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  Editorial Issue 121, September 2013   
Autochthonous Grapes Are the BestAutochthonous Grapes Are the Best  Contents 
Issue 120, Summer 2013 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 122, October 2013

Autochthonous Grapes Are the Best


 The title of this editorial does not exactly reflect my opinion, or, better to say, not in an absolute and fundamentalist way: it is a “litany” I frequently hear lately. In Italy, of course. I am aware that, for this, I will not be seen as “nice”, probably considered irreverent towards my Country and its fruits. Let me clear this: I love the great ampelographic heritage of Italy - here like no other place in the world Mother Nature has been so generous in vineyards - but I do not believe I have to support this above and against everything. I have always been convinced that “in case a wine is good and well made” I do not care about its origin or its grapes, or, at least, not in a “blind” way, as I believe every place of the world is capable of giving absolute masterpieces. After all, difference is a great richness: this is true for everything - first of all in humans - and, nevertheless, for what is being poured on a glass.


 

 I have no intention to feed the endless - and absolutely useless - debate on who or what it is best, not even when it is about autochthonous or international grapes, angels the former, devils the latter. To me, autochthonous or international are simply grapes, small caskets full of sweet nectar capable of making wine with the fundamental contribution of Nature and man. There are no good or bad grapes: they all are equally capable of making wine thanks to that extraordinary interpreter bringing them to the highest expression: territory and its small, but big, qualities. It always makes me smile when I see those wine lovers, most of the times “experts”, turning up their noses when they hear about Merlot or Chardonnay. In case they had a crucifix and holy water, they would immediately be transformed into exorcists and yelling “step back, international!” We Italians - sadly - are people with a short memory, we quickly forget about our history and, in particular, the price paid for certain events.

 A short memory, so short that what happened in Italy just twenty years ago has been forgotten already, therefore what happened a century ago is destined to oblivion, in those times when phylloxera was devastating the vineyards of our Country and of Europe. By seeing the desolation of vineyard disappearing forever, there were the so hated international grapes only to give a new wine making hope to many places of Italy. If today it can be considered strange to see in certain areas of Italy - Northern-east, in particular - varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, which became very common and part of the territory, we should know their presence is the consequence of the needs of those times. Needs which forced vintners to make a decision: to quit making wine or to start everything over and accept what those times could offer. It should be noticed that the French were the first ones to understand phylloxera could be stopped by replacing the roots of vines with those of American varieties. French grapes therefore became the first ones which could stand to the attacks of the devastating aphid and they spread everywhere in the world.

 In case this could make you think I am trying to reevaluate the presence of international varieties in the Italian territory, I say this is absolutely distant from my intentions, as well as being useless and unneeded. I do not like the ones who forget history, or pretend to not remember, only for speculative reasons while being in a bad faith. History is important and facts, in order to understand them fully, must be known from the beginning: their manipulation is the sign of a bad faith and a deplorable immorality. If it is true today they are all trying to boast autochthonous grapes - both for commercial reasons and because they are trendy - we should remember a little more than ten years ago there was a quite different trend, the opposite of what we see today. Vineyards were richly adorned with the famous international grapes - and many even defined them as ameliorative - and talking about local grapes, the ones which lived our vineyards since remote times, was considered by many both ridiculous and counterproductive. Indeed, autochthonous varieties were uprooted from vineyards in order to replace them with international ones, while denying, easily and with no remorse, grapes and wines of the territory.

 When I listen to certain proclamations of wine holy war, which praise the rejection of the foreign invader grapes, it always recalls to my mind the same thing. What do the French think about their international Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, as to mention the most common varieties? Who knows whether they too hate them so much, right in France where these varieties are, undoubtedly, autochthonous of those lands? Yes, I know, this is a provocation, but it should help to remind about the fact there is no best or worse, good or evil. Everything is relative and in function of the use or abuse we make of things. Do I therefore deplore the new life and the new interest around Italian autochthonous grapes? This is not even my foggiest idea, as there are endless wines made with Italian autochthonous grapes and capable of giving me satisfaction and emotions. I however think the same about all the other grapes: in case a wine is good and well made, I do not hide myself behind a fence, ideological walls or fundamentalist religions.

 I say this because I consider wine a cultural heritage of humanity, made of small, very small local expressions and as small as a vineyard, and each of them having equal dignity. Likewise, I recognize equal dignity to everyone believing in his or her land and working as an interpreter of the vineyard, both of international or autochthonous varieties, because respect is the first and fundamental act, even in case you do not agree on something. Discrimination is an idiot and hateful act: this is true for people as well as for grapes, in particular when a blind prejudice does not allow me to have an open and free mind to listen to someone or something telling a story. Difference is richness, always: this is true for wines, for grapes, producers, territories, vineyards and countries. For this reason, it is right to safeguard the specific characteristics of each territory, including grapes. Starting an ideological war is wrong: it makes your mind small and closed, avoid comparison, an indispensable and useful factor for progress and development. The best one does not exist. The best grape does not exist. Wine does exist: let's make it be good and capable of telling about a place and the passion of the ones who make it, in the expression of a territory and its unrepeatable richness. Including grapes.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 121, September 2013   
Autochthonous Grapes Are the BestAutochthonous Grapes Are the Best  Contents 
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