Il Mio Amore: Italia by John Axelrod©2020
Bella Italia. I write my love song to you. One of the most beautiful of all stories, Romeo and Juliet, happens in Verona. Verona is in the Veneto, one of the regions hit hardest by the Coronavirus. Italy is in lockdown, with draconian measures of home isolation in order to defeat further spread of the virus, which has decimated the economy of this beloved country. But Italians, as they are strong in spirit forged over centuries of survival, took to their balconies to sing, to dance, to play. That is Bella Italia, my love, il mio amore.
Romeo and Juliet is one of the most influential subjects in the repertoire of classical music performance. Berlioz made it majestic, Prokofiev gave it a pictorial quality, but it is Tchaikovsky’s immortal Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture that has matched the narrative of the Shakespearean source in both soul and substance The music is inspiring, and shows how Berlioz cast a long shadow with its chorale harmonic chords and detaché strings played appassionato that no doubt impacted Prokofiev as well. The love theme has no limits, full of the fervor that comes with love at first sight and the undeniable pull of the heartstrings. It is and will always be a favorite among concertgoers, conductors and cognoscenti.
Also a favorite among the informed oeniphiles and wine lovers is the intensely flavored wine from this same region of the city as the Montagues and Capulets: Amarone. It is probably the wine I write about the most and with reason: It is is also the wine I drink the most. And among the many Amarone wines that capture the attention, there is one that equally pulls at the heart and makes me passionate about the taste and style. Il Mio Amore Amarone is by Cantina Valpolicella. It has a perfect blend of the Corvina grape mixed with Rondinella, and is rich in sugar with 15.5% alcohol. This is due to the “appassimento” process of air drying the grapes. Once they are shriveled into raisins, the sugar concentration is profound, producing the distinctive and delighted full-bodied wine that is the Amarone. The aging process, manual labor, and valuable grape-growing real estate mean that Amarone is often quite expensive. Bottles of this iconic wine generally start at $50-$60, but the sky’s the limit when it comes to price, such as Quintarelli or Dal Forno. But this love, Il Mio Amore, will not break your bank or your heart. Priced around 25€ a bottle, it is affordable and attractive. The taste is pure passion, bold and exciting. It is a deep and emotional wine. And like the story of Romeo and Juliet, it is love at first taste. But a love that lasts a lifetime.
A lifetime to love. A love story to live. And yet, Italia, faced with a challenge not seen since the end of the 2nd World War, is wearing its best face during this crisis. It is not Carnevale, which was canceled. It is not a Bacchanale. It is a brave stoicism, reflected in the marble ruins of the Roman forum, the sensational castle of Soave or in the black bauta society mask of Venice. Love may be tested, but with a taste of Il Mio Amore and the glorious sounds of Romeo and Juliet, Italia will rise again, just as the empty canals of Venice are now limpid and full of fish, dolphins and swans. The circle of life is renewed and the need to celebrate the end of this crisis is near. But until then, we wait and wash and wonder when we can enjoy a romantic serenade with our amore, listening to, you guessed it…..?