Revisting an Old Inspiration

August 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

Vineyard above Vernazza, Cinqueterre, Italy

I recently returned to one of the wine regions that inspired my decision to become a winemaker: Cinqueterre, Italy.  Cinqueterre is not known as a fine-wine producing region; rather, it is known as a summertime beach vacation spot with great hiking, wonderful beaches, and a kind of “untouched” feel that most vacationers look for.  The wines, all of which are white, do not usually make it out of the region, and are almost all bought up and drunk by the tourists moving through the five towns.

When I first visited, however, I was amazed at the vineyards, which are shoved up high in the mountains, extremely steep, and near no roads or easy paths.  How could they possibly make wine here?  And who would want to?  The vineyards in Cinqueterre make Virginia’s rolling hills look like little ripples, and they make me feel lazy and lucky just looking at them.

What struck me most was that the inhabitants of Cinqueterre had been fighting to grow wine (and olives, and basil, and pine nuts, and oranges) on impossible mountainsides for hundreds of years not because they were working on famous wine soil (as in the Mosel, Germany, which may be equally steep) or because their wines fetched high prices (maybe 20Euro per bottle) but because wine (and olives, and basil, and pine nuts, and oranges) was a part of their live, and they needed it, and so they made it happen.

Railcar used to move grapes and people up and down the steep mountainside

There is no better reason to do something than that it is an unquestionable neccesity to your life, and to these Italians wine (and pesto and fruit (and maybe gelato?)) were not something additional in their lives, they were something essential.  While some people may find such emphasis placed on food to be slovenly, or egotistical, I don’t know.  You only live once, and with such beautiful things available to us through nature, growing around us and requiring small sleights of hand in the fields or in the kitchen to make such memorable creations, I don’t see why you wouldn’t want to center at least a small sliver of your life around the enjoyment of these things.


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