#FoodFiction: “Salute!”

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Questo racconto è il risultato della collaborazione tra SapereFood e Umbra Institute. Dopo aver visitato alcune importanti aziende della regione, gli studenti hanno scritto delle storie di fantasia sperimentando il “product placement”, ovvero l’inserimento di un marchio all’interno della narrazione.

by Isabel Ruksznis

Inspired by a visit to Le Cimate Winery

Francesco knew from that moment on, if he truly wanted to win Elena’s heart, he would have to do the unthinkable. He would have to break the number one rule of the winery exercised since what felt like the beginning of time. In fact, the first rule ever established at Cantina Le Cimate ever since the words left the lips of his great grand father, Emilio. “You must never walk through the corridors of this winery after the sun leaves the sky. Good things come to those who wait.” From that day on his great grandfathers rule was never broken, never challenged, until now. The risk was great, but the reward he considered to be even greater. Francesco knew what he had to do. He had to sneak into his family’s winery after sunset for the Montefalco Sagrantino, a red wine considered to be most the sacred of all, and he was going to bring it back for the girl he considered an angel.

Since the beginning of elementary, Francesco knew that he would never be able to forget about Elena Salvatore. He knew from the moment he looked at her for the first time, when he immediately felt the rumble of nervous energy rise up into his hands, shaking. He gazed at her emerald eyes that dazzled against the constellations of light brown freckles on her nose and her long black hair that fell into soft ringlets above her lower back. To him, she wasn’t just beautiful he knew she was more than just a pretty girl with an empty head. She knew how to read and write before Francesco and his classmates. She could paint murals of mountains fresh with snow on canvas and make pots and vases with her hands, brown gooey clay dripping from her fingertips. Francesco wished to hold her hands mud and all, to watch as she painted a mural of the mountaintops kissing the sky.

When middle school came, all boys chased after the beautiful Elena but she was able to chase them away, throwing bits of clay in their direction demanding that they leave her to her work. When they insisted on her becoming their girlfriend she laughed, eyes wide, gleaming at the humor of it all. In return she would reply that she didn’t need boys in her life, when she had books to read, clay to build with, and murals that needed painting. Francesco watched from a distance as each boy tried failed with Elena as if she were the unattainable prize of his class. He knew that it was not his time. She wasn’t just a prize to Francesco. He had to be patient. As his father had always said to him, “the best wine of all is the kind that has been waited patiently for. One must wait for years for the best.” So Francesco knew he would have to patient, just like his great grand father before him and his father now but for Elena.

Francesco had waited patiently, and on that first day he knew he finally upper hand. The day high school started was when wine, for the first time, had become the hottest topic of conversation. Before the teacher came into class, tales of the summer circulated the room, many involving his classmates first encounters with wine. Some, had finally looked old enough, with shaded stubble on their chins, to walk into the store and buy a bottle of the cheapest wine off the shelf. Others had shared glasses of wine with their families at dinner or with older siblings after dark. Like clockwork, everyone stopped to listen to Elena’s tale of wine, for when she spoke everyone turned to watch her as they always did, to stare as her emerald eyes dazzled with intensity. “Sagrantino grapes” she said, “create the best wine in all of Umbria, my father and I passed through Montefalco this summer and we picked the grapes from the vine— but the wine itself is far too expensive, and I don’t look a day over fifteen,” she sighed. “Oh, what I would do for a glass of Montefalco Sagrantino.”

Older now, Elena was far more sophisticated than her classmates and this brought them to admire her even more than they once had. This had the same effect on Francesco, which made him feel even more victorious after hearing her story of the Sagrantino grapes. In that moment, Francesco wanted to throw his hands into the air and celebrate, but he was far to shy to mention in front of the class and to Elena that his father had owned the very winery where she had picked the grapes from the vine. He would have to wait for the right opportunity to tell her so he waited until the class was over to make his move.

“Elena, wait up!”

“Francesco, what is it?”

“I wanted to tell you earlier…” he paused, stumbling over his words as their eyes met.

“Yes?”

 “I can get you that glass of Montefalco Sagrantino,”

“And I can fly,” Elena retorted with a smile.

“No, really, I can. This Saturday. Via del Sole. Meet me there. Nine o’clock. We will share our first glass. I guarantee you.” At first, Elena looked at him in disbelief, and then smiled.

“You better be a man of your word Francesco,” she said, and walked ahead of him to the ceramics classroom.

“I’ll see you then,” He said, as he watched her walk away.

