Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 45, October 2006   
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 Marketing, with its rules and laws, as everyone knows, it is rough and ruthless, common sense, which should favor a friendly life together, it is frequently replaced by a less noble competition. Better to say, competition - alone - it is not anything bad in case it is being used in a constructive way, however the border between the “licit” and the “less licit”, between “correctness” and a “lesser correctness”, it is frequently confused. All that in order to pursue the legitimate goal of the economic profit. This is true for every field of marketing, no matter the type of activity done. Does wine make an exception in all that? In order to find the answer, it is enough to take a look at the shelves in wine shops and malls, in the “good words” of producers and the way bottles are “dressed up”, in order to understand wine does not certainly make an exception. Indeed, competition in this field is very tough and ruthless.


 

 In the world of wine we can talk about culture, tradition, passion and quality, about noble and romantic stories, however it is indisputable - and, of course, understandable - wine producers must also take care about their own profits. Of course, this is not a fault: it is just understandable. In a society like ours, in which - it cannot be denied and this does not certainly represent a noble aspect - money has too much importance, pursuing a profit is understandable. What it is less understandable, or better to say, less agreeable, is the way the pursuing of profit is masked, even at the cost of selling an illusion to customers, something which is different from and frequently having a lesser value than the real value the object representing the purchase has. This also happens for wine, there is no doubt about this. There are so many bottles out there sold at pretty disputable prices and, once they are being poured in glasses, they express a pretty disappointing quality, pretty “ordinary”, not bad, but however far from their marketing value.

 Disappointment is even bigger when you find out there are wines sold at lesser prices and objectively expressing a superior quality. What a wonderful thing is comparison, when you have the possibility to make it. In the specific case of wine, there are many factors which can be used as a qualitative comparison: producers, areas, grapes and countries, as to mention few of them. The possibility of making comparisons could compromise, in many cases, the pursuing of a profit, in case it is unfavorable. If you choose something, you will not probably choose, or you will not choose anymore, the other. In an “enlarged” world, where wine is being produced in many countries, the possibility of making comparisons dramatically increases, in particular when the products of the competition are sold at lower prices. As the offer increases, the availability of products to choose increases as well, the competition then becomes tougher, fought with any weapon, in order to be in a shinier light than the others and in order to be chosen, in other word, to make a profit.

 Competition certainly is a positive thing in case it is used in an intelligent way and in order to improve something, in case it is used critically, it helps to improve the quality of things. As we live in an imperfect world, sometimes too much imperfect, competition, in its worst expression, frequently leads to a non truly noble confrontation, where the only thing seen, in this obtuse blindness, is one's own profit and interest. And it is not just about economic interest only, but also cultural, traditional and historical: not only for money clashes arise. Men are extraordinarily good to to make contrasts in order to affirm themselves and their “cultures” over the others. Millennia of history told us how much “civilized” was, and continues to be, the social progress in this sense. Man seems not to understand it is less hard to listen and to understand, to take advantage of the richness of mutual differences and to try to live without contrasts, instead of making wars. For this reason are used countermeasures which initially involve a small number of competitors living in the same area, then it floods in the neighboring areas, in a process which progressively involves a whole region, a whole country, the entire world.

 In the world of wine, this competition is expressed in different ways, and one should ask oneself, when it is expressed in the negative form of contrast only, how much this benefits wine and the ones who like it. Chardonnay versus Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer versus Riesling, Merlot versus Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon versus Zinfandel: the examples can go on and on. Moreover, the conflict also involves other ways as well: a producer versus another, a wine area versus another, a region versus another, a country versus another, all of them being convinced what they have is better than anything else. To make things even sadder, most of the times one does not realize he or she knows little about what one has, nevertheless, what the others have. If we begin to understand everyone has something to learn from anyone, and that everything indisputably has good and bad qualities which make it absolutely unique, we would probably fear less what we do not know. Chardonnay, for example, is a grape having good and bad qualities, and the same is true for Sauvignon Blanc and for any other grape. With what absolute criterion can be said what is the best one of the two as to make a holy crusade?

 Taste, which certainly is important and could answer this question, does not represent - as a matter of fact - an absolute criterion: it simply is a relative and subjective opinion. However, as it represents an opinion in which can be recognized the personality of the one who expresses it, this can lead to contrast among wine lovers as well. For example, there are many people who believe the only wine worth to be considered as such is red wine, the rest is not even seen. Even worst, most of the times, these are considerations expressed without cause, as the quality of the other type of wines is unknown, they are simply excluded without even knowing them. Contrasts of this kind can also be seen in certain wines, considered by their supporters as the only ones worth of consideration, in a way they refuse to think about looking beyond, as this would be bad for their dignity and integrity of expert. All versus all, only for the purpose of affirming oneself and something which is considered to be better than the rest. Does this really benefits wine?

 



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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.

 

What does make a good wine? In my opinion it depends on the meteorological condition of the year, whereas my partner says it depends on alcohol content. Who's right?
Nicola Parker -- Malaga (Spain)
The question, in its simplicity, is complex and would require a complex answer. Meteorological conditions of the year represent one of the many factors - certainly among the most important ones - allowing the production of a good wine. There are also other indispensable factors for the production of a good wine, of these, the most important ones include the quality of grape - which also depends on the meteorological condition of the year - production area, wine making technique and therefore the intervention of man. The quantity of alcohol in a wine, alone, is not enough to make quality. It would be like saying all fortified wines, which can also have alcohol by volume of 19%, would implicitly be good, something which is not true. Alcohol content is however essential for the quality of wine, both for ensuring a good organoleptic balance, as well as to improve the development and perception of aromas.



What is the difference between grappa and grape brandy?
Gianluca Matteini -- Siena (Italy)
Despite grappa and grape brandy are both produced with grape, or better to say, with specific parts of the grape properly processed, they are different. Grappa is produced with the distillation of grape pomace only, that is the skins, rich in precious aromas which will give grappa its smell, properly fermented. In the production of grappa are used both pomace of white grapes and pomace of red grapes. As the pomace of white grape is being separated from the must before alcoholic fermentation will transform it into wine, it is indispensable they are fermented before distillation in order to get alcohol. As in the production of red wine pomace is being macerated with the must during fermentation, when they are separated from wine, they contain alcohol, in other words, they are ready for distillation. Grape brandy is produced with the distillation of fermented grape, that is fresh fermented must. In this specific case, grape is considered - rightly - like any other fruit used for the production of fruit brandies. Despite grappa is a distillate, it cannot be called fruit brandy, because of the differences in the production of the two distillates. Grappa can be correctly defined as pomace brandy.



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