VIA Community Guest Blog: Epistemi (ἐπιστήμη) by Anna Carnera

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VIA Community Guest Blog: Epistemi (ἐπιστήμη) by Anna Carnera

We have an enormous quantity of vines that can be moved from warmer soils of the south to the more temperate territories of the central peninsula and the north. In the north, some wine producers are already beginning to adopt these varieties that are usually grown in the south.

Professor Attilio Scienza

Episode 353 of the Italian Wine Podcast ended up going a bit off the rails (it's kind of becoming a regular occurence). As usual, Stevie Kim and Professor Attilio Scienza started off by taking a question about grapes and vines from Vinitaly International Academy community member Amy Ezrin. Amy is an Italian Wine Specialist and a member of The Piedmont Guy national wine importer. She asked about types of flysch in Piedmont, as well as autochthonous Italian grape varieties positioned to help winegrowers adapt to climate change. Professor Scienza gave an uncharacteristically succinct answer, then went off on the migrations of people, including his ancestors. Finally, we find out where the name "Scienza" comes from.

Listen to the original recording of Italian Wine Podcast Episode 353 and find the translation by our brilliant best blog friend Anna Carnera, below.

Translation by Anna Carnera

Stevie: Okay, Ciao a tutti! Welcome to the “Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza” segment of Italian Wine Podcast. Stevie Kim here with Professore Attilio Scienza today, and our question of the day comes from Amy Ezrin, VIA Community. She is an Importer: The Piedmont Guy wine and spirits consultant. She is also, of course, an Italian Wine Ambassador.

The question is...

Amy Ezrin (recording): Buongiorno Professore! I would like to know if there is flysch in Piedmont. Thank you!

Stevie: Flysch sure is popular, you are now our FLYSCH MAN!

Scienza: Definitely. In the meantime, let’s say hi to…

Stevie: No, wait! I haven’t finished yet.

Scienza: Ha ha ha I thought you had…

Stevie: Ha ha ha but you were going to say hi to Monty!

Scienza: I’m anxious to say hi to Monty!

Stevie: Ha ha ha, no, no wait a minute, we haven’t heard the second question.

Amy Ezrin (recording): I would like to know if there are any native grapes particularly suitable for global warming. I’m thinking about existing native grapes and not necessarily created with this problem in mind. Thank you!


Stevie: Attilio? Are you awake?

Scienza: Aren’t you going to repeat the question in English?

Stevie: I already did!

Scienza: Sorry, I was thinking about something else…

Stevie: No, no, you were sleeping! I already read the English version.

Scienza: No, no I was not sleeping. I was thinking about Monty, how to say to him…

Stevie: Yes, well?

Scienza: That we are happy to, to remember him. That’s what I was thinking about, choosing the right words.

Stevie: At this point, let’s say hi to Monty later!

Scienza: Fine. So, Barolo and Barbaresco wines, and those from parts of Roero and Asti, are produced on soils derived from flysch, and therefore from the weathering of sandstone and marl from the Tortonian and Serravallian [sometimes also referred to as “Helvetian” in wine writing] stages. So, in the Tortonian (let’s call them the younger flysch), we find much more sand than in the flysch of the Serravallian*…

Stevie: Are you tired?

Scienza: Huh?

Stevie: Are you tired?

Scienza: No, no, no I was just trying to figure out how to hurry it up.

Stevie: Ha ha ha OK, but you can’t…

Scienza: No, what I was saying was…

Stevie: ...but YOU, you can’t hurry, it’s not in your nature!

Scienza: No, no it’s for you, I don’t know if we will be ready by 6:00.

Stevie: No, no we’ll make it, don’t worry!

Scienza: OK, as I was saying, we have two geological phases of the tertiary period: the Tortonian and the Serravallian, which are really different. The Serravallian is more recent, let’s say, so it’s the one with more sand while in the Tortonian we find more clay. From the Tortonian we have La Morra, for example, while from the Serravallian we have Serralunga d’Alba, so a sandier soil. In Serralunga, we have more fragrant wines, a more fruity Barolo, but perhaps with less tannin and a shorter shelf life. Anyway, I think we probably talked about this topic at length, previously.

