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A humanistic perspective onto the world of Italian food, wine, and culture.

Documentation of proposed changes to Rosso di Montalcino appellation

VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani has obtained documentation of proposed modifications of the Rosso di Montalcino appellation (see below). The “hypothesis for three typologies [categories] of Rosso di Montalcino” will be discussed in an assembly to be held September 7. The categories are as follows:

1) Rosso di Montalcino Sangiovese Superiore: 100% Sangiovese (with a 1% “tolerance” of other grape varieties).

2) Rosso di Montalcino Sangiovese: 100% Sangiovese (1% tolerance).

3) Rosso di Montalcino: minimum 85% and up to 100% Sangiovese, “authorized” red grape varieties up to 15% (1% tolerance).

Although it appears unlikely that the 15-member technical advisory committee of the Brunello producers association will call for a vote on September 7, the proposed changes will be discussed in an “ordinary assembly” of the producer members.

Harvest begins in Montalcino, heat spikes not a concern according to winemaker

“The wave of heat coming from Africa that struck Italy has also arrived in Montalcino,” write the winemakers at Tenuta Il Poggione in Montalcino.

“We are having temperature highs of 37° C. (99° F.) but fortunately, after sundown, the temperatures descend and we have lows of 17-20° C. (63-68° F.). And this is good for the ripening of the grapes.”

“Today, 22 August, we have begun to harvest the Pinot Grigio white grapes, healthy grapes, correctly ripe, 18.7 Babo degrees (Klosterneuburg Must Weight Scale), which, once transformed into alcohol, will give an alcohol percentage of 12.5%.”

Source: Montalcino Report.

Owner of La Gerla, Sergio Rossi dies

Today on his blog Vino al Vino, VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani sadly reports that the owner of the Podere La Gerla in Montalcino, Sergio Rossi, died over the weekend. Born in Bergamo, Rossi enjoyed a successful career in advertising before buying the winery in 1976. “I had the opportunity to meet Rossi,” wrote Franco on his blog today, “and to appreciate his humanity. He was an old fashioned gentleman, [a breed] increasingly rare in Motnalcino.”

“La Gerla will continue to grow in the direction that Sergio Rossi indicated,” said the estate’s vineyard manager Alberto Passeri. “It will follow his philosophy and will continue to produce excellent, unique wine that reflect the interests and passion of the persons, like Sergio, who wrote this history of this winery.”

Violent hailstorm batters Collio

According to a report posted online yesterday by the University of Udine, roughly 300 hectares of Collio vineyards were “devastated” by a hailstorm that battered the area around midnight on Saturday. The affected areas represent nearly “a sixth of the total surface area planted to vine in Collio.”

“‘The hailstorm, which lasted for a good 30 minutes, struck in a leopard-spot pattern [affecting] one out of every six vineyards,’ said Luigi Soini, director at the Cantina Produttori di Cormons. ‘In some cases, as in Plessiva, Zegla, and Preval, 100% of the crop was lost. In others, 80%. In the more fortunate cases, only 10-15% of the fruit was damaged… It’s been years since a calamity of this proportion has occurred in Collio.'”

Inclement weather also “struck heavily” in Dolegna del Collio and Brazzano, according to the report. The metereological event was “one of the worst hailstorms in Friuli-Venezia Giuli in recent years.”

Mafia indictment requested for Italian agriculture minister

(ANSA) – Palermo, July 13 – Palermo prosecutors on Wednesday requested that Agriculture Minister Saverio Romano be sent to trial for alleged Mafia association.

The prosecutors were forced to make the indictment request after a preliminary hearing judge rejected their petition for the case to be dropped four days ago.

In March President Giorgio Napolitano had expressed reservations about Romano’s appointment as agriculture minister when swearing him because the MP was among the suspects in a probe into politicians allegedly having dealings with Mafiosi in exchange for electoral support.

