ITALY’S VINO PLAYS SECONDO BANANO, by Alan Goldfarb with Tricia Conover
Tucci’s CNN Series Another Example of Wine Left to Gather Dust in the Cellar
Welcome back Alan Goldfarb
I am happy that my colleague, Alan Goldfarb, is back with another story on Italian wine. As you may recall, Alan wrote for Wine Wanderings earlier this year, “Why I Love Italian Wines.” Alan and I met at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers in Napa Valley a few years ago. I was so impressed with his journalistic credentials, which include writing about sports for the Hearst San Francisco Examiner and the Associated Press. His Wine Spectator interview with Rupert Murdoch appeared in the Oct. 15, 2016 edition. An interview with Francis Ford Coppola in the Journal of Alta California was published in the Spring of 2019. He was the wine editor from 2002-05 at the St. Helena Star in the heart of the Napa Valley where it is said that any assignment is akin to covering Catholicism at the Vatican.
Let’s welcome back Alan Goldfarb as a Wine Wanderings contributing writer.
ITALY’S VINO PLAYS SECONDO BANANO by Alan Goldfarb
I like Stanley Tucci.
I like his movies, his acting acumen. And he seems to be a sweet, kind man, who has his priorities in the correct place. But like so many others, who choose to write about, talk about, and film food’s pleasures – The Tucc, for all intents, in his otherwise delicious CNN series “Searching for Italy” – abrogates wine to remain in the cellar gathering dust; and for others to ruminate over. This, while in almost every scene, on almost every table where food is displayed in all its wonderfulness, wine is present. But there is nary a word spoken of its existence.
You almost never read or see much about wine in a restaurant review, or on endless TV shows about food. For me, wine and food are indivisibly woven. You can’t have one without the other; like bacon and eggs or rhythm & blues. They augment each other. They each enhance and elevate the other.
I’m not a drinker, although I’ve written about wine for more than three decades. By that I mean, I’m not a standing up kind of guy with a glass in my hand at some cocktail party (remember those?). No, I usually only drink wine when sitting down with a meal. I think that’s wine’s raison d’être; wine with food, food with wine.
Thus, I’ve long been vexed that wine is almost nowhere to be found where food is the topic; wine is not even an integral part of the discussion. That’s not so with people who steep themselves in wine. What food goes with what wine is almost always at the top of the discourse. We wine people take it as a challenge and a sense of pride when trying to match a wine with food. And to do that, we have to know what food tastes like, while of course, having an idea what a wine might taste like and how it may connect with the food.
Which is why I proclaim: Wine people know more about food than food people know about wine. – Alan Goldfarb
I suppose this disconnect with wine or that it’s overlooked by people who are immersed in food, is because wine is another discipline, another sphere to master. Or that it’s simply that everyone eats food, but not everyone drinks wine? Or is it that wine seems so daunting and difficult to comprehend?
Nonetheless, wine always seems relegated to the wings, even though there it is, on the table, amidst the flowers and the beautiful and bountiful platters, with hardly a second thought paid to it although it glistens in the glass as the sun highlights its aura.
So, there is Tucci, in Tuscany, standing with a Chianti vigneron, who pours him a glass of his Classico. The Tucc acknowledges the wine that’s swirling into the vessel by pointing out that this is Tuscany’s contribution to the world. He says something about how he could go on talking about the wine. But then he abruptly (and predictably, I yell out loud while watching), he announces that he chooses not to; and moves on to something more related to food. However, there ensues a scene in which wine is again brought to his attention -- that of the relic of tiny wine windows that appear throughout Chianti through which one could actually get a bicchiere of wine by just ringing a bell.
Sure enough, there appears a glass of vino. Tucci takes a sip and then in his inimitably endearing humorous and sardonic manner – with his signature tight-lipped little smile – announces, “I always enjoy wine more when it’s passed through a window.”
So as not to rag on “Searching for Italy” too much (you might recall I started this screed with how much I like The Tucc and his show), I must still say it’s not the first and only example of wine’s egregious misappropriation. I’d like to sight further evidence:
When have you ever read more than a paragraph about wine in a newspaper, magazine, or online restaurant review? Almost never. One reviewer who broke the slight was a longtime newspaper restaurant critic – who to his great credit, began including a sidebar with his food review devoted solely to the restaurant’s wine program. The inclusion was a wonderful, albeit rare, instance of inclusivity.
However, there has been a rumor out on the street that has lasted for decades. It goes: said restaurant critic “farmed out” the wine review to someone else, one presumably who knew more about wine than did our restaurant critic. It must be added though, as far as I know, the allegation has never been proven that the restaurant critic wasn’t the author of the adjunctive wine report. Thus, it can to this day, be placed in the annals of bubbemeister or merely a folktale.
Nevertheless, it’s an exemplar of how wine has been treated and perceived in the vaster world of food. ‘Tis a shame. I haven’t yet seen all the episodes of “Searching for Italy.” On the show’s CNN website, its conjoined video opens with a sumptuous glass of red wine – portending? Not much. Tucci could surprise me by addressing the wine he encounters in the remainder of his travels. But I’m not buoyed by what I’ve seen thus far. The Chianti scenes could have been that moment. After all, the region’s Sangiovese wines are Italy’s most well-known in the world. A chance was blown when Tucci traveled the roads in the shadow of Vesuvius looking for San Marzano tomatoes. There he was in Campania’s heart, surrounded by Aglianico vineyards. But he blew the chance to inform his viewers why the variety is the last to ripen in Italy.
He was in Milan where two hours away lay some of the greatest wines in the world – the Nebbiolo’s of Barolo and Barbaresco. But no. Instead, the show headed north to Lake Como where Tucci had a lively and welcomed discussion about Italy’s divided politics. It wasn’t exactly a Bordainian moment but a worthwhile endeavor for Tucci to engage.
I fervently hoped though – as I have with other extollers of food – that wine, what with its own historically political nuances, would be part of the conversation. The public would have been that much more gratified, enamored, and educated about the vicissitudes of the world of wine. I still like Tucci, wine not?
Thursday Thread! March 18, 7-8 PM CT
Let’s Travel to Napa Valley - Fall 2021 Trip in Planning Stages.
Join me for a Thursday Thread - All Welcome - Thursday March 18, 7-8 PM CT to talk about a Napa Valley Adventure. I will be your tour guide for this trip in the Fall of 2021. Dates to be determined.
Jump into the Thread here: Thursday Thread March 18 7-8 PM CT
Would appreciate your input on wineries, restaurants, distilleries, places of interest in this fascinating place.
I went to school at the Culinary Institute of America in the Valley, and spent many months there in addition. Would love you to join me this Thursday and on the trip. Cheers! Tricia