Professor Scienza starts to explain that no other plant has so many mysteries surrounding its origins. The grape vine is unparalleled in this regard. The vine was one of the first plants that grew so close to man. Scienza uses the metaphor of a vine actually following the footsteps of man or even walking with him.
Episode 323 of the Italian Wine Podcast saw Professor Attilio Scienza and Stevie Kim field a question from Monika Zakrzewska. Monika asked the professor about the initial spark that pushed him to study grape vines and genetics. The Professor got pretty philosophical and we kept the tape rolling. It's Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza and you never know where the topics will range once Stevie and the Professor get going. Listen to the original recording of Italian Wine Podcast Episode 323. Monika herself helped translate and summarize Professor Scienza's words and ideas in the text below.
Monika is a Polish Italian wine consultant for Empson & Co., responsible for Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and Irish markets.
Stevie Kim: Are you ready (asking Professor Scienza)?
Banter between Stevie and Scienza: Scienza is asking if it’s time to thank Monty while Stevie is saying that it’s not the right moment yet ☺. Therefore, they concluded that they might need some jingle or theme song to announce the beginning of the podcast. Then, they both start to laugh and Stevie asks for help, calling and looking for Producer Giulia.
Stevie: Ok now you can say “thank you” to Monty.
Scienza: Monty I’ve been authorized to thank you, so thank you, thank you Monty. (They continue to laugh…)
Stevie: Thanks Monty for hosting and giving us the space to do this session, “Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza.”
Then, Stevie says that today’s question is from VIA community, from Polish-Italian Wine consultant who works for Empson, and her name is Monika Zaaak…☺ Stevie is struggling to pronounce her last name and asks Prof Scienza for his opinion on how he would pronounce Monika’s last name? Then, Professor Scienza tries to pronounce it in a correct way without any positive result, and they both start to laugh again! They excuse themselves for not being able to pronounce Monika’s last name correctly then keep going with the podcast. Stevie reads Monika’s question, which is as follows: “What was the first spark that ignited your desire to study and analyse the origins of Italian grape varieties?”
Scienza: Professor Scienza starts to explain that no other plant has so many mysteries surrounding its origins. The grape vine is unparalleled in this regard. The vine was one of the first plants that grew so close to man. Scienza uses the metaphor of a vine actually following the footsteps of man or even walking with him. He admits that the prospect of giving a proper sense of meaning to the word “truth” was that what motivated him the most. He notes that, unfortunately, we frequently assign various distorted meanings to the word “true.” In fact, in Greek, the word for “truth” is “αληθής” and it’s a beautiful word. It was used by Plato who, for instance, explained the actual meaning of the word “true.” Plato was saying that the truth makes visible that which is actually invisible. In fact, he uses a very interesting parallel, saying that in a forest there already exists a boat or a table, but it is up to humans to envision and uncover these things.
So we could reach the conclusion that this also holds in the case of grape varieties - it’s up to us to make visible that which is invisible and help the grape express its best qualities by helping it grow and turning it into wine.
Further, it’s our curiosity which causes us to investigate and study vines. The discovery of DNA especially gave us a revolutionary tool - a key of sorts to help us reach the truth. In fact, we’ve been able to understand, in just a few years, what our predecessors couldn’t discover even in two or three hundred years. This was an incredible discovery.
I have to admit that ever since I was young I was waiting for that moment, to be able to discover the truth in vines. Unfortunately that was impossible in the pre-genomic era. It was never clear enough. We could use some legends, historical conclusions, or even literature as a base for our analysis, but all of those were just incomplete and partial news, without any resolution.
Stevie: Asks the professor what he studied and where.
Scienza: I studied agronomy in Piacenza, but I also studied dogmatic theology for four years there. Stevie: Did you want to become a priest?
Scienza: No, I studied because I liked it a lot. These were incredible and very interesting subjects for me, as I didn’t have any classical education, but I always regretted that. Therefore, I used the opportunity and I studied mainly dogmatic theology of Saint Thomas.
Stevie: I’m agnostic so I don’t understand what you are talking about.
Scienza: Prof Scienza recaps how it was Saint Thomas who developed main concepts of humanism, as he took all the philosophic concepts of Aristotle and brought them into a Christian vision.
Saint Thomas wrote a great work called “Summa Theologiae,” which is actually a summary of all of that what is applicable to the rational demonstration of the existence of God and of the divine and human nature of Christ. He used all the instruments of logic and philosophic speculation to arrive at his conclusion. Then, I was studied moral theology for the following two years. All of this was very precious and important to me. It helped me to broaden my knowledge about man and his relationship with nature.
Stevie: Where did you study it?
Scienza: I studied that at the Cattolica (del Sacro Cuore).
I would also like to mention another great and important philosopher to me: Lucretius, who wrote the incredible “De rerum natura.” This was a cardinal document that described a relationship between man and nature from the Romans’ point of view. The document has extraordinary implications still to this day. In my opinion, philosophy is a very important and useful tool, which helps us to understand all these things. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to understand, and we wouldn’t even have the proper tools to understand.
Therefore, it’s important to talk about the concept of the truth, because every vine hides something, some truth in itself. So, by discovering the truth in a vine, I repeat the operation/process of the truth, mentioned above by Plato. I create something that is beyond the photographic demonstration of a vine.
Stevie: Finally we come back around! Ok Monika, I don’t know if this is exactly what you had in mind in terms of an answer, but that’s it for today. Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza - to get a chance to get to know him a bit better. Listen to our Italian wine podcast on SoundCloud and follow us on social media.