In defense of the identity of Italian wine.
Recent events regarding alleged violations of the regulations for Brunello di Montalcino have given rise to yet another attack on Italian wines, their uniqueness, and their history. The offensive has been spearheaded by theoreticians of homogenization, wild liberalism applied to the wine industry, and misguided modernity. In their view, any and all enologic products should conform to the canons determined by market demand. But who, we may ask, are these persons?
In issue 28 of the magazine Porthos, the editors write of a bona fide establishment formed by consultants, industrial wineries, and even medium- and small-sized winemakers, critics, and opinion leaders. Their unifying principle is the conviction that wine is the fruit of a protocol that can be applied anywhere. It’s no coincidence many of them are the best clients of chemical and biotechnological companies.
Taking advantage of a moment of enormous confusion in the press, these persons tell us that the problem is not adulteration — i.e., the illegal deception of the consumer — but rather the entire system of governing rules. They explain that regulations for production have become obsolete. They maintain that the use of so-called “improver” varieties is inevitable in order to make Italian wines more competitive. They insist on exploiting the most prestigious appellations yet refuse to respect the history, traditions, and hard work that have helped to create their legacy. Rarely do you hear a contradictory voice among them and their message resonates in the Italian press. Their declarations thus become binding prescriptions for the health of entire wine industry.
For those of us who consider wine to be nourishment for the spirit and part of our cultural heritage, this is entirely unacceptable.
The Italian appellation system was created with the intent of safeguarding and guaranteeing the identity and integrity of Italian wine. In recent years, with the complicity and inattention of the authorities responsible for monitoring, some of the most important territories have been treated like receptacles to be filled, occupied, or enlarged out of proportion. In numerous places, specialized cultivation of the vine has been replaced by dominant cultivation and consequently variety and breath have been taken away from the land.
We have witnessed an invasion of foreign grape varieties with the objective of “improving” unique Italian varieties and creating products more easily consumed regardless of the banalization of other wines that may arise as a result. The establishment continues to change regulations for the production of wine without any planning whatsoever. Instead, time after time, it merely photocopies changes proposed by marketers. All of this is carried out in the name of immediate financial gain by following the whims of the market. From not only an ethical but also from an economic point of view, this approach represents a grave error: in the mid- and long-terms, the standardization of our wines will directly result in a drop in sales and in tourist trade in zones where wine is produced.
In order to restore credibility to our appellation system and to revive the spirit that inspired it, we must conduct a restrictive campaign to update and improve regulations and monitoring, thus adapting them to the new systems employed by the establishment to bypass them. At present, Italian wineries are allowed to use systemic products that progressively deplete life in the soil and in the vineyards. In the production of wine, no expense is spared for yeasts, bacteria, and enzymes selected by biotechnology. Winemaking even allows for the presence of substances — justified by their presumed enological origin — used to fix the liquid. These actions have made the concept of terroir pointless. Recent legislation has authorized producers associations (comprised of the very same wineries) to verify the correspondence between the wines and the respective appellation regulations. But the situation has not improved because Italian production of wine has not achieved the maturity necessary for serious self-regulation.
Wine is work, social intercourse, and commerce. On one hand, globalization represents an opportunity when it allows us to experience and compare products that express different terroirs and different cultures. On the other, it is a danger when it imposes a leveling of variety, the debasement of terroir, the substitution of the farmhand’s hard work and ability with industrial manipulation and alchemy.
To combat this trend, we produce, we speak out, we sell, we study, and we give life to Italian wine. We reaffirm our opposition to any proposed denaturalization of our appellations, whether through the use of foreign grape varieties or through practices intended to render our wine different from what it is. The strength of Italian wine lies its complexity and its variety. We should make the most of those differences instead of sacrificing them in the name of the supposed demands of globalized tastes.
From this moment onward, we therefore propose greater commitment to the campaign to raise awareness of Italian wine and to defend its identity. We do so thanks to the love expressed by many of the undersigned by organizing conferences, rallies, classes, tastings, and internships. We are certain that this is the only path to safeguard Italian wine and give the world reason to love it.
(Translation by Jeremy Parzen)