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.”