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Howard Anglin: What did you think they meant by ‘decolonization’ anyway?

Commentary

Just as Parliament’s recent reminder of the complexities of the Eastern Front and the existence of “literal Nazis” gave Canadians reason to reconsider our casual use of that term in day-to-day debate, perhaps the live-streaming of a 21st century pogrom will make our leaders and our media think twice before blithely tossing around words like “racist” and “hate” to describe merely disapproved beliefs.

As Orwell once said of the word “fascism,” these words have become so devalued by over-use in our political phony-wars that they often seem to have no meaning except to signify “something not desirable.”

Shielded from most of the world’s problems, we have become too comfortable describing minor offences in terms that have truly vile referents in the world beyond our shores. An obvious example this week is the term “decolonization,” which has been eagerly adopted by Canadian governments, universities, elementary schools, libraries, bookstores, and even coffee shops. Most people who implement these policies probably think of “decolonization” as something benign like the inclusion of more representative works and stories from underrepresented—and in Canada especially Indigenous—voices. If that is all it means, and if “representation” doesn’t become an excuse for sacrificing intellectual rigour and aesthetic quality (and it shouldn’t and needn’t), then it is a good thing.

Within this broad majority, however, I would distinguish between those who are earnestly working to bind our society together and tend sensitively to old wounds, and those who go further, embracing the symbols of the revolutionary counter-culture while turning a blind eye to its real-world implications. Among the latter are the sort of people who wear Che Guevara t-shirts to show that they are the “good guys,” not because he took sadistic pleasure in shooting reactionary peasants and boasted that “Hatred is the central element of our struggle! Hatred … so violent that it propels a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him [a] violent and cold- blooded killing machine.” They don’t mean that Che, of course, if they’ve even bothered to learn who he was.

Beyond this majority, there is a smaller group for whom the idea of “decolonization” has a harder edge. They welcome it as a chance to turn the tables on our country’s historically-dominant European majority, not by supplementing our traditional symbols with new ones but by disparaging them as shameful and displacing them. These are the people who saw the burning of churches two summers ago and took pains to explain why the (often Indigenous) congregations had it coming. They are motivated by a retributive impulse that is often indistinguishable from revenge (or in the case of the white progressives who make up much of this class, masochistic self-flagellation). Unfortunately, this group is the movement’s avant-garde. Their energy and ideas drive and direct the policies in practice, while the well-meaning are carried along because they don’t have the words or courage to distinguish their good intentions from this destructive agenda.

But as we learned this week, there is buried within this last group a hardcore faction that would go even further. When they talk about decolonization, they mean it literally, with all its blood-soaked consequences. Symbolic change won’t cut it for them; they want action. They are the ones who read Frantz Fanon’s Damnés de la terre (and Sartre’s revolting introduction) not with the detached pose of most Western progressives but with lurid visions of incarnadine vengeance. They read things like “Violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect” and they don’t just believe it intellectually, they howl for it viscerally, palpably, urgently.

Twitter has exposed them as cheerleaders of rape and infanticide, of “literal racism,” and “literal hate.” Sure, they were tweeting from the safety of their faculty lounges with the security of tenure and they might not be so sanguine about murder when it isn’t mediated through a small screen, but this much was clear: they saw the same images that sickened and revolted normal people and their first reaction was to justify and celebrate them. They rushed into the digital public square to explain that the shooting of young people attending a “peace” concert was an act of “anticolonial resistance,” they denied that settlers were “civilians” (and so off-limits for targeted killing), and they wondered, rhetorically, what everyone thought the words “[p]ostcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial” meant? It’s a question their colleagues should be thinking hard about today, especially those with “settler” in their bios.

It was a revelatory moment. Perhaps these armchair Amins and tenured Tourés have spent so long insisting that “words are violence” that they can no longer tell the difference between a micro-aggression and a massacre. Perhaps they have spent so much time in a world of relative truths that they can’t bring themselves to accept the objective reality of evil when it bares its fangs. And perhaps we collectively bear some of the blame for this. Our schools, businesses, and governments have ignored or indulged them for so long that they may have believed, with good reason, that there would be no consequences for airing their zealotry this time too. But now that we’ve seen it, we should not forget it. We need to make sure they play no further role in shaping Canadian social policy. They have done far, far too much damage already.

Malcolm Jolley: Clean and deep Capezzana: Trend-bucking wines worth the try

Commentary

What’s the point of wine writing? By which I mean, what’s the point of reading wine writing? It’s something I do every day, but I’m not sure with purpose, other than a vague sense of looking for something “interesting”, whatever that means, and to see generally what others are writing about.

Is the point to find the latest trend? In the wine world, that’s not as hard as it is in other realms of human creativity. Wine fashion moves slowly, with one vintage per year, and often three or five years for newly planted vines to produce serviceable fruit.

