Friday, November 11, 2005

Vini bordolesi italiani, addio ai SuperTuscans

La Crisi del Vino ha un cuore francese? Segnalo a tutti i lettori italiani questo bravissimo articolo appena pubblicato su Teatro Naturale. L'autore e' l'ineguagliato Franco Zilani. Leggete. E ringraziate Dio che ci siano i vini autoctoni onesti italici.

An Authoritative Voice Weighs in on Wine Prices

This man likes cheap wine, too As we all know, the prices of some Italian wines are inflated almost beyond belief. They're good, very very good, but who among us can justify a $200 bottle that isn't from a grand cru estate? I mean, a real grand cru from the real Bordeaux, not the faux-Bordeaux of Tuscany... A fervent believer in "the market" (a Platonic abstraction: time to pull out the bullshit-o-meter whenever one of these makes an appearance) might smugly say, "It's a case of supply and demand. The market works." Not necessarily. Over the past few months I've had conversations with wine retailers in Boston and New York, including one who specializes in premium Italians, and the bloom seems to have come off the rose when it comes to SuperTuscans and Gaja-type Barolos. "The collectors have bought all they'll need for a while, but there's still so much of it sitting out there," Roger Ormon of BLM Wines in Brookline, a suburb of Boston, emailed me. It may be a case of some people having more money than sense, of their being hyped and seduced into the imagined, georgic glamour of the vigneron. Yet what does Giacomo Tachis have to say about the prices of top-tier Italian wines? I found an article in the Italian site Wine Country dating from last December where the famous oenologist, credited with creating Sassicaia, Tignanello, etc., said that the crisis of the Italian wine industry has to blame overpricing as a major factor. "The wines I contribute to making are not that expensive when they come out of the cellar," referring to Sassicaia that costs 130 euros in wine shops and 200 euros in restaurants. "The appropriate price is around 30-40 euros a bottle....If I have to spend a fortune to buy a bottle, I don't buy it." At last, the voice of reason. Mr. Tachis' comment reminds me of a recent interview I read in Wine Spectator with the well-known TV chef and collaborator with the late Julia Child, Jacques Pepin. When asked how he took wine with his meals Pepin replied, "Preferably a lot of it and not too expensive [laughing]. In my culture, when I was a kid in France, we had wine on the table and that was the wine--it was usually red--that you had with your onion soup or your fish or your roast chicken....I've been married 40 years and I can't remember a meal where we didn't open a bottle of wine with dinner, sometimes two." [Fellow ivrogne!] As they used to say in those old American comedies with English characters, "RathER!"

Bordeaux-Style Wines in Italy: the Tasting

If you love--or hate--Italy's Bordeaux-style wines, especially the SuperTuscans, read this interesting article from "Aristide," our Veronese friend Giampiero Nadali.

Giampiero recently filed the report on an important event in his hometown of Verona. The focus of the meeting: the state of Bordeaux-style wines in Italy, many of which are among the most lauded and, high-priced, of all Italian wines. Whether this makes them truly superior is another issue. But they do represent an invaluable stage in the modernization and international recognition of the Italian wine industry.

Here is my translation of the second part of Giampiero’s report—the fun part, where he got to taste many of the celebrated wines for himself.

The two-day conference on “A Hundred Italian ‘Bordeaux’: Style, Elegance, Terroir” was held in the hall of the old granary of Villa Gritti. The hall was miraculously transformed from a meeting center to a tasting room in a very short time, and 137 different wines were available for tasting on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday.

As you can see in the photo above, the attendees mobbed the tasting tables set up in the splendid garden, eager to try wines which, in many cases, were made of the most common international varieties (Cabernet and Merlot). Further, there was a “horizontal” tasting of 12 regions of Italy and, as intended by the organizers of the event, this was to show the tasters the value of Italy’s various terroirs as well as connect quality with price. Note that, if you wished to purchase all 137, it would cost 3,300 euros retail. This averages 24.10 euros a bottle (about $30), with the priciest brands including Sassacaia 2002 (100-130 euros), to Ornellaia 2002 (90-120 euros), all the way up to the astonishingly expensive Diesel Farm Rosso di Rosso 2000 (160-190 euros a bottle).

We provide some highlights of the tasting below; and at the end of the article, the entire list of wines offered at the degustazione.

What the Interested Parties Had to Say

First, some remarks and ruminations about the “Bordeaux idea.”

