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On Love and Loss.

Rainstorm @Duline

Wild, beautiful Friuli and Duline’s Lorenzo Mocchiutti. 

Yesterday I began receiving texts, emails, tweets, and Facebook messages about an angry and overtly racist comment made by infamous Friuli wine producer, Fluvio Bressan.  Bressan published his views on Cécile Kyenge, Italy’s Minister for Integration.  His words were hateful and angry (translated):

“Hey…filthy black APE…I DON’T PAY TAXES to put your GORILLA friends up in a HOTEL…please take them to your house where you can style them out on your dime…Oops! That money isn’t even yours…because Italians give it to you… YOU SHITTY NEGRO GOLD DIGGER.”

Ugly, old-school racism.  Still shocking to me, leaving me (like any traumatic event), saddened and mourning.

Wine is such a truly emotional experience.  Bressan’s wines have always moved me, with their magically subtle aromatics, unbelievable acidity- these are truly fascinating, terroir-driven wines.  Now that I have read these sentiments, however, I find myself wondering if I can ever enjoy them again without recalling the ugliness of these words.  Why is it that I cannot separate the man from his wines?

I think because, in some way, the wines people make are the people themselves.  Great wine is terroir, and it is also human intervention in order to preserve and exhalt that terroir.  Wine making is truly self-sacrificing and thankless work.  Like all forms of farming, the end-product is a gift to the rest of the world, thanks to the sweat and blood of the farmer.  Wine is a mirror of humanity.

Normally I find that the people who work with wine, who spend their time farming and encouraging things to GROW, are also good people, with hope and love and light in their hearts.

It breaks my heart to learn that Fluvio Bressan does not recognize the beauty in all people that I saw in his wines.

“…love battles
not only in its burning agricultures
but also in the mouth of men and women”

-Pablo Neruda

For more thoughts on the subject, please see also Jeremy Parzen @ Dobianchi and Katie Parla @ ParlaFood.

18 Comments

  1. Speaking as someone who dearly loves the wines of Fulvio Bressan, and having been genuinely moved by them on more than one occasion, this is definitely heartbreaking. His comments are clearly reprehensible. And not just reprehensible, but knowing and having spent some time with the man, downright shocking.

    That being said, I think it deserves consideration why, in this time and place, it’s so difficult to separate the artist (or artisan) from their work. As recently as a century ago, this wasn’t how we did things. For the most part, art was for art’s sake. To a certain extent, we even granted truly great geniuses a bit of slack, assuming they had to be a bit wacky–Wagner was a notorious anti-semite. So were TS Eliot, Ezra Pound, and Degas (ever read/seen Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice?). Flaubert was a pedophile, Picasso was a misogynist, I could go on…

    I mean it’s obviously difficult not to see the man, and consequently his wines, the same way after these comments, but then again, I’m reminded of the comment of the great (Jewish) pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim (a tireless advocate for the music of Richard Wagner): “He never composed an anti-Semitic note.” In other words, although the man or his beliefs may be reprehensible, his music is not.

    • Thanks, Mr. Anonymous, for your insight into this matter. I think part of the difference between some of these artists you mention and Bressan, is social media, and the rate of speed at which information travels now. There is also a much more direct conversation between the artist and his followers, thanks to blogs, Facebooks and twitter. Fluvio put this part of his persona out in the world for people to see and judge. Their take-away from that experience and their decision to avoid or disparage the wines of this man, is an unfortunate, but perhaps unavoidable side-effect.

      I feel most sad for all of Bressan’s partners in the world- who have slaved away at selling his magnificent, expensive and difficult wines for many years. To think that all of that hard work could be erased so quickly, and that people might choose never to know the brilliance of this particular terroir, that perfect little corner of Italy, is truly heart-breaking. I suppose I wish Fluvio had guarded his art a little more carefully in this case, and censored his choice of words in the process.

  2. This is not shocking, coming from Italy. These type of racist comments about Cécile Kyenge are quite common. Luckily there are a lot of Italian people that are thoroughly disgusted by people like this.

  3. Joanie, you summed up my thoughts on this perfectly.

  4. Even more shocking is his non-apologetic rant on Do Biachi. It’s sad and pathetic. Any reasonable person can see clearly that his political rant of a tweet could’ve been made without a single one of the racist remarks he added to it, presumably feet emphasis but clearly without proper understanding of why many would justifiably find them to be offensive and hurtful.

  5. What a beautiful and elegant essay against evil.
    Thank you for the courage to express your emotions in such a lyrical way.

