My life as a Knight of Malta (and why wine blogging matters)

Above: The amazing Hawk Wakawaka posted this wonderful depiction of our family yesterday on her blog. Click the image to enlarge.

For many years now, I’ve thought of enogastronomy as an exegetic tool that can be mustered to achieve a deeper and greater understanding of the human experience and condition.

And over the course of nearly five years that I’ve maintained my blog, I’ve discovered that above and beyond the epistemological discourse spurred through the enoblogosphere’s hypertext, wine blogging has also unexpectedly delivered other rewards through intensely and intrinsically meaningful friendships with other wine bloggers across the world.

Alfonso (Dallas) is one such friend. Brookyn Guy (Brooklyn) another. And there are so many others, many of them in Italy, France, Britain, and even Australia.

Of course, Tracie P and I met through wine blogging (here’s the post on the story of how we met). Our union ultimately led to the birth of our beautiful daughter, Georgia P (who, as you can imagine, already has a blog).

Earlier this year, when Alfonso suggested that I contact Hawk Wakawaka and ask her to join the Colli Orientali del Friuli blogger project, I knew that I would find in her a friend, colleague, and peer: our tightly knit community of wine bloggers prizes collegiality and camaraderie, professionalism and courtesy, brilliance and acumen.

You can imagine my joy this morning when I awoke to discover that Hawk Wakawaka had depicted me as a Knight of Malta and a protector of my family (in the image above).

I’ll point you to her post for the story behind the drawing and our experience together in Friuli.

And I’ll send her a heartfelt thanks for helping me to understand the human condition and experience in a new and newly meaningful way… all thanks to wine blogging…

Love at first sight: the bloggers arrive in Friuli

Picked up the COF2011 blogging team yesterday at the Venice airport (after a teary goodbye to Tracie P). For the next five days, I’ll be acting as their interpreter and liaison as they taste wines produced in the Colli Orientali del Friuli (the Eastern Hills of Friuli) and meet winemakers and visit wineries.

It’s a great group of folks.

I’ll be posting my impressions of the trip here at Do Bianchi and I’ll be reposting my blogger colleagues’s posts over at our aggregate blog

Buona lettura, ya’ll!

Power of the press blog: Chianti producers vote not to allow Super Tuscans at tasting

Above: the architects of Italian unification (1861). To the far left, Count Camillo Cavour, Italy’s first prime minister, a winemaker (Piedmont). In the center, unified Italy’s first king, Vittorio Emanuele II, a winemaker (Piedmont). To the far right, Baron Betting Ricasoli, Italy’s second prime minister, a land owner and winemaker in Chianti Classico, and the father of modern winemaking in Tuscany. Ricasoli’s estate Brolio and Vittorio Emanuele’s Fontanafredda still produce commercial wine today.

Would the founding fathers of Italy believed it if you were to tell them that a blog helped save Chianti Classico?

Today, Italy’s top wine blogger, Mr. Franco Ziliani, and I posted the following news story on VinoWire, our English-language blog devoted to the world of Italian wine: “Chianti Classico producers decide not to allow Super Tuscans at debut tasting.”

What we didn’t write was that Mr. Ziliani’s previously posted editorial, in which he harshly criticized the body for its inclusion of Super Tuscans in its annual new vintage preview, was cited by numerous members in the debate that preceded the decision (whereby the body’s president announced he was retracted the option).

It’s not the first time that Mr. Ziliani — a true flagellum principum — has helped to protect and promote traditional winemaking in Italy through his blog. Chapeau bas, Franco!

The pen is… scratch that… The pen blog is mightier than the sword!

The monkey drinks the wine and gets dessert.

Above: I FINALLY got to taste one of the Cornelissen wines from Mt. Aetna in the home of total strangers, the lovely Lars and Kelly of Chicago, the other night! That’s the Susucaru, a field blend, as it were, of red and white grapes. Utterly delicious… Bibulously Yours brought that bottle.

Your probably wondering about the title of today’s post. It comes from a promise. A promise made in Chicago to Lars and Kelly’s sleeping twins.

I promised them that I would use their translation of the anisette poster (left) that resides in their bathroom as the title of this post: “The monkey drinks the wine and gets dessert.” As an accomplished translator of Italian with a doctorate in Italian and a few university press titles under my belt, I wholly endorse their rendering of the text into English.

Let me explain.

You see, wine blogging — despite all of the haters’s attempts to ruin it for everyone else — is really about bringing like-minded, nice folks together. And that’s exactly what happened the other day when Bibulously Yours (a Chicago wine blogger and wine lover whom I’d never met and with whom I trade emails and notes occasionally) wrote me the other day saying, “Welcome [to Chicago], and congrats on the new gig. Hope you’re having a nice trip. I’m sure you’re busy with work, but please let me know if you have any spare time while you’re here. I would love to meet up for a drink.”

Above: 1998 Valpolicella by Quintarelli. Lars got it on a close out and it showed splendidly. Do you ever say no to Quintarelli?

Since Bibulously’s son was ill that evening, we ended up in the home of his lovely friends Lars and Kelly who so graciously invited me to their home and so generously opened fantastic bottles of wine for me to taste with them. As it turns out, Lars and Kelly and I have a great deal in common since we have all been involved in the indy music scene and Lars even saw my old band play once in Detroit!

