Tuesday, March 30, 2010


(Venice, Italy) ...and I will tell you why.

My computer connection at home went down yesterday around noon. Well, it didn't go down. Sometimes it connected. Then it did not connect; it connected partially; then my Google certificate was fake; then my Gmail connection could not be trusted. After seven hours, I gave up and watched "Zoolander" starring Ben Stiller as a male model brainwashed by the fashion industry to kill the new Prime Minister of Malaysia because he promised to get rid of child labor.

So now I am over at the renown Querini Stampali, the scene of many previous Internet blocks. I arrived about 1PM. First my brand new password did not work. I switched computers. The computer that was working fine before I sat down suddenly lost its signal. I switched again. My password was not correct. I asked to speak to the person in charge. I had to wait until 2:00PM. I read the International Herald Tribune and learned that President Sarkozy of France was meeting with President Obama of the USA.

I won't repeat the entire story, but part of it included me hollering in the library that I would make a scene so they could call the police and file a denuncia against me. More confusion. It then turned out that my password wasn't blocked; it was my account itself. The next reason was that I had typed the password incorrectly. Then yet another computer went down. I got it up and running again myself. My account and password suddenly functioned. But when I signed in, the clock needed to be reset and YOU COULD ONLY DO THAT IF YOU WERE A TECH WITH A PASSWORD.

Anyway, as you can see, I am now sitting at a functioning computer, and apparently the clock at the previous computer magically reset itself for the next person. Of course, the first thing I wanted to know was why this happened, so I googled "President Sarkozy" together with "President Obama." I suggest you try it yourself. Those who are up on current events will understand immediately what is going on.

NOTE TO OBSTRUCTERS: I was planning on writing something else entirely; nothing to do with politics at all, but whenever you waste my time in such a fashion, I always want to know why!

Here in Venice, today we have just gotten a new mayor named Giorgio Orsoni. I have purposely stayed out of local politics, and have no opinion. The only thing I care about right now is that my Internet connection works and that unnecessary, time wasting obstructions are no longer a hindrance. So I say congratulations to Mayor Orsoni, and wish him all the best. Onward!

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Monday, March 8, 2010

Those Who Drink our Wine Know They Will Never be Betrayed - InOLTRE

(Venice, Italy)  

Those who drink our wine will know that they will never be betrayed.

That powerful statement can be found on the website of Fortesi Winery, and sums up the feeling I got after attending a wine tasting over at Le Bistrot, one of my favorite restaurants in Venice, and one which I have written about before. (The sensual image there at the top is the logo of the Pellegrini Franco Winery.)

Fortesi, Pellegrini Franco and nine other wineries are members of "InOLTRE," an association formed to promote their wines and their region, which is centered around Oltrepò Pavese. From Wikipedia:

The Oltrepò Pavese is the area of the Province of Pavia, in the north-west Italian region of Lombardy, which lies to the south of the river Po. (It is ‘oltre’ (beyond) the Po, when considered from the provincial capital Pavia.)

So, InOLTRE, is sort of like a play on words, meaning "Beyond" -- the eleven members are in it for love, not solely for profit, more like a group of friends. They each don't have a lot of acreage; all their wineries are small, family-run businesses. Sergio Fragiacomo, the owner of Le Bistrot, called them "gentle people."

To me, wine is sacred, a gift from Nature to humanity that allows us to drink the blood of the gods. All very romantic, but what, exactly, is wine? This is from Wikipedia:

Wine is an alcoholic beverage, typically made of fermented grape juice.[1] The natural chemical balance of grapes is such that they can ferment without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients.[2] Wine is produced by fermenting crushed grapes using various types of yeast. Yeast consumes the sugars found in the grapes and converts them into alcohol. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts are used depending on the type of wine being produced....

Wine has a rich history dating back to around 6000 BC and is thought to have originated in areas now within the borders of Georgia and Iran.[6][7] Wine probably appeared in Europe at about 4500 BC in what is now Bulgaria, and Greece, and was very common in ancient Greece, Thrace and Rome. Wine has also played an important role in religion throughout history. The Greek god, Dionysus, and the Roman equivalent, Bacchus, represented wine, and the drink is also used in Catholic Eucharist ceremonies and the Jewish Kiddush.

