The Italian Cloud Descends Upon Sir Harry

IF It's always a bit odd for me when I find myself securely in America, yet surrounded by a foreign language to the point of having english squeezed out of the picture.

Of course one is accustomed to and expects this when traveling in another county where English is not the native language. And even in the Napa Valley, one occasionally gets caught in a passing cloud of French when walking down the streets of Saint Helena or Yountville. But eventually the cloud of Le's, La's Ou's and eouve's passes and English shines through.

So it was odd last night when, while sitting at the bar in Sir Henry's at the Waldorf Astoria, I found myself completely surrounded by Italian. The language, with its combination of silky lines and staccato bursts of long vowels, overtook the place as the Italians crowded out English and French and Spanish in preparation for Vino 2011, the three day trade show and seminar devoted to Italian wine.

It's even more remarkable the way all else slipped away to the Italians being in a city like New York, where diversity of color, thought, language, custom and race is raised to an art form.

I liked it.

I think the Italian vintners and marketers know a good thing when they see it and Vino 2011 is a good thing. This is the second time I've been invited to take part in the week's events as a speaker, this time bringing the social media Word to Italian vintners as a moderator the Virtual Vino seminar on Millennials, Social Media, Authenticity and wine. The event is remarkably well managed and the organizers bring (mostly) top notch folks to the show to enlighten, talk and converse.

My take on italians is that they always seem tirelessly dispossessed of anxiety. As I sat and drank my Manhattan at Sir Harry's the organizing italians whirled about, remaking the room in Italian, speaking among one another as they prepared the room for a fest. Those moving table tents about the room, checking that the right wines and spirits were on display and calling on the help to move this or that around, were quick to stop in the tracks, smile, and happily address me as I noodled my way into their paths to ask questions. They have a knack for seeming as though the interruption in their flow is the real reason for their being there.

I'll be meeting a lot more Italian vintners and marketers this week at Vino 2011. I'm looking forward to it. But I'm going to take time to listen closely too. I want to try to pick up that remarkable accent that stops us anglos in our tracks whether it comes through in its native tongue or when it makes the english language sound much more inconsequential than the tongue really is.

Benvenuti a New York…



2 Responses

  1. Fredric Koeppel - January 25, 2011

    “tirelessly dispossessed of anxiety” — brilliant term. wish i could achieve that state.
    see you at the seminar this afternoon.

  2. JohnLopresti - January 25, 2011

    I would keep my eyes open for one of those muscat wines like Alice Feiring is known to cherish on occasion.
    Personally, one of my grandfathers was a winemaker from Italy, who first settled in New York, then moved to a suburb, a century since. Although, I think, if as a child I had asked him his occupation, he would have thought of winemaking as more like ordinary gardening and canning processes common to many families in his home region of Sicily.
    I had the pleasure of working with Italy trained enologist Bill Bonetti in the northcoast for about one year, who was renowned for elegant chardonnay at the time. The little town on whose outer zone I lived while commuting to work for Bill, in those times still had main street moments when it seemed the most common second language after English was Italian. Times have changed in modern winemaking in CA’s northcoast area. And many varietals originally discounted as low potential for American vinification practices, later came into their own, and specific adaptable clones spread into local vineyards here.
    But, watch out for those marvelous sculptures and other artworks. There is a certain sagacity of business acumen behind all the irrepressibility of those carefree people.
    And bring home some of those funny wicker wrapped chiantis; there is some magic in the contents.

Leave a Reply