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  Editorial Issue 97, June 2011   
Golden Grapes, Silvery WinesGolden Grapes, Silvery Wines  Contents 
Issue 96, May 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 98, Summer 2011

Golden Grapes, Silvery Wines


 I have always had a huge esteem and respect for Luigi Veronelli. By reading his books and watching to his appearances on TV I had my first constructive interest for the world of wine, an interest going beyond the simple act of pouring the wine in a glass and to drink it, common things with which you grew up in Italy. My first memories of Luigi “Gino” Veronelli, even before reading his books and what he wrote, belong to his appearances on TV in company of Ave Ninchi - the great and unforgettable Italian actress - in the TV show “A Tavola alle Sette”. At those times I was a kid, but I was however fascinated by the way Luigi Veronelli talked about cooking and wine, two subjects seeming to have no secret for him and that he was telling with simplicity and incisiveness. Nevertheless, I still remember the funny contrast to the limit of a clash - and most of the times hilarious - between Luigi Veronelli and Ave Ninchi, in their continuous “teasing each other”, sometimes ferociously, even though it was evident between the two of them there were mutual respect and esteem.


 

 I remember the day I met him - the first and only time in my life - in occasion of that renowned wine fair in Verona, Italy. It was 1999. At those times I was already into the world of enogastronomy as a consultant, I already obtained my sommelier degree, and I was going to that wine fair for six years already. Luigi Veronelli was at the stand of his publishing house and I remember my excitement when I saw him and I realized it was him. And I remember his smile, wide and bright, frank, genuine and welcoming, his eyes and his look, watchful and bright of who is never stop watching, while trying to understand, although having already understood and saw a lot. It is an undeniable fact, the heritage Luigi Veronelli left to us is huge. He was the very first to have the courage to start that indispensable process which led to the change of Italian wine, emphasizing the right dignity of the ones working in a vineyards and with their hard work make wine.

 Among the many anecdotes, the many things Luigi Veronelli said, I frequently remember the episode when he met René Engel, the great vintner of Nuits Saint Georges in Burgundy. Veronelli reminds that when he met him it was 1956 and he was just a young journalist with the ambition of writing about wine. René Engel was already old and he offered him a glass of his Vosne Romanée. To the astonishment of Luigi Veronelli in front of that glass - astonishment what anyone loving Burgundian wines would have had - René Engel said, with a haughty smile «See, you Italians have golden grapes and make silvery wines, we have silvery grapes and make golden wines». To this words, Luigi Veronelli thought to himself that golden grapes, in case they were properly vinified, could have certainly made shiny golden wines; silvery grapes could make, in the best case, wines looking like gold without being so. It is undeniable France and French gave so much to the world of wine. It is undeniable the French understood, before Italy and anyone else, what is wine, quality wine and the right way to exalt a vineyard, the territory and with that their golden wines - undeniably of gold - despite they are made with silvery grapes.

 After many years, it is legitimate to ask ourselves whether Italians have understood they have golden grapes. Apparently and in these times, around Italian wine there is a growing interest for indigenous grapes, for natural wines, using traditional techniques of past times, the rejection of chemistry and of certain technologies, concepts most of the times showed off as a presumed merit, as to support the idea this is enough to ensure a quality wine. Veronelli's observation was however right: it was enough to properly vinify our golden grapes in order to make shiny golden wines, while leaving to the French their silvery grapes, however having a well deserved and undeniable glory. Generalization, as everyone knows, is an unjust act and most of the times makes no sense to use it. If we however look at what it is happening to the world of Italian wine, it is obvious reality gives us a truly different picture of what they say in their words and in their intentions. It should however be said there are - luckily - many and praiseworthy exceptions.

 There are producers who have always understood this concept, or better to say, they have always known that, whereas other wished it was really like that, even though in their vineyards, in order to ensure quality and prestige, have always been found the classic and widely known French grapes. Ameliorative grapes, they used to say and keep on saying. This is not a crusade against Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc - just to mention the most known names - as it is evident with these grapes can be made wines of primary greatness, provided you work properly in the vineyard and then in the winery. The price we pay today for having massively introduced these grapes in our vineyards is the fact we cannot abandon them. Or, at least, not so quick. In the past we uprooted vineyards of local grapes in order to replace them with the miraculous and ameliorative French grapes which promised the illusion - together with barrique - to ensure a great wine with no or little efforts. Replacing these varieties today certainly is very expensive.

 What should we do with all of these silvery grapes planted in Italian vineyards, despite the trend is to enhance indigenous varieties, in that journey which should get - hopefully - to the production of the shiny golden wines wished by Luigi Veronelli? Every time there is a lacking of common sense, here it comes politics and its way to muddle things up. A solution which is getting more and more common in Italy, is to modify production disciplinary, or to create new ones, in order to introduce, legally - pardon, in an ameliorative way - these varieties in those wines having a long history and always produced with local grapes. There are many production disciplinary which have already been modified in the past or for which they have proposed changes of this kind and waiting for approval. The only hope is that serious producers, the most tenacious and far-sighted ones, will oppose to this shameful hypothesis, by avoiding the use of these varieties therefore allowing our golden grapes to express themselves the way the deserve. And, in particular, to state in the label of their wines, as no place in the world has an ampelographic richness equal to the one of Italy. And this is a real richness, a huge heritage we must respect. Dear Gino Veronelli, there is still a long way to go before seeing your shiny golden wines and that we all are waiting for. I am sure you knew this already.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 97, June 2011   
Golden Grapes, Silvery WinesGolden Grapes, Silvery Wines  Contents 
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