Category Archives: Nonino Prize

The Nonino Prize for Literature

Founded in 1975, the Nonino Prize (Premio Nonino) started out as a way to recognize the achievement of local growers who were reviving and safeguarding indigenous grape varieties.

But today, it also recognizes literary achievement.

This year the prestigious award went to Chinese poet Yang Lian (pictured above, center, with Nobel Laureate for Literature, V.S. Naipaul, who presented him with the prize).

From the PEN International website:

Chinese poet and PEN International Board Member Yang Lian has been awarded the International Nonino 2012 literary prize, joining academics of the calibre of William Trevor, Edward Said and René Girard. The jury, presided over by the Nobel Laureate for Literature, V.S. Naipaul, praised the work of Yang Lian as an example of the heights of Chinese contemporary thought:

“Grounded to the millenary roots of his culture, he reinterprets it, reinventing and opening it to the tensions of contemporaneity, touching in his lines all the great questions of our existence and reminding us that ‘poetry is our only mother tongue’.”

Yang Lian’s poetry became well-known in the West in the 1980s after his sequence, ‘Noriland’ was criticized by the Chinese authorities during the ‘Anti-Spiritual Pollution’ movement against writing which contained themes and associations with Tibet. Living in exile since the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, Lian’s work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his ‘Where the Sea Stands Still: New Poems’ was the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation in 1999. Lian’s latest writing, ‘Narrative Poetry’ was destroyed by the Chinese authorities because if its references to Tiananmen Square, but has been praised by critics, and the author continues to write and speak out as a highly individual voice in world literature. A PEN International Board member since 2008, Yang Lian has participated as an adviser of to ‘Free the Word’ festival events and was artistic director of the seminar series, ‘Unique Mother Tongue’. He continues to make an important contribution to the PEN International community.

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Nonino prize for the “Rose of Gorizia”

Last week, the Nonino family announced the winners of the 2012 Premio Nonino (Nonino Prize).

(Click here for a little background on the origins of the prize and click here for the complete list of winners this year.)

The coveted Premio Nonino Risit d’Âur (Nonino Golden Rootstock Prize) went this year to the Gardeners of Gorizia (Friuli) “who have jealously handed down, from generation to generation, the precious seeds of the ‘Rose of Gorizia’ for over one hundred and fifty years.”

The “rose” of Gorizia is actually a variety of chicory or radicchio (above).

In leaner times, cultivation of the rose was a source of income for farmers during winter months. And it is still typically served today in winter salads.

Similar to but more intense in flavor than the radicchio veronese commonly found in northern Italy and now cultivated in the U.S., the rose of Gorizia remains a marvel of nature for its unique beauty and rich color.

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Nonino Prize

Above: Giannola Nonino (far left) addresses the crowd at the 2010 Nonino Prize presentation.

After becoming the first distillery to craft monovarietal grappas — distillates made from the pomace of a single grape variety — the Nonino family discovered that some of Friuli’s ancient, indigenous grape varieties were nearly extinct. They were alarmed to learn that the reason for this was that their cultivation had been outlawed and that grape growers who continued to grow them faced stiff fines if they vinified and sold the wine.

In November 1975, the family founded the Premio Nonino Risit d’Âur (The Nonino Golden Rootstock Prize): the prize was to be awarded annually to a grape grower who cultivated one or more of Friuli’s endangered grape varieties.

In 1978, the Italian government lifted its ban on the varieties in question and in 1978, the European Economic Community (Common Market) recognized and sanctioned both the prize and the grapes varieties.


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