Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...

5.25.2008

Meet My Inner Nerd

Today I saw a story about a scandal in Italian winemaking.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the short of it is this. SCANDAL No. 1: some Southern Italian producers of bulk wine were found to have added harmful acids to their product, SCANDAL No. 2: Brunello Di Montalcino producers were caught breaking their own D.O.C.G. rules by adding international varietals to make their wines more "palatable" to the American consumer (i.e. more fruit, more extract, less acidity, etc).

Relative to the addition of harmful acids, subversively stepping outside of a well-respected disciplina to make a wine more "palatable" is certainly less important. Scandal No. 1 has obvious implications, but some of you out there may wonder why the hell some of our panties are in a knot about No. 2. I'll tell you what, undies are a-twistin' because what's at stake here is tradition and truth.

I know that money is a powerful motivator, but I'm terrified that we're going to lose our wines that have a sense of place.

Examples?

1. The old-school Chiantis that are hard to enjoy out of the context of a meal (but what they do with braciole!)
2. The nebbiolo from the Valtellina that is dignified in its austerity and wholly a product of its unique environment, but may be a little too "thin" in the eyes of its Parker-educated beholder;
3. A fresh greco di tufo that DOES NOT NEED, for the love of God, to undergo malolactic fermentation
4. Dolcetto that shouldn't cost 60 dollars a bottle be what it is SUPPOSED to be (fresh, lively, and acidic), and appreciated as such

This maledetto palate doesn't want Brunello, and the powers that be have, unfortunately, responded. This palate wants a fruit bomb that tastes like every other highly extracted generic fruit bomb that may be labeled as cab/merlot/shiraz, etc. Does this palate ask for pinot grigio? Yep, but what it really wants is pinot grigio that tastes like new world chardonnay.

Seeing Italians who are typically so proud of their culture and traditions eschewing them in chase of marketability is a sad, sad thing.

At this point, you may call me naive, if you wish.

And here is where you should feel free to call me dramatic:

When I hear of producers shamelessly adding harmful substances to cheap wine, I view it as an acute symptom of an unscrupulous means to financial gain. But when I hear of Brunello di Montalcino producers changing their wine composition to please the international palate, I view it as an emergent symptom of chronic and augmenting greed/fear that could potentially erase all originality and placeful-ness (new word...watch out Webster!) and leave us with wine that tastes the same, no matter where it comes from.

Have some integrity, people! Didn't their mammas tell them that they should never try to be something they're not?

I am certainly not standing in judgment of those who want these modern-style wines nor am I suggesting that tastes should change across the board. I just hope that we will always have a choice between modern and traditional, and that centuries of wine-making wisdom that give all of us a peek into foreign earth and culture not be swept under the rug in the name of market viability.

If, at this point, you've labeled me both naive and dramatic, I don't care. My torch is burning and I can't help but carry it.

6 Comments:

Blogger Annika said...

Naive and dramatic? Perhaps, but also passionate and fervid (hey I just learned a new word!) and loving.

In my book those are all fabulous characteristics, and I agree wholeheartedly with you.

5/26/2008 2:50 PM

 
Blogger Romerican said...

Great post... I'm with you. I may not be a wine connoisseur but what you're talking about can be applied to all prodotti artigiani in Italy.
It seems like nowadays, Italians have turned their backs on tradition and quality and this, in my opinion, is the beginning of the end.
They are selling out for a fast buck without bothering to think of the future- the future of Italy and their own future. They're opting for immediate gratification, but at what cost? Come on, show some pride in your work people!
Sad.... very sad.

5/26/2008 4:20 PM

 
Blogger nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

PREACH!

I agree with you. This is crazy. At one point does it end? What happens if the palate changes or some other wine become the "hot wine"?

5/27/2008 7:00 AM

 
Blogger Tracie B. said...

annika--ever the supporter! how are you? i'll be by soon

romerican--well, neither am i! BUT, hopefully the tide will turn. i think it's going to require a healthier italian economy, though, to inspire some courage.

nyc--oh i will, girl! my soapbox has been glued to mah feet lately. i hope that vini autoctoni will soon become the fashion...

it's great to see you ladies again, hopefully this will be a more regular event.

5/27/2008 7:26 AM

 
Blogger Sicilian said...

I am glad to see you posting. . . for an Italian that longs for her Nonno's home made stuff. . . nothing compares.
Ciao

5/29/2008 7:15 PM

 
Blogger Rob said...

It would be a great tragedy indeed if diversity was sacrificed for marketability. Sadly the world as a whole has been moving in that direction for some time now.

I would have hoped that viticulture, like the cheese industry, would buck the trend. It would be a sad day indeed if the very thing that makes Italian produce so special and sought after (its regional variability) were to be sacrificed to the gods of mass marketing...

6/22/2008 1:55 PM

 

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