Looking out at the Monte Amiata and the Val D’Orcia at dawn in Tuscany, it feels impossible to imagine that in the 1940s this was a scene of bloodshed and war. I was starting to write about the Val D’Orcia for this week’s post, but that will be next week.
Right now, it’s hard not to be caught in a downdraft of negativity here in the US as we begin not just to imagine, but experience things that seemed impossible only a few weeks ago…blatant conflicts of interest and corruption, targeting certain populations, undermining of journalism and free speech, attacks on democratic institutions, issuing false statements with no supporting evidence, etc.
People are beginning to rise up, resist and take action. I joined marchers in LA last weekend and have taken action in small ways, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the imagining how much worse this could get. The moneyed and powerful seem to be having their way.
To fight my fear and stay active, I’m imagining what now seems to be impossible: a vision of America and all the liberal democracies working cohesively together and being beacons of our foundational ideals…including working for peace, tolerance, education, environmental stewardship, social justice, healthy living, fairness, equal opportunity and welcoming immigrants.
The signers of Magna Carta, the Founders of the United States, Martin Luther King, Ghandi, Nelson Mandela and others in history have drawn their power from imagining an “impossible dream”, and so have hundreds of thousands of individuals whose names I don’t know. Small acts of individual courage, of resisting the negative and imagining the impossible, have big effects. Next week, I’ll write about the Origo family during World War II in the Val D’Orcia.
And every week, I write about independent Italian “natural” winegrowers, who have imagined what most people deemed impossible: using science and technology not to force and control, but to experiment with intervening as little as possible in winemaking. They have shown how to bring health back to the soil and the vines, how to avoid using industrial cellar methods, and how to make terroir wine with vivacity and personality. They are the “crazy” few, who have resisted financial, bureaucratic and other pressures, but speak about those rarely. They are not victims. They are protagonists. Their wines represent less than 5% of the wine made in Italy, but their voices are getting stronger.
Their wine fairs (including Vini Dei Vignaioli, Raw Wine, The Artisan Wine Fair, and even VinItaly’s VIVIT) are becoming more and more popular. They have founded organizations that are expanding including Renaissance Italia, VinNatur, and Vini Veri. Their wines are sold worldwide. They are speaking on behalf all of agriculture in calling attention to the serious peril of killing the soil with fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and the like. They are calling for change in bureaucratic policies that purport to promote the expression of terroir but actually do the opposite. Their resistance is chronicled in books and film.
Fifteen years ago, they were fringe. Now, they cannot be discounted.
Let’s keep engaging and imagining the impossible in wine and life.
Vini Dei Vignaioli at Fornovo 2016
Jonathon Nossiter’s film: Natural Resistance