Monday, March 6, 2017

Books Explore Italian Wine History And The “Real Italy”

Italy from two perspectives

Looking to enjoy the good life in Italia? This pair of books provide entertaining reading on the people and wine.

Living In Italy – The Real Deal

Living In Italy – The Real Deal by Stef Smulders (Barbeque Publishers) relates a rolicking tale of two Dutch guys seeking to relocate to Italy and open a B&B. That simple plan becomes confounded by a colorful cast of Italians ranging from sympathetic to villainous.

In 2008 the author emigrated to Italy with his husband and dog to start the Villa I Due Padroni bed and breakfast. The tale takes place in the northern Italian region of Oltrepò Pavese. The task to transform a fading gray concrete block building into an attractive haven with a swimming pool is beset with minor calamities.

My only trip to Italy found me driving a rental car in the middle of a historic pedestrian-only Roman square. So Stef’s insights are quite relatable and welcome.

Smulders dishes up his tale with equal parts amusement and disbelief while weaving an entertaining tale. The book not only relates their story, but gives keen insight into the essence of Italian character.

Living In Italy  is available through Amazon at $13.95 in paperback.

The Modern History of Italian Wine

The Modern History of Italian Wine, edited by Walter Filiputti (published by Skira) is a feast for lovers of Italian wine. The oversized book is bursting with beautiful photos and thoughtful articles rich in insights on the Italian wine industry.

At 414 pages, this isn’t a book that can be easily read in the course of a evening or two. Rather, it is one to savor and enjoy. I’d suggest it be done with an appropriate glass of Italian wine.

The story of Italian wine is a complex one. I dare say the intricacies far surpass fellow Old World wine powerhouse France. The volume brings the story alive with the people, lands and tales of Italy. It does so in three main sections: 1. The Renaissance of Italian Wine, 2. Italian Wine Innovation, and 3. The Geography of Italian Wine.

Considerable time is spent discussing the Renaissance of Italian wine. During my lifetime (at least my wine-consuming years) Italian wine has always been superlative. I didn’t realize that Italy had to arise from a sea of low-cost, low-quality wines to achieve the notoriety it now enjoys.

The article, The Renaissance of Italian Wine: the People Who Changed History, is particularly interesting. It covers the development of Sassicaia, the first Super Tuscan premium wine that shook the foundation of the DOC system and eventually resulted in an overhaul to the Italian wine system.  Tignanello is also given its due as the wine that changed Chianti and Italy.

Italian wine producers have used innovation to refine the product, which is a deeply artisan one. The book covers scientific and technical advances while highlighting the wines and personalities of superb wine regions like Brunello di Montalcino, Piedmont, Trentino-Alto Adige, and Chianti.

The Excellence of Italian Wine from the 1960s to Today is a look at the best winemakers and wines by the decades. Photos accentuate and beautify this volume. Like a lingering finish on an aged Barolo, the closing chapter on Wineries – New Architecture, is a sensory delight. The design of Italian wineries reflect the sense of style and innovation that have keyed the success of Italy in this post-modern consumer world.

I recommend this for every wine lover’s library. Available on Amazon, The Modern History of Italian Wine retails for about $36.

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