    All the best,

    Nannette Eaton

  6. You learned well grasshopper! I am very proud of you.
    Love,
    Dad

  7. Well said, Joanie…

  8. I totally agree… knowing the winemakers can make or break a wine for for me. If they’re lovely I tend to enjoy the wine a lot more. Those comments are shocking though, even by Italian standards, which are already fairly shocking!

  9. Ok, hold on for a second before stating that a lot of Italians are racist, before jumping to conclusions lets dig in before we point the finger. Before I start though I want to underline that Fulvio was wrong and there are no excuses regarding what he said (I’ll still drink his wine though, they are sooo good). Italians, although white, have nothing to do with the slavery of the blacks. So when the “N” word is used in Italy which is found in the italian vocabulary, it means the race that is originally from Africa, south of the Sahara, so, not offensive. Italians even help the immigrants and fishermen save them all the time from waters at the italian border. Sadly these good acts do not make it on the news because it will not make numbers. In the US we shoot them at the border. In Italy, people are loud, politically incorrect and often say stuff that scandalize people from the US, but no one gets physically hurt so it’s really just freedoms of speech. In the US we must all be politically correct and we are told what’s right and what’s wrong, we all pretend to be on the good side, but then there are more hate crimes than most parts of the world. I grew up in Italy, and within my friends there were some black people, they were made fun of for been black just like they were making fun of someone for having a long nose. They thought it was funny just like we did. There was no group division black with black and vice versa. There was no difference upon us what’s o ever, you were judged from who you were as a human being. I came to know of this differences here in the states where: black people eat this, they like that, they listen to this music, white people are like this bla bla bla. My girlfriend who is Japanese became aware of these “categorizations” as she says, when she came back to the US as an adult from Japan. All these things have been created to segregate and differentiate. Fulvio is angry because there are many Italian families that have no more homes, small businesses are closing, and the money we used to put illigal immigrants in hotels could have been used to help the italian people that are actually the ones who pay the taxes, an immigration center was opened close to Fulvio’s home, a place that was crime free and no longer lives that reputation since then. Fulvio has spoken out of rage and irrationally, I don’t justify him, yet I don’t believe (nor hope) he is a racist. This whole thing has made a much bigger scandal here than in Italy. I much rather drink wine from a guy who insults people and gives good stuff than eat a smiley clown restaurant that is killing our children
    (McDonald).

    • Wow, just wow. I would agree that to categorize all Italians as racist based on the comments of one is almost as bad as the original act. You, however, come off sounding almost as racist as “that guy” and therefore do nothing to dispel the statement about Italians in general.

      You say: “within my friends there were some black people, they were made fun of for been black just like they were making fun of someone for having a long nose. They thought it was funny just like we did.”

      Do you really mean that? First, you made fun of them for being black? That is certainly the height of bigotry. Second, you say they “thought it was funny”–how on earth could you possibly know that? My wife is Asian and people make insensitive comments to her all the time. She usually smiles. BUT THAT DOES NOT MEAN SHE THINKS IT WAS FUNNY.

      Stating that the U.S. is far worse regarding race is a straw man argument. We are not talking about the U.S. here, we are talking about the comments and subsequent responses of a clearly racist and angry man.

      And it has absolutely nothing to do with “McDonald”.

      The fact that you are still going to drink his wines says it all.

      • What is it with racism obsession paranoia these days ? Geez…

        You know what, this is my official position :

        I absolutely condemn Bressan’s words, not the motivation behind them, but the words used…the “delivery”. I absolutely agree with him and a huge part of Italians out there with their dissent towards Kyenge and her actions. I will still drink his wines because they are amazing and because I love and care about wine, not what the guy who made it thinks. I embrace and accept the freedom for every single individual to have their own views and opinions, no matter how close or far they are from mine. I do not believe I am a “righteous” person any more than the next, nor am I so opinionated that my views are the “one and only” way the world should go and anyone not agreeing with me, I should estrange = “The fact that you are still going to drink his wines says it all.” = stupid comment. I do not “simplify” or “superficialize” the Bressan occurrence but instead analyze it deeply to understand exactly where it comes from, what’s behind it and what I can learn from it. I do not embark on crusades (I cannot stand them…) and I despise moralists and those who believe they “hold the truth” to the life (this is the same mental MO of Jihadists by the way…). “Boycott” is a word I do not have in my dictionary, as it is soaked in past idiotic examples -> see “Freedom Fries” when the French didn’t agree with us Americans on the Iraq war (newsflash…they were right).

    • Diego Meraviglia

      August 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm

      Agreed Michele.

