The word of the day is gemellaggio (jeh-mel-LAH-jo). From gemelli, meaning “twins,” gemellaggio is “twinning”—a term used mostly by Europeans to refer to the process of creating a confraternal relationship between cities or towns in different countries. In the U.S., such arrangements are more often known as “sister cities.”
There are numerous examples of twinned cities that share a wine heritage, but news comes now of plans for a match made in heaven between two of the most prominent wine towns in the United States and Italy. Montalcino, the source of Brunello di Montalcino, and Napa, the main city in California’s Napa Valley, are in discussions to become gemellato. The two mayors, Silvio Franceschelli of Montalcino and Scott Sedgley of Napa, have exchanged communications expressing a strong interest in the idea. Such partnerships are intended to promote dialogue between the cities’ leaders about municipal governance, social issues, and business development as well as to encourage tourism and interactions among schools and civic organizations.
Napa currently has three twins (as oxymoronic as that sounds): Iwanuma, Japan, a city hard-hit by a major tsunami in 2011; Launceston, Tasmania, an up-and-coming wine area in Australia; and Casablanca. No, not the Rick-and-Ilsa one in Morocco, but rather the wine town near Santiago, Chile. Montalcino’s only current sister city is Hautvillers—a commune in Champagne where a monk by the name of Pérignon worked at the local abbey for most of his life a few centuries ago.
The accord requires approval by the Ministry of the Interior in Italy, so it’s unclear when this bond will become official.
Update (April 14): Asked about the status of this proposal, Napa city manager Steve Potter wrote, “The City sent an initial letter to the Italian Consulate after discussing this opportunity with [state senator Bill] Dodd. We have not heard back from anyone at this point but we look forward to more communication in the future.” Mayor Sedgely did not respond to a request for comment.