Which brings us to Dionysus, the god of wine. Let's look at his heritage. The mother of Dionysus was a mortal, the Theban princess, Semele. His father was none other than Zeus himself. The pregnant Semele asked Zeus if she could see him in all his glory, and, for whatever reason, he agreed. This was a truly strange request because no mortal could see Zeus all geared up in blinding lightening and crackling thunder and live to tell the tale. So, Zeus appeared in All His Glory and predictably sizzled Semele, who was pregnant with Dionysus. Right before Semele died, Zeus grabbed Dionysus and put him inside himself; Dionysus was born six months later and raised by the Nymphs of Nysa, who lived in the sky as a constellation of stars which brought the rain. (I want to thank Maureen O'Sullivan, author of THE GREEK GODS an iconoclast's guide, for putting the story in terms I could understand. I found Maureen's English-language book in a Greek bookshop after I jumped on a boat to Corfu, very late in the season, several years ago.)

That image you see is Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, and gives us a good idea of the nature of this god. (Bacchus is the Roman name for Dionysus.) Ariadne was the wife of Dionysus, the daughter of King Minos, and granddaughter of Helios, the Sun himself. Ariadne's big claim to fame was that she was the one who helped Thesesus navigate her father's labyrinth where the part-man, part-bull Minotaur lived. The Minotaur was actually Ariadne's half-brother, the product of the union between her mother, Pasiphaë (the daughter of Helios, the Sun), and a white bull sent by Poseidon -- who, let us not forget, was also Zeus' older brother! (All these shenanigans were taking place on Crete, which was ruled by Venice for more than four centuries. I've always thought that we shall find the Minotaur here somewhere in the center of the Venetian labyrinth:) Anyway, Ariadne ended up marrying Dionysus, not Thesesus, and judging by Titian's painting, it seems like they were a fun couple indeed.

So, we've got Ariadne, the Sun's granddaughter, marrying Dionysus, Jupiter's (Zeus) son, who was raised by rain nymphs, and whose mother was of the earth. (And if you think these sort of things do not continue to this day, just remember that on May 16, 2010 Venice herself will marry Neptune aka Poseidon aka the Sea, as she does every year -- another reason not to be too surprised that we find ourselves living in a labyrinth here in Venezia!) THANK GOODNESS THAT DIONYSUS GAVE MANKIND THE GIFT OF WINE TO HELP US MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL! That is why I say that wine (red in particular) is the blood of the gods.

To me, the group of wineries who have joined together to form InOLTRE seemed to carry the divine spirit of the grape with them to the wine tasting over at Le Bistrot. Their own words, below, are sort of like their mission statement (in Italian with a Google translation, slightly edited):

InOLTRE is the name of a free association of producers, determined to join forces and their own realities to make wines of increasing quality, spread knowledge and improve their image.

Ci incontriamo per assaggiare e confrontare i nostri vini, scambiandoci idee, suggerimenti e critiche propositive.  

We meet to sample and compare our wines, exchange ideas, suggestions and critique proposals.  

Discutiamo i cambiamenti del mondo enologico e le nostre personali convinzioni, perché le opinioni di ognuno possano uscire rafforzate o corrette dal confronto.  

We discuss the changes in the wine world and our personal beliefs because the opinions of each member is reinforced or corrected by comparison.  

Ciascuno è orgoglioso della propria identità aziendale, ma è anche consapevole di poterla evolvere in meglio, percorrendo insieme una strada che ha la sua linea maestra nella fantasia, nell'amore e nel rispetto per il proprio lavoro.  

Everyone is proud of their corporate identity, but also conscious of being able to evolve for the better, walking along a road that has its central vein in fantasy, love and respect for their work.

Per questo partecipiamo uniti a fiere e manifestazioni, cercando di proporci come esempio del nostro territorio.  

That is why we participate in fairs and events together, trying to be an example of our territory.

InOLTRE , dopo sei anni, rappresenta molto di più della somma delle aziende associate.  

InOLTRE, after six years, represents much more than the sum of the member companies.

