It is now more than twenty years I am into wine. Everything started as an amatorial passion, maybe fed by the fact I grew up in a culture based on wine, just like most of the people living in Italy or in countries where the beverage of Bacchus is being historically produced. My first contact with wine – of which I have memory – was not exactly about wine, but the magic of the place where it gets its origin: vineyard. The very first “wine authority” I met was my grandfather, who also was appreciated for his talent and skill in grafting plants and trees. As it was very common in the past, something representing an absolutely normal and indispensable fact for whoever was cultivating a land, my grandfather made wine. He made wine solely for personal consumption, like most of those who were making wine in past times. My grandfather was very proud of the wine he was making from the grapes of his vineyard, indeed, he was also very proud of his vineyard in which he spent a lot of time in taking care of it.
The first memories I have of the vineyard, of my grandfather’s vineyard, are two moments I remember with vivid emotion: harvesting and the day he brought me in the vineyard to help him. Harvesting was a real feast, in particular for us kids – and we were a lot – who were waiting that occasion in order to spend some time together, in the beginning by pretending to help adults to harvest grapes, then to get together, after about one hour, to play and to make some pranks. It was a feast, a real party beginning early in the morning and ending at night, all together harvesting the grapes and making wine. Everything was happening under the strict supervision of my grandfather who was scrupulously following every phase of the day, from how the grape was harvested and how it was brought to the winery, up to the moment the must was poured in the cask. He was very proud of his vineyard and of the wine which would born some months later: despite he made wine with the pleasure of drinking his wine and to offer it to friends and relatives, he was however very exacting both in the vineyard and in the winery.
The second memory is about the day my grandfather brought me to the vineyard to help him replacing a vine which was dead. I don’t exactly remember my age at that time, I am however sure I was not more than seven. We dug a hole and then covered with earth a shoot of the next vine – using the layering technique – and, with my wonder, he told me that by using that method a vine could replicate itself and give life to a new plant. That vineyard has been then passed to his son – my uncle – and today, also for the respect of two lives who have passionately been committed to that vineyard, to that land, to those vines and their wine, continues its story through the work of my cousins and mine. We try, for what we can, to take care of that vineyard and to make wine, of course, for an absolutely personal consumption. I believe the experience of walking in the vineyard of my grandfather and then to make wine, is an incredible chance for me who write about wine and taste them every day in order to understand better the nectar of Bacchus. Vineyard and winery are a remarkable school of life, both teach you how to listen and, more important, to respect. In particular, you understand the efforts it takes, however noble, to cultivate a vineyard and to make wine: a challenge made of risks, endless concerns while watching the sky, the soil and vines, moments repeating, always renewed, always new, every year. And every year it is a magic and a wonder repeating.
I am not going, of course, to celebrate my passion for the vineyard and wine making – ours, I would say, as I make wine together with my cousins – in particular for the fact I am aware we make an amatorial wine and for personal consumption, for the joy to be shared with friends. I however believe that understanding how wine is made and what happens in the vineyard – although in a home and amatorial context – represents for me a remarkable chance in order to understand my job better, what I write about wine. Then listening. Listening not only to bottles – every bottle – but also to what it is being poured on glasses, as well as listening to those who make the nectar filling the glass with emotions, either good or bad. Everyone is capable of telling enchanting stories, either for good or bad, and what I learnt is that wine strongly reflects the personality of the one who makes it. Passionate persons will make wines of equal passion; dishonest and not loyal persons give to their wine the very same qualities, making wines with no soul, stripped of every sincere personality.
I do not want, of course, to glorify a specific style of wine making: thanks to wine I also understood that the ones capable of making quality wines and rich of emotions, do not need to hide their mediocrity behind a label, behind empty words or convenient religions. From wine I also learnt the hated technology – something which allowed everyone to improve their wines, to better understand the wine making process – is not bad at all. What is bad is the use you make of it, better to say, the abuse, something exclusively associated to the morality of each producer. The bad faith or dishonesty of a producer makes no difference to me: the labels and the pathetic farce used to support their wines simply worsen the situation, no matter the wine making “belief” used for production. From wine I understood that, just like people, animals and plants, each one of them, every bottle, every glass, has an unrepeatable story to tell and which is always worth to listen to, even in case I do not understand it or agree on it. This is something I learnt, before than wine, from tea, an extraordinary beverage to which I dedicated decades of my life – a passion still alive today – both as a matter of study, as well as a Master of life.
Of course, wine too is a Master of my life: from it I learnt what tea cannot teach me, and of course, from tea I learnt what wine cannot teach me. From wine I also learnt that every glass, every sip, is capable of giving you the awareness, in a second, the journey of the understanding of the beverage of Bacchus never ends. Every sip always adds something new to your knowledge, while being aware – at the same time – that also to ignorance is added something new and a worrying emptiness to fill, which will unavoidably brings other and vast emptiness to be filled. Today, although I tasted the modest quantity of about 15,000 wines – more than a quarter of them is part of DiWineTaste Wine Guide – I am aware of the fact I have a lot to learn, too many things to be understood and lived. From wine I also learnt respect comes before anything else. Respect for the ones who make wine, their efforts and their passion, respect comes before their wines, even in case it is not understood. This is something we should always remember when we talk and write about wine. In this sense, I also understood there are some who use wine for celebrating themselves and to believe they are everything and above everything: wine taught me to feel pity for the nothingness of such vacuous subjects. Wine also taught me it is something be shared, as a high and noble act, because good stories, pleasing moments, are empty and useless in case they are not shared with others. I am confident and aware wine will still teach me a lot more.