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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 48, January 2007   
Wood Chips Are Coming!Wood Chips Are Coming! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 47, December 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 49, February 2007

Wood Chips Are Coming!


 In the editorial published in the issue 44, September 2005, we discussed about the probable promulgation of a new decree from the European Union about the possibility of using wood chips in the production of wines. The news arose a lot of rumors in Italy and in other countries of the Union, as to believe, with this new Community decree, the imminent invasion of wines having the “highly wanted” wood aroma. A fear which rightly alarmed the lovers of the beverage of Bacchus. In a pretty crowded scene of so many wines “all the same, all alike”, the chance to further homologating the organoleptic qualities of wines, and with a pretty arguable method, could not be a reason of happiness for everyone respecting wine, its culture and tradition. In other words, this fear was pretty justified. The decree initially provided for the use of wood chips also in the so called “quality wines”, that is the ones belonging to denominations which should - as a matter of fact - ensure not only the origin of wines, but also their quality. In other words, it was an extraordinary paradox!


 

 Everyone has the right of choosing his or her own wine, there is no doubt about this, however there is no doubt as well everyone has the right of not choosing what he or she does not like. What was rightly asked the most, it was not the banning of such a decree by the European Union, what was asked the most was a better honesty and clearness for consumers, as well as a better safeguarding for quality products. Whether there are consumers who consciously decide to buy a wine made with wood chips because this is what they want, there is nothing wrong about this: de gustibus non disputandum est (there is no dispute about tastes). Whether there are consumers and producers who prefers wines made with wood chips, this is their problem, however this cannot be or become the problem of the ones who do not want this kind of wines. It is a matter of clearness and fairness as well as of honesty. Supporters of this decree, asserted it was necessary for the marketing competition of European wines against the wines produced in the New World, where this practice is permitted and allows the production of wines with undeniable lower costs.

 In October 11th, 2006 - as it was expected - the European Commission has promulgated the new decree and therefore also in Europe the use of wood chips in the production of wines is permitted. Indeed, in its form, the new decree has made happy both the producers who want to make use of this technique while, at the same time, safeguarding the right of choice and information in consumers. Regulation N. 1507/2006 of October 11th, 2006, in fact provides for the use of oak chips in the production of wines, obligating producers who want to use this technique to write it in the labels. This certainly is a good news. Doing so, it is ensured the right of choice of consumers, although relying on the honesty of producers and the hope there are rules and procedures in order to avoid frauds. It is on the honesty of the producer one must trust - as usual, after all - because this decree obliges him or her to write, in a special record and documents, the possible use of wood chips in the production.

 At the beginning, the orientation of Italy was to permit the use of wood chips for the production of table wines only, whereas it was not provided for the use in wines belonging to superior categories (IGT, DOC and DOCG). In November 2nd, 2006 has been approved by the Italian Minister of Agricultural Politics Mr. Paolo De Castro the reception of the new European Regulation and in which it is found, besides wines tables, in Italy will be permitted the use of wood chips in Typical Geographic Indication (IGT) wines as well. The decree forbids the use of wood chips in all VQPRD (Quality Wines Produced in Determined Region), that is in wines belonging to the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (Denomination of Controlled Origin, DOC) and Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, DOCG). A choice that - as a matter of fact - represents the safeguarding of quality wines as well as the fulfillment of the requests some producers asked for their right of choice, in order to equally compete with the producers of the countries of the New World where this technique is permitted.

 Let's see the details of the new European Regulation. First of all the possibility of using wood chips in the production in order to pass to the wine some components contained in oak wood. The type of wood allowed for the production of wines must exclusively come from trees belonging to the quercus species, in their natural condition or heated in the defined ways light, medium or strong, without having undergone burning processes, not even in the surface, must not show any coal like aspect or being friable to the touch and must not have undergone chemical, enzymatic or physical treatments different from heating. Moreover, wood chips must not release substances in concentration such to cause risks for the health and any other treatment must be reported in a record. The size of at least 95% of wood chips used for the production of wine must be greater than 2 millimeters. The Regulation is aware of the fact wood chips, as they give the wine organoleptic qualities similar to the ones aged in oak barrels, make difficult for the consumer to realize what method has been used for a specific wine.

