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  Editorial Issue 173, May 2018   
Past, Present and Future of WinePast, Present and Future of Wine  Contents 
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Past, Present and Future of Wine


 In the beginning, it seems, there was some fermented grape juice, who knows how, that our very distant ancestors found pleasant to drink and then learned how to transform it into a foundational drink of countless cultures. We cannot imagine how man has exactly managed to “dominate” fermentation and the biological and chemical phenomena leading to wine – or vinegar – we however know for sure history has given us significant findings on how and to what extent this beverage has been important for man. It is hard to imagine what those primitive wines were like, we can however easily think the result was certainly far, probably very far, from our concept of wine and taste. It is also easy to think, even by reading the chronicles of remote times, the wines produced at the dawn of civilization were pretty robust, probably dense and sweet, more or less acidic, that is tending towards vinegar. We can think, for example, about the Greek custom of diluting wine with water – also seawater, that is with salt – before serving it during their symposia. A practice imposed, perhaps, also by the need of making the wines of those times more pleasant as well as for ritual reasons.


 

 On this regard, I like to recall a drink that was once very popular among the people in Umbria – and all over central Italy – capable of giving relief and refreshment to the farmers during the hard and sultry work in the fields: acetello. It is simply water and vinegar – a little part or it – which must be drunk strictly cool and unequivocally reminiscent of posca of the ancient Romans, a clearly evident daughter of the ancient custom of blending wine with water. A decidedly thirst quenching beverage, it was also the remedy of our grandmothers to relieve the summer heat of their hothead and lively nephews, including myself. Today, it is very likely a poor and simple drink such as acetello, does not meet the favor of modern taste, just like the wines of the past. However, I admit that, especially in summer, I hardly find better thirst quenchers and refreshing drinks than acetello, including a simple wine – white or red, it makes no difference – diluted with water, preferably carbonated water.

 A factor that has always characterized wine – in the past, present and certainly future – is trade. Proofs about the sale and trading of wine, in fact, have come to us from remote times. Anyone who wrote about wine in the past has inevitably focused on the commercial aspect as well as how important it was for the civilizations which preceded us. Too easy to assert the trading of wine is the primary foundation of its production. Wine producers undeniably have costs, certainly animated by sincere passion and commitment, their aim is clearly and legitimately having a profit from their job. We can consider wine in terms of romantic, traditional, cultural and emotional aspects, but it is clearly legitimate for those who make to do that also in order to get a financial profit. Trade and profit – undeniably – are also determined by fads about wine that, over the years, come to existence, grow up and then disappear.

 On this regard, it is worth mentioning the fad of white wines which was so common in Italy about twenty years ago, a fad which determined a significant increase in the sales of this style of wine at the expense of red wines. Any winery – at that time – was practically forced to make at least one white wine in order to maintain “market shares”. In the tables of restaurants and pizzerias, it was always and inevitably found a bottle of white wine, often produced with Pinot Gris. When this fad was over, there has been the clear and unstoppable return of red wines, often with a strong wooden character due to the aging in barrique, a magic capable of transforming any wine, especially mediocre ones, into heavenly nectars. In Italy, those wines were defined as barricati – also proudly emphasized on the label as a guarantee of superior quality, very presumed and supposed, to tell the truth – wines that seemed more to be made in a carpentry than in a winery.

 Today we are witnessing a very drastic change of trend compared to those times, with wineries that – to follow the fads of the moment, in order to make sure they get a legitimate profit from their work – adapt the production to the will of more or less questionable fads. Organic, biodynamic, natural, artisanal, without added sulfites, with indigenous yeasts, easy, young, environment-friendly, immediate, simple and “whatever wine you want provided you buy it”. From a commercial point of view, this is understandable: fads, in addition to offering an opportunity for profit, are also a way of diversifying production, in order meet a greater number of customers. In my opinion, however, all these fads do nothing more than determining a deleterious phenomenon for the quality and dignity of wine: standardization. The tendency of satisfying a certain demand, in particular a dominating one, inevitably leads to the standardization of a product, while making it look or taste like – for purely commercial reasons – to the most successful wines. All similar, all the same, most of the times trivial.

 It is now many years I am noticing a boring standardization of wine, something which can be found in any style or wine making philosophy. Wines belonging to a certain style or school of thought inevitably tend to be all the same and in an embarrassing way, even – and perhaps especially – when man is convinced of letting nature do its own way. In recent times, moreover, certain simple and immediate wines have become more and more popular, explicitly made for young people, that is those who will be the men of the future. Wines that should be consumed in informal and thoughtless moments, wines intentionally trivial from an organoleptic point of view, often having no character nor personality. This could make us think young people, when they have wine, do not need to care about what it is being poured in their glasses: the important thing is to have something to be drunk mindlessly and for the fun of it. Easy, as it is now commonly said in Italy among those who can barely speak Italian, even less a decent English, however giving them the idea of being “busy” and “modern”. Simple, immediate and soulless, a wine giving no emotion, which is forgotten even before it is poured in the glass, which is easily confused in the middle of nothingness. If it is a wine intended for young people, therefore – in theory – a product also having a formative and educational role, is this the future we want to make for wine and only for supporting the superficiality of a fad?

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 173, May 2018   
Past, Present and Future of WinePast, Present and Future of Wine  Contents 
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