“I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity.” -- Sideways
This week we discussed Italian wines and for the entire class the above quote came to mind. As we make our way through more and more curriculum each week and move through the various heavy-hitting wine regions across the world, I am constantly reminded of how wine and history are intertwined.
In the case of Italy, Piedmont (a Northeastern Italian region) was crippled by Austria’s decision to double the tariffs of Piemontese wines, the region’s major export, during the war. This was one of several events that convinced the city-states to join forces and led to the unification of the Italian states. The takeaway from this factoid? Don’t mess with an Italian’s wine!
If you weren’t ravaged by war, you were at the mercy of unpredictable weather. In Italy’s case, vineyards of the Tuscan region were essentially decimated by the Oidium mildew in the 1850s, causing many winemakers to pack up their families and emigrate to other parts of Italy or America. Obviously the New World benefited from these experienced winemakers heading across the ocean, but the landscape in Italy was dramatically changed by nature’s volatility.
Before taking this class, it was difficult for me to look at a bottle of wine as anything other than something you drink. But the deeper I dig into the material, the more I realize that every wine has a story. And with more than 4,000 years of winemaking history under its belt, Italy has some great stories!