The recent awarding of a DOCG (or was it 2 DOCG’s?) for Prosecco started it all off. I got thinking that there are several wines that have received the DOCG status, that, to me, seem ill fitting. Seeing as I started with Prosecco, let’s start there, shall we?
Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani. Is it one DOCG or is it two? Here we have a classic case of al’Italiana, confusion right from the onset. Most likely it was a political decision, and seeing as we are in Luca Zaia’s backyard, all the more reason for a politician to decide what’s best for the farmers. Good old Dr. Zaia.
I could understand Conegliano Valdobbiadene a little better than Colli Asolani, but really, is there any Prosecco worthy of a DOCG? If there was, perhaps we might want to consider reserving it for wines that come from the Cartizze, a small and revered spot which is the heart and soul of Prosecco. Maybe a Cartizze would be a laudable rival to one of the great Italian sparkling wines, Franciacorta. But, no, that wasn’t the solution. Why recognize a lion when there are so many asses braying for attention. Let’s give it to them all. But just one problem, say some of the producers. The new law will restrict production, forcing higher prices. Perfect timing for a world where the popularity of Champagne plummets daily.
The reality is, there will be less Prosecco DOCG (or Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani as the politicians have deigned to call it, making it even more confusing) and there will also be a Prosecco DOC. Great. That’s probably what they should have done to Chianti and Chianti Classico, but that’s another paragraph. I wouldn’t want to be a Prosecco producer right now. The folks in Trentino must be having a gay old time with this one.
A couple of whites (not the only ones, by the way) that I find hard to imagine being DOCG-worthy: Albana di Romagna. What in heaven’s name allowed that to happen? It’s a fine wine to have when one is in the area, but really, is it on the same par as a Fiano or a Gavi? I think not. I tried to grok the wine, and as early as the mid 1980’s I was on to it, looking for every example I could find to determine the mystique of this wine. But, like Galestro, it fell short of fabulous and I couldn’t figure out why the Italian authorities thought this wine worthy of a DOCG. So I chalked it up to a brilliant political maneuver by the communists of the region. I am surprised they haven’t gotten a DOCG for Lambrusco yet.
The other white, I am sorry to say, is Vernaccia di San Gimignano. I know, I know, Michelangelo, is said to have described the wine he loved and wrote poetry as one that "kisses, licks, bites, pinches and stings". In all the many times I have drunk Vernaccia from San Gimignano I can attest to four out of the five qualities. But kissing? Rarely. Sting, yes. Bites, yes. Pinches, yes. Even licks. But no smooch fest is Vernaccia. So it was given the DOCG for the respect that one gives to an early white DOC? That’s like saying let’s give the part in a new movie to the old star even though the role calls for a younger person. Vernaccia is a minor player in an operetta. Not Puccini and La Boheme or Madam Butterfly or Tosca. No. Not. Ever. Quel dommage.
While we are rampaging through the Tuscan countryside, let’s tackle Chianti. First, let me be clear. Chianti Classico has a right to the claim of DOCG. Absolutely. But plain vanilla, made in an industrial manner straight Chianti? In Fiasco? What’s up with that? Other than appearing to be totally wrong and sending a very off beam message, it isn’t likely that the powers that be in Italy will ever rescind the DOCG for plain vanilla Chianti. But the whole legitimacy of the Chianti Classico, and even the sub regions, Rufina et al, is compromised precariously. Guilt by association. Hard to keep staying alive. I reckon the lesson that the folks in Bordeaux are learning once again ( the hard way) are not comprehended by their Italian cousins in Tuscany. Might as well be another planet. It too is a shame, because as the world fine wine market is melting down, and we have just seen the tip of the iceberg, the Italians are more interested in their August vacations than the 4th quarter of 2009. Bordeaux is failing and with more revelations to come. Tuscany, well they are waiting in line to get a towel and an umbrella and a beach chair. Bless their hearts.
Last one- Bardolino Superiore. Now I like Bardolino and I love the Chiaretto. But the wine is a romp, a fun time, a fast ride with the windows down. Bardolino is a hot date with a cute blond in a mini. But there is no gravitas attached to it. Bardolino is a summer affair, while the faithful spouse, let’s call her Amarone, sits at home and waits. And feeds the kids. And is full of character. Yes, Bardolino is fine as a DOC, but no “G’, no “G”. Ah gee.
It is July and I’m entering that period where the sun beats down on my head and funny ideas emerge. But the Italians have me beat with their misfit decisions about which wines should and shouldn’t be the standard bearers for the country. Greed, politics, back room haggling, deals made in smoky chambers, in a word, politics.
Like I said, quel dommage.