HOW DIFFERENT BRITISH AND ITALIAN FAMILY ATTITUDES TOWARDS HAVING A BOTTLE OF WINE ON THE DINNER TABLE?
I think my father would have thoroughly approved of the German theologian, Martin Luther’s quote - “Beer is made by men, wine by God.” He positively worshipped the stuff. As a child, bottles of Soave were regularly delivered to the house by my father’s regular supplier. Loyalty was important, and he simply didn’t shop around the local supermarkets trying to find the best deal out of endless choices. That’s not how it was done. Wine was on the table at lunch and dinner, always. In fact, he was quite capable of polishing most of it off himself, and yet he’d leave the table seemingly quite sane. As a child, I could not have been less interested and hated the mere smell of it.
They’re not discerning though, when it comes to distinguishing between wine and other spirits.“Pre-kids we’d go out more,” explains Kathrynne, “so we had less wine in the house, and unless we were sitting down to eat we wouldn’t open wine. It wasn’t a regular occurrence. But we’d always finish an opened bottled, and once uncorked, never re-corked!”, she laughs.
Another English mum, Fiona Wright, agrees. ‘Yes, pre-kids, wine was pivotal, and we drank quite heavily’, she says. ‘I’d say we’d drink 5/7 evenings. When we had children, we massively curtailed how much we drank. I’d just feel so rough afterwards and in no mood to deal with small children, so I cut right down! ‘Now I’d say we are much more choosey as we like to spend a bit more on wine and enjoy it more moderately. We don’t have a bottle on the table unless we have friends over. We just have the glasses and the bottle is either in the fridge or on the side. And like my parents, Fiona’s parents would drink far more than is deemed acceptable these days. She says as a child she’d realise that they had had a glass or two, ‘as mum would be giggly, and dad would go quiet. He’d drive home after though.’ And that is a real difference, as today, drinking and driving is considered unacceptable in Britain. (It happens of course). In Italy, wine drinking is part of the tapestry of life. It’s linked to what you are eating and is to be enjoyed as such. And even if the glasses are of similar size, in Italy, they are filled much less, notices Marina. In fact, Michela Scibilia from Venice talks about ‘un’ombra di vino,’ or just a shadow of wine. You can get this for about one euro in the Veneto region of Italy, and you enjoy it seated at the bar, sometimes with a ‘cichetto’ or little snacks, sometimes in the shadow of the bell tower of St Mark’s Square, which is where the expression originates. Drinking habits may have moved on, and young people in Britain and in Italy today seem to prefer cocktails or spirits, according to the mums I spoke to. But wine retains its place in both countries, as something to be savoured and enjoyed in company, and accompanying a delicious meal. As someone once said, ‘Wine improves with age. The older I get, the better I like it’. I’ll drink to that.