Is the point to buck the latest trends, and run in the opposite direction of the madding crowd in search of undiscovered gems or ones that have passed from fashion and ought to be rediscovered? I lean towards this answer. There is so much wine out there, it’s good to be reminded of some old favourites, like listening to an old album after many years.

In any event, I was looking for an interesting story about a wine I hadn’t thought about for a few years last week when I met Pierpaulo Guerra for a quick tasting at Loop Line Wine and Food in Toronto. Guerra, who looks to be in his late twenties, is the export manager for Capezzana.

Tenuta Capezzana is an estate just outside of Florence, where they have been making wine for a very long time. The Carmignano Hills, on which the estate rests and from which you can see the Duomo in the old city below, is also the name of the DOCG for the red wines made there. The appellation is small by Tuscan standards and Capezzana is the largest producer and makes most of the wine.

Carmignano wines were first given official sanction in 1716 by Grand Duke Cosimo III de Medici, though there is reference to wine growing there as early as the ninth century. The Capezzana estate is a tourist attraction, with a B&B and seasonal restaurant, and these are impressive dates, but it’s the modern history of the Contini Bonacossi family, which acquired it in 1926, and Carmignano DOCG that makes the wines particularly interesting.

Carmignano was restored to its own appellation status in the 1970s. The patriarch of the Capazzana estate at the time, Ugo Contini Bonacossi had revived winemaking in a serious way and was instrumental in re-establishing Carmignano independently from neighbouring Chianti. He’d also just established Cabernet Sauvignon vines, grafted from no less a prestigious source than Bordeaux’s Château Lafite Rothschild.

When Carmignano got its DOC status in 1975, to be upgraded to DOCG in 1990, it became the only Tuscan appellation that actually requires the inclusion of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend (up to 20 percent). In an age when so-called indigenous grapes are the height of fashion, not least of all in Italy where they claim more than 400 of them, and when the producers of Chianti Classico continue to limit the amount of “international varieties” in their classified wines, Capezzana’s Carmignanos are happy to buck the trend.

Pierpaolo Guerra sticks to the Carmignano party line when it comes to explaining why Cabernet should be home in Central Italy: Catherine de Medici. Bill Buford’s 2020 memoir Dirt includes an amusing story thread about the Italo-Gallic debate about whether de Medici, who married the King of France in 1547, invented French cuisine. The theory that her court brought Cabernet to Italian winemakers could be France’s revenge.

Whatever happened in the sixteenth century, in the 1970s Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot seemed like the future of Italian wine. One of Tuscany’s first families of wine, the Antinoris, had established one of the first Super Tuscan, Tignanello in 1971. English-speaking export markets were attracted to wines made with Cabernet Sauvignon due to either sentimentality for the great wines of Bordeaux’s last bank, the growing demand for California fine wines, or both.

The Super Tuscans are as popular as ever, but they’ve always stood outside the “classic” wines of the region. The contrarian in me liked that Capezzana and the other Carmignano wineries decided to co-opt what they liked into their tradition. I also remembered quite liking the wines.

My memory was proven true when we tasted the first wine: 2020 Capezzana Barco Reale di Carmignano DOC. Barco Reale (“Royal Park”) is the appellation for wines made in the region that are not aged before release, and are meant to be drunk relatively soon thereafter.

The 2020 is made up of 75 percent Sangiovese, 15 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Cabernet Franc, and 5 percent Canaiolo. This was an unforward, friendly, and classically Mediterranean wine, with dark cherry from the Sangiovese and a touch of black fruit from the Cabs.

When we moved on to the more serious Villa di Capezzana Carmignano DOCG red, Guerra presented two bottles. They were both from this year’s release, but from the 2019 and 2013 vintages, respectively. Some years ago, Capezzana had decided to hold back a few thousand bottles of their flagship Carmignano to be released ten years after harvest as a Riserva.

The Villa di Capezzana is 80 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. Between the 2019 and the 2013 10 Anti Riserva, the remarkable thing was how similar they were despite a difference of six years of ageing. More Sangiovese dark cherry, but also a note of Cabernet cassis. Tannins had softened somewhat in the 2013, but were firm in both.

The 2016 Capezzana Villa Trefiano Carmignano Riserva DOCG is sourced from a single hillside vineyard at 300m above sea level. It’s a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Canaiolo. Only 1,200 bottles are made, and it was singing with dark red to black fruits and silky tannins, a wine to be paused over. This wine was first made in 1979, and the 40th anniversary 2019 vintage will be released in Canada shortly.

The 2018 UCB Ugo Contini Bonacossi is a single vineyard 100 percent Sangiovese wine that Capezzana makes only a few thousand bottles of every year. The high irony is that it isn’t a Carmignano DOCG, but rather a lowly I.G.T. table wine since it has no Cabernet Sauvignon. No matter, as it’s delicious with a clean, deep, and dark cherry note.

One thing Capezzana is on, or even ahead of trend, is its website. It includes a virtual tour of their cellars and vineyards art.