One Bottle: The 1999 Dal Bello Rosso Asolo

Date July 31, 2008 at 10:00 PM

Publication THE magazine

Categories Health Care


The insanity is out there, lying in the weeds. It watches us. It measures us. When we look the insanity in the eye, the insanity winks and says, "Make your move, motherfucker. Make your move."€

A long time ago, a group of true believers got together and talked themselves into believing that the insanity was the opposite of God. The true believers fasted. They prayed. They went to church, made rules, followed those rules, and thought they were home free. The true believers were mistaken. They were a world away from home free. The insanity was not God's opposite. The insanity was the glitch, the fatal flaw, the weak link in the chain of mortal existence. The insanity was not God's problem. It was ours. Like our dreams, our deep sorrows, our sexual trances, and our taste for blood, the insanity was part of human nature. It was like a word from an extinct language carved onto the door of a tomb. We could pronounce it. We could translate it. But as long as we lived and as hard as we tried, we could not understand it. The insanity was our blind spot. It was our doing and our undoing.

Maybe you are wondering what I mean, exactly, by "the insanity."€ Fair enough. If I can raise the issue, I should be able to define it. The problem is, the insanity defies definition. The insanity is clever that way. The insanity is like the friendly god who comes along and says he wants to be your pal. He's here for you. He loves mankind. Then, the moment you act like a human being and make a mistake, the insanity rubs his hands together and says, "Vengeance is mine."€

Here is an example of the insanity. Since 1776, the United States has been on a killing spree. We started by killing Native Americans and Africans. During the 1860s, we killed each other, then we moved onto the Mexicans, the Germans, and the Japanese. During the 1940s, we invented and deployed the atomic bomb, now recognized around the world as the most efficient way to annihilate large numbers if people. These days, our victims of choice are Arabs. Tomorrow, they could be Persians or Pakistanis. After that, bring on the Chinese. We may not be Joseph Stalin (twenty million annihilated in twenty years*), Adolph Hitler (ten million in ten years*), or Mao Tse Tung (fifty million in ten years*), but what we lack in sheer numbers we make up for in persistence. Each time we buy gasoline, we starve, suffocate, or drown poor people all over the world. Curiously, we think of the United States as a free country populated by decent, hard-working, peace-loving individuals who occasionally enjoy a dollop of whipped cream with our caffè lattes. Tragically, we have yet to learn the difference between dying for our country and killing for our country. That's the insanity in action.

Which brings us to the 1999 Dal Bello Rosso Asolo.

Dal Bello's vineyards and winery are in the Treviso Province of northern Italy, near the hill town of Asolo, ninety minutes north of Venice. Asolo is known as "the pearl of Treviso."€ Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907), the Italian poet and Nobel laureate,

called Asolo "la Citta  dai cento orizzonti,"€ (the town of a hundred horizons). Neolithic sites in and around Asolo date from 6000 B.C. People have been making wine there since 500 B.C.

The cepage of the 1999 Dal Bello Rosso Asolo is fifty percent Merlot, twenty-five percent Cabernet Franc, and twenty-five percent Cabernet Sauvignon. In the glass, the color is like Homer's "wine-dark sea."€ It is not so much a color as it is a layering of colors. Purple and red are in the mix.

So are gold, lavender, and burnt umber.

The bouquet is complicated, concentrated, and sly. It gives you some idea of what kind of trouble you are about to get yourself into, but it gives you that idea in the wink of an eye, which leaves you no time to assess your expectations.

On the palate, the 1999 Rosso Asolo exceeds all expectations. It is a dark, delicious surprise. Each sip becomes a more evolved and potent version of the sip that preceded it. Many wines improve with age. The 1999 Dal Bello Rosso Asolo improves with each glass. The finish is like the views from Asolo. It follows beauty with enchantment.

The 1999 Rosso Asolo is inexpensive. If you can find it, you can buy it for between $15 and $20 a bottle. The problem is finding it. For the last five years, I have been trying to find a distributor who will import it. Maybe if enough of us get together and speak with one voice, a distributor will hear us.

Is good wine an antidote to the insanity? The rational answer is "No."€ The irrational answer may also be "No."€ When we run from the insanity, it catches us. When we stand and fight, it outwits us. When we develop compassion and offer it to the insanity as evidence of how spiritually evolved we are, the insanity says, "Okay. Then why do you kill?"€

With the insanity, the only thing that seems to work is acceptance. I am not saying we should wave the white flag. The insanity takes no prisoners, so surrender equals suicide, and vice versa. On the other hand, as overmatched as we are, we are not helpless. If we accept the insanity for what it is-a fact of life, a life of facts, and everything that flows back and forth between the two-we stop fighting our own nature.

If wine distills human nature, then we accept ourselves each time we drink wine. That may not solve our problems, but it is a good place to start.

* Source: R. J. Rummel, Death By Government - Genocide and Mass Murder in the 20th Century, Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1994. (Reproduced online at

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