I was recently asked to present a wine tasting at an Upper Eastside art gallery in Manhattan. Imagine the setting straight out of a film shot in New York in the 1970s (get the picture?).
The couple who asked me to fly out to the City especially for the occasion (a benefit their organizing for a animal rescue center in Greece where they own a second home) is as glitterati as they come: He’s an emeritus professor of Italian and a renowned Milanese poet whose anthology was just published by Mondadori; she’s a Milanese textile heiress and a practicing Lacanian psychoanalyst (yes, Lacanian). They wanted me to do something with a “literary” and “cultural” focus.
“Not just the usual Italian wine tasting,” they told me.
I couldn’t think of a better grape to present than Barbera. And not just because I”m a contributor to this blog.
First, I plan to talk about Barbera and its connection to Monferrato, its spiritual homeland. As I’ve written here on the My Name Is Barbera blog, the wines of Monferrato make an appearance in one of the most celebrated novellas in Boccaccio’s Decameron (at least, one of my favorite tales from the work; but then again, I’m biased!).
Next, I plan to talk about how Barbera is the wine celebrated by Giovanni Pascoli, one of Italy’s greatest 19th-century poets, in one of his most famous poems. At the time of its publication, the subject of the work — the Italian warrior Giuseppe Galliano — was one of the biggest celebrities (however tragic) of the day. I’ve written about Pascoli, Galliano, and their love of Barbera here on the blog as well.
Some may continue to call Barbera “the wine of the people”. And being a Marxist myself, I also contend that Barbera is a wine of the proletariat, of course. That’s because all grapes and all wines are the property of the people.
But it’s also a wine that has its place among the Italian glitterati, too