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  Editorial Issue 105, March 2012   
Italy DOCItaly DOC  Contents 
Issue 104, February 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 106, April 2012

Italy DOC


 When I started working in the world of wine - it was 1997 - Italy's Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) were 18. It was easy to remember them: after all, memorizing 18 names of areas or wines was a very simple task. Today, in a frosty and snowy day of February 2012, the number is 74. In just 15 years, the Olympus of Italian high quality enology has welcomed 56 new gods appreciated by Bacchus. With the exception of Vallée d'Aoste, Trentino-Alto Adige, Liguria, Molise and Calabria, every Italian region can proudly show off at least one DOCG wine; Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont can even count 11, 14 and 16 DOCGs respectively. Not to mention Denominazione d'Origine Controllata (DOC) wines that - as of today - reached the remarkable number of 344. To them are added the wines occupying the lowest level of the Italian quality system - the so called Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) - of which we can count a number of 120.


 

 Quick calculation: the number of Italian wines belonging to a legally recognized appellation is equal to 538. These figures can be easily obtained from the site of Italian Ministry of Food, Agricultural and Forest Politics - the official source for Italy - in which the list is updated to November 2011, integrated by news subsequent to this date. It should be thought, for example, six years ago - in 2006 - the amount of wines belonging to Italian appellations were about 350. The increasing in the course of the years is, like to say, amazing. The quality of Italian wines certainly is increased in the course of the last 15 years - there is no doubt about this - and it is normal, we could also say wished, this increasing should be certified and recognized with specific denominations. Italy is a country with a very long and undeniable wine making history, culture and tradition, and every region, every province, every municipality have countless wines, sometimes flaunted as historical and traditional, sometimes created in order to take advantage of a simple speculation.

 Asserting, for example, the long tradition and history of an Italian wine produced with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, frankly speaking, leaves us puzzled as well as astonished. After all, a denomination does not certify the tradition and the culture of a wine or a place, in theory, it just certifies its origin. It certifies the production area of a wine and that it was produced by following the rules set by law in the denomination itself, including grapes, wine making and aging techniques. The only exception is about the denominations having the “classico” rank, used to identify an area in which a wine is historically produced. Seeing in “classic” wines the intrusion of international grapes, leaves us perplexed anyway, both about its history as well as its typicality. Moreover, cases like those can cause legitimate doubts about the real purpose of denominations and the reason why, in Italy, there are so many.

 There are many who believe denominations are essential for the safeguarding of a product, they allow the construction of a better identity, give better commercial chances, lower the risk of deplorable forgeries. These points - in my opinion - are all debatable. Such a high number of denominations significantly contributes to cause confusion among consumers, who frequently do not consider denominations at all and buy wines according to other criteria. Sometimes, but we should say frequently, they even ignore the existence of many denominations. Such a high number of denominations obfuscates the Italian wine offer also and in particular abroad. If in Italy there are few who can recall the name of some tens of denominations of our Country, abroad they hardly known the name of two DOCG wines and their existence. If we consider communication, as a consequence of the huge confusion caused by the legitimate promotional activities every denomination do, the consumer is bewildered, overwhelmed by a loud “noise”.

 According to a commercial point of view, it is hard to understand the reason why sometimes certain DOC wines, and sometimes DOCG wines too, are sold for few euros, when it is evident those prices are lower than production and distribution costs. Price does not always make quality, of course: an expensive wine is not always better than a cheap wine. Moreover, forgery is not certainly avoided by a denomination: this is witnessed by the many wines produced with the clear intention of taking advantage of the success of others. Every law has a loophole. Nevertheless in Italy they are continuously trying to have a denomination for their wines: everyone wants a denomination, everyone struggles in order to reach DOCG, by using all the political power they have in order to reach the sought-after goal. The results of this race, unfortunately, are evident to everyone, better to say, in the everyone's glass. A race ending - most of the times - to give disappointing, depressing and improbable wines even though they belong to a denomination, wines that, in the best cases, have a modest, very modest, quality.

 Without mentioning any wine in particular, there are many DOC wines, as well as DOCG, that when you pour them in a glass, they leave you perplexed about their value and the quality they should represent - as a matter of fact - the highest expression of Italian enology. Moreover, disconcerting differences can be found also in wines belonging to the same denomination, wines that, in theory, should benefit of the same environmental and wine making conditions. Nevertheless, the results are so different one from each other that you can hardly believe it is the same wine, qualitative expression of the same territory. Producers, for better or worse, do their part, there is no doubt about this. I believe these considerations can be agreed by considering facts: how can it be possible institutions deciding and then controlling denominations do not realize that? How can it be possible they do not realize the huge damage the fragmentation of hundred of denominations causes to the image of Italian wine making, not only to its identity, but also to its quality? I am afraid they don't and, maybe, they are not even interested in considering the effects of this situation. It seems the most important thing is having a denomination: all the rest does not count. Not even wine.

Antonello Biancalana






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