HEROES (NOT) JUST FOR ONE DAY

Giuditta Padoan

Is there anyone in the world who doesn’t love Heroes?

David Bowie wrote the song in Berlin in 1977.

From the window of his recording studio, which overlooked the Berlin Wall, he glimpsed a couple of young lovers locked in an endless embrace despite the soldiers and weapons all around them. That sweet yet heart-breaking scene evoked such strong images and sensations in Bowie that he was immediately inspired to pick up a pen.

And in the space of just a few hours, he had written Heroes.

The song, purposely vague, describes a love born in a hostile context where even just staying together becomes a challenge. The boy has to encourage his girlfriend not to give up. To stay strong.

In a period such as that of the Cold War, when division and suffering were the order of the day, the image of those two young people “standing by the wall” who would even be prepared to stand defiant in the face of death if it meant they could have a few more moments for a never-ending kiss, evoked an even stronger feeling in East Berlin.

Those two young people, separated by a wall that seems insurmountable, became the symbol of love that conquers all. Even war.

Those two young people became heroes.

The White Duke wrote the lyrics during one of his darkest periods. He had sunk to his lowest point, reduced to a shadow of his former self by alcohol and cocaine and many of his friends had all but written him off.

Instead, unexpectedly, he had dragged himself up, clambered over that “wall” and moved to Berlin where his period of recovery as an artist and a human being began.

Bowie’s story reminds us that the road we must take if we want to become a hero is inevitably a steep one. And it’s not surprising that the viticulture in the Valtellina valley, with its treacherous, rocky terrain and steep mountain terracing that seems to scratch the sky, is defined as “heroic”.

And so they are the local wine-makers: the heroes of the vines!

But what I want to tell you about is not just any old one of the many wineries in the Valtellina area; today I want to talk about the “socially heroic” Cooperativa Sociale Agricola il Gabbiano.

Il Gabbiano is a non-profit organization founded in 2015 with the purpose of offering vulnerable members of society the chance to work. It targets those who are experiencing or have experienced moments of hardship during their lives, especially in relation to drugs. 

But here, those who come to work will not find a wall they can throw themselves against. Instead, once they have run at the wall, here they are securely grabbed by two strong arms from above, ready to help them get over it. And beyond it.

In fact, the operators of Il Gabbiano Onlus believed that working in the mountain, where the air is so pure and icy that it stings your throat, and the winding pathways force you to lift your eyes skywards to spot the summit, makes you feel at peace with the world, and then, one step at a time, also with yourself.

These young people work on unfriendly, far-flung lands, often abandoned by their owners, coaxing them to yield new harvests. 

A territory that becomes an allegory and a reflection of their lives: heroic terrains, difficult to cultivate, that nobody wants but which, with commitment, can become productive again.

The volunteers of Il Gabbiano were right!

Those who work here now feel like heroes, because they have survived, and they have managed to recover these terrains. They tell you this in an exciting wine story that touches a nerve only the Valtellina DOC wines can reach, with their supreme tact and elegance.

THE LINE OF WINES

The line consists of six bottles and is entirely dedicated to the story of its heroic creators. The first three labels, Abbaglio (Glare), Sentenza (Sentence) and Stigma, respectively a #Laidback Valtellina Red, a #Magnetic Valtellina Superiore and a #Sage Sforzato confess and condemn their pre-rehab experience.

The glare (by no coincidence the company’s entry-level product) that drugs cause, the sentence the world passes on your life and the stigma of misfit and failure that society labels you with.

But then there are another three wines in the range: Incontro (meeting), Riparo (shelter) and Legàmi (bonds): a Valtellina Inferno Doc, a Sassella DOCG and the Grumello DOCG, all three with a #Magnetic character.

In short, an excellent round-up, in the form of wine, of what happens in rehab where, with the support received, bonds are created, generating strength and the will to set an example, to offer hope.

The kind of hope that we can use to encourage a friend in times of need by whispering confidently in his ear:

“We can be heroes, today!”