Above: This 500 ml bottle of 2002 Radikon Ribolla was opened at what might have been the perfect moment in its evolution, although I would guess it still has many years ahead of it. Brilliant wine. Simply brilliant.

Honestly, I was so thrashed from 3 days of eating way too much food and way too many tastings and meetings that I was entirely stoked to just hang out with the coolest folks, drink awesome wine, nibble on cheese and salame, and just shoot the shit and laugh my ass off.

As Anthony said the other day, I wish folks would stop drinking the “hatorade.” THIS IS WHAT WINE BLOGGING SHOULD BE ABOUT. Sharing wines, sharing experiences, learning and giving, having fun, and fueling our curiosity and minds with interesting wines and enriching our hearts with generosity and kindness.

Above: Bibulously’s wife stayed home with their kid. But she sent over this excellent savory cake. She said “the cake was plain and simple,” Bibulously wrote me the day after, “olive oil and preserved oranges.” It was off-the-charts delicious.

Everyone who knows me knows that I rarely eat desert. I was chubby as a kid and so I only eat desert when I REALLY LOVE it.

That night in Chicago, the monkey drank the wine and he got desert, too!

Thanks again, Nathan, Lars, and Kelly. You guys R O C K! And thanks for reminding me what it’s all about

The bloggers are coming to Barbera (history in the making?)

Above: The Torino local edition of La Stampa published this article today on Barbera Meeting 2010 and the novelty of having a group of American bloggers present. Click image for a PDF of the article or become a fan of Barbera Meeting on Facebook for the whole text.

There was an inherent dichotomy drawn in the opening line of an article published today in the Turin edition of the Italian national daily La Stampa. “The blogger-tasters have landed,” read the title, “and live wine scoring has arrived.”

Gone are the “excellent palates” and their insiders-only tastings, wrote journalist Fiammetta Mussio in the opening line: “Goodbye to tastings attended by excellent palates and ‘trials’ behind closed-doors. The bloggers have arrived in the Barbera vineyards.” It would seem that the latter, according to Ms. Mussio, precludes the former.

The department of shameless self-promotion informs me that I should be thrilled to hear myself called “una delle ‘penne’ vinicole più pungenti d’America” (“one of the most pungent wine ‘plumes’ in America”). I wonder if that means I stink. Or perhaps it means that my writing stings its subject matter. Either way I’m flattered.

As hard as it was to say goodbye to Tracie P (not a month since our return from our honeymoon and just a few weeks after our move into our new home together), I am truly excited to think that the trip and adventure that lie ahead of our group of American wine bloggers are being treated a something of a novelty in Italy. The organizers of the event and our sponsors have told me that this is the first time American wine bloggers have been invited to an event of this size and importance in this capacity: we’ll be blogging the tasting is quasi-real-time.

That’s all I have time to write for now… It’s time to get on that big ol’ jet liner.

I miss you already Tracie P!

Brunello vote, a different perspective, and some blogs I’ve been reading

Above: this photo of me and Gianfranco Soldera of Casse Basse appears in this month’s issue of The Tasting Panel Click the image to read my piece, “The Sun Also Rises, a dispatch from Montalcino” (photo by Ben Shapiro). The sun also rises in Montalcino…

My relief to read that Brunello producers had voted to “let Brunello be Brunello” last week was tempered when I read an editorial post authored by my friend and colleague Franco Ziliani, who pointed out — rightly — that among the “overwhelming majority” who voted not to change the appellation, there were also the same producers who, just days earlier, were calling for a more flexible appellation and “tolerance” for grapes other than Sangiovese.

“With this hypocritical vote,” wrote Franco, “I truly fear that Brunello di Montalcino will continue to have problems. A battle has been won, no doubt, but I fear that the war — even if it is an underground guerrilla war — will continue. Good luck, dear Brunello, I believe you will continue to need it desperately!”

Read my translation of his post at VinoWire.

Some other blogs I’ve been reading…

I’ve always been a fan of Eric’s blog and I really admire how he weaves literature and music into his posts. He and I are both fans of the Camilleri novels and our musical tastes are pretty much in tune, as well. I really liked this recent post on novelist Hillerman and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (I also liked Eric’s excellent notes in the paper of record on his Montepulciano d’Abruzzo tasting).

Susannah is relatively new to the world of Italian wine blogging and I’m glad to see another Italocentric wine blogger jump into the mix. I really like her “Women in Wine” posts. Not enough attention is given to women winemakers in Italy, a country still plagued by chauvinism.

People often ask me why I blog and a lot of folks are curious as to why I do it when it doesn’t pay. Blogging has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my entire life, professionally and personally. As obsessively as I may check my blog stats (although probably considerably less than Strappo), the blog has enriched my life far beyond the immediate narcissistic reward. It is a medium for seeing the world that has transformed my life in truly wondrous ways that I never could have imagined. I really liked this post on wine blogging by Alder, a blogger whom I admire immensely for his work ethic, integrity, and palate. His sound advice should be required reading for any budding wine blogger.

Lastly but not least, proceed with caution: “Priming Stemware = Foreplay” by Benoit over at Anti Yelp.