I recently came across this column
from one of the wine writers of the Telegraph about Italian wine and not only I found it full of inaccurate information, but an advert for supermarkets.
The article opens with “Nothing inspires less in the wine world than a bland Italian white” as if a French or an Australian bland wine would be more inspiring and taste better than a bland Italian wine, and continue by saying “And there’s far too many of these wines crowding out the big supermarkets . Except, hold on! The newly released, dry unoaked Italian whites from 2018” implying that when supermarkets don’t have a good Italian white wine on their shelves is because vintages are not just good enough.
The 2018 vintage was good, an average vintage, not as good as the 2015 for example, a great vintage everywhere in Italy that produced outstanding wines, not just dry, unoaked white wines, from Soave to Gavi di Gavi to Verdicchio, almost all Italian wines produced were outstanding.
The 2018 vintage wasn’t an amazing vintage. Climate change is having an impact on Italy and Italian wine as well as the rest of the world. The 2018 vintage was ok because Italy was recovering from a very poor 2017 vintage where, due to lack of rain and drought, quantity and quality of grapes and wine had been severely compromised, at least when looking at the big picture. If looking at individual wineries, I am referring to our producers which are the ones I can guarantee for, there was a substantial quantity reduction but, by working on the vineyards and pruning more than usual, they were able to produce good, better than many, wines.
When the vintage is great, like the 2015, not only great unoaked white wines are produced, but also red and rose’, and just about any wine has the potential to be outstanding. Wines made in a great vintage have huge potential when made by good, skilled wine makers and the greatness of the vintage and the wines is even more evident in the long term. In a great o good vintage, it is a lot easier to make drinkable wines, in a bad or difficult one it takes skills and a lot of work in the vineyard that supermarkets are not prepared to pay for. Is this what the wine writer is referring to?
Sometime, wine makers wait great vintages to produce aged white wines, ageing could be and was, if you remember the so called oaked chardonnay that was filling supermarkets shelves about 10 years ago that put everyone off chardonnay, a trick to “hide” bad, poorly made wines, but also a way to enhance great wines. In a great vintage, even wines that are supposed to be drunk within the year, last much longer. We are keeping a few white wines from the 2015 vintage to see how far they will go because we have tasted them recently and they still taste very fresh and young but with more complexity that the ageing in the bottle has given them.
The problem with bland Italian, or any country for that matter, wines and their bad reputation is due to supermarkets. Supermarkets buying are based on prices, they may pick the best of the bunch, but still within their budget which is not at lot, and in difficult or bad vintages the “not a lot” is even less, so it doesn’t really matter the vintage, because wines will always be average at their best.