I had a dream. I believe it was greatly influenced by a paper I read recently. It describes the fungal populations and the metabolomics of Corvina grapes (Vitis vinifera L. cv. Corvina). For those of you not deeply steeped in winemaking, Corvina grapes serve as the staple for producing the signature wine from the Valpolicella region of Northern Italy, the Amarone. What makes Amarones unique is that the grapes are allowed to wither post-harvest. As the grapes lose water their sugar levels go up, leading to remarkably full-bodied wines that also have great aging potential. During the withering process, the investigators discovered, a core fungal community assembles but the relative abundance of members of the different genera vary depending on the vintage. Yes, the noble rot Botrytis and its variable abundance likely contribute to the subtle differences in final wine characteristics. Because the focus was on fungi, the paper made no mention of the remarkable bacterium, Eliobacter woosyi.
Now back to my dream. I found myself searching the wine stores of Milan for a bottle of a 1928 Amarone, the year Corvina grapes were recorded as the site of the first isolation of Eliobacter woosyi. Everywhere I went, connoisseurs laughed at my request but offered glimmers of hope: "You might find some clues in the writings of the late Guiseppe Quintarelli, the grand master of Amarones." Hidden away in the village of Negrar, I discovered the dusty notebook holding Guiseppe's handwritten notes. He praised the fabled 1928 vintage only to state that the last known bottles had been shipped to Quito, Ecuador in 1940. I was dismayed but not defeated; I immediately set off to Quito. Mind you, it is not easy tracking down vintage wine in a country best known for drinking chicha. But with time and perseverance an old wine merchant I did find, only to be disappointed: "Oh! That vintage! That was shipped to Kansas, in the United States of America, quite a while ago..." I knew that by the time I'd get there, it would not be in Kansas anymore. Back in Boston, I was fortunate. There were rumors that it had been properly aged there and then, about a quarter of a century ago, moved to San Diego to let it really develop. When I landed there, I had a good feeling. The great weather, I was sure, would have assured that such exceptional vintage would remain in great shape. So I was not surprised that when I finally beheld it with mine eyes, the legendary vintage was in pristine condition. As I opened this unique bottle of the 1928 "Piccole Cose Considerate Amarone della Valpolicella," I noted the date: April 26, 2022. Overtaken by emotion, I barely managed to utter: "Cheers and Happy Birthday Elio!!!"