 Despite the fact they understand the use of wood chips allows the production of wines at a lower cost - and this may certainly influence the price as well - the Regulation understand this practice can cause confusion among consumers and it is adequate to adopt measures in order to ensure clearness and information about the type of wine. In the labels of wines produced with this technique must be stated the origin and the botanical species of oaks from which the chips are being obtained, the intensity of heating and keeping practices. It is forbidden to write in the label any term usually destined for wines fermented or aged in cask, such as “fermented in cask” or “aged in barrique”. This new Regulation - after all - gives satisfaction both to consumers and producers, while ensuring the right of choice of both. It is then granted the choice of the producer who wants to make use of wood chips - but only in some categories of wines - obligating him or her to clearness towards consumers who, at that point, are granted the right of choice. All we have to do now is to wait for the consequences of this regulation and see how many and what wines will pass from the traditional cask to cheaper oak chips, attracted by the chances to make a wine with a “wood aroma” at a lower price. We will see, provided they will allow us to clearly see everything, while granting to us consumers both the right of information an the protection against the ones - and we can bet on it - who are already planning new frauds without paying any consequence, in a superficial world where the “smart ones” are always lying in ambush. One law, many tricks…

 



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 48, January 2007   
Wood Chips Are Coming!Wood Chips Are Coming! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 47, December 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 49, February 2007

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.

 

I own a small vineyard from which I harvest grapes for the production of white wine that I ferment and age in a steel tank. How many racking are required before bottling?
Giuseppe Berveglieri -- Imola (Italy)
Racking is a fundamental operation allowing the improvement and stability of wine. Its primary function is to separate the liquid part - the wine - from the solid parts - the lees - which naturally deposit on the bottom of containers. The contact of the wine with its lees is not always recommended, as it may cause faults, bad aromas and flavors, therefore it is always recommended to periodically rack the wine. Racking also favor the spontaneous clarification of wine. A non racked wine will in fact have more difficulties in the sedimentation of suspended solid parts. There are two racking methods: racking in contact of air and racking with no air contact. The first method allows the wine to oxygenate and to eliminate bad aromas which could eventually develop during aging, whereas the second method is preferred for light wines which are prone to oxidation. In general terms, white wines are racked three times before bottling. The first racking is usually done after about two weeks from the initial racking, in order to favor the fermentation of sugar before the arrive of the cold season and in order to avoid any contact with the lees. The second racking is done at the end of November-half December, in order to take advantage of the arrive of the low temperatures which favor the sedimentation of solid parts and the clarification of wine. The third and last racking is done at the end of February-half March, before the arrive of springtime and the raising of temperature.



What is the difference between Rhine Riesling and Johannisberg Riesling known in the United States of America?
Nicholas Ladson -- Atlanta (USA)
Rhine Riesling is considered the most valued grape of Germany and among the most valued grapes in the world. Riesling - thanks to its qualities - allows the production of white wines which can undergo many years of aging in bottle and it is one of the main grapes used in Germany and Austria for the production of Icewines. Because of its popularity, Rhine Riesling is today considered an international grape and it is cultivated in many wine countries of the world, including the United States of America. It is believed some German immigrant who arrived in the United States of America at the end of the nineteenth century, brought with them some plants of Rhine Riesling. Because of the confusion about the name of this grape, they decided to call it Johannisberg Riesling, in order to give the grape a German identity and origin. The cultivation of Rhine Riesling began in the United States of America in the Finger Lakes and Lake Erie areas, in the eastern part of the country, where it is still today common. The cultivation of Johannisberg Riesling in California began in 1857, followed in 1871 in Washington state.



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  Editorial Issue 48, January 2007   
Wood Chips Are Coming!Wood Chips Are Coming! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
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