Wine Culture and Information - Volume 13
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  Editorial Issue 17, March 2004   
Forgotten Wines of ItalyForgotten Wines of Italy MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 16, February 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 18, April 2004

Forgotten Wines of Italy


 Italy is usually considered as one of the main countries which traditionally produces wine and was - and still is - an important country in the history of wine making. There are few countries in the world having an enological history as rich as the one of Italy. Despite the origin of wine making in Italy is usually dated back to ancient Greeks times, vine was already present in the country long before their arrival and the ancient local people - in particular Etruscans - were already involved in the production of this beverage. In more than 2000 years of history the number of wines produced in Italy has been pretty high and quality faced moments of absolute prestige - as mentioned by many authors in their writings during the Roman age - as well as moments of absolute decay.

 In this long period, time has been witness of the birth - and unfortunately of the disappearing - of many renowned wines which made important the areas where they were produced at. Many of these wines uniquely continue to live in the pages of the ancient documents where they were usually praised and esteemed, consigning them to the memory of time and being cause of curiosity among the ones who only heard talking about them. Many others are still produced today, even though with proper “modern” adaptations, and are still famed and appreciated. Other wines are instead facing the risk of disappearing no matter few and determined producers, to whom go our appreciation and esteem, continue to keep the historical wines of their lands and of their ancient traditions alive.


 

 How comes some glorious wines of the past and that are still produced do not meet the appreciation and interest of consumers? Maybe taste has changed and therefore some wines having an “ancient” taste are not capable of meeting the canons of modern taste? Of course commercial and promotional factors indisputably play their fundamental role. Maybe it is because these wines having an ancient taste, complicated, rich and certainly not immediate, require lots of attention in order to be appreciated and therefore a “modern” wine, although produced by using disputable methods and made of the right ingredients, is more easily appreciable and direct? Maybe these wines require a higher sensorial effort and therefore, because of laziness and homologation of habits, are considered less interesting and more difficult and hence less attractive?

 Let's consider, for example, two magnificent wines produced in Sicily and in Sardinia - Marsala and Vernaccia di Oristano - how many wine consumers, honestly, continue to appreciate them, or however had the opportunity and curiosity to taste them at least one time? Nevertheless Marsala has been in the past the only wine capable of being comparable with Port, Madeira and Jerez (Sherry), three wines which made the economic fortune of many merchants of the past and the happiness of countless wine lovers. What about Vernaccia di Oristano? Maybe few people know it is one of the most longeval wines, not only of Italy but also of the world. It can even age for more than 20 years developing complexity and extraordinary richness in aromas and taste like few other wines can afford. Of course, these two wines are not the only ones that could be mentioned - the list could go on with tens of names - however they make a good example of magnificent wines which truly risk to disappear because of the lack of interest.

 Many producers had to change their production in order to avoid bankruptcy, many of them have quit producing these wines while starting the production of more modern and commercial wines. Their choice is clearly understandable: according to a plain economic point of view it is not wise to make something which does not make any profit, however from a cultural point of view it is a loss for everyone. Of course we have nothing against the wines which are famous - how could we deny the greatness of many of them - anyway as the production and the spreading of “modern” wines are promoted, likewise it should be done the very same for the spreading of these “lesser” wines - we hope their producers do not take offense for having used this adjective - and we cannot accept them to disappear from our history and our glasses.

 It should be admitted, without offense to anyone, these “ancient” wines are not wines for everyone, they do not have the readiness of many modern wines which can be drunk without any formality and easiness. If we consider again, for example, Marsala and Vernaccia di Oristano, they are not wines that can be drunk thoughtlessly and in a hurry, they are wines which require attention, which require taking a break and with tranquility appreciating and understanding the endless symphony of aromas and tastes originating from the glass. This is a principle, unfortunately, which does not meet the frenetic absurdity of the time we all forced ourselves to in order to live in this modern society rich of paradoxes and of which we all are responsible of. Maybe we have no time, or probably we do not want to have time, to consider and think of those things that could make our life happier and less complicated.

