The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Day 4: Anarchy in Emilia

I just met the three nicest people on the planet. They live in a flat green part of northern Reggio Emilia, close to a nondescript highway overpass, down enough kilometers of gravel path to make me question the existence of their farm. 

A short row of blue beehives sit in the driveway. Low trellises of Lambrusco Nostrano and Fogarina vines surround a small cluster of buildings: house, cellar and barn. Alberici Amilcare arrives from his field dressed in green coveralls and socks and sandals. He has farmer hands. He smiles often and it is a great smile, it conveys. I don’t understand his Italian, sotto voce with short spaces between syllables. But his daughter is an amazing conduit, her eyes are full of emotion, her words direct and real. I’m not surprised at all when Arianna says she plays the viola. Her family are 90% heart: that energy needs to get out! To write about vibes is weird. I feel waves of creativity, sincerity and raw emotion from Arianna. I feel (and I can see) how she feels about our just-born partnership. She is really into it.

I get a huge charge of energy from this rare moment in my work life. We are bringing a couple thousand bottles of Lambrusco from their organic farm to America. To us it is an exciting thing. They have old vines and rare grapes (Nostrano and Fogarina) and they have done something special with their materials. The wines are hard-wired to make you happy, I can’t see how a person could miss their appeal. They are a mood changer and absolutely the thing you want when sitting down with a pizza or some snacks at 5pm (or 1am!) 

But the crazy rush of happiness that I get comes from the moment when we are in their kitchen after tasting. Arianna’s mother is making espresso for us in a Bialetti, her father is talking about how Veronelli loved their wines and how the red and black on the Fogarina label are the colors of Italian anarchists, a dedication to his memory. I say to Arianna how happy I am to start selling their wines in America. And I am happy: I love the wines and the place, and I’ll make some money from this organic Lambrusco sold at a moderate price. But she is SO happy. They make 10,000 bottles. It matters to her in a way I am sure I can’t fully understand, and I think a big part of it is pride. Their little farm, miles down a one-lane gravel track on a nondescript piece of quiet Emilia country, will have wines sold in America. This is a really great day for her and maybe her parents, too, a defining day. And their happiness is a huge buzz for me. I feel great. It’s selfish, I love the feeling and it sinks deeply into me. We are starting something together, Piedmont Wine Imports is entering their story in a middle chapter, after decades of quiet dedication to a rare way of farming, thanks to Luc seeing a needle in a haystack and having the clarity to pursue it. I show up and soak in all this amazing positivity. We are really doing something, a small piece of the world is better now than a few days ago. Because three people are really happy. The long arc of their aspirations edges closer to fulfillment. Maybe Merck can make a pill for this, but this real-deal charge of energy comes from the look in Arianna’s eyes. I can't get over it. The intensity in her eyes starts 100 meters inside her, or started 15 years ago at the germination of a thought. I will ride that high all spring and summer.

So now it’s laid bare. I am an energy vampire. My work is extremely selfish. You probably knew that: in Italy I feel like a professional dinner guest. But it is not handmade dinners or rare mountain wines that make me do this: they are a decoration. This feeling of life and the ability of humans to create positive change in other humans turns my wheels. Alberici Amilcare and his daughter created (and deserve) all their future success, via decades of sweat and small decisions. We show up, validate what they already know, and take away an amazing positive charge, and really sellable wine.

Someone else would do it.


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