The second question was about native grapes. Actually, Italy has a great advantage over France. The advantage is that France has a continental climate, so there is less nighttime cooling than we have in our coastal vineyards. Italy is surrounded by the Mediterranean so during the night, all the coastal vineyards are cooled down by the sea breezes, unlike France, where only a small part is surrounded by the sea.

Another important aspect is that Italy can have high-altitude vineyards. There are vineyards in the Alps and in the Central Apennines that France doesn’t have - they don’t have such high areas with these types of cool climates.

France also practices a very dense form of viticulture: plants are one next to the other. Therefore, it means having smaller vertical walls and having narrow distances between the rows that don’t allow the discharge of infrared energy. In Italy we can find alberelli and other less densely planted styles that allow the heat energy stored in the ground to dissipate.

Finally, a last point about the vines themselves: France doesn’t have vines suitable for hot weather (except some vines from the Midi of France like Granache and Carignan). Meanwhile, Italy has a huge amount of grape varieties that can be moved to the north or north-central regions. I’m thinking about Montepulciano, Verdicchio, Passerina, Sangiovese, Uva di Troia, Grillo, Gaglioppo, Primitivo, Nero d’Avola, Aglianico, and so on. We have an enormous quantity of vines that can be moved from warmer soils of the south to the more temperate territories of the central peninsula and the north. In the north, some wine producers are already beginning to adopt these varieties that are usually grown in the south.

Stevie: OK, alright then. That’s a wrap because you are in a hurry today! And thank you Amy! You know, she speaks fluent Italian.

Scienza: Who? Amy? But what kind of person is she?

Stevie: Ha ha, the GOOD kind.

Scienza: Sure, but where are her ancestors from?

Stevie: ha ha I don’t know! Jacob, what do you think? What kind of name is that? Amy Ezrin?

Scienza: It sounds Turkish.

Stevie: I don’t know, I will ask Amy next time.

Scienza: It would be cool to know the ancestry of these folks.

Stevie: Ancestry?

Scienza: Yeah, to know their story.

Stevie: I see, but to me, you know, Americans, we just look at each other and it’s not like we ask so many questions. It’s called a melting pot.

Scienza: Sure, but a melting pot is made up of many crossbreeds! Look, if there is a nation that needs to know where it comes from it’s America.

Stevie: (laughing on the background)

Scienza: Because Americans spend a lot of money on DNA tests to know where they come from. Italian don’t spend that kind of money on this, only Americans need to reconstruct their origins. So...

Stevie: But you, where do you come from?

Scienza: Uh?

Stevie: Don’t you know?

Scienza: Where do I come from? Well, my family was a Jewish family that came from Spain, then they moved to Thessaloniki, then to Venice, and finally to Trentino. The name Scienza is...

Stevie: Yeah, why Scienza?

Scienza: Scienza is the Italian translation for Epistemi (ἐπιστήμη) that means science in Greek. But it was translated into Italian, like Einstein.

Stevie: So, you are...

Scienza: Epstein; it’s the non-Sephardic part of the name. Because this is a Sephardic name that comes from Spain, North Africa, then Greece, and Thessaloniki. Hashemites have a different translation than Epstein.

Stevie: I see.

Scienza: The origin is the same as Einstein.

Stevie: Einstein? Instead you are? Tell me again.

Scienza: Epistemi is a Greek word that was translated into Italian.

Stevie: Science?

Scienza: Yes, Science, so Scienza in Italian.

Stevie: Ok, here we go. With that I’m going to close up shop! Thank you for listening to Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza, it is very much a work in progress as you can see. And, please send us questions, VIA Community. Come on people, no pressure! Send questions to us, as soon as you can, and we will do it from time to time. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram and send a tweet to @itawinepodcast. Ciao ragazzi!

Scienza: Should I say goodbye? Or do I have to say hi to Monty?

Stevie: As you prefer.


Stevie: We will get it right sooner or later, OK?

Scienza: Yes, we need to have some fun!

Stevie: Definitely!