Italy reports a 14.3% decrease in wine production for 2007

Istat, Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, has reported a 14.3% drop in wine production for 2007 with respect to 2006. The country produced 42.6 million hectoliters in 2007, less than it did in 2002 (44.6 million hectoliters) and 2003 (44.1 million hectoliters). While northern Italy showed an insignificant decrease in production for 2007, central Italy’s production fell by 14% and southern Italy’s by 26%. According to the report, the production of DOC, DOCG wines (-4%) and IGT (-4.6%) wines dropped only slightly while the production of VdT (Vino da tavola) wines dropped significantly (-26%).

Source: (including an English translation of the authors’ analysis).

Wine and Philosophy conference, Pollenzo, May 30-31

Friday and Saturday, May 30-31, the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (Cuneo, Piedmont) will host a conference entitled Wine and Philosophy. The meeting brings together top winemakers, wine writers, and scholars, including Professors Ann Noble (Viticulture and Oenology, University of California Davis, USA), Massimo Montanari (Food History, University of Bologna, Italy), and Steven Shapin (History of Science, Harvard University, USA), writer Neil Beckett (Editor, The World of Fine Wine, UK), and winemakers Frédéric Brochet (France), Teobaldo Cappellano (Italy), and Alessio Planeta (Italy) among other luminaries of academia and enology. Topics will include “wine and memory,” “wine and the senses,” “wine and nature,” and “wine and culture.”

For more info, email

Opinion: Petition for Authentic and Traditional Brunello

The editors of VinoWire encourage you to read the below petition authored by the Siena Enoclub (translated here by VinoWire). Click here to sign the petition.

–Franco Ziliani and Jeremy Parzen

To: the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino (Brunello producers association)


As a group of wine enthusiasts, we hereby ask for respect for the tradition of Sangiovese Grosso grown in Montalcino. Modern agriculture, with its massive use of chemicals, is threatening to impoverish the ground to the point of depriving it of its natural components. As a result, it could become incapable of surviving without substantial and frequent intravenous injections of chemicals. The moments has arrived to give greater incentives for better protection of the biological value of the earth using natural criteria.

We ask for respect for the traditional work cycle in the cellar. We ask for a halt to the use of must made from non-indigenous grapes, a halt to the use of selected yeasts, a halt to the excessive use of small barrels for aging, and a general halt to all practices that can undermine the natural and characteristic qualities of Brunello di Montalcino.

We seek rigorous monitoring by the supervising authorities and we express our hope for internal monitoring by the Consorzio [Brunello producers association] to ensure respect for these inexorable elements of tradition.

A denaturalized wine is a wine that dumbs down the less-evolved consumer’s taste and it alters trust between the informed consumer and the winemaker. That trust is the basis for a lasting commericial and human relationshiop and for the friendship between the production of one of the greatest wines of Tuscany, Italy, and the world: our beloved Brunello.

Enoclub Siena

Sincerely, The Undersigned
View Current Signatures

U.S. agrees to postpone June 9 Brunello deadline

Italy’s newly installed minister of agriculture, Luca Zaia (left), announced yesterday that the U.S. TTB (Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) has agreed to postpone its June 9 deadline for a response to its official request for information regarding the Siena prosecutor’s investigation of Brunello producers.

The new deadline has been set for June 23.

“I’d like to underline,” said Zaia in his statement to the press, “that in this case we are not talking about adulteration but rather blends that pose no health risks.”

Source: AGI.

TTB to visit Rome and Siena for talks on Brunello crisis

A delegation of high-ranking members of the United States TTB (Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) “will be in Rome June 8 for talks with officials at the [Italian] agriculture ministry, and in Siena on the 10th for meetings with the consortium of Brunello producers,” said Fabio Carlesi, director of the Enoteca italiana di Siena Tuesday during the presentation of the 42nd annual Settimana dei vini or Wine Week conference.

[Editor’s note: it remains unclear how this will impact the June 9 deadline set by the TTB for answers to its request for information in the Brunello controversy.]

Source: ANSA.

Giuseppe Mascarello Vertical 1958-2003

One of my most memorable spring 2008 tastings — a truly extraordinary experience — was a vertical dinner at Mozza in Los Angeles hosted by winemaker Mauro Mascarello of the Giuseppe Mascarello winery (Langa, Piedmont), where he poured bottlings spanning back to 1958.

I’ve had the opportunity to taste older Giuseppe Mascarello before but never had I seen such a remarkable collection of his wines. In fact, the tasting itself — open to the public — was a remarkable event: when it comes to “rare” wine (and I’ve attended and even poured at comparable however private tastings), rarely are so many exceptional vintages offered for public consumption. My friend David Rosoff, wine director and general manager at Mozza, orchestrated the dinner and pours with extreme grace and elegance.

