April 11, 2008
My visit to the Vinitaly this year started with a mail I received immediately after landing with a link inviting me to read it. The link took me to an article, published by a very important weekly Italian magazine, called Velenitaly about two scandals currently happening in the Italian wine industry.
The first and most important, they discovered that some of the cheap wine had been added with water and sugar and if you are wondering why sugar, is because when fermented, the sugar becomes alcohol. I am sure this does not happen only in Italy, the only difference is that in other countries these scandals are kept within the borders, in Italy, they like making as much noise as possible. As a general advice, an old world good wine can never be cheap. In the old worlds, France, Italy etc, the topography of the territory and the regulation does not consent to make cheap wine unlike the new world, where there is very little legislation limiting the winemakers in their practices and the characteristics of the territory allow extensive growing.
The second scandal involved the Brunello di Montalcino and its biggest producers, from Antinori to Banfi only to mention a couple, that cut their wine with grapes other than the Sangiovese Grosso which is the only grape allowed by law in the making of the Brunello. The main reason behind this is to make the Brunello more drinkable, without waiting several years, using only the Sangiovese grosso will require years of bottle ageing, and more round and soft and this is a trend, that I personally don't like, that currently many producers of aged wines are following also because this is the style of wine wine-writers like and therefore highly scored and ultimately sell more.
However, the downside of it, and this is why I don't like this practice, is that wines tend to lose their individual characteristics and they become very similar. During the Vinitaly, one of my producers, told me that last year had been a very good year for Spanish and Portuguese wines because wine makers don't follow this trend. Leaving the scandals and going back to the Vinitaly, I found the 5 days too many, I think a better event could be organized in 3 days like any other wine fair. It was nice to see and speak to my producers, got to taste the new vintages and I am proud to say that their wines were better than ever, they have all improved compared to the previous vintage but after having met my producers and tasted their new vintages or previews, it took me three days and plenty of bread and ham to accompany the wine I drunk, I then went to discover new producers and new wines.
If I have been very disappointed by regions like Apulia and Sicily that have become too commercial and too interested in making big quantities of wine like the new world, I was positively surprised by regions like Trentino and Campania, with the first a new region on the wine map especially for the whites, whilst for the second, after a few years where there were only a few big producers, now a lot of small and passionate wine makers are coming producing fantastic wines, hopefully, without becoming another Sicily or Apulia.
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