According to the preface of Les Vines de Bordeaux, “For most people in France and around the world, the word ‘Bordeaux’ spells quality…” Only Champagne has developed a similar, universally recognized style. Gigliola Bozzi Gaviglio, president of Vinarius, the wine retailers’ association, observed that this style is so entrenched that wine shops often present an Italian “Bordeaux” with the words “grown with the same grape varieties as a Bordeaux.” The problem is this: in Italy such wines haven’t produced a style, just brands.

Bozzi Gaviglio noted that, unlike most Italian wines, these omit or downplay the sense of “territory” [and eventually the notion of terroir itself takes a hit--Mondosapore] and the identification of the grapes used to make it. The producers’ intent has been to create individual identities to elevate their products. This is due, in part, to their non-adherence to standard denominations. They seek to make wines that conform to some “philosophy” or business purpose, and this tends to weaken the positioning of the entire denomination, not to mention the strength of the territory’s identity and appeal.

The producers aren’t entirely to blame, Bozzi Gaviglio added. The problem with the DOC system is that it is strictly regimented and doesn’t allow enough scope for individuality.

Aristide [Giampiero] observes that lawmakers are democratically elected and controlled by
citizens. We speak badly about politicians, forgetting that we elected them.
In other words, if the world of wine has bad legislation, it's not only a fault of politicians
(lawmakers), but also winemakers and people in the business—they are all
responsible for that.  When lobbying and favor-seeking at the regional and national
levels doesn’t produce the desired results, Italian winemakers like to portray themselves
as victims.  Instead, there needs to be a reform of the entire appellation system, with an
eye to the benefit of the consumer in Italy and abroad—and it should highlight the wide
range of territories and terroirs in Italy.  

Returning to the tasting, Aristide made a commitment to do a sampling of wines from the far north in Alto Adige all the way to Sicily. His goal: confirm the huge variety of the wines in all their excellence, with an eye to those costing a reasonable amount. The relative tranquility of the granary at Villa Gritti on early Saturday afternoon enabled him to do so pleasurably. The only fly in the ointment: there was ridiculously little Sassicaia for the masses of people attending the conference, and whenever a bottle was opened (only six of them over two days!), they were “vaporized” immediately.

Another disappointment: there were only five or six producers at the tasting tables. However, that’s not to take away from a lovely conference.

In the sampling of 22 wines tasted by Aristide (all indicated by an asterisk below), four were his particular favorites:

  • Loam 2002 DOC Alto Adige, Cantina Termeno (Alto Adige) Cuvée di Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot 18.000 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 20-25 Euro. (18,000 bottles produced, Italian retail price 20-25 euros)
  • Ronco dei Roseti 2000 DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli, Le Vigne di Zamó (Friuli Venezia Giulia) Cuvée di Merlot e Cabernet Franc 15.500 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo (price) in enoteca (in wineshop) 27-30 Euro.
  • Luna Selvatica 2003 DOC Colli Piacentini, La Tosa (Emilia e Romagna) Cuvée di Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot The producer announced a 2003 production of 5 tons/hectare on 2 hectares (5-6 acres), about a kilo of fruit per vine; 8.200 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 20-22 Euro.
  • Pupà Pepu 2000 IGT Colli Toscana Centrale, Bellini Roberto (Toscana) Cuvée di Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon 3 to 3.5 tons of fruit per hectare -- 5.000 bottiglie prodotte, prezzo in enoteca 46-55 Euro.

Here are all the wines at the tasting, by region:

VALLE D’AOSTA Vin du Prevot, Institut Agricole Régional


Barbur, La Montina (*) Ca’ Verde, Ca’ Verde Colle Calvario, Castello di Grumello Deressi, Majolini Doglio, La Brugherata Falcone, La Prendina-Piona Giuliana C., La Boscaiola Messernero, Le Corne Nero d’Ombra, Mirabella San Carlo, Barone Pizzini San Giovannino, Tallarini Sebino rosso, Ricci Curbastro Solesine, Bellavista