      I wouldn’t take this so seriously….Italy is a terrible mess both financially and socially as of now and these reactions are to be expected, especially when Kyenge is not exactly “uncontroversial” in Italy. As much as I am not a racist, I always try to disconnect myself and examine things from an objective and unemotional manner. We cannot expect and take for granted that the values and “rules” we have in America apply to the entire planet. Consequentially it is quite presumptuous of us in a way to use our criteria as “universal law”. Italy has always been quite a racist country…even between themselves (North to South, Islands to mainland…) they discriminate. I believe we must contextualize. When I was in Cyprus the Cyprians HATED Turks…and they had reasons…if you go to Palestine, it becomes troublesome to just preach peace with Israelis…things are not so black and white. I feel Bressan’s rant represents the exhaustion of a country facing a definite collapse…and we could talk for days on the “whys”. I would not be so personally aggravated. Words are like farts, they are carried away by the wind.

      • Thanks for your input, Diego and Michele. I appreciate having some Italian nationals’ perspectives on this subject. I myself cannot judge Fluvio Bressan, the man. This recent series of events regarding him and his political views only makes me sad, because I believe that words are heavy- they carry meaning, and they have and will affect people. I wish Fluvio had expressed his (very valid) political views about the state of Italy without the racist tone. It makes me sad to think of the hard work by winemaker and all of his partners in the world industry that will be hurt by this outburst. I don’t pretend to understand Fluvio Bressan, I don’t name him as a “racist”(although his words certainly were), and I don’t believe I can honestly understand his frustration with the Italian government right now. All I can do is be sad for the people who might never experience these wines, and that particular terroir, because of this negative press.

        When I read these rants on the internet it was a sad day for me, all the way around. A sad day for Vino Italiano.

      • Hey Joanie.

        Thank you for hosting our views !

        I agree with you…but he is an abrasive farmer, he has always been…and most farmers are. They are not politically correct, they did not get highly educated and many of them did not travel the world. It is a deeply complex subject matter. Italy is a country that has a very unique history and words in Italy have a different “weight” as the same words do in the USA (…to use your example on words that weigh). It is exactly because of his non-conformist and rebellious nature that his wines are that good to begin with…this time, he rebelled against widespread political correctness…more to stir a &%$@storm than anything else if you ask me….because apparently, in Italy, if you don’t go heavy handed…no one pays attention. f he was politically correct, he would be making wines like Banfi. Like them ?

        I condemn his words, but I understand his background. Just like I understand the background of a Palestinian and his rage…and just as much as I understand the background of the attrition between Greeks and Turks. We are not one big happy family…we never have been and most likely never will…this is humanity. I have lived all across Europe, the middle East, Japan and now America. We have differences. Differences make the world a beautiful place…Japan is Japan, with its views and traditions…Italy is Italy. This is why the world is gorgeous. Remember what I told you that day ? The “blessing and curse” of Italy…a country with such a tumultuous and differentiated history that it provides a wonderland of variety, but from variety and difference, come disagreements and conflicts. Take your pick…an imperfect world with variety, or a perfect world all exactly the same ?

        I do not have the arrogance to believe my views are the way the world should go, unlike many commenters, sometimes even clowns, on the Bressan case.

        What I do want to applaud, is you and your position. You are always objective, mannered & balanced, and you never demonstrate any form of self-righteousness. Kudos…this is far more than I can say for many of your highly opinionated blogging colleagues.

  10. I am so bored of Italian friends pointing out McDonalds when I ( a foreigner in Italy) point out something that is wrong with the system here. Italy needs to completey change how it manages immigration and how it educates people about other cultures. Also I never get the McDonalds point. There are a ton of them in Rome and I only ever see Italians in them and secondly Italy happens to have the highest growing rate of obese children in Europe after the U.K. so something is wrong with the food system, it aint perfect. Bressan’s wines may be wonderful but wine is a link between the human that makes them and the land they come from. Michelle, Bressan didn’t use a word in the dictionary to describe a person’s skin color he used the word of a non human animal to describe her. It like calling a woman a bitch or a pig. It is not acceptable, I don’t care where he is from. As a human female I am offended by words that demean women simply for having a vagina, and we should all be offended by hateful words like Bressan’s. What is worse is now his comments have caused such an uproar that ALL Italians have been deamed racist by many in the wine community. Watch Mondo Vino, there are certainly some racist and xenophobic assholes in that film, too. I live in Italy and have yet to meet a racist person personally. Just because I happen to feel a certain way doesn’t invite comments about McDonalds. Please we’ll get to American racism at another date.

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