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Wine Everyday

By Caitlin Chaffee

          

Made by Raul Fortini of Cagli, Italy

Made by Raul Fortini of Cagli, Italy

It is almost six o’clock in the evening. This is the time for wine and good conversation with friends at Alimentare Cafe. As constant as the river flowing through this small town, a small group of older men come together each day around this time to discuss the “daily arguments.” They come together to heckle and provoke one another, but their friendship and concern for each other’s lives is obvious. They pour wine from small carafes, which are replenished constantly by Alessandro Chegai, who tends to his clients’ needs, in a futile attempt to keep up with their thirst. Still they order only the small decanters.

            Raul Fortini, 73, is one of these men. Each day he drinks the same white wine, Bianchello di Modelle. While some in the group prefer to cut the wine with frizzante (sparkling water) or aqua naturale (bottled water), he is a purist. “Water is for washing feet and clothes in the home,” he reveals as the edge of his mouth exposes a grin. He believes wine should taste strong whenever it is drank, which for him is every day.

            Today is a special day however, because Raul has brought some of his homemade cherry wine to sample. Each year, Raul produces 30-40 bottles of this wine from small, tart cherries common to the Le Marche region of Italy. When asked about his wine, his face lights up and his eagerness to share causes him to bound through an explanation. Although he shares several ingredients for the wine, the cherries, vino rosso (red wine), brandy and zucchero (sugar), he defies his eager audience and withholds the specific recipe and quantities by quickly changing the subject. It takes Raul about four months to make the wine, at which point he is ready to share with anyone who would like to try it.

           

Raul Fortini pouring his homemade wine

Raul Fortini pouring his homemade wine

Although his companions taunt him, calling the drink “women’s wine” and “wine that is too sweet,” each one eagerly takes a glass to taste and the bottle is empty within half an hour. The wine is sweet and the aroma is mouthwatering. The bitter cherries are transformed by the sugar and fermentation to a taste that is sweeter than gelato. The group sips the wine for a moment in silence, as if to offer that moment to Raul in gratitude and recognition.

            Here in the caffé, wine is not simply an alcoholic beverage; it is a way of life. Frequently it is consumed before lunch and dinner, but also commonly drunk throughout these meals as well. For this group of men, it is a chance to assemble each day. Some come after work, but most are retired. Raul, although a native of Cagli, worked as a mechanic for eight years in Africa. They are like an old, rowdy bunch of fraternity boys with inside jokes and stories that to them are legendary.

            “Salute!” each one of them says to one another. “To your health,” another declares. The consensus is that drinking the wine each day helps to preserve their mental and spiritual health, at least when it is done, “intelligently”. One man even takes out medication and chases the pills with vino bianco (white wine) cut with frizzante. Perhaps the wine is responsible for their health, health measured not by cholesterol levels or blood pressure readings but instead by the boom and rumble of laughter, which echoes within the walls of Alimentare. More likely, it is their sense of community and camaraderie that attributes to their well-being.

            The meeting is almost over and for many of them; dinner is ready at home to be consumed with family. They acknowledge one another with buonaserra’s, arrivederci’s and ciao’s all around with the understanding they will see each other again tomorrow to drink more vino and converse once again about the “daily arguments.” 


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