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

Dante Scaglione to return to Bruno Giacosa

According to report posted today on his blog by VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani, legendary Langa producer Bruno Giacosa has confirmed rumors that his long-time enologist Dante Scaglione (above, left, with Bruna and Bruno Giacosa) will return to the winery and resume working with the great Nebbiolo maestro again.

More than 3 years after Scaglione’s abrupt and unexplained departure from the winery where he had worked side-by-side with Giacosa for sixteen years, the news of his return is sure to be received by observers of the Italian wine industry with jubilation.

Scaglione’s unexpected departure was the subject of intense speculation and scrutiny and many feared that the Bruno Giacosa legacy would be abandoned by his heirs.

Editorial: EU green harvest subsidies are misguided

Last month, the Regione Toscana (Tuscan Regional Authority) announced that, using EU subsidies, it will pay Chianti and Chianti Classico producers Euro 3,200 for every hectare of “green harvested” vines.

I am well aware that, according to EU legislation, “green harvesting means the total destruction or removal of grape bunches while still in their immature stage, thereby reducing the yield of the relevant area to zero.”

I am also aware that “support for green harvesting shall contribute to restoring the balance of supply and demand in the market in wine in the Community in order to prevent market crises” [the final phase of EU Common Market Organisation reforms that include voluntary grubbing-up incentives to be distributed to and applied by EU members at their discretion, subsidies intended to reduce the number of vineyards that may have never produced wines but were planted rather to reap distillation subsidies in years of reckless EU promotion of growth].

Frankly, I just can’t understand this means of regulation and “balancing” production to aid producers during the market crisis. Honestly, I find it hard to swallow.

In my view, such regulation seems more suited to industries like iron and steel or car manufacturing — not for such a wondrous thing as wine.

Perhaps I’m a stubborn old enophilic Don Quixote who views wine romantically, as an expression of the earth, a modality of rustic knowledge, and the fruit of artisan culture. It is not a simple product that can be financed and manufactured when the market is “up” and then discarded when things get difficult.

Strange things have been happening in the world of wine today.

—Franco Ziliani

Common Market Organisation reforms and how they affect the Italian DOC system

As the EU reform of viticulture, winemaking practices, appellation regulations, distillation, and grubbing-up policies enters its final stages (2011 is the third and last year of the Common Market Organisation Reform that went into effect in 2008), the editors of VinoWire invite you to consult the English-language version of the EU legislation.

In particular, the text of Regulation (EC) 479/2008 should help to clarify the new system of EU regulation of PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) and PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) wines (see Title III, Chapter III, “Designations of origin, geographical indications and traditional terms”).

In recent months, the Comitato Nazionale Vini (Italy’s National Wine Commission) has ratified the creation and modification of a number of DOCs and DOCGs. Many of these are the result of a frantic rush to apply for protected status before the EU overarching reform of appellation regulation came into effect in 2009. (The deadline for application was extended until August 2009 and you may remember VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani’s editorial “Eurobureaucrats, please block the growth of DOCs before we lose count!”)

Most recently, the Italian agriculture ministry announced the creation of a handful of new DOCs and DOCGs and it remains unclear how many new appellations and modifications will be ratified in the wake of the 2009 tsunami of applications.