The tasting spanned “six decades” and included the following wines:

1958 Barolo, 1961 Barolo Riserva, 1964 Barolo

The Mascarello family bought and moved the Monprivato estate and began making wine labeled simply “Barolo” in 1904. In 1919, Mascarello acquired an ice warehouse in Monchiero, with vaulted ceilings, said Mauro on the eve of the tasting, a storage space that later proved ideal for aging Barolo because of its natural cooling system. In 1922 (the year Mussolini marched on Rome), Mascarello grafted the vines with the Michét (mee-KEHT) Nebbiolo, a less productive but more structured and more age-worthy clone (Mascarello’s website reports 1921 but Mauro said 1922 was the year of the newly grafted vines; I find it interesting that these two milestones — the acquisition of the ice warehouse and the grafting of Michét — occurred between the two world wars, a time of hope, a time when Italians were happy for the end of the Great War and the peace that followed yet unaware of the tragedy that would follow Mussolini’s rise to power). In 1952 Giuseppe Mascarello began experimenting with Slavonian oak. He had served in the Italian military and Slovenia and had discovered that the more compact wood was better for long-term aging of his wines. In 1962, he started to experiment with the Michét clones, selecting those best suited for his vineyards.

This first flight — 1958, 1961, and 1964 — represented the end of the first era of Mascarello’s history and laid the ground work for what many consider one of the most prolific names in Barolo. The 61 and 64 were oxidized unfortunately, but the 1958 — a very good year for Langa — was gorgeous, very much alive with fruit and acidity.

1970 Barolo Monprivato, 1978 Barolo Monprivato, 1982 Barolo Monprivato

The second flight also marked a landmark in the winery’s history: 1970 was Mascarello’s first cru (single-vineyard) bottling of the legendary Monprivato growing site (Mauro Mascarello began making the wine at Mascarello in 1967 and he would later purchase the entire growing site making it a monopole).

Mascarello’s wines are so powerful and are made in such a radically traditional and by-the-way natural style that they often turn off those accustomed to drinking modern-style Nebbiolo. These wines — the 1970, nearly 40 years old — were drinking beautifully and even the modern-leaning guests were blown away. You really need to experience aged traditional Barolo to appreciate what more recent vintages of the wines will become. The 1970 and 1978 were incredibly, nuanced and poetic, with the indescribable lightness that old Nebbiolo takes on as its tannins began to mellow naturally.

The tasting also included: 1985 Barolo Monprivato, 1989 Barolo Monprivato, 1990 Barolo Monprivato, 1996 Barolo Monprivato, 1997 Barolo Ca d’Morissio, 1999 Barolo Monprivato, 2000 Barolo Monprivato, 2001 Barolo Monprivato, 2003 Barolo Monprivato. The 1989, 1999, and 2001 were stunning and the 1997 Barolo Ca’ d’Morrisio, made from select parcels within Monprivato in top vintages, was still just a young, powerful thoroughbred colt, showing no signs of opening up yet (as many less traditional producers’ wines in this hot-summer Wine Spectator-friendly vintage).

The Ca’ d’Morrisio is named after Maurizio Mascarello, Mauro’s grandfather (literally, Maurizio’s house, so called because Maurizio resided there among the vines). One of the things that strikes me about Mauro (above) is that when you hear him talk about winemaking, he talks like a “natural” winemaker. He’s a gentle, reserved, soft-spoken man, extremely humble and painfully modest. Like his wines, he is a traditional man, with a traditional Langa beard, always dressed in toned-down brown, grey, and blue suits it seems. He has none of the flair of the young generation of natural winemakers but to hear him speak is to hear an ardent supporter of natural winemaking — not as a new fad or wave of the future but rather a tradition that he continues to carry forward because it makes for the greatest expression of his land and his fruit.

When I tasted barrel samples of his 2004 Santo Stefano and Villero at Vinitaly this year, I asked him how he manages to maintain such a distinct style in his wines. “Because I let nature do her work,” he told me with his thick Langa accent. “I try to let the earth express itself through the fruit. I try to do as little as possible in the cellar,” said Mauro, accidental natural winemaker. No natural wine manifesto could have said it better.

–Jeremy Parzen

Latium (Lazio) gets its first DOCG, Cesanese del Piglio DOCG

Italy’s Comitato Nazionale per la Tutela dei Vini (National Committee for the Protection of Wines) has approved Latium’s first DOCG or Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita (Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin): Cesanese del Piglio and Cesanese del Piglio Superiore, and a Cesanese del Piglio Superiore Riserva (Reserve), which requires 18 months aging before release. As soon as the new appellation regulations are published in Italy’s Gazzetta Ufficiale (Official Journal), Latium winemakers will be allowed to begin production.

The Cesanese del Piglio DOC was created in 1973 and, according to Paolo Perinelli, president of the producers association, there are 85 growers and 20 wineries who will now be able to produce the DOCG.

Cesanese del Piglio is an indigenous red grape of Latium and is known for its aromatic character and often spicy notes.