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  Editorial Issue 33, September 2005   
Tocai Friulano: the Story Goes OnTocai Friulano: the Story Goes On MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 32, Summer 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 34, October 2005

Tocai Friulano: the Story Goes On


 The last May 12th, 2005, the European Court of Justice of Luxembourg has set «as stipulated in 1993 agreement between the European Union and Hungary, the prohibition of using - after March 31st, 2007 - the denomination “Tocai” for some Italian wines». Saved the case there will be further development, the dispute between the historical Tocai Friulano - glorious grape of Friuli Venezia Giulia - and Hungarian Tokaji, is over and the renowned Italian grape was defeated. Nothing could do the historical and well documented evidences which supported the very good Tocai Friulano. The European Court has in fact set «the regulation about homonymy of the examined international agreements do not allow that, in consideration of the Hungarian geographical denomination “Tokaj”, the appellation of the Italian grape variety “Tocai Friulano” cannot be used anymore for the designation and identification of some Italian wines». A verdict leaving few hopes on the future of Tocai Friulano - of course - on its name only.

 In fact, the excellent grape from Friuli - luckily - will not disappear from our glasses: it will simply arrive with a new name which is not defined at the moment. The verdict - without commenting the decision - however leaves some perplexities, because undeniable and proven historical factors supporting Tocai Friulano were not considered at all and they exclusively wanted to work for the support of geographical denominations, however important and undeniable for sure. The reasons which gave origin to this debate between Hungary and the other countries members of the European Union are well known. Everything originated from the homonymy between the famous Hungarian area of Tokaj, which certainly is mother of excellent and famous wines, and the other denominations that - in a way or another - made use of terms recalling this area. Because of this, in November 1993, the European Community and Hungary signed an agreement in which were set the terms for a mutual safeguarding and control of wine denominations. In order to safeguard the geographical denomination of Tokaj, the agreement stipulated the prohibition of use of the tocai term - as well as any other similar form - from March 2007 on. The agreement was, in particular, about Italian wines produced with Tocai Friulano and the Tokay mentions found in the label of some French wines.


 

 The verdict cancels - as a matter of fact - 800 years of history, proven by many documents of the past, in which this grape was mentioned with its usual and historical name. Despite the origin of the name of the glorious grape from Friuli is not completely clear, it is however interesting to known that in the region there is a creek - the Toccai - and from which the renowned grape takes, unnameable for the moment, its name. However there are documents of the Patriarchs of Venice - dated back to the 1200's - in which was mentioned, since those times, the Tocai Friulano grape. There also are other historical evidences about this grape and about Hungary. It is in fact supposed some plants of Tocai Friulano were sent in the thirteenth century from Bertoldo di Andechs - at those times Patriarch of Aquileia - to King Bela IV of Hungary. It is surprising how the verdict of the European Court - even according the many historical evidences - did not consider such a strong and proven past, as to end the dispute between Italy and Hungary with the “elimination” of Tocai Friulano from the labels of wine and from the culture of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

 While we pay all our respect to the excellent wines from Hungarian Tokaj, we do not believe Tocai Friulano - or in any other name it will be called - needs to take advantage of the historical and noble fame of Tokaj in order to prove its great enological talent. Even because, if we think about Tokaj, the most common and direct association is in favor of the magnificent Aszú - the renowned and charming wine made with grapes affected by Botrytis Cinerea - that is to a type of wine completely different from the ones produced with Tocai Friulano, notoriously used for dry wines. It should however be remembered that in Tokaj are also produced dry table wines, mainly with Furmint grape, totally absent in Italy and having no connection - even genetically - with Tocai Friulano. The homonymy of a geographical area and our white berried grape has been resolved in a court, by imposing the strict rules of bureaucracy to common sense. It seems there will be no extensions or alternatives: within March 2007, Tocai Friulano must change its name.