The investigation led to the former governor of Sicily, Salvatore Cuffaro, being imprisoned in January, when his final appeal against a seven-year term for helping the Mafia failed. ”I don’t intend to comment on an act the Palermo Prosecutor’s office was obliged to make after eight years of investigations and two requests for the case to be dropped,” Romano said Wednesday.

In the request, the prosecutors said Romano ”consciously and effectively contributed to the support and reinforcement of Mafia association in order to acquire electoral support by entertaining relations with numerous high-ranking members” of Cosa Nostra.

The prosecutors said Romano and Cuffaro had agreed to a request from a leading Mafia boss, Nino Mandala’, to have a man put on to a centrist party list for regional elections in 2001.

Romano joined the cabinet this year after being part of a group of lawmakers who have changed sides recently to support Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government and help it survive after its majority in parliament was slashed by an internal split.

He left centrist Catholic party UDC in September and is part of the self-styled ”responsible” group of lawmakers.

Another preliminary judge will decide whether the case will go to trial.

Source: ANSA.

First-ever rosé DOCG raises skepticism among Italian wine pundits

When VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani posted news of Italy’s first DOCG for a rosé — the recently created Castel del Monte Bombino Nero DOCG — on his blog Vino al Vino last week, the story was met with a tide of skepticism and negative comments by Italian winemakers and observers of the Italian wine world.

The first comment in the thread, authored by winemaker Stefano Menti, was a preview of the many observations and handwringing that would follow: “Dear Franco, I believe that with this step, the credibility of our DOC and DOCG [system] will be eroded.”

Why was such a humble expression of rosé wine elevated to the highest status in the hierarchy of the Italian appellation system? asks Franco in his post. As he points out, there are many more famous and perhaps more historically significant appellations for rosé in nearby Salento, where Negroamaro is used to produce some of Apulia’s most famous wines — both red and rosé. Furthermore, Franco observes, the current appellation is, in fact, a multivarietal appellation and allows for the inclusion of:

    Bombino Nero and/or Aglianico and/or Uva di Troia from 65-100%. Other grapes allowed in the production of this wine, by themselves or blended, include non-aromatic grape varieties recommended and/or authorized by the Province of Bari, provided they are grown locally, [for] up to 35% of the blend. (translation by VinoWire)

Franco proposes three theories as to why Italy’s National Wine Commission would condone such an abomination of the Italian appellation system:

1) The local presence of wineries who wield considerable weight, like Torrevento, Tormaresca (aka Marchesi Antinori), and Rivera, whose enologist Leonardo Palumbo is the president of the enologists association of Apulia and Calabria.
2) It’s impossible to identify any thread of logic in decisions made by Italy’s National Wine Commission. Had logic been their guide, legislators would have focused on the many other more-deserving appellations.
3) The true “blame” for this DOCG is not to be placed with the ministry-appointed bureaucrats but rather with the directors and leading players in appellations more renowned for their rosé than the newly minted DOCG Castel del Monte Bombino Nero.

For the most up-to-date list of Italian DOCGs, please see Alfonso Cevola’s blog, On the Wine Trail in Italy.

Opinion: new DOCGs trivialize and politicize the world of wine

VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani comments on the news that three new DOCGs in the Veneto have been approved by Italian authorities. (Alfonso Cevola has updated his list of DOCGs here.)

This umpteenth batch of new DOCGs is the result of efforts by the previous directors of the [agriculture] ministry, both of whom are Veneti by birth and by electoral process. And the Regione Veneto is the primary beneficiary: it places Friularo di Bagnoli and Colli di Conegliano on the same level as Barolo, Barbaresco, Brunello di Montalcino, Taurasi, Franciacorta, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Carmignano, Fiano d’Avellino… Observers of the world of wine can only be dismayed by this mechanism, which erases any differences, trivializes, and confers a mark of superior quality to wines that, even in the best of cases, are known solely in the zones where they are produced.

—Franco Ziliani