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At the center of this awakening is the Nizza sub (or supra?) zone, which essentially is a more finely deliniated offshoot of the Barbera del Monferrato Superiore qualification. Geralyn and Jack Brostrom discuss “74” at their fab-site, Italian Wine Central.
This DOCG, approved June 27, 2008 and modified November 30, 2011, lays out the rules and regulations in a most Teutonic and orderly manner. Nizza is one of the many approved zones (sub and supra) of production for this wine. So, why would they push out from the sweet dream of EU harmony and awaken the sleeping giant?
Could it be there is a wish to open up the little Pandora’s Box to peek inside and see what has been going on? Is there dissatisfaction with being in harmony with their EU partners? Does someone wish more particularity in order to call attention to their special conditions? Or is this simply a case of boredom with uniformity? A mischievous child looking for attention?
We should all know by now that there is no one simple answer when it comes to things Italian. And, by the way, the Italians are not alone in this kind of activity. The French, the Germans, the Californians, and others, all work to differentiate their attributes to a thirsty world. It’s a liquid Tower of Babel, in that as we drill down to more finely focused descriptions of what one wine or another is, the end-user, be they in the United States, China, Sweden or anywhere else in the non-Italian speaking world, are challenged with these well-intentioned efforts by Italians to explain why it is they do what they do and what makes them so particularly wonderful. That’s a cellular part of Italianismo. Changing the laws and making more wine appellations and qualifications is merely a vehicle of the process.
Is this a bad thing? In essence, not at all. For folks like me, it means dusting off the grey matter and paying closer attention. For the 98% of people who drink wine that this will never reach, it’s not important to their end-satisfaction. So, why do it, one might ask?
In the case of the Nizza zone and those who produce that wine, I have to imagine that this is important to them. Just as Gran Selezione was for the Chianti Classico producers. It’s about distinction, refinement, carving the stone down to the fine features. We saw it recently go the other direction in Barolo, where a famous vineyard area, Cannubi, was refined and redefined and then reverted. Some argue that has been a perversion of the Italian’s love for particularity. Broader strokes, not necessarily finer ones.
In all of these cases the final verdict isn’t made in Rome, or Asti, Alba or Florence. The judgment that really matters is the one made by the consumer. Will he or she choose Gran Selezione over Riserva (or Brunello)? Will Cannubi “Cannubi” ultimately be recognized as the one-and-only true Cannubi? Will Nizza vanquish Monferrato? Will they, huh, will they? Huh?
Personally, whether we arrive to “74” DOCG wines with the (currently) 332 DOC wines (this just in according to Italian Wine Central) for a “grande totale” of 406 isn’t that big of a deal. Most likely if that does happen, then the flood gates will open and we might see a slew of additional higher qualified wines on the DOCG roster. The sommelier community will continue to track this and ask for clarification, so that they might study the right information and be able to more accurately understand and explain the rules to their proctors and their diners. No harm in that. It’s like a giant puzzle, with more pieces added. I think we can all handle that.
Is there a downside? One that comes to mind is that with these more clearly defined regulations; the producer will see restrictions on their creativity in the winery and the vineyard. A recent conversation with a winemaker in the Langhe got my head spinning as they explained just how straight laced and regulated they are now, with the resulting fines for non-compliance. And here is where I see a problem. Where there are rules, there will always be someone who asks “why?” and proceeds to get around them. And there are the government apparatchiks, who toil to keep their position relevant and dominant, who will enforce the rules. Here is where things could get ugly and muddled. And the last thing anyone wants to see is a scandal.
There is a ban coming out against wearing synthetic lacy underwear in Russia. If it is ever enforced. If someone wears lacy under wear in Russia, no one will suffer from it (hopefully). If someone breaks a rule of wine making, someone could get hurt from cutting corners that they might not have had to. That is where I see the danger. That, and the threat to creativity in winemaking. But the Italians don't get their panties in a wad over things like rules. After all, isn’t that how we got SuperTuscans?
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