Full to the brim

One of my most vivid recollections of my childhood is tied to Raboso. I had an aunt who ran an inn with a ‘casoin’, a space selling bread and food products, which is how things were then, like a bazaar. My aunt was both host and trader, and I envied her skill of folding a cone out of a piece of yellow straw paper, which used to be a much more ecological substitute for the plastic we use today. The inn has gone now and was replaced in the 70s by ‘modern’ anonymous bars. e wine glasses were washed in the sink in water and lemon, a rudimental method perhaps but again not polluting and definitely not dangerous, given that nobody has ever died from it. My aunt let me stand behind the counter, which had that typical smell of poured wine and damp wood. When we served a glass of wine, it had to be filled to the brim and over ow slightly, and if it didn’t you were soon called to order! I used to love it: pouring a glass of draft Raboso to the patrons who came in, after parking their donkey or cow at the ‘sciorna’ – the ring that used to be fitted into the outside walls for tying animals to. The wine had to overflow from the glass otherwise it was not full.
‘Picolo, no l’è mia piena l’ombra’ (hey kid, that glass isn’t full), so you added some more, and they drank it making a certain noise that fully expressed the impact of the bitter wine on their palate.
The choice was nearly always for a glass of Raboso, or sometimes Clinton, a wine that disappeared because it was said to be toxic, but it was just very tannic to the extent that it dyed the feet of the people who trod the grapes. It even stained your teeth. There was then Bacò, made from very small grapes and the vines where it grew, like Clinton, did not need any special care.
However even though Raboso had a strong character, it was a variety that needed a certain amount of attention. When I was a child it was treated with verdigris, a mixture of copper and sulphur. It was a heyday for me: “Bocia, pompa” – Come on kid, pump – the peasants used to say after granting me the honour of shouldering the spray-pump. The perfume of those grapes and wine are linked to my feeling of belonging to where I was born and grew up, and as soon as I could I invested my savings in the land and decided to bet on Raboso.

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