If I am inhuman it is because my world has slopped over its human bounds, because to be human seems like a poor, sorry, miserable affair, limited by the senses, restricted by moralities and codes, defined by platitudes and isms. I am pouring the juice of the grape down my gullet and I find wisdom in it, but my wisdom is not born of the grape, my intoxication owes nothing to wine…”
-Henry Miller, Tropic of Cancer
Miller, he’s so flipping high on it all. It’s intoxicating. He over-articulates the way you feel when you’re beyond it all too. His arrangements of words- energized with this maelstrom of excitement and cynicism and murky clarity. Ugly and true, a mystical telling of things that are real. You read these sentences at the end of the first paragraph of page two-hundred-fifty-six and remember to take a sip of your reading wine. You know, to accompany your journey through the slopping over of human bounds and all.
Your reading wine happens to be this little number from Villa Malacari. Rosso Conero DOC- from the region of Marche- 100% Montepulciano (up to 15% sangiovese is allowed in Rosso Conero DOC)- vintage 2008. It is all sorts of rustic mineral… lush blackberries…drying leaves. Filling and cozy on a September night.
Marche is an ideal wine-producing area, with its rolling hills and calcareous soil. Often enough, the region gets some guff for its tendency to turn out rougher styles of wine, but you don’t care. You like them the way they are. Your family (your generations-ago family) on your mom’s side was from around Ancona. Red-headed, blue-eyed Italians. Partial? Probably. You feel akin to everything made there.
Thoughts of Marche remind you of a silly post by one of your favorite Italian wine bloggers, Jeremy Parzen. Jeremy leads with a little explanation and ends up asking the question, “Is Rosso Conero the Dustin Hoffman of Montepulciano?”. Hell yeah it is, you think. And even though D. Hoff is like an old dude now, and is pretty horrendous in this 2009 video advertisement for the region of Marche, you know that there is nothing that can shake your forever crush on him.
And about the clip- Hoffman got a little flack for how he (adorably) clawed his way through Leopardi’s L’Infnito. Yes, it was totally unpolished. But, how fitting? Attractively unpolished is often what wine from Marche is all about. Seems like an honest pairing. You love the part of this particular critique of the advertisement that notes,
“Controversy in Italy, though, is best appreciated if unproductive. Should it be fruitful, it would be promptly abandoned for a more idle activity.”
You like it because it is true. In a recent conversation you had with a few Italian Italians (that’s what you call real Italians), they talked on and on about the way that Italians love to talk on and on… about lovely and incredible and unrivaled nothing. Something out of nothing. Not in a mountain out of a molehill sort of way, but in a Seinfeld every day way. It’s an art. These Italian Italians, they called it “frying air”.
Speaking of frying air, or frying anything for that matter- how about ingredients? In this truly interesting piece Meg Houston Maker mulls over the question of whether wine labels should reveal a list of ingredients. You are intrigued by the topic, especially considering how valuable ingredient lists on food labels have become in the endeavor to pour only the purest of elements down the gullet. If labeling actually took this turn you know that some producers might straight up lie about what they use, politics- as always- would be involved, and some consumers would be really nitpicky and righteous about the whole new game. But you think the demand for clarity would keep the playing field a little more honest and engaging. As Meg says,
“Transparency is an important corporate tenet no matter what the industry, and consumer goodwill eventually accrues to companies that commit to it, even if initially the terms are vexing and hard to learn.”
True that. Ahh, clarity. Lucidity. You haven’t felt very lucid lately. Daydream believer. Sometimes, and this is embarrassing to admit, but sometimes instead of imagining what you’d do if you won the lottery you daydream about what you’d do if a wine genie visited and granted you three wine-type wishes. It would be a big opportunity and stuff, so you try your best to ponder up the best three wishes possible.
But all that comes to mind is the way that your grandmother does her grocery shopping at the Piggly Wiggly in Summerville, SC. She’ll have this great big cart that she haplessly rolls around the store. She smiles and yoo-hoo’s at all of her grocery store pals as she throws things into the cart with a little whim and whimsy (because even at 80 she is a whim and whimsy kind of gal). Alongside the groceries are bottles of wine (living in New York you easily forget that in many states people can buy wine at the supermarket). She chooses bottles by price, by what she’s enjoyed with her friends recently, or simply by the most wine bottle-looking bottle of wine. And all the wish that you can muster is this desire for every wine bottle on her Piggly Wiggly shelf, on every grocery store shelf, in every dusty liquor store, mom and pop shop, and cute wine boutique in your country to be a good bottle. Real wines from real producers across the price spectrum, please. Maybe the bigness of that one wish could equal all three put together?
Pipe dreams? You know it’s a super long path to that sort of reality, but wine label ingredient lists and more approachable and accessible and everyday wine conversations would certainly help the state of the Piggly Wiggly shelves. You know what seems to make things more approachable and accesible in these modern times? Apps. You remember reading this piece on Palate Press about how there hasn’t been a wine app that’s taken off even half as successfully as food apps. Foodspotting-type apps are all the rage. Why? Is food simpler to understand? Are people more comfortable talking about/working with/shopping for food than wine?
It’s apples and oranges. If there is ever to be a killer wine app, it would have to be its own thing. It would have to work with and embody complexity. How can wine’s complexity be squeezed into an app? A stupid smart little app. Wine is so alive, so different from moment to moment, so heavy with a complicated past and present and future. How on earth can humans and technology together try to reduce it to a simple app? There is too much to take into consideration without doing wine an injustice or just confusing the heck out of everyone. The app simply couldn’t be simple.
The idea that you daydream about wine, and many of your thoughts and associations revolve around wine makes you wonder- should you be putting your energies toward something more… crucial? It’s not that you don’t have compassion and concern for the suffering of the world. You do what you can, but you think that wine might be your mission at the moment. You want to tell everyone all about it. You might become that crazy person proclaiming on the street. Grapxclamations!
You’re kidding. Kind of.
Good thing you come across the 2012 Wine Blog Award’s Best Post of the Year by Evan Dawson. It washes away a bit of your guilt. The world will probably always be full of messed up things, and you should always act with compassion. But it is also full of beautiful things. You think that maybe concentrating on those can cure. ”
I have not found anything — not a drug, not a piece of technology, not a new-age technique — that can preserve connections like wine can… Life is about beauty, large and small, experienced and shared — especially shared. Some wine professionals make piles of money, but most don’t. Most risk just about everything they have in pursuit of fleeting beauty, a brief glimpse of their small place in a sprawling world. We are so fortunate to be able to share those gifts around the world now, thanks to technology. And we can share the stories, and the beauty, and the connections that wine can foster. With each bottle and each story shared, we’re more connected.
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