A sandwich stop leads to a taste of new wine, new friends and a return invitation
By Bob Berwyn
After hollowing out half of the fresh bread roll with his fingers, Marcello packs the cavity full of anti pasti — pickled peppers, marinated mushrooms and artichoke hearts — then piles on salami, mortadella and cheese. After he finishes, he asks us if we’d like some wine.
“Si,” I answer, not quite sure where he stashes the fermented grape juice in his tiny snack bar, the “Jardinetti” (little garden), in Brindisi. The answer is inside a plastic bag behind the counter. After setting out a row of cups, Marcelllo pours a slug for each of us out of a huge plastic jug. Gradually the story emerges.
The wine is made by the family of Michele April, the man in the photo with the shaved head and the beard (the other guy is Marcello).
“It’s the Novella, only two days old,” Marcello says, pantomiming a stomping motion with his feet. “It’s natural … only for the family,” he adds, explaining that the wine is not for sale, but is only shared among friends.
We’re not sure why we’ve been included in this round of drinks. With our backpacks and somewhat grimy clothes, we must look like thousands of other backpacking travelers who stream through the train station and past Marcello’s booth on their way to the ferry port. Maybe he took a liking to us because we aren’t too picky. When he asked what we wanted on our sandwich, we just told him to fix it his way. And the wine is good — delicious, in fact. Think Beaujolais Nouveau, except with a lot more personality.
Michele says the wine was shaken up a bit too much in the car during the ride from Foggia, where his family’s vineyard is located. He says the sediment will settle to the bottom in a day,improving the taste but we all enjoy it as it is.
Michele shows us his Navy ID card after we tell him about our visit to Corfu and his eyes light up as we talk about the Greek island. He says he was stationed there for a while during his service.
Just before Leigh and I head for our night train, He pulls his naval uniform out of the trunk of his car and asks Leigh to put on the dark blue dress jacket and white hat for a last round of pictures.
The he tries to draw a map to his vineyard in mid-air and writes down the name of his family’s estate in my notebook just before we scramble across the street and into the station.
We’re a little tipsy, and our Italian is questionable at best, but we’re pretty sure he wants us to visit if we ever make it back to this part of the Italian boot — and we’d sure like to taste that wine again after it’s aged for a year or two. Sounds like reason enough for a return trip.