The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Raising a Glass–to Wine

Posted on | April 29, 2013 | Written by Janice Cable | 2 Comments

Will and Kate cupcakes

Will and Kate cupcakes

Today is Kate Middleton and Prince William’s second anniversary. Traditionally, it’s the cotton anniversary; the contemporary gift is china. Just under 23 million Americans watched the wedding here in the States. I watched it in Montalcino, Italy, at a party at Il Palazzone, surrounded by British ex-pats and a few Italians.

Il Palazzone’s Estate Manager, Laura Gray emigrated to Montalcino from Scotland, and she had invited her British friends to celebrate the nuptials. Marco Sassetti, Laura’s husband and the estate’s General Manager, had set up long tables under a tent and a giant television hooked into the Skynet coverage. An eclectic group of people—one wearing fez that matched his velvet coat; others wearing tea dresses and floofy hats—gathered to eat bangers and mash, drink an eye-popping collection of Brunello, and celebrate this royal wedding.

I had traveled from my apartment in Liguria to join the party. It was a singular event, not only because royal weddings come every forty years, but also because I was here, the lone American, in this strange land watching a ritual that I had only the faintest concept of. It was a mille feuille of cultures, and I felt like I was reading a palimpsest: one text overlaying another, creating a textured experience where one element (cupcakes decorated with pictures of the happy royal couple) was inextricable from another (the inability to get the program in English for the first hour or so).

Marco, Kate, Will and Laura at Il Palazzone

Marco, Kate, Will and Laura at Il Palazzone

Pondering this Kate-and-Will anniversary, thinking about how I—and so many millions of others—bore witness to their wedding, and remembering watching with this group of people, it occurs to me that time and wine have a unique relationship. The first level is how we so often use wine to celebrate life’s milestones. We toast at weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries. We share bottles of wine at holidays and special meals. Wine is a given.

But there are other levels too. Wine is one of the few things that you can consume when it’s decades old. You might freeze a part of your wedding cake, and you might take a bite of it a year later, but that’s about it. Wine, however, doesn’t just have the capability to age; it also can transform, mellow and grow better with age. Wine is the only comestible that mirrors human maturity. For that reason, it holds a place in our hearts and our imaginations.

I spent just under six months in Italy in 2011, and I saw Il Palazzone vines when they were just budding, when they were sending their delicate little tendrils toward the sky, and when they were brown and hibernating in the impending winter. I’m looking forward to drinking 2011 wine because I was there. I smelled the earth and the wind, and I felt the same sun on me that shone on the grapes.

The guests at Il Palazzone's royal wedding extravaganza

The guests at Il Palazzone’s royal wedding extravaganza

This too makes wine special; it’s a reflection of the year that was. Each vintage is different, just as each year is different. It tastes of the snow, the rain, the sun and the soil, and the mixture of these elements will vary each year. It might be the same grape variety grown in the same vineyard, the wine made by the same people, crafted in the same way, but it always tastes different. It’s like children in that respect, a product as much of its nature as it is of its nurture.

Before I became a wine person, I measured years in hemlines and rock songs. Now I think about the glasses I drank, the vineyards I’ve visited, the botti I’ve tasted from. When I drink a wine that’s decades old, I feel the weight of the intervening years. I imagine the hands of the person who made it, their youth and their vitality. I see the tail fins of the ‘50s or the giant shark-faced gas-guzzlers of the ‘70s. It’s time in a bottle, and that makes it special.

Time seems infinite. It’s not. Thankfully, we have wine to celebrate time’s shiny points and to recollect time’s passing. It’s an amazing thing, wine, a perfect marriage of human ingenuity and nature’s largess.

 

Comments

2 Responses to “Raising a Glass–to Wine”

  1. Charly Haversat
    April 29th, 2013 @ 4:34 pm

    Royal wedding anniversaries aside (and yes I was one of the 23 million Americans who watched it), this piece struck a cord with me. Of late, each day holds a milestone or two, significant primarily to me but significant none the less. I like the idea of linking the bottle to those memories. Thanks.

  2. Janice Cable
    April 29th, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

    Thanks, Charly. Just another of the plethora of points upon which you and I converge.

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