape varieties.

I’m going to be seeing some old friends and making some new ones. And as tired as I am from too much travel and too much time away from the love of my life Tracie P, I accepted a spot on this trip because I believe in the festival’s mission of promoting awareness of native Italian grape varieties.

Above: I’d rather be here, holding Tracie P tight and smelling Texas springtime bluebonnets!

Believe me: as glamorous as these trips sound, they are a complete drag (ask Alfonso, a 30-year veteran of what we call “death marches” in the trade, and he will tell you the same thing). You begin tasting scores of wines at 9 in the morning and you taste all day with just a short break for lunch. You have to listen to every local fat cat bureaucrat give the same speech (and the subsequent poorly and slavishly translated version in English, “We wish to valorize the territory” etc.). The wifi never works (the Atlantic Monthly reports that “Internet penetration is only around 50 percent” in Italy, thank you very much Mr. Berlusconi). And ultimately, you are a prisoner of the festival organizers: you eat when and what they tell you to eat (although I have become a master of politely moving my food around my plate so that it looks like I have consumed some of it).

But when Italy’s top and most politically charged wine blogger Mr. Franco Ziliani asked me to join him and an international group of colleagues in Apulia later this month, I gladly accepted out of solidarity and camaraderie with those who share my belief that Italy’s greatest wines are made from native grape varieties by people who believe that wine is a cultural and ideological expression.

There will be foreign buyers there: they’re looking for new wines to import and distribute. There will be some of the usual suspects who continue to live on the gravy train of Italian wine press junkets: some of our older and hard-on-their-luck colleagues will be there looking for a meal ticket. But there will also be some of us — observers (writers/bloggers) and actors (winemakers/grape growers) — who are looking for the ethos of these wines: their characteristic spirit, prevalent tone of sentiment, of a people or community (definition from the OED online edition).

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know what I find (the trip begins in early June)… Thanks for reading…