Wins and Spirits In the Blood Ties Screenplay

It would be very difficult for an author to set a screenplay in Italy without showing or discussing some aspect of Italy’s wine culture which goes back at least 3,000 years. Wine is consumed at lunch and dinner, during celebrations, Catholic mass and provides an alternative to mixed drinks, particularly with students and those who cannot afford expensive imported liquors. I have had the opportunity to sample wines in Milan, Rome, Venice and Sicily. Each wine-growing area will claim with considerable passion that wines from their grapes are the best, but until it ages to vinegar, which the additions of sulfates modern wines prevent, all claims of good, better or best are decided by the pallet of the consumer. Price is not a reliable guide as to what wine a person might like compared to another. One can argue along the lines that the only thing better than a $4.00 bottle of wine is a $3.00 bottle, and some mass-produced wines from California and elsewhere taste as good as those selling for ten or a hundred times that amount.

In the screenplay Blood Ties, our visiting American family is introduced to Grappa, which in either the red or white versions, are fermented from the waste products left over from traditional winemaking. This is the wine of those working in the fields and factories and particularly of college students. In both the screenplay and the novel from which it was derived, the visiting Calsase family are immediately introduced to it by their cousin Mario who offers them a shot to settle their stomachs after their long flight from the states, but rightly cautions them not to take more than one small serving of it as he says that it gives terrible hangovers, as generations of students visiting Italy can attest.

Another character, Father Flanagan, an Irish priest assigned to Sicily to help restore piece to a violence-ridden environment where ancient traditions and modern Mafia factions evoke blood and death for actual and perceived wrongs. He has been deprived of his Guinness, and has come to rely on Grappa to assist in thinking through complex problems. Although discovered after the novel was published, an interview with the youngest cardinal who was traditionally assigned the task of burning the ballots during the pope-selection process, also revealed that this wine of the people was also consumed by those at the highest levels of the Church. In Italian-American chain restaurants in the United States it is much less frequently found. One is more likely to find it in mom-and-pop eateries which have closer ties to their Italian heritage.

On his way home to celebrate his 19th birthday and before he takes his own life to end a 200-year-old vendetta, Davide buys a bottle of Marsala which is a brandy-fortified wine aged in used charred bourbon barrels, like Port. This after-dinner wine was conceived of by an Englishman, John Woodhouse, so that his wines would ship better to distant markets. Our visiting family tries some at a winery in Massino which has been converted from an old monastery. It is here in a narrow stairwell that one of the prospective brides, pinches her future brother-in-law in the butt to the extent that it leaves a bruise. In a discussion in the tasting room after the visit William, an uncle to the prospective grooms, comes to the conclusion that this is a wine to be enjoyed in small quantities after a meal than something drunk as an every-day beverage.

Small production vineyards clinging to the slopes of Mt. Etna watered by rain and snow melt convert the volcanic ash into what many consider some of the best-tasting wines in Italy. Even among Italians, these wines are considered something special and do not commonly make it out to the export markets. Should you visit Sicily, look for them, try them, and maybe bring a bottle home.

Author's Bio: 

Wm. Hovey Smith is the author of more than 20 books and producer of over 800 YouTube videos. Many of his outdoor books feature wild game recipes. He has also made is own wines as well as sampled those from throughout the world. In his novel, "Until Death Do You Part: An American Family Meets Their Sicilian Cousins," he discusses the foods of the American Southwest, Louisiana, and Sicily.