 It is certainly easier to be attracted by the charm of the explicit and of “all at once”, thoughtlessly and without responsibility, where pressure and hurry do not allow us to notice important things which are neglected just because they asked a little more time and attention. Maybe these wines are victims of this system, too much complicated in order to be understood and too distant from our habits and our times. Nevertheless the richness of a Marsala Vergine and the complexity of a Vernaccia di Oristano, aged for more than ten years, a remarkable time for a white wine, repay all the attention and time dedicated to their appreciation. It is sad to see there are few people out there who are capable of appreciating these kind of wines, who know them and continue to look for them and to support them. To all of them who have never had the pleasure - as well as the privilege - of tasting these kind of wines, we invite them to try this genuine and amazing sensorial experience and we are sure of the fact they will not be disappointed. Finally, wine is culture and its culture is indisputably made of those truly great wines, often forgotten, which allowed enology, not only the Italian one, to walk a successful long way. Let's not forget this.

 



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  Editorial Issue 17, March 2004   
Forgotten Wines of ItalyForgotten Wines of Italy MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 16, February 2004 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 18, April 2004

MailBox


 In this column are published our reader's mail. If you have any comment or any question or just want to express your opinion about wine, send your letters to our editorial or fill in the form available at our site.

 

In a bottle of wine I noticed the term “Meritage”. What does it mean?
Deborah Brooks -- Kelseyville, California (USA)
The term Meritage was coined in 1988 by a group of producers with the purpose of defining a standard for identifying those American wines produced with traditional Bordeaux grapes. The goal of The Meritage Association consists in the promotion and identification of American wines produced by blending and because they are not produced with at least 75% of a single variety, they cannot show the name of the grape in the label, as stated by the laws in force in the United States of America. This restriction was the cause of the origination of many fantasy names used for the identification of these wines and therefore being cause of confusion. The term Meritage defines, as a matter of fact, an identifiable category to consumers, in which wines must meet specific production and quality requisites. Wines that can make use of the Meritage definition must be produced by blending two or more Bordeaux grape varieties: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot for red wines; Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle for white wines. Each one of these grapes can be present in a wine for not more than 90%. Moreover Meritage wines must be produced and bottled in the United States of America, grapes must come from recognized appellation areas and the wine must represent the most prestigious product of the winery and this usually corresponds to the most expensive one as well.



Why do bottles of American wine have “contains sulfites” written in the label? Why do they make use of sulfites in American wines?
Charles Garrett -- Auburn (Australia)
The use of sulfites in enology is a practice common in every wine producing country of the world. In the United States of America, because of specific laws regulating the production and bottling of wine, labels must show some information and warning, including the warning about the presence of sulfites. The practice of “sulfiting” can be done both during the cultivation and the many phases of vinification. During the cultivation vines can be treated with sulfur in order to deter many parasites and diseases. During the wine making process, sulfur dioxide (SO2) is added to the must in order to prevent the formation of bacteria or molds and is added to wine in order to prevent its oxidation and its spoilage, in other words, sulfur dioxide has a stabilizing role. Sulfur dioxide is usually added to wine as a gas or as tablets of potassium metabisulfite, which reacting with wine's acids, creates sulfur dioxide. Sometimes sulfur wicks are burned inside the containers that will keep wine, an operation that originates sulfur dioxide, in order to prevent the formation of molds. During these practices, part of the sulfur dioxide combines with the wine, in this case it will be called fixed sulfur dioxide, which does not originate any smell and therefore does not alter the aromas and taste of wine. Free sulfur dioxide is that part of gas which does not combine with the wine and it is therefore easily perceivable to smell and taste when present in excessive quantities. The maximum quantity of total sulfur dioxide allowed for the production of wine, represented by the sum of fixed and free ones, is usually set by specific laws in force in the many wine producing countries. It should be noticed excessive quantities of sulfites can be cause of allergic reactions in sulfites sensitive individuals and the use of sulfites is pretty common in the food industry, therefore it is not something which is uniquely related to the production of wine.






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  Editorial Issue 17, March 2004   
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