Friday, January 23

Zio Giovanni's wine

Zio Giovanni is probably in his late sixties, but is one of those men that never managed to leave home. He never married either and still lives quite comfortably with his ancient mother. Every autumn he collects all the grapes from his small patch of land overlooking the sea and sorts them into piles of red and white, ready to be pressed.

The smell of fermenting grapes is strong and wafts up from the house to the alleyway above, a clear warning of what is taking place on the terrace below. Zio Giovanni bustles around importantly, sorting crates of grapes, cranking the handle of the ancient press and dusting off his motley collection of recycled bottles, ready for filling.

Every year at Christmas Zio Giovanni presents us with a bottle of his homemade red and a bottle of his homemade white. Every year we open the wine, sniff it cautiously, reluctantly take a sip, then splutter in disgust and pour the rest away down the sink. For the truth is that Zio Giovannis wine is awful, it taste like cats piss and is completely undrinkable, not even fit for cooking with.

The red wine is fizzy and harsh, making you want to scrape your teeth over your tongue, and if you don’t get rid of it within a year the bottle will explode with pressure (ask me how I know). The white can I explain? It is just not what wine should ever taste like. It is just WRONG.

So of course I was taken completely by surprise this year when on sniffing the wine he had given us I didn’t reel back in disgust. It actually smelt quite like wine. I poured a bit into a glass and tried it and it actually tasted like wine! A weak, cheap wine, but it was drinkable! I was ecstatic for Zio Giovanni. He could do it, he could really make wine! I piled him with compliments and told him how clever he was a few days later when I met him on the road. He blushed shyly and told me to bring the bottles back and he would refill them for me.

But yesterday Zio Giovanni was caught red-handed. Apparently before Christmas he went out and bought two 5-litre casks of ultra cheap table wine and decanted it into his own bottles, then wrapped them up and handed them out to everybody, fooling all of us into thinking he had learnt the secret of wine making.

And I drank it. Grrr.


  1. Awww. I find that so cute. Poor Zio Giovanni just probably realized how awful is wine was. My dad's wine was awful too! Blaah, we had to put ginger ale in it to kill the taste.
    I have a soft spot for bachelor uncles, I have one too in Sicily, Zio Ignazio.

  2. Nell said
    It's true about Lucy's and my Dad's wine, it could choke a horse or a small pony at times but sometimes it came out okay, if the fumes from under the back stairs didn't knock you out. Your zio Giovanni just wanted for once to hear a compliment although it was sneaky it was not high treason, after all one could always use a kind word.
    Our zio Ignazio is the sweetest man and if his wine ever tasted crappy I'm sure we would all toast his success>

  3. That made me laugh out loud! So he knew it was bad all those years?!

  4. LOL...Niki...give'll never beat these people...good for him, he got one over on the way, my grandmother pulled a stunt like that one time on a nun I had in grandmother laughed for months...Neapolitans love to pull one over on you, not out of a malice, just for the fun of the's in the DNA

  5. When I was in my early twenties and could barely boil water, the doorman in our hi-rise building sold his wife's zucchini bread for a few dollars. It was wrapped in cellophane and had a ribbon wrapped around it.

    I used to buy some from him and then one day had the bright idea to pass them off as my own to impress a boy that I liked!

    It was a lot of fun to get the praise for something I couldn't do, but I eventually 'fessed up!

    I guess the guy needs a break. (:

    If anyone has a good recipe for zucchini bread.....

  6. The poor guy finally got smart to his mistake. You gotta give him credit for the fake homemade wine. Don't you just love these old guys?

  7. That is a cute story - we had a neighbor that made his own "wonderful" wine like Zio Giovanni, but we smiled and said "thank you" as we know the thought was there. We would give it a few sips and then down the drain it went...:)

    Love your stories, Charlie and I am so glad you are back!

  8. That is so funny. I have often thought about learning to make wine - with only the fear that it will be absolutely awful stopping me. Maybe that will be a solution till I master the art?


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