 Despite it has not been chosen a new name for this grape having centuries of glorious history - and of excellent wines - there however were many proposals. Among the many proposed names are mentioned Friulano, Toccai (in honor of the homonymous creek flowing in the region) or Tai Friulano (Tai means glass in the local dialect). It is however sad to see this dispute about the exclusive use of a name ended like this and maybe some good sense would have been more appropriate. We would like to remind everyone who insists in using names and show them off like a flag, the words of Juliet said to Romeo in the famous dialogue of the second scene in the second act of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet tragedy. Juliet reminded her beloved Romeo: «What's in a name? What we call a rose, even with any other name would always smell as sweet». With any other name they will decide to call our Tocai Friulano, no one will never succeed in eliminating the prestige and the excellence of this grape and of anything its wines can express in glasses, including its aromas.

 As everyone knows, men usually need names and titles in order to identify and recognize the dignity of things, including wines and grapes. It is undeniable this verdict will however be cause of many problems and serious consequences for Friuli's producers, which since many years have associated their name with Tocai Friulano. This does mean they will have to work very hard in promoting the new name, as well as trying to have consumers and wine lovers understand it is the very same grape. It will be - for many aspects - like rewriting the history from the beginning and in a such distracted world and frequently attracted by frivolous things and appearance, it will probably not be easy. They will have to work hard on the promotion and spreading of the new name, and this is something Friuli Venezia Giulia's producers and institutions know very well. However this is not a farewell, there will always be Tocai Friulano, this is something we can be certain of. No matter what the name will be, it will be like meeting an old and dear friend who entertained us with his good company. See you soon Tocai Friulano: we are waiting for you in our glasses, to tell us your long and glorious story that - despite men - it will never change its name.

 



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  Editorial Issue 33, September 2005   
Tocai Friulano: the Story Goes OnTocai Friulano: the Story Goes On MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 32, Summer 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 34, October 2005

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 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.

 

I would like to know more about the service of jug wines.
Michele Greco -- Potenza (Italy)
The selling of jug wine is a practice which has virtually originated with the “discovery” of wine. Jug wine generally is associated to low quality - and this is usually true - however the best characteristic of these wines is represented by the low cost and therefore they are generally bought as wines to be consumed on a daily basis during meals. The selling of jug wines is usually done by associated and cooperative wineries, and it usually represents a commercial strategy for many private producers. Jug wines are usually bought in large containers, therefore the main problem is represented by oxidization and any possible acescence which could happen because of the increasing quantity of air occurring as the container gets empty. For this reason, it is appropriate to bottle the wine soon after purchase in order to ensure a better condition of preservability. As for service, it is enough to follow the usual recommendations valid for any other wine, therefore there will be chosen the appropriate temperature and glass according to type, structure and other organoleptic qualities of the wine.



My wife, who is Italian from Modena, loves the wines of her land and every time she comes back from Italy, she always brings back some bottles of Lambrusco. Could you please suggest us a good matching with this wine?
Miguel Raventós -- Madrid (Spain)
Lambrusco - although it would be better to say Lambrusco grapes, because of the many existing varieties - is very common in Emilia Romagna and in the province on Mantua, Lombardy. Lambrusco is historically used for the production of vivaci wines - that is slightly sparkling - strongly bound to the tradition and culture of lands in which are being produced. The quality of wines produced with Lambrusco grapes is pretty vast - just like for any other grape, of course - even though many historical wineries are committed with seriousness and passion to quality production and getting excellent results. Because of the notoriety of the grapes in the areas in which it is known, it is pretty frequent to find products with disputable quality. Good Lambrusco is however an agreeable and interesting wine, not only according to a wine-food matching point of view. Its main quality is effervescence and - last but not the least - a good structure and astringency. Lambrusco is generally produced in the secco (dry) and amabile (off dry) styles, the latter being characterized by a slightly sweet taste. The most common matching of Lambrusco, especially the dry style, are zampone and cotechino (two typical dishes from northern Italy), because its joyous effervescence - as well as its appreciable astringency - successfully balance the typical stickiness of these foods. Lambrusco is also good for the matching with pasta, in particular stuffed pasta, as well as some recipes based on meat, such as braised and stewed meats, and it is a perfect companion for cold cuts. Finally, off dry Lambrusco is a very good companion in autumn evenings matched with roasted chestnuts.



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  Editorial Issue 33, September 2005   
Tocai Friulano: the Story Goes OnTocai Friulano: the Story Goes On MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
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