Friday, February 29, 2008

The Noble Fluid: time & place

I spent a few well earned weeks on a trip to Italy in the past month. Mostly it was for pleasure, but I did manage to get some wine tours and meetings with vintners into my schedule.

Primarily I was in Rome for the wedding of a harvest intern who came over to work with us for two consecutive harvests. Vittorio was extremely talented, and when I got the invite to see him & Annalise get hitched in Rome I took the opportunity for yet another Italian road trip.

I mean, who could resist, right? Even if I did think they were crazy for having a wedding in February (they got lucky & the weather was gorgeous for the ceremony & reception) - I think the main reasons they didn't wait until early summer was that Anna's father is in poor health...and probably the fact that Vittorio didn't want to wait any longer...

As always, I found the Italians welcoming and willing to share every aspect of their culture. And I also met a wonderful older German couple which hit it off really well with my much so, that we altered our plans a bit so we could spend the last part of our vacation with them.
And it was over wine and fantastic food that I heard some great stories about how they grew up (both were born
~1940, and lived in what was to become West Germany) in a post WWII Germany, how they had family on both sides of the Iron Curtain, and (unbeknown to me) how in the first few years after the war people could go back and forth over the border and trade relatively freely with each side.

The most interesting stories were about how they still had wines from the eastern side in those early days, but were sending more to the other side than ever came west...
Eventually, the "curtain" was lowered more forcefully, and people really couldn't cross the border anymore - if you were able to get permission, you certainly didn't return to the eastern side!

"You are born into a certain time and becomes you, and you become it. There is nothing you could ever do to change that..."

On the topic of European history, I count myself as "informed", but certainly not an expert...and it was fascinating to have such eager teachers with first hand experience ready to answer each and every question of ours. They had been wine buffs since their early adulthood, and started our conversation about "the Noble fluid" (a phrase at which I first cringed) with the feeling of history which permeates everything the Europeans do. After all, they asked, how can you separate yourself from the context of your own life?
Every action in their home towns when they were growing up was juxtaposed upon a cityscape made up of new buildings right next to older sections of town where the buildings were more than a thousand years old...

"(The weight of history) is really wonderful, yet it can suffocate, too."

They said many times that they didn't really wish to change anything, but that when change was needed, it tended to take longer because of "everyone's sense of history", and that it was especially true of the wine industry.
And while they talked of their new found love for an occasional California Sauv Blanc, they also flatly rejected wines which were too ripe in their opinion as trash - but that mostly came down to the prices they pay for New World wines in Germany, as they said they wouldn't feel too bad getting a bottle every once-in-a-while they didn't like, if they hadn't just dropped so many euros to pick that disappointing bottle up.

Great people, and fantastic wines.
More later on this when I have some time to look back at what we drank & where (some of it is still blurry!).

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