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  Editorial Issue 136, January 2015   
The Law is the LawThe Law is the Law  Contents 
Issue 135, December 2014 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 137, February 2015

The Law is the Law


 I am borrowing the final cue of the movie having the same name, in which the great actor Fernand Contandin - whose stage name was Fernandel - recalling himself to his duty and therefore chasing the equally great actor Antonio de' Curtis, whose stage name was Totò. Despite it has been his “frenemy” Totò to help him to get out from the troubles he was into, Fernandel - after a long hesitation - he remembered himself he was a customs officer and he should act like a lawman. The law is the law. It is commonly known, it has no exceptions. However, in certain cases, exceptions are frequently raised and, sometimes, they are enough to make the law appear as obtuse. Moreover, in the world of wine, in the noble attempt of safeguarding and regulating production and typicalness, sometimes the result is grotesque, while making hard the life of honest producers who - of course - do not need a law in order to be like that.


 

 Let's make this clear: laws are useful and needed, a sign of civilization as, in a civilized and organized society, it is fundamental the existence of common rules - written or simply moral - in order to safeguard honest people from the ones who are not. Of course, I am not getting into the fact whether this elementary and civilized social condition is always true, however it is undeniable some laws, in trying to regulating certain aspects, sometimes they exasperate its application. A sign that, sometimes, the ones who are writing and issuing laws, do not seem to know the matter they are trying to regulate as well as its application. It is very sad to say, but this is something frequently happening for laws trying to regulate the world of agriculture, and therefore of wine, by giving the idea of an insufficient knowledge or study about those subjects. Or, maybe, it is something happening because of some obscure reasons in order to safeguard the interests of corporations, and who cares about the small and weak ones.

 The most recent case is about the Testo Unico della Vite e del Vino - an Italian law about viticulture and wine making - which will be in force on January 1st, 2015 and transposed a law of European Regulation 1308/2014. The element of discord is a part of article 53, for which FIVI (Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti - Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers) announced civil disobedience in case it is not changed. This law forbids the use in labels - as well as in promotional materials, such as brochures - of names corresponding to legally recognized appellations. The only allowed exception is in case the place where the winery is located at has the same name of an appellation. In this specific case, it can be written in the label, provided the character used for printing does not exceed three millimeters in height. For the sake of clarity, this norm wants to safeguard appellations from any possible speculation and, in this sense, so far, so good.

 FIVI has announced - in the words of president Matilde Poggi - «at this moment, a winery cannot write in promotional and communication materials the region where they are located». Carlo Petrini - founder of Slow Food association - has rightly focused on the not so irrelevant consequences the application of this law would cause to many winegrowers. The example used by Carlo Petrini is pretty emblematic. A producer of Barolo village, who does not make the wine having the same name, and producing Barbera d'Alba instead, can write “Barolo” in labels, provided the character is not higher than three millimeters. The law however forbids to that producer to tell the winery is located in theLanghe area and, even worse, in Piedmont, as both corresponds to two specific Italian appellations. In case a consumer does not know where Barolo is geographically located in Italy, he or she will need to find it out himself or herself, while accusing the producer of superficiality.

 Carlo Petrini - with a brilliant and intelligent irony - suggests to those producers how they should communicate that wine without breaching the law. «In order to be safe, on the Internet they should simply write their vineyard is located in Barolo village, in a territory between the Ligurian Sea and Switzerland: avoid mentioning Vallée d'Aoste because it is a DOC and do not dare to use that name». It sounds like a joke, but it is not. The norm, in the good intentions of the legislator, aims to limit the chances of confusion in consumers, because of some indications that could be confused with legally recognized appellations. It seems appellations have a stronger dignity than the real and actual origin of a producer and grapes, last but not the least, this also represents a detrimental conditions for the ones affected by this law. Moreover, these producers have also been deprived of the right - and duty - to tell their territory and their land, only because they are in the wrong place and, undeniably, this is not their fault.

 As far as I am concerned, it is absurd someone - producer or citizen - is legally deprived of the right of claiming his or her belonging to a territory or region only because that place is exclusively “reserved” to a wine appellation. Once again, I speak out my objection about quality of appellations, in particular, I do not think quality is something you can get by law, although I understand that - in any case - speculations and frauds must be avoided. I however do not believe writing the name of a region or territory - when one is in the legitimate condition of doing that because of a geographic belonging - may cause confusion in consumers. Indeed, I believe this is a useful information in order to better understand a producer as well as to understand not all the wine produced inside an appellation is necessarily a legal expression of that territory. Sometimes, the genius and fantasy can lead to the creation of new things and, sometimes, even better than what it is normally believed. After all, appellations can be easily recognized by their respective abbreviations and explications. It is not about subversive instigation: it simply is about freedom of interpreting a territory the way a producer feels or believes about. Including the right of communicating it, just because consumers must be safeguarded and treated with clarity.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 136, January 2015   
The Law is the LawThe Law is the Law  Contents 
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