Belvedere, Cantine dei Colli Berici Braio, C. Colli Vicentini 360 Ruber Capite Bosco del Merlo Calaóne, Ca’ Orologio Camoi, Col Sandago Campo del Pra, Sartor Capo di Stato, Loredan Gasparini (*) Corpore, Villa Sandi Dogma Rosso, Sutto Due Santi, Vigneto Due Santi-Zonta Entusiasmo, Palazzetto Ardi Flammeo, Ca’ Lustra Franco Zanovello Fontana Masorin, Montelvini Fratta, Maculan (*) Gemola, Vignalta Hora Sexta, Mòsole Madégo, La Cappuccina Merlot Cabernet, Desmontà Il Massi, Villa Dal Ferro Lazzarini Nero d’Arcole, C. di San Bonifacio (*) Perseo, Valerio Zenato Polveriera, Piovene Presa IX, Montelvini Rosso dell’Abazia, Serafini Vidotto (*) Rosso di Corte, Corte Gardoni Rosso di Rosso, Diesel Farm (solo libro) Rosso Giunone, Monte Tondo Rovere Rosso, Ca’ Rovere Sansonina, La Sansonina Santomío, Montresor Speaia, Maculan Terra dei Rovi, Dal Maso Venegazzù, Loredan Gasparini Villa Capodilista, La Montecchia Vite Rossa, Ornella Molon Traverso


Campi Sarni, Vallarom Castel S.Michele, Istituto agr. di San Michele (*) Fojaneghe, Bossi Fedrigotti Fratagrande, Pravis Fuggè, Poli Maso Le Viane, Lunelli Maso Toresella, Cavit Mori Vecio, Concilio Vini Quattro Vicariati, Cavit Rossoreale, CS di Mori San Leonardo, Guerrieri Gonzaga (*) Senteri, Cantina di Isera Tebro, Spagnolli Tre Cesure, Longariva


Arzio, Baron Di Pauli Castel Campan, Manincor Cornelius, Colterenzio Cor Römigberg, Lageder (*) Feld, E & N Geierber, Castel Schwanburg Istante, Franz Haas (*) Kirchegg, Hofstätter Loam, Cantina Tramin (*)


Alture, Gaspare Buscemi Berengario, Zonin Braida Nuova, Borgo Conventi Carantan, Marco Felluga Cjarandon, Ronco dei Tassi Conte di Spessa, Pali Wines Faralta, Marina Danieli Metamorfosis, Primosic Montsclapade, Dorigo Picol Maggiore, Pali Wines Poncaia, Subida di Monte Progetto, Mangilli Red Branko, Branko Riserva Orzoni, Russiz Superiore Rivarossa, Schiopetto Rok, Pradìo Ronco dei Roseti, Le Vigne di Zamó (*) Rondon, Bennati Rosso Carpino, Il Carpino Sagrado Rosso, Castelvecchio Scuro, Scubla Tato, S. Elena Tiareblù, Livon Val di Mièz, Roncús Vertigo, Livio Felluga


Luna Selvatica, La Tosa (*)

Montegirolo, SanPatrignano

Perticato, Il Poggiarello

Petroso, Vigneto delle Terre Rosse (*)

Stoppa, La Stoppa

Vinnalunga, Lamoretti


Pollenza, Il Pollenza (*)


Arnione, Campo alla Sughera Campora, Casale Falchini Castello di Vicarello, Castello di Vicarello Ceppate, Terrabianca Cignale, Castello di Querceto (*) Desiderio, Avignonesi (*) Dulcamara, I Giusti & Zanza Excelsius, Castello Banfi (*) Guado al Melo, Michele Scienza Guado de’ Gemoli, Chiappini Le Cupole, Tenuta di Trinoro Lupicaia, Terriccio Magari, Ca’ Marcanda Millanni, La Cusona Mormoreto, Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi Nambrot, Tenuta di Ghizzano Ocra, La Cusona Ornellaia, Ornellaia Petra, Petra-Bellavista (*) Pupà Pepu, Bellini Roberto (*) Salamartano, Fattoria Montèllori Sassicaia, Incisa della Rocchetta (*) Sassobucato, Russo Saxa Calida, Poderi del Paradiso Sogno dell’Uva, Cennatoio


Crovello, Poggio Bertaio Fobiano, La Carraia Outsider, Caprai


Le Poggère, Vaselli Madreselva, Casale del Giglio Vigna del Vassallo, Colle Picchioni


Burdese, Planeta (*) Magnifico, Calatrasi Majo S. Lorenzo, Miceli (*)

-------------------------------- Photo: outdoor buffet at Villa Gritti by Giampiero Nadali