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.