He knew his father would never allow him to take a bottle of Montefalco Sagrentino from the winery for himself, so Francesco knew that he had to take matters into his own hands. He would have to defy his great grandfathers rule, and sneak into the winery after sunset. It was the only time the winery would be empty and no one would be around to see him when he stole the wine for Elena.

Francesco set out on his mission at seven in the evening after hiding in the fields of his father’s winery for about an hour. He lay on his belly in the grass and waited until the sun fell slowly into the mountainside. When he heard the sound of an engine roar past on the road he knew the coast was clear, and he made his play. He stood up, stains of crushed grapes splattered across his T-shirt and ran toward the cellar containing his father’s finest wines. When he arrived at the door Francesco fumbled with the lock, his fingers shaking as he entered the combination and when the lock finally clicked, the door swung open with ease. The lights were dim and he could barely see so he used a flashlight to guide his way through the cellar until he found a light switch and flicked it on. He quickly spotted the prized barrel of Montefalco Sagrantino. Francesco rushed to the shelf to grab an empty bottle already labeled, and filled it from the barrel, topping it off with a cork.

Francesco’s feet couldn’t move fast enough after he locked the door to his father’s wine cellar. Although the words of his great grandfather rang in his ear, they had not yet proven true, as nothing had gone wrong on his way out. He let out a sigh of relief. When he reached Via del Sole he was about twenty minutes early and there was no sign of Elena just yet. So he searched for a bench that would give them the perfect view of the mountains, like the ones in her paintings. He then sat and waited and looking down at his watch and saw that she was already ten minutes late. His palms grew sweaty, and he feared she wouldn’t show, that he wasn’t good enough for a girl like Elena, but then she came. As she approached him her green eyes gazed at the mountainside and then at the bottle of red wine sitting in Francesco’s lap.

“Francesco Cerullo, a man of his word!” she sang to the hillside.

“A man of my word,” he said smoothly, with a smile.

“I have to say I’m impressed.”

“It was really no problem at all.”

“So how did you manage it?” she asked as she took a seat next to him on the bench. 

“All you need to worry about is how big of a glass you would like,” he said confidently and pulled two cups from his knapsack.

Francesco then removed the cork and poured two glasses for himself and Elena, placed the bottle between his feet, and raised his glass.

“To the best grapes in all of Umbra and to the best view,” he said, blushing as he looked at her, hoping the wine would give him the courage to lean in for a kiss later on.

“Salute!”

The two then looked at one another and took a sip and in that moment Francesco knew he had made a grave error in breaking into his fathers wine cellar after dark against his great grandfathers wishes. He watched as Elena struggled to choke down the wine as she shivered at its taste. Francesco himself nearly gagged when it reached his lips. The wine wasn’t ready; it had not matured long enough in the barrel to be consumed or to even taste remotely like the rich, dry wine, that was his fathers highly praised Montefalco Sagrentino. Elena was red in the face, and then coughed, as it seemed as if the wine had gone down the wrong windpipe.

“Are you sure this is…” she paused and took another sip, trying desperately to remain cool and collected, coughing again, “the right wine?”

Francesco took another sip, trying his best to choke it down.

“Is this what its supposed to taste like?” she asked innocently, never having tasted wine before in her life.

Francesco nodded his head at the sky in disbelief and then began to laugh uncontrollably.

“No,” he said gasping for air, and chuckled “I should have known better,” he said to himself.

“Don’t drink that, its not nearly ready,” he confessed, “and if you really must know why its because I stole this wine from my fathers winery and I should not have. I broke a family rule and took it from the cellar after dark. I wanted to impress you and now I have simply embarrassed myself to the point of no return.”

Elena sat there, staring at Francesco with a blank face.

“You broke into your fathers winery?”

“Yes.”

“So that I could have my first glass of wine?”

“Yes.”

“Well then, we might as well not let your efforts go to waste,” she said, and plucked the bottle of wine from the ground and poured them both another glass. They both grimaced as they drank, but joked and laughed as they gazed at the skyline. Francesco told her of his great grandfather’s rule, explained the crushed grapes all over his shirt and as they continued to drink, the wine began to taste less and less foul. The windows of houses lit up in the nighttime and they glittered like the eyes of Elena and Francesco, giddy and light from not just the spirits but also each other’s company. That was when he realized that perhaps his great grandfather let this one slip but a lesson was surely learned in the process. Here he was, sitting next to a beautiful girl, looking out at the city he loved after years of wishing and hoping she would look in his direction. He looked at her and as she smiled he could feel it. Good things truly come to those who are patient enough to wait.

Umbra Institute

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