When earthquakes rocked central Italy last summer and fall, it was impossible not to be moved by the scenes of devastated hill towns and the news of hundreds of lives lost. Months later, many of us wonder what we can do to help. One Italian wine scholar has a suggestion — several, in fact — and all of them are delicious.
If you keep up with Italian gastronomy, you may have read the work of Jeremy Parzen, author of the blog Do Bianchi (www.dobianchi.com). The Houston-based historian-translator-musician is also a professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UniSG), in Pollenzo, in Piedmont, which offers master’s degree programs in food and wine culture for an international student body. Inspired by a colleague, Parzen penned a recent blog post focusing attention on winemakers in the earthquake-affected regions of Marche, Umbria, and Abruzzo.
The colleague who inspired that post is Fabio Giavedoni, also a professor at UniSG and an editor of the Slow Wine Magazine (related to the Slow Food organization founded in 1986 by activist Carlo Petrini). Giavedoni recently issued a call to action on the Slow Wine blog, urging the international community to purchase central Italian pours to help sustain these regions.
A conversation with Parzen sheds light on the importance of tourism. “If you live in Rome, you drive a couple of hours to these medieval lands,” Parzen says. He describes the terrain as rustic, much less developed than regions like the Veneto or Lombardy. It’s typical, he continues, for people to visit important cultural sites, like the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Umbria, drive to the wineries nearby, and load up the trunk with cases of wine. All of this was disrupted by the quakes, which damaged infrastructure and rendered some of the most-visited sites inaccessible. Tourism has fallen sharply. “People’s fear of seismic activity keeps them away,” he explains. “The smaller producers are really at risk, but even the bigger producers rely on tourism.”
The good news is that wine consumers, even from afar, can support these producers and winegrowing regions. Some sleuthing reveals that many of Parzen’s favorites can be found in Boston-area shops. He appreciates a good value as much as the next person. “We’re a middle-class family trying to raise kids,” he says with a chuckle, underscoring how he and his wife, Tracie, appreciate delicious, affordable pours crafted by hard-working people. “It would be a pity if the small mom-and-pop businesses started to disappear,” he says. “It’s a heritage that none of us wants to lose.”
Pievalta Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Classico Superiore 2015 This biodynamic white is made from mostly verdicchio with a splash of trebbiano. Partial malolactic fermentation provides some weight to a palate of yellow fruit, crunchy peach, herbs, and mineral. Around $19. At Whole Foods South End, 617-904-1000; Dion’s Fine Wine, Lexington Street, Waltham, 781-894-1999.
Bucci Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi, Classico Superiore 2015 Waterfall fresh scents combine with understated aromas of yellow fruit and stoniness, leading to a bright citrus palate with hints of salt and appetizing bitterness. Around $20. At Cuvee Fine Wines, Belmont, 617-484-4560; Whole Foods South End.
Cirelli La Collina Biologica, Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2015 Winsome in weight with stone fruit, white floral, and juicy citrus. The mineral and salt components of this organic trebbiano make for a pure-tasting pour. Around $17. At Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, 617-491-2244; the Wine Bottega, North End, 617-227-6607.
Tiberio Pecorino 2015 Pecorino, long associated with the slopes of the Apennine Mountains, is making a comeback. The grape is used to make this full-bodied white offering juicy tartness, plus food-friendly bitter and saline notes. Around $25. At Curtis Liquors, Weymouth, 781-331-2345; Lower Falls Wine Co., Newton Lower Falls, 617-332-3000.
Marina Cvetic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Riserva 2013 Aromas of red fruit combine with freshly turned soil and violet potpourri. Ripe and mouth-filling with an appetizing ferrous element, smooth tannins, and well-handled oak. Around $26. At Colonial Spirits, Acton, 978-263-7775; Eataly, Boston, 617-807-7300.