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  Editorial Issue 96, May 2011   
The Race for AppellationsThe Race for Appellations  Contents 
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The Race for Appellations


 Competition, related to marketing, therefore money, it is a very interesting subject to whoever running a business. In times of economic crisis, such as those we are living in these years, despite characterized by modest signals of reprise, competition becomes pretty cut-throat: every mean and every strategy is being used in order to stay ahead of others. Communication, in order to achieve this result, is fundamental for sure. To have others know about the existence of a business, with a clear goal of getting a dominant position in that context, frequently makes a difference. A difference which, we should not forget this, must necessarily be supported by facts. Real and concrete facts, not just supposed or faked ones. It is said advertising is the soul of trading, however, popular wisdom reminds us that lying will get you nowhere.


 

 In times of crisis, the old saying mors tua, vita mea (your death, my life) seems to be quite common. A “lifestyle” not agreed by everyone: in times of crisis there also are those who prefer to adopt the wiser saying united we stand, divided we fall. A noble intent, although its efficiency and strength frequently obey to the safeguarding of a specific and common interest, even economic one. As it is commonly known, common interests are supported as long as they support personal interests. For example, we are ready to support the interests of Italy as long as they support the interests of our regions, the interests of our regions as long as they support the interests of our cities, and so on, as long as they support our personal interests. It certainly is a bit rude to say that, but interests are supported as long as they give us an income, not so noble to say and in other words, it frequently is a matter of opportunism.

 We are all ready to fight for the Italian wine, no matter what it is, when we have to contrast the wine from other countries, likewise we are ready to support the wine of our regions when we need to compare it with the wine of other regions, our lands opposed to the others. In other words, it is always wise not to ask the innkeeper about his wine: he will always say it is the best around. Maybe it is because of the crisis, as well as for the will of floating and surviving in the ocean of wine, that in recent years we have seen a boom, with no apparent control, of appellations of any kind, DOC and DOCG. Assigned and recognized to every place, they all suddenly realized they made the best nectars of the country, paladins of ancient traditions, not even to mention, better than all the other ones. Moreover, traditions forgotten for decades, indeed, denied and forgotten on purpose in favor of the new, are being resurrected for supporting the renewed attachment to one's own land.

 Is there a better occasion to honor these ancient traditions than a sumptuous Denominazione d'Origine Controllata and, even better, Garantita? (Italian for “Appellation of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin”, the highest level). By listening to the promoters of the many appellations, old and new, with no distinction, their territory is the depositary of very ancient traditions and cultures (and, in regard of this, there is no doubt) but in case we are going to read disciplinary and take a walk in vineyards, we see Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in full bloom. We were talking about tradition, weren't we? If we consider these varieties, it is quite normal to have doubts about the will to keep alive the traditions of those places. Moreover, when you point out those varieties have nothing in common neither with the territory nor the place, the answer is always the same: «they are varieties used to improve our traditional grapes». It may sound rude to say that, but it is like admitting those traditional grapes are not suited for making a good wine or, maybe, no one has been successful in understanding how to make a good wine from them.

 In these cases it is better to follow the easiest way, that is the one giving the best results in commercial terms. If people like roundness and immediacy of Merlot, therefore Merlot becomes, like a magic, the grape of that territory. I guess it is pretty clear I do not give a high reputation to appellations, in particular when they are created - and badly - with evident speculative goals. Quality is not something you get by law, and appellations, it is commonly known, are issued by laws. No law can ensure quality when the ones who have to follow that law have no presupposition or culture to make quality. It is like to say no law ensures the existence of honest people: they are useful to limit - and, rightly, to punish - the behaviors of non honest people. Honest people do not need laws to remind them to be so: honesty is part of their morality and lifestyle. The same is true for quality. If a producer believes in quality and in the respect for his vineyard and territory, he does not need any law to remind him about it. He does that because he believes on that, because he already knows it is the right thing to do.

 The race for appellations, to have a territory awarded by the official recognition of an appellation, therefore used as a mean for promoting both the name and the wine, does not make much sense. It is real quality, the one you put inside a bottle, to make a difference, not the fact it is a DOC or DOCG wine. Personally speaking, I rely on producers and on their talent - proven with time and, in particular, by the glass - to determine my appreciation. In particular, I find it even less interesting an appellation which does not have any interest in relying on its territory and its varieties, with the only and evident goal of the speculation by producing wines with no identity and with no character, wines similar to other thousands ones. And you know, the recognition of an appellation is also the result of political mediation, to prove the power of politicians of a specific territory. Something that with quality, real quality, has nothing in common. A territory does not need politicians and a speculative logic to prove its talent. The only thing you need to do is to listen to it and to treat it with honesty and respect. And to do so, it takes a great performer, just like a great conductor for a symphony. It's quite different from appellations.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 96, May 2011   
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