How to Say Grazie
20 Sunday May 2012
This past week, a bus filled with 20 Masters of Wine traveled 2,000 kilometers around Sicily. It was a phenomenal trip; I wish we were still there. Alas, we did leave, but not before saying grazie.
On the bus one morning, the always thoughtful and terribly clever Jean-Michel Valette told me about the thank-yous of trips past. The old guard was literary. They were also quite competitive. You didn’t want to be giving the last thank-you of the trip – so many grazie to top! (Uh-oh. Mine had better be good, especially as this is my first MW trip, and I am scheduled to be one of the last!)
Quickly reviewing our first visits, the thank-yous were, frankly, rote. “On behalf of the Institute of Masters of Wine, we would like to thank you…”, and you can fill in the rest. The warm-up was, however, quick and thorough. The thank-yous became more creative and, perhaps inevitably, longer. The Italian-speaking and effervescent Susan Hulme thanked and graciously translated thanks to hosts who seemed hesitant speaking English. On Favignana, Tim Atkin talked about the Institute’s “coat of arms” on the Smythson notebook mementos offered, referencing Arthurian legends and pointing out that, indeed, we have “our Merlin” (John Salvi) and “our Sir Lancelot” (Jean-Michel). Originally from Texas, I thanked our hosts for teaching us about Erice wines by introducing them to the meanings of “ya’ll” and “we’re fixin’ to go”. Peter Scudamore-Smith, who’s made more than a few tanks of wine, waxed so rhapsodic over the groundbreaking, non-saccharomyces yeast research at IRVOS, he gave us all goose bumps. And, of course, as Jean-Michel began the last thank-you of the week, he explained that he’d speak half in English and half in Italian (motioning wildly with his hands.)
Still, in the end, even after many thoughtful expressions of gratitude, I think we’d all agree that even a thousand thanks – grazie mille – to Sicily just wouldn’t be enough.