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Allegrini 2018
FROM THE USA

Wine in our lives, the world crisis, the future of wine critics: to WineNews, Monica Larner

The signature of “The Wine Advocate”: the wine must be told in front of people and glasses. It will be able to start again, with even more quality
COVID-19, MONICA LARNER, THE WINE ADVOCATE, USA, News
Monica Larner

It’s a very difficult time in our lives: these days forced at home have given us anxiety and insecurity, but we need hope. Even in the world of wine, waiting for production to return to normal or almost normal, as well as the market, its tale, and, above all, that we return to drink it together in its places of consumption. “When the virus hit us”, Monica Larner, correspondent from Italy for The Wine Advocate, and one of the most authoritative voices of the world’s wine critics, points out to WineNews, “it was as if time had stopped, and with it our normality and our world. But there is no better place to pass quarantine than in the vineyard. Those of us who work in the world of wine have extra edge and we are very lucky. I should have gone back to Italy, but my flight was canceled. It was an accident, or maybe just luck: I’m at home with my family, in the USA, in the middle of the countryside, living an experience that I wouldn't have experienced in all these years rushing by, and every day I go into the vineyard with my camera to capture the phases of the vine, from budding to flowering, in an explosion of nature that is touching. Without the distractions of everyday life, there is a return to instinct, which leads us to cook, to bake bread, and we have been given time as a gift to reflect, which has led me to the conclusion that I do not want to return to normal without changing it. The Coronavirus has brought us sadness and pain, but also an opportunity to improve ourselves. And the most curious aspect is that nature is mocking us, because when we see the jellyfish in the Venice lagoon or the grass growing in Piazza Navona in Rome, we are sure it is laughing behind our backs”.
A rediscovered respect for nature, and therefore for food, wine and their production, which has put agriculture back at the center and the “we are what we eat”: “the world of wine has experienced phylloxera, an experience in some ways comparable - says Larner - when it arrived in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century almost all the vineyards were destroyed by a mysterious disease that virulently affected the roots of the plants and reproduced with frightening speed, infecting the nearby vineyards. A very small insect, transported from the United States on ships of botanical material, infected the vineyards of France, passing through Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, and returned to the United States where vitis vinifera, a species very vulnerable to the disease, had been planted. Phylloxera went around the world, creating political, cultural and economic hardship, and the whole world of wine was in danger of collapse. Today we have a new disease that affects humans, inhibiting our respiratory system and the ability to breathe oxygen, and in this aspect is not very different from phylloxera, which prevents the plant from absorbing carbon dioxide. After more than a hundred years with the Coronavirus we run the risk of production stoppage, due to the difficulty of finding those who work in the fields, who will do the work in the summer, and then the harvest, the distribution channels are almost stopped, the catering industry is experiencing a crisis perhaps even worse than that of wine, and there is a total detachment from the consumer, also due to the lack of direct sales. I think there are lessons to be learned from phylloxera: first of all, after the quality of wine has changed so much, there was a great desire to plant vineyards in Europe and almost immediately, in 1937, France adopted the Systeme de appellation d’origine contrôlée, which later led to the birth of the DOC and the regulation of controls and places of production in Italy, with great benefits not only for the consumer but also for producers. But perhaps the most important lesson - according to Monica Larner - was a new way to appreciate our biodiversity, learning from phylloxera the biological consequences of globalization. The third was the collaboration between science, politics and agriculture in creating new systems of control and governance. In short, from phylloxera wine has come out better, more tasteful, more long-lived, more expensive, valuable and collectable, and I have great hope that, as in the past, after the Coronavirus, our world of wine can also improve”.
But in the face of the Italian and global crisis in the sector, the uncertain restart of horeca and places where conviviality fuels consumption, as well as tourism, with the limitations of movement that will last, perhaps, until there is a vaccine, is still too early to understand what will happen. ”Nature repairs what it destroys”, wrote the writer George Eliot - recalls the famous critic – “but one thing is clear: we need to review our distribution channels, direct sales, large-scale distribution, catering, almost all guilty of relying on a single system and not others, while in the future we will have to balance”.
Is it possible, instead, to imagine what the future of wine criticism will be? “Conviviality and human contact are essential to tell a wine - underlines the authoritative wine critic - I do not believe much in virtual tasting and I do not believe this will be the future of wine communication. On the contrary, I believe the opposite: once we have overcome the social charm of novelty, we will return with our feet on the ground, literally and physically, in the dust of the vineyard, with the producer in front of the panorama of his cellar to tell the story of the wine. It may be something extra, but at the heart remains the physical contact, and for wine in particular, which must be told in front of people, in front of a glass and a smile. In short, wine without cheers is just a drink”. It is impossible, therefore, to do without our work as tasters and narrators, even at events and fairs. “The ranking of a wine tasting is always the same - says Larner - in first place there is your tasting in the cellar and among the producer's vineyards, in second place the fair, the seminar or the masterclass where you are present with the producer but far from his company, in the last place there is the online webinar where neither is present, and in many cases there is not even wine, and the experience is ... disappointing, completely empty”.
Italy is certainly one of the countries most affected by Covid-19, “and I can say with certainty that the world has suffered so much in those days when the gravity of the situation was understood”, but when life will resume its normal path - or in any case more normal than now - we hope that it will return as a protagonist, as it has always done in its history, exporting its beauty, made of art, culture, science, and even food and wine. But the Italy of wine, concludes the signature of one of the most prestigious newsletters of international wine critics, “will also be able to take advantage of the opportunity to stay at home, in our cities and regions, from being able to buy a bottle from a producer or in a nearby shop. Covid-19 teaches us to look for the important things near us, appreciating biodiversity as after phylloxera, and, to me personally, that there is no more beautiful place in the world than being in nature and living in a vineyard”.

Monica Larner’s 10 post-emergency great bottles (with dedication)
1. Tolaini, Picconero Tenuta Montebello dedicated to Pierluigi Tolaini
2. Cantina del Pino, Barbaresco Ovello dedicated to Renato Vacca
3. Pieropan, Soave Classico Calvarino dedicated to Leonildo Pieropan
4. Giuseppe Rinaldi, Barolo Brunate dedicated to Beppe Rinaldi
5. Fico Wine, Fico dedicated to Filippo Corsini
6. Gianfranco Soldera Casebasse, Brunello di Montalcino dedicated to Gianfranco Soldera
7. Castello Banfi, Brunello di Montalcino Poggio alle Mura dedicated to Rudy Buratti
8. Bruno Giacosa, Barbaresco Asili Reserve dedicated to Bruno Giacosa
9. Donnafugata, Mille e una Notte dedicated to Giacomo Rallo
10. Domenico Clerico, Barolo Ciabot Mentin dedicated to Domenico Clerico

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