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  Editorial Issue 57, November 2007   
Tocai Friulano Restarts From ItalyTocai Friulano Restarts From Italy  Contents 
Issue 55, September 2007 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 58, December 2007

Tocai Friulano Restarts From Italy


 In the last few months an Italian grape has been subject of interest because of the sometimes strict and illogical rules of bureaucracy, a grape which was destined to disappear from the enological scene, at least in its name. We are talking about, of course, Tocai Friulano, the glorious grape from Friuli Venezia Giulia which is lately at the center of the attention because of a legal “diatribe” with the enological world of Hungary. The end of the story is known to everyone. On May 12th, 2005, the European Court decided that after March 31st, 2007 - as it was agreed in a document signed by Hungary and the European Union - it is forbidden to use the name “Tocai” for some Italian wines and, of course, European wines as well. The loss of identity for Tocai Friulano, a grape and wine so called and recognized since centuries not only in Italy, is certainly evident. For many aspects, it is like to restart writing a whole history from scratch, with consequences not only for the image of this wine and grape, but also for commercial ones.


 

 After the almost endless debates which derived from the decision of the European Court, there have been many manifestations supporting the noble Italian grape, including the celebration - in a joking manner, of course - of the presumed funeral of Tocai Friulano. During all this time, there have been many proposals in order to obey to the decision of the European Court - as a matter of fact, to change the name of the grape - and many have been the alternatives in order to proceed with the “Christening” of the glorious grape from Friuli. Many names were proposed and the most probable ones were Toccai (to be noticed, written with double “c”, a tribute to the homonymous creek flowing in the region and from which it is supposed to derive the grape's name), Tai Friulano (Tai means “glass” in local language) and Friulano, the name who seemed to be the winning choice. Everyone was then ready to celebrate the Christening of Friulano - with its first 2007 harvesting - when, suddenly, the story changed like in the best and amazing novels.

 Bureaucracy, it is common knowledge, it is always characterized by rules sometimes denying one each other: when a law sets something, most of the times it is found another law completely denying it or, at least, in part. When everything was ready to start harvesting and to welcome “Friulano 2007”, by leaving back Tocai Friulano, someone continued to work for the safeguarding of the name of this glorious white grape. Before March 31st, 2007, there was who suggested the 1993 agreement on which the verdict of the European Court is based, was replaced by the TRIPS agreement signed within WTO (World Trade Organization) in 1994 at Marrakech. The paragraph 6 of article 24 of this agreement in fact recognizes, to the states having signed the document, the faculty of recognizing the homonymy among national wines and the geographical indications of other countries. This faculty is also recognized to regions, as they have the exclusive competence in agricultural matters in international relations and with the European Union, also in case the laws of the State are in contrast with them.

 The last September 25th, although with some debates and opposite opinions, the council of Friuli Venezia Giulia region, by taking advantage of what was set by the TRIPS agreement, issued a law prolonging the “life” of Tocai Friulano. In the text of the new law 235 is in fact decided that «according to the article 117, paragraph 5 of the Constitution, by implementing the article 24, paragraph 6 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), ratified in Italy with law 29 of December 29th, 1994, number 747, the appellation “Tocai Friulano”, heritage of the regional viticulture since many centuries, can be still used by wine producers of Friuli Venezia Giulia region, also after March 31st, 2007, to designate the wine, made from the homonymous grape, which is commercialized inside the Italian territory.»

 According to the text of this law, Tocai Friulano seems to be “saved” only in Italy and not in the other countries, as it is expressly set the famous and renowned grape from Friuli Venezia Giulia can be called this way only in its homeland. A solution that - at the end - could make everyone happy, at least local viticulturists, as most of Tocai Friulano wine is commercialized in Italy. Although this law seems to give new hopes for the keeping of the name and the history of Tocai Friulano - in the Italian territory only - there are many skeptical opinions about the effectiveness of this law. Despite the law has been voted and approved by the majority, some believe this regional law will not be accepted by the European Union and therefore it will not be useful in saving the fate of Tocai Friulano, although in the Italian market only.

 History and tradition of the renowned grape from Friuli Venezia Giulia certainly are values to be safeguarded in respect of a name which has always identified both the grape and the wine with their territory. However, it is also true a law like this could also be cause of confusion, as the same wine would be commercialized, known and recognized in Italy with his historical name “Tocai Friulano”, whereas the production destined to foreign markets would be distinguished by a different name, presumably “Friulano”. Despite the praiseworthy efforts of Friulan institutions, maybe a law like that could solely favor some confusion about the real identity of Tocai Friulano. Moreover, there is still the uncertainty factor concerning the approval of the law issued by the Friuli Venezia Giulia region by the European Commission. The game certainly is still on and it will probably need other and new events before we can write the words “the end”. At this point, all we can do is to wish it will be a happy ending.

 




   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 57, November 2007   
Tocai Friulano Restarts From ItalyTocai Friulano Restarts From Italy  Contents 
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