Wine from Italy | Rosso. Bianco. Rosato. Prosecco & Spumante
The ancient Greeks called Italy 'Oinotria', the land of wine. A name, but also a distinction, because the Hellenes knew how to appreciate good wines, and Dionysus, who represented the interests of the winegrowers and wine drinkers in their heaven above, would certainly have known how to prevent such an honorable designation, if Italy had not already been the Mecca of all ancient wine connoisseurs. And while up in the north, milky mead foam was still entangled in the Germanic beards, Julius Caesar in Rome was already faced with the important task of selecting from a lush selection of varieties and vintages the wine that would elevate his consular inauguration and state banquet to a real pleasure at the table. Bacchus advised him well, because we know from old sources that he chose a golden yellow Mamertino from Sicily. Perhaps for a vintage Fifty ante Christum natum, because at that time a truly African sun shone on the insular vines.
But he could have brought another drop in well-filled amphorae, because from the slopes close under the Alps down to the southernmost shore of the Mediterranean, the 'Vitis vinifera' or grape had its right of abode in Italy from time immemorial, always associated only with the duty of bringing joy to man. Yes, at a time when a squirrel, without ever touching Iberian soil, would have been able to jump from branch to branch from Portugal to Catalonia, at a time when in the Rhineland one still roasted the bear on the spit and when elsewhere one knew at most how to prepare drinks from herbs, there had long since been joyful vintages south of the Alps.
With good reason conquerors stand low in the exchange rate. When the Roman legions set out to annex Iberia and Gaul and Germania to their empire, they were by no means welcomed with open arms in those lands, and the song of the defeated Varus still delights loyal hearts today. The grim legionaries from Italian lands, who had obviously drunk additional fire with fiery wine, did not only set out with their weapons to conquer the then known world. Somewhere with their troop and carefully protected against the influences of a harsher environment, young shoots of the vine followed them. And when they discovered somewhere a real sunny slope under hilltops, these warriors put aside their weapons and became vine-growers, who carefully and with care and full of beautiful hope entrusted to the good earth the protégés they had brought with them. This is how viticulture came to the north, and today it is still a delightful gift brought to us by foreign conquistadors about two thousand years ago.
But the true value of this gift was discovered by our ancestors only when they accepted the gift and began to cultivate vines themselves. In areas where the grape is able to ripen and where in deep cellars the miracle of wine-making takes place again and again, man is transformed. A good wine leads to good conversation, in good conversation hearts open to each other, common denominators are found, and thus we arrive at one of the highest of values - tolerance. Therefore, wine drinkers are never sectarian, nor do they think of forming their neighbor in their own imperfect image. And just - on this level they have escaped what we still call barbaric with regard to the environment.
With this, the journey from rougher climes leads us back to Italy, where the grape has one of its ancestral homes, Italy - antiquity, Renaissance, Baroque - architects, sculptors, musicians, painters - ancient cultural land! Would this culture have blossomed so wonderfully among brambles? But culture is also mutual human understanding, and even if the contrasts are there, Don Camillo and Peppone will always know how to dampen the clash behind a glass of Lambrusco, and a new Savonarola will pronounce the 'te absolvo' more easily if a common and strong sip of Chianti accompanies the confession of sin.
So we come to the significant question of what wine actually is, what wine means to the Italians and what we, who at least in wine, took the Roman succession? Is wine a drink? Is wine food? Probably both, but above all it is a decisive cultural carrier. And because the need for culture always takes us south across the Alps, we cannot imagine a trip to Italy without making friends with Italian wine. Many of us will always turn to the 'Vino del Paese', the wine that grows in the immediate vicinity of the osteria that so kindly welcomed the hungry guest. Certainly, we are doing well, but we are denying ourselves the 'higher maturity'.
In order to achieve this, we would have to go to the gastronomic sources, to one of those trattorias between Piedmont and Sicily, where the true Buongustai, the real Italian gourmets and Epicureans meet. And we would have to sit over their shoulder when they 'know what' and 'skillfully' select their wines to go with ravioli and tortellini, with pizza or spaghetti, with roast meat or game, with fish or 'frutta di mare'. Top wines, of course, that can stand up to any comparison with other great wines of Europe. And in addition, an offer in fantastic abundance, which one can hardly completely overlook. - Gerardo [TS06/22]