Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 109, Summer 2012   
Wines with ImprimaturWines with Imprimatur  Contents 
Issue 108, June 2012 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 110, September 2012

Wines with Imprimatur


 Nihil obstat quominus imprimatur. This famous Latin phrase - literally: nothing hinders it from being printed - certainly was the most wished one by whoever wanted to write a book in past times. As it is commonly known, with this phrase was obtained the ecclesiastic permission to print a book or any other publication; in case it was not granted, the publication was destined to be included in the dreadful index librorum prohibitorum (list of prohibited books), a list of books considered to be offending or discreditable for Catholic moral and faith. The phrase, which was printed at the beginning or the end of books, and was simply called imprimatur, was to give common mortals reassuring permission in reading those books, while avoiding the risk of committing a sinful act and, in particular, to be accused or heresy or other infamous definitions which would have disturbed the subjugated morality of people. In other words, it was a deprecable method used to limit the freedom of thought and therefore establishing a social order to the exclusive benefit of those who had the power.


 

 The word imprimatur is generally used, broadly speaking, to state the receipt of the approval or grant to do or belong to something, in other words, an indisputable approval received by a high authority. The imprimatur, broadly speaking, is something charming people: to know there is someone, or something, who can approve a product, a person, a thought or idea, reassure the fact, and avoid the effort, of having a position, without understanding and feeling - personally - about the real quality. This is both useful and dangerous at the same time. It is useful in case the imprimatur is honestly given by an organ or subject truly competent and having no interests besides the promotion of real quality. It is dangerous in case it is used with the goal of imposing something, of dubious quality, with the only goal of making it commercially successful by considering labels only and no real facts. A mediocre product, however strong of an imprimatur, gets a remarkable commercial success also, and in particular, in case it does not deserve it at all.

 There is no need to make practical examples: the market is full of such products. And our society too is full of mediocre subjects, if not pathetic and awkward, however destined to success just because “they must be successful”. Can the wine be an exception? Of course not. The world of wine, or better to say, most of the subjects involved in the production of wine, are always working hard to the creation of certificates, standards, regulations, marks and denominations in order to give an imprimatur to their wines. Most of the times - it seems like so - these subjects mainly work on these aspects only, sometimes forgetting to work on a fundamental factor: quality is not obtained with a certificate or a denomination, it is mainly obtained with a cultural and moral presupposition of the one who makes it, beginning from the vineyards. It makes no sense - and it does not have any practical confirmation - to say a wine belonging to a denomination or to a specific “wine making religion” is better than those not belonging to this bureaucratic privilege.

 I don't like DOC, DOCG and appellations in general. I want to make this clear: I am not talking about the wines belonging to these denominations, indeed to the concept of denomination itself. Likewise, I don't like certificates and imprimatur given to organic, biodynamic, natural wines and so on. It makes no sense. We cannot hide a wine as the cultural expression and the competence of a producer - interpreter of his or her wine making vision with the precious and fundamental support of environment and Nature - while focusing on the fact that wine, that producer, has a certificate. It could be made an objection that denominations and certificates are useful in order to safeguard a wine from possible frauds or forgeries, also in the interest of producers, also in the interest of consumers. What we could say, therefore, about the embarrassing differences which are frequently found in wines belonging to the same denomination or certificate? Mediocre wines and of dubious value, considered like the other wines of high quality and value, just because they belong to the same denomination or have the same certificate. And those wines, what contribution do give to the prestige and reliability of a denomination or certificate?

 Belonging to a denomination, getting a certificate, joining a wine making movement or current of thought, represents - this is undeniable - a concrete commercial chance. Nevertheless, they exert a certain influence and charm on consumers: for many the imprimatur of the denomination or style, is a reassuring thing. Something which then become habits hard to change, at least until it arrives a new fashion, a new imprimatur capable of offering a new certainty in the glass, and this is enough for them is order to believe they made the right choice, the choice someone else decided, or better, imposed. Luckily, there is also an increasing number of wine lovers who, finally, go beyond that and take as the only reference what they find in the glass, while remaining indifferent to denominations, certificates, to the blessing of organs and institutions. They focus on the talent of the producer and his or her way to tell a territory and its grapes. For them, luckily, if the wine is DOC, natural, organic, biodynamic or something else, makes no difference - provided it is however genuine - and leave to the glass the ultimate word.

 There are producers who have always made of quality their personal imprimatur, while staying away from denominations, certificates and bureaucratic or institutional approvals, showing with facts their talent and this concept of wine and territory. Many of them - the wine making history is full of examples - stay away from the logic of denomination and certificates on purpose just because this would be detrimental and unfavorable for their own “mark”. They have no interest in classifying their wines as “organic”, “biodynamic”, “natural” or in any other way, despite these methods sometimes belong to their viticultural and productive process. They are not interested in focusing on these characteristics because what they have is a higher factor and more precious of any wine making or viticultural criteria: quality and facts. They have no need to hide possible faults with labels and certificates, to follow new wine making religions and then to tell the world about that. Quality is a cultural presupposition belonging to seriousness and passion of a producer, as well as the talent to understand and interpreting a territory the best possible way, while respecting it and respecting consumers. Something no imprimatur can ensure, but it is however undeniable certain imprimatur are effective in giving an illusion to those who consider the label only and are happy with the appearance. «It is you (consumers) that in a certain way make quality. If there are bad wines it is because there are bad consumers. The taste follows the roughness of intellect: everyone drinks the wine he or she deserves» said Émile Peynaud. Wise words.

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 109, Summer 2012   
Wines with ImprimaturWines with Imprimatur  Contents 
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