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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 148, February 2016   
Non Indigenous Grapes? Yes, Please!Non Indigenous Grapes? Yes, Please!  Contents 
Issue 147, January 2016 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 149, March 2016

Non Indigenous Grapes? Yes, Please!


 Time goes on and changes things. A quite obvious statement as time, since ever, does its job: goes on, proceeds, moves on and in its endless journey, changes things. However, it is not time to change things, indeed men do that by adapting and changing their condition, culture, taste and behaviors according to the evolution of time. As well as according to fads, ideas, to “I heard someone saying”, “they are the best because I have been told so” and even “you have to do that because it is like so”. Wine, of course, is no exception to this and is affected by the tantrums of men in the course of time, not necessarily because of the evolution of taste but also, and in particular, to the fads of the moment. In fact, it really takes a little in order to turn a “voice” into a fad. It takes an expert - most of the times a supposed one, possibly having some personal interests, a lot of arrogance and disputable competence - someone who is listening and then become a servile yet persuasive megaphone.


 

 Time brings obtuse “crusades”, fought with the only goal of proving a supposed superiority or the interest of something or someone - of course by keeping the eyes well closed - while forgetting, unfortunately, the best does not exist. This is also true for grapes and wine, not only for men and their ideas. Including the grape varieties considered international or allochthonous, most of them having a French origin, once considered the emblem of quality wine making, now frequently seen as negative in certain cases. A crusade fought in favor of the so called autochthonous or indigenous varieties, by also supporting a supposed superiority for the simple fact they are our grapes therefore they are the best. I want to say and make this clear: the grapes of Italy are absolutely extraordinary and magnificent but I am also aware of the fact they are not the only ones to be like that. The richness of the vineyards of Italy have no equal in the world, however I am aware of the fact there is a world and I like to look at it, listen to it, understand and appreciate it.

 In a not so distant time, mentioning Merlot and Chardonnay meant, in an almost implicit way, talking about wines of a high value. Maybe they exaggerated with the use of those grapes, as they are still today found in many wines, including Italy, frequently blended to local varieties. This is however a singular fact because, if it is true the so called international varieties - in particular Merlot and Chardonnay - are today seen as, like to say, grapes to be avoided, it is funny if we think about France. In this country, in fact, not only Merlot and Chardonnay are widely used and appreciated everywhere, but it is also hard to consider them international varieties because, in this country, they indisputably are autochthonous grapes. It can also be because of the fact the number of grapes existing in France is far lower than Italy, however the French do not complain about their autochthonous-international grapes at all.

 Of all the grapes today considered as “international”, the most ferocious criticism is about Chardonnay and Merlot, in particular for their recognizability and the round and soft character they give their wines. It would be like blaming Barbera and Nebbiolo, for the opposite aspect, because of the lively acidity they give their wines. If we consider the fact both Nebbiolo and Barbera are sometimes blended to Merlot, in this case it is funny to understand whether the criticism is about the roundness of the French grape or the crispness of the Piedmontese grapes. Maybe these two international grapes - Merlot and Chardonnay - have lost part of their prestige because they have been used for a long time, even abused, in wines with the explicit goal of enhancing roundness and softness. Every wine maker, or however whoever knows, even a little, about wine making, knows these two organoleptic qualities can be obtained from every grape and by simply doing magic tricks.

 These tricks are not only about the use of the cask or barrique, the latter today seen with suspect, just like Merlot and Chardonnay. It is a well known fact, if wanted, even a wine produced with Barbera - famous for its strong and pleasing acidity - can be easily transformed into a very round and soft wine. It is not only about additives capable of drastically changing the character of a grape or wine, but also about climate, technological and viticultural conditions. The crisp Barbera, if wanted, can become round and soft just like the detestable Merlot. Of course, I do like Barbera very much and I am not trying to deny the quality of its wines or the commitment of its producers. I am taking this variety as an example because this noble Piedmontese grape is just the opposite of Merlot and, if wanted, it can taste like it quite a lot. Prejudices are always deplorable, in particular for the fact they influence our ideas and our chances to understand things for what they really are. I personally had the chance to taste and to be amazed by the greatness of certain Merlot or Chardonnay wines, and not only French ones.

 Of course, I was not disturbed by the idea those wines were giving a dominant sensation of roundness and softness, indeed I was absolutely amazed for the wine making magnificence of what I was having in my glass. After all, we cannot expect a lion to look like or behave like a mouse and vice versa. Likewise, we cannot blame Merlot and Chardonnay to be what they are, in particular for the fact they proved, with real facts, they can make great wines. The same is true, of course, for every grape, including autochthonous varieties. I never let myself tasting a wine with prejudices, in particular for the fact this would be a deplorable mistake in order to really understand it. Merlot, Chardonnay, Sangiovese or Trebbiano Toscano, I do treat them all the same: I am mainly interested by the fact they are good wines and well made. Because I do tolerate less the faults presented like qualities than prejudices about grapes. Including those about international varieties.

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 148, February 2016   
Non Indigenous Grapes? Yes, Please!Non Indigenous Grapes? Yes, Please!  Contents 
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