#FoodFiction: “The Trebbiano Challenge”


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 la tecnica promozionale chiamata “product placement”, ovvero l’inserimento di un marchio all’interno della narrazione.

by Valentina Simoncelli

Inspired by the visit and tasting at Fongoli Winery

He was so proud, he was proud of me, of course! Who? My maker! The person who made everything possible, the person I’m so proud of: my wine producer, Mr. Fongoli – actually, the fourth of the Fongoli generation – and definitively the best among his family. This year he made a great challenge with his products. In about two months, everybody was going to taste me, and they would be surprised! They would find out that the simple ‘Trebbiano’ can be a really good wine, delicate and perfect for every occasion.

I am not a simple bottle of white wine, I am the bottle! Mr. Fongoli was going to take me for the Winery’s opening which is taking place in May, and I had to make sure nothing would go wrong. That’s why I’ve been tasted so many times during these weeks, my producer wants to be sure I am the wine that nobody expects. His wife defined me “incredibly soft and good”, and I must say that I like how she talked to her friends about me. Of course, the place we lived helped Mr. Fongoli really much: our Winery is located in the wonderful countryside of Montefalco, here in Umbria, such a suggestive location and I guess it’s a sort of inspiration for my wine producer and for our guests as well, because drinking a glass of good wine here is definitely one of the most relaxing things ever.

Mr. Fongoli invited Matteo, a dear friend of his – one of his classmates from University – who had been abroad for one year. He made a lunch at home, with typical Umbrian products, especially from our own territory. He prepared bruschetta with tomatoes and olive oil – our olive oil, I mean, from our olive trees – and there was salami, prosciutto, and mozzarella. He also made a special salad with lots of vegetables from our garden. Well, that food was a great combination with the Trebbiano! Indeed, Mr. Fongoli put me on the table, into a sort of “ice-bag”. They started talking as he arrived.

“It’s so great to see you, my friend! You forgot Italian food, didn’t you? I guess you couldn’t find our products everywhere, especially from Umbria..such a small region! But don’t worry about that, I’m going to remind you what Umbria is. I want you to try this wine which is abs……”  He couldn’t even finish as he grabbed me, hungry and wishful of drinking a good wine, but then Matteo seemed disappointed. “Are you serious? I’m finally back home and you welcomed me with that?! Where’s my Sagrantino? I’m sure you’re kidding me.”

I couldn’t understand. The Sagrantino was a great wine for sure! It’s strong but at the same time it can be soft, delicate, and it leaves a delightful aftertaste as many of their guests said. The Sagrantino is an excellent product here in Montefalco, but what’s wrong with me? I mean, is it because I’m a white wine? Is that racism?! Okay, I was literally freaking out. Everything was clear when Mr. Fongoli replied. “Yes, I know that Trebbiano used to be a low quality wine years ago, but that was because our grandparents did not know these new techniques. I learned to make a great result! This Trebbiano is something you’ve never tasted before, trust me. Just try it!” But he didn’t. He refused to taste me and they argued until the afternoon. Matteo left the house and we both were so upset. Mr. Fongoli started drinking me, glass after glass, till he got quite drunk and his wife took him to bed.

That night, the Sagrantino helped me better understand what was going on. “Well, you’re a great wine! I saw the time he spent to make an excellent Trebbiano, and he succeeded! He utilized the best techniques and with his knowledge he created something new. But you see… people are not used to drinking the Trebbiano and remain satisfied, because you used to be a “drinkable” wine, but nothing special. Now you finally are! You can challenge any other white wine for sure, but the hardest challenge for you is to eliminate prejudices and common sayings, and that’s not so easy”.

Finally that morning, I felt better! Talking with the Sagrantino during the night had been really helpful. Mr. Fongoli and his wife were arguing all morning long, I could hear them. Who knew why? I realized why they were arguing when Mr. Fongoli came into the dining room saying something like “I don’t care what she said, I don’t care what she thinks… it doesn’t matter. I decided and I’m sure of that. I don’t need a Trebbiano to demonstrate I can make the difference, my Sagrantino is already excellent, it’s enough for the opening…”. He would not take me to the Winery’s opening and no one was going to taste me, the new Trebbiano. The day of the opening was hard, I was put into a glass refrigerator, ‘in exposition’ as Mr. Fongoli said, but all the hosts were so glad to taste the new Sagrantino and no one was even curious about trying the Trebbiano, of course.

“This Sagrantino is superlative!”

“This is your year! You’re going to be rewarded I’m sure”

“I already knew the 2015 was a great year for the grape harvest, but I didn’t expect such good work…”.

Apparently, they were all satisfied, as was my producer.  I can’t say I was happy, but I sure have to admit he worked so hard that year and he deserved every kind of praise. So, I was glad to hear that. At the end of the day, before everybody left, the wife did something unexpected. She took me from the fridge and she covered me with a piece of cloth. She started to serve a little bit of Trebbiano to everyone there.

“You’re right! Some white wine is exactly what I need right now… which one is that?”

She did not reply. When Mr. Fongoli realized what she was doing he suddenly seemed so afraid, but he couldn’t say anything at that point.

“I’m not going to tell you because I want you to guess which wine it is, you are the experts!” she said after served the last glass.

“Challenge accepted!” they replied.

They began drinking me, the Trebbiano, and they did not seem disappointed. On the contrary, I received lots of compliments! I was so proud and Mr. Fongoli looked really excited, he should have been really grateful to his wife. People there started shouting famous kind of white wines, no one said “Trebbiano Spoletino”. She seemed so surprised when she announced. “It’s the Trebbiano Spoletino, my dear wine-experts!” taking out the cloth from the bottle. Everyone was so surprised. I’m going to remember their faces forever.  Nobody could believe I was the same wine they had tasted. “How’s that possible? A Trebbiano can’t be so…acceptable!”

“She’s just making fun of us! It can’t be the Trebbiano…it can’t be!”

More or less, everyone there could not understand how it was possible: they all knew the old Trebbiano, and they knew it wasn’t as good as the wine they tasted. But Mr. Fongoli intervened “It is true! I worked a lot last year to make a good Trebbiano, using new techniques, and I could make a great wine!”

“But you didn’t make us try it! Such a masterpiece! Why?” one of them said.

“Because I wanted to show you my excellence! So my Sagrantino! I knew the Trebbiano was really good, but I was just afraid you wouldn’t understand…”

“Well, I have to say I wouldn’t have tried that wine if I had known it was the Trebbiano!”, and all the hosts agreed with that.

His wife was a genius, she found the perfect way to defeat prejudices and now everyone knows that the Trebbiano has become a great wine, an excellence as well. From that day on, lots of wine experts came to taste the famous Trebbiano spoletano, the new excellence of white wines. Mr. Fongoli taught his methods to other oenologists and so many of them asked him to export his ideas and products abroad. But he’d rather produce for himself and his country rather than export and become famous. The real reward was his product, his wine, and that’s just what matters.

Umbra Institute


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