No crisis in Italian wine industry, says agricultural minister

Reported via Vino al Vino by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani.

In an interview published on Friday at WineNews.it, Italy’s recently installed agricultural minister Giancarlo Galan told a journalist that there was no real crisis in the Italian wine industry.

When asked whether or not the Italian government would “intervene,” he responded:

    I was the president of the Veneto Region for 15 years and I never heard hotel owners or merchants in Venice say that things were going well. The same is true, in my view, for wine producers. I’m not denying that are difficulties in this sector. But let’s not get carried away! If any industry has grown and proven successful in international markets, it’s the wine industry. Before we start complaining, let’s at least wait for the end of harvest!

When asked whether or not the government was considering subsidies for the Italian wine industry, he answered dryly:

    It’s the farmers who need to change. They need to abandon their low-end products and let other people make those. Let me give you an example. Twenty years ago, the wines made in the Colli Euganei [the Euganean Hills near Padua] were unpresentable. In recent years, instead, wineries have converted over to quality and today they make excellent products that have no problem on the market.

Soldera on the current state of the Italian wine industry

The following excerpts have been translated from Gian Luca Mazzella’s interview with Brunello di Montalcino producer Gianfranco Soldera (Il Fatto Quotidiano, August 14, 2010). Translation by VinoWire.

Italian viticulture has been radically transformed over the last thirty years. Has the quality of the wines improved, as so many claim?

Momentous change has occurred over the last thirty years. But whether or not the quality of the wines has improved has yet to be seen. Consider the facts: in the 1970s, I produced 15,000 of the 700-800,000 total bottles of Brunello [produced each year]. Today, more than 7 million bottles are produced and there are those who would like to increase that number to 14 million. I continue to produce the same quantity of wine. This gives you a sense of the dimension of change. The wine market is in the hands of corporations instead of grape-growers. Making matters worse, there has been a marked decrease in the number of wine connoisseurs.

Why has quantity increased but not quality?

Industrial winemaking has grown because it controls the commerce of wine. The current difficulties of the wine economy are due to the fact that small winemakers are not able to get their products to the end user. This is because they can’t produce the numbers nor the marketing necessary to be able to count on the global market. I believe in direct sales of everyday products. The problem is consumer culture and the forces of the media and an economy driven by people who don’t want consumers with culture.

Your winery belongs to the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium: you must be aware of the fact that the body’s new president Ezio Rivella recently declared that 80% of the Brunello had been produced by flagrantly adding Merlot to the Sangiovese and thus violating the appellations regulation which require that only Sangiovese be used.

If he says so, it must mean that he knows so. I don’t know. I’d like to ask the critics just one thing: what have you seen and tasted over the last 20 years? I’d like to know where the critics have been. They ought to critique themselves.

What do you think of the natural wine, biologic, and organic wine movements?

Everyone does whatever he wants. I make natural wine. If it’s not natural, it’s not wine. I have never given and will never give any type of poison to my land, to my vines, or my wines. The earth is life. Nowhere is it written that biologic or organic wines have the characteristics necessary for a natural wine.

What about biodynamics?

Let me say it again: everyone does whatever he wants. Steiner, the father of biodynamics, didn’t really know that much about agriculture.

Good to excellent harvest expected for 2010

According to a report by Confagricoltura (General Confederation of Italian Agriculture), the 2010 vintage will be qualitatively and quantitatively good if not excellent, particularly in Piedmont (with a 10% increase in production with respect to 2009) and Umbria (with a 15% increase). An excellent forecast for Trentino-Alto Adige (with roughly the same quantity of wine produced) and Emilia-Romagna (with a 2.14% increase in quantity). Tuscany (.2% increase), Lombardy (2.5% increase), and Friuli-Venezia Giulia (5% increase) are ranked good to excellent. Apulia (3.5% increase) and Sicily (2.75% decrease) are also expected to have a good to excellent harvest. A 10% drop in quantity but good harvest are expected in Sardinia. A 13% increase is predicted for Campania and Calabria, with good results expected for the harvest. The study was based on data gathered from 700 producers.

In a report published by the Istituto Agrario di San Michele all’Adige (Agriculutral Institute of San Michele all’Adage), harvest will most likely arrive a week later than last year. The delay due to unusually cold temperatures registered in May. According to institute’s researchers, who share the prediction that the harvest will be good to excellent, temperatures in the final days before harvest will determine the ultimate quality of the vintage.

Source: WineNews.It.