InOLTRE rappresenta la voce di chi non accetta più una cattiva fama, per troppo tempo tollerata e sofferta, di chi con grande serietà e determinazione, produce vini per il più esigente mercato, di chi si sente assolutamente con le carte in regola per confrontarsi con la concorrenza  

InOLTRE represents the voice of those who will no longer accept a bad reputation that has been tolerated and endured for too long, who, with great earnestness and determination, produce wines for the most demanding markets, those who absolutely have the right cards to deal with the competition.

InOLTRE è territorio. InOLTRE sono i vigneti. InOLTRE è storia, tradizione, opera di generazioni.  

InOLTRE is territory. InOLTRE is our vineyards. InOLTRE is the history, tradition, the work of generations.

InOLTRE sono i figli che non hanno abbandonato l'attività dei padri, che hanno saputo conservare un bene legato al territorio, dove la natura è stata generosa.  

InOLTRE is our children who have not abandoned the work of the fathers, who have managed to preserve good ties to the territory, where nature has been generous.  

InOLTRE è tecnologia, innovazione, impegno nella ricerca e apertura ai nuovi mercati, facendo onore alla tradizione.

InOLTRE is technology, innovation, commitment to research and opening new markets, honoring the tradition.

InOLTRE è impegno, capacità, investimenti, qualità dei prodotti, vini eccellenti.  

InOLTRE is a commitment, capacity, investment, product quality, excellent wines.
InOLTRE è “movimento” di rivalutazione dell'imprenditorialità locale.  

InOLTRE is "movement" a revaluation of local entrepreneurship.

InOLTRE sono le aziende che lo compongono che pur mantenendo la loro unicità, si trovano unite in azioni ed iniziative manageriali, produttive, di immagine e comunicazione.  

InOLTRE is also the companies that compose it while maintaining their uniqueness; they are united in actions and initiatives in managerial, production, image and communication.

To learn more about this beautiful and fascinating region, and the wines they produce, you can visit the InOLTRE website:

Click to visit InOLTRE:

Ciao from Venice,
Venetian Cat - The Venice Blog

Fratelli Agnes – Rovescala (PV) – Via Campo del Monte, 1 – 27040 – tel./fax +39.0385.75206
Sito internet:www.fratelliagnes.it

Bellaria – Casteggio (PV) – Via Castel del Lupo, 28 – Loc. Mairano – 27045 – tel./fax +39.0383.83203
Sito internet:www.vinibellaria.it

Fortesi – Rovescala (PV) – Frazione Cà Nova, 4 – 27040 – tel. +39.0385.75093 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0385.75093      end_of_the_skype_highlighting - fax +39.0385.756076
Sito internet: www.fortesi.com

Le Fracce – Casteggio (PV) – Via Castel del Lupo, 5 – Loc. Mairano - 27045 – tel. +39.0383.82526 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0383.82526      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
– fax +39.0383.894151
Sito internet: www.le-fracce.it

Marco Vercesi – Montù Beccaria (PV) – Frazione Crosia, 1 – 27040 – tel. +39.0385.61330 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0385.61330      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Martilde – Rovescala (PV) – Frazione Croce, 4 – 27040 – tel./fax +39.0385.756280
Sito internet: www.martilde.it

Pellegrini Franco – Stradella (PV) – Località Solinga, 15 – 27049 – tel./fax +39.0385.88305

Picchioni Andrea – Canneto Pavese (PV) – Frazione Camponoce, 4 – 27044 – tel. +39.0385.262139 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0385.262139      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Sito internet: www.picchioniandrea.it

Piccolo Bacco dei Quaroni – Montù Beccaria (PV) – Frazione Costa Montefedele, 29 – 27040 - tel. +39.0385.60521 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0385.60521      end_of_the_skype_highlighting
– fax +39.0385.262196

Sito internet: www.piccolobaccodeiquaroni.it

Pietro Torti – Montecalvo Versiggia (PV) – Frazione Castelrotto – 27047 – tel. e fax +39.0385.993763
Sito internet: www.pietrotorti.it

Vercesi del Castellazzo – Montù Beccaria (PV) – Via Aureliano Beccaria, 36 – 27040 – tel. +39.0385.60067 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              +39.0385.60067      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Sito internet: www.vercesidelcastellazzo.it