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  Editorial Issue 83, March 2010   
Appellations: Quality or Speculation?Appellations: Quality or Speculation?  Contents 
Issue 82, February 2010 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 84, April 2010

Appellations: Quality or Speculation?


 Appellations, and not only those concerning wines, have always caught the attention of producers and administrators. This tool of legal recognition in fact allows producers of a certain area to safeguard the quality and the origin of their products against any possible fraud of imitation, at least in theory. According to a consumer's point of view, concerning wines, appellations are not always seen as something capable of guaranteeing quality, something that in the world of wine has been widely proven by facts. Appellations, in particular those about wines, have always been subject of polemics and criticism, they even created an embarrassing paradox - and not only in Italy - as some wines belonging to lower categories have proven, with facts, to be superior to wines belonging to higher categories. In Italy it is emblematic the case of certain IGT wines (Indicazione Geografica Tipica, Typical Geographic Indication) and even some Table Wines, which have an evident and indisputable higher quality than many celebrated DOCG wines (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin).


 

 The belonging to an appellation has also been subject of strong polemics by the producers themselves. Some preferred to “declass” their wines to lower categories instead of identifying them with higher appellations, in which - in the opinions of those producers - belonged wines of disputable quality to the detriment of the whole appellation. In many cases it is hard not to agree with their choices. If we take, for example, the highest level of “legal” quality defined in Italy - DOCG - sometimes we can find in this category wines of not truly excellent quality, which however have the legal title and right, as a matter of fact, to represent the excellence of quality of Italian enology. For the sake of truth, if we literally consider the meaning of DOC and DOCG, they suggest their legal safeguarding is limited to the control of the origin of a wine, which in the highest level is also guaranteed. This would make one thinks in the case of DOC, the guarantee of the origin cannot be ensured. Mysteries of bureaucracy.

 Besides the geographical bounds of the production area, appellations also define quality criteria, also in this case, subject of criticism and polemics. We talked about this aspect many times. We believe quality, just like honesty and morality, are aspects associated to culture instead to law, which has the only role to set common criteria and norms regulating a society and its aspects, criteria to which all the honest people who call themselves as “civilized” should obey to. They however cannot impose quality as an absolute criterion, as this can be easily broken and adapted to many circumstances, as it can be easily proven. One example of this is offered by the criterion of “yield per hectare”, defined in every disciplinary regulating an appellation. Let's suppose the yield is set by law to 60 quintals of grape per hectare, this measure can be obtained both by planting 6,000 vines in a hectare and having each one to make one kilogram of grapes, as well as planting 600 vines and making each plant to make 10 kilograms of grapes.

 In both cases we get 60 quintals of grape per hectare, however the result, in terms of quality of the raw matter - and therefore of wine - will be remarkably distant and different. Nevertheless appellations attract many producers and local administrations, believing they are fundamental for the safeguarding of a wine, of its history and tradition. Aspects which certainly are important to safeguard, but which are note necessarily associated to quality, at least in objective terms. There is in fact a nostalgic and romantic attachment mainly associated to traditions, believing they have an absolute and untouchable value, most of the times, of indisputable quality. In case men of all eras would have been remained attached to their traditions, there would have never been any progress, not even in terms of quality, and still today we would make use of traditions of remote times. Today few lovers of the beverage of Bacchus would choose to drink a traditional wine produced according to the wine making techniques of ancient Romans: a wine too distant from our taste.

 This is not a criticism against traditions, as it is obvious what we appreciate in modern wine is also indisputably the result of traditions. The recognition of appellation certainly is something more complex and articulated, something concerning not only traditions and quality, most of the times political choices made in order to obtain a “document” proving the quality of a product without reserve. This recognition - it is obvious - also gives commercial advantages to all producers conforming their wines to a specific appellation, good and bad ones, honest ones and not. Concerning this aspect we could make many examples on how in the past some appellations have been used with speculative goals only and in order to have a commercial advantage. Something which does not belong to the past only: still today the quality of certain wines belonging to high and proven quality appellations result to be disconcerting and embarrassing when poured in a glass.

 Nevertheless these wines have a legal title to represent that appellation, as - according to the criteria set by the disciplinary - they have characteristics such to permit their belonging. Some may say: wine is a “live” product and therefore no wine, also belonging to the same appellation, can be equal to any other wine, also thanks to the work and talent of man. Right and indisputable, fortunately. There already are so many wines “so similar, so equal” that the existence of difference is something highly welcome. It is however indisputable the damage those products provoke to the quality of the whole appellation, to the detriment of all producers, in particular of the ones making of quality a primary goal, no matter what has been set by a disciplinary. They should then revise and change control criteria? This could be a solution, maybe. Anyway, what are, or better, what are appellations for? Are they tools for the safeguarding of quality? They should be so. Or are they a way to favor and obtain commercial speculations? They also are so.

 







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  Editorial Issue 83, March 2010   
Appellations: Quality or Speculation?Appellations: Quality or Speculation?  Contents 
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