I’m in trouble now. I might become an alcoholic.
I was in Trader Joe’s the other day, heading for the pinot grigio delle Venezia, when something caught my eye. F-R-A-G… what the? O-L-I-N. Fragolin? Could it be like my beloved fragolino? I did one of those cartoon double takes and then peered at the label, snatched up a bottle, kind of like Charlie Brown when he gapes at his sad little Christmas tree transformed by lights and decorations. Christmas in a bottle? No–summer in a bottle!
Fragolino is this fresh, early-season wine from the Veneto region. There are mass-produced syrupy concoctions to be found in grocery stores around northern Italy, but they don’t deserve your time. The real deal is found in Venice in just a handful of places, and it comes in unlabeled bottles. My fav is from Enoteca Boldrin where the owner Lori is always willing to sell me a couple bottles, and he carries fragolino bianco, the rarest of all birds. (Thanks Laura and Tiff&Danny for carting it home in your luggage for me last summer! RJ and I are drinking a bottle for our anniversary this Saturday!) The one Lori sells is the illicit kind–it has a high methane content, and I’ve heard (from Anthony Bourdain and others) that if you drink too much of it it’ll make you go blind. Nevertheless, I drink it nearly every summer day I’m in Venice; in fact, I drove Laura a little nuts last summer because I kept making her stop at the enoteca every day for another glass until she begged me to stop.
The wine is summer and sweet and just a little fizzy. It’s not exactly a dessert wine like a moscato; it’s lighter. For me it embodies Venice. For the 16 years I’ve been going to Venice, it’s the one thing that I can’t find outside the city, and it’s the one thing that evokes the strongest connection for me. It’s more than just a wine, though as a wine I love it.
So I bought the bottle from TJoe’s and carried it home, trepidacious. Would it be good? Would it be syrupy? Would it destroy the uniqueness of my Venice experience to be able to get my favorite wine less than a mile from my house? I was almost afraid to taste it, to break the spell.
It was good. So good I had two glasses (ten percent alcohol content! Woohoo!)
But I’m not worried. It can never diminish the experience of drinking a glass at Lori’s counter or smiling crazily as I carry a couple bottles home to my apartment to wrap in socks in my luggage, the canals just a few steps away, the pigeons cooing at the window, the light hitting the ceiling from the reflected water, the kisses on both cheeks, the up and down of ubiquitous bridges, the Crayola-colored coffee cups at Caffe Brasilia on Strada Nova, the bells of Santi Apostoli tolling the hour. Drinking my Fragolin at home in San Jose will simply evoke all those things and bring them stampeding to me.