Nine letters that can take one from the incessant rain of the Texas plains to Apulia, and an isolated beach front cottage.
A friend, Vincenzo, just bought a Ferrari, and he has offered to pick me up in Bari and take me to a fishing village in the Gargano, where another friend, a writer, has a simple little place on a private beach. No crowds, she promises. Sunny skies, clear water, no internet, no cell phones, no e-mail.
Folks have suggested that I take it down a notch for a week or so, and turn the world off. If all goes well, a plane will have a spare business-class seat for a weary pilgrim. To dip one’s toes in the Adriatic, to step off the stage of the wine-soaked killing fields and sip on a little wine, a little water, some figs, some langosto. As if in a dream. We shall see. If so, Beatrice might fill in, though she will not be compelled to do so. She has a friend, Arthur Krea, who is a sommelier and amateur cartoonist. He also wants to blog in my absence. As the millenniums say, whatever.
Working hard gets to a point where it becomes a violation of one's humanity. I have sinned and sinned big time. Driving so hard it seems I have pushed beyond others' ability to understand the sense of urgency I have been feeling. My problem, not theirs. The Italian wine sales are good, almost great, so why not celebrate this success? So what if some of the folks haven’t kept pace with the wagon train? Their problem, not mine.
The wine is piling up in the warehouses in Italy. I hear from my colleagues over there that storehouses are bulging. Something has got to give. Two areas where the hype has not kept up with the actual need are the Tuscan Maremma and Sicily. Overpriced Super Tuscans, with their expensive architecture and even more expensive consultants (some from France), have created a country club wine for the ultra rich. But are the ultra rich buying? Go to Laguna Beach, California, where the average house is a million dollars. Step into a Trader Joe’s, and watch them carrying out case after case of inexpensive Cabernet and Chardonnay, right into their $90,000 Porsche Cayennes. They are not buying the hype of the super-expensive Tuscan.
And Nero D’Avola that sells for over $10? That’s another dry well. My Sicilian cousins are telling me that some of the big houses are bulking out their estate Nero d’Avola’s to shippers in the Veneto. Too much of a good thing? Or too much buildup and down-trending demand? Word to the factors: Look away. Open your eyes when you do.
I had an agent offer me a Morellino di Scansano from the 2005 vintage this week for € 2 a bottle. Another one was offering me Grillo for € .90 a bottle and Nero d’Avola for €1.10 a bottle. 13% alcohol on all of them. The heady days of folks like Planeta and all the wannabees asking €15 for a bottle of Cabernet or Nero d’Avola are over. La comedia e' finita.
People are looking for something more timeless, more classic. They want romance, yes, but they don’t want to sacrifice their first born or sell their daughter into slavery to drink a bottle of wine with dinner.
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
America is a place where many in the Italian wine industry look to unload their wines at premium prices. We’ve been hog-tied and wrestled to the ground by the Amazons of Agrigento. We’ve been challenged and check-pointed throughout the pavilions of Vinitaly. They have forgotten to do the dance, lead us by the cool waters, show us some compassion, some mercy, some new moves. Maybe they should trek to India, to the ancient temples of Khajuraho. Shiva, not Coulter. Soft and subtle, not collagen and botox. Romance, not confrontation. The art of seduction and the even finer art of selling.
I know, this is not about the wine trail in Italy. The wine trail in Italy is the metaphor, stupid. Ponder that while I’m AWOL. Or not.