Saturday, October 06, 2012

What the world needs now is better tasting wine

“The natural wine movement is for culturally affluent Americans with too much time and money on their hands,” remarked an overheard Italian who is more concerned with larger, pressing issues. Hard as it may seem for proponents of the instinctive wine cabal in America, right now Italy is struggling with a crisis of economics and a larger, existential confrontation of identity and direction.

“Everywhere you go, people talk of the ‘crisi’ in our everyday lives. The cost of energy, of food, of transportation, of looming taxations and many Italians fear the shadow the European community ministers have cast over our country will spread even further.”

Stories persist in the news. Coldiretti released this a few days ago:
(AGI)Rome-Only 3% of Italians fear the spread widening while the upcoming fall scares 48% of Italians for possible gas price hikes. In addition, 25% fear a hike in food prices. This is the outcome of a survey carried out on the upcoming autumn on the www.coldiretti Website which highlights that 5% is worried about the increase in school supplies while 19% fails to respond or indicates a different lot of concerns. The survey goes to show that the crisis, from being financial, has now become economic with spin-offs on the life of families and their need to make ends meet in their every-day budget, in which the weightiest items are energy and food and which prevails - Coldiretti underscores - over concerns for the performance of financial indices. Coldiretti thinks that the fact that speculation on financial markets is less frightening than speculation on food and gas prices means that we need urgent intervention to support the recovery of the real economy. On the basis of a Coldiretti analysis of data issued by ISMEA relative to the first semester of 2012, the crisis has in fact emptied out our shopping cart with a nosedive in the purchase of commodities like milk (7%) and oil (5%) but also of fish (-4%), pork and wine (-2%), fruit, pasta and beef (-1%).

The increase in bureaucratic costs and taxes and the negative fallout of the crisis on employment have reduced people's purchasing power. With the crisis, one out of 2 Italians (50%) has reduced, given up or postponed his/her holidays, 47% their shopping or leisure-time activities, 34% high-tech purchases, while 1 Italian out of 3 (33%) has reduced, given up or postponed also his/her cultural activities and 30% their cars, according to the Coldiretti/Swg survey. The forecast was confirmed by the difficulties encountered during the summer in the tourism sector and is not conducive to being optimistic for the autumn … complete release HERE

While Italy has long been a country of entrepreneurs, what is lacking in these times is a cultural accountability, from the top-down, to recast Italy in the 21st century.

Adding to the conflict, Italian politicians continue to push a deaf, dumb and blind agenda of luxury consumption while their citizens hunker down for a protracted period of economic hibernation. This also from Coldiretti:
According to a Coldiretti/Censis survey, 90% of Italians would rather purchase Italian products in order to support the economy. This objective "does not appear to be a number one priority for politicians involved in the recent scandals, in which luxury foreign goods appear to be symbols of luxury.
Italians are also foregoing meals out in the swanky restaurants so greatly favoured by the politicians in favour of staying at home and enjoying themselves," preparing delicious meals for relatives and friends, especially on bank holidays when a record one hour plus is being spent at the stove (69 minutes), according to the survey. This is further confirmation of the difference between politicians and ordinary Italians, 7.7 million of whom take home-made food into the office, and 3.7 million of whom say this is a regular occurrence. Politicians' preferences for holidays in far-flung, often exotic places is at odds with those of most Italians, almost one in four of whom (22%) cut short their holidays this year and spent them fairly close to home because of the repercussions of the financial crisis. . .
What we need is for winemakers to return to a middle ground. Tasteless industrial wines that have been adulterated with chemicals have no more place than the extreme versions of natural wine that often taste as bad as their industrial counterparts. A crappy Gambellara from a Veneto factory does as little to cast a good light on Italian wine in the world as an ambiguous visceral wine from a producer who hasn’t learned how to make wine that can be healthy and good tasting at the same time. Both are complicit in tarnishing the star of Italian wine. And Italians aren’t buying it.

Italy is long overdue to re-tool extreme winemaking in both directions. Italians cannot waste their euros on expensive wine with inconsistent quality and flavor and/or cheap plonk which will do nothing to fulfill their nutritional needs. Add to that seasoned palate the collective Italian culture has worked so long to develop.

This is the 21st century, not the 20th and not the 14th. Economic crisis or not, it’s time for Italian winemakers to wrestle the stage from the extremists. What the world needs now is better tasting wine.

written and photographed (with a Canon VIT rangefinder) by Alfonso Cevola limited rights reserved On the Wine Trail in Italy

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From Your Mindseye said...

It is interesting to read that in Italy, the citizens feel much the same as we do here in our country. The economic crisis hits the middle class on both shores. The upper echelon go about their daily lives for the most part, unscathed, looking down upon the masses as unworthy of the good life they enjoy. Human nature prevails globally. A sad commentary for future generations.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the world needs better tasting wine, AC, but in light of the economic crisis in the world, what we don't need are people whining about not being able to get this or that wine in their local wine shop. Pretty insignificant complaint compared to the larger issues you mention.

Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Yessssssss!!!! Way to go. (telling it like it is, to both the super-you-name-its and the me-ne-fregos)

Wine Curmudgeon said...

Even more amazing -- that the wine industry in the U.S. (to say nothing of the politicians) is completely blind to what's going on in Italy, Spain, Greece and the rest of the EU. Why do so few of those groups realize we're all in this together?

J.P. said...

Spot on with this post, and another interesting example of how the politics of wine are intertwined with the wider political sphere! I think a lot of us feel the world over that our leaders are fiddling as Rome burns, and in the Italian case that may be more accurate than I originally meant! And the economic impact really does affect us all. I don't buy much Italian wine these days because of the capture of the market by the extremes, as you call them. It isn't that I don't love Italian wine, but it's getting increasingly difficult to get the wines I grew up with. And I don't look at it as whining to note that, but as an indication of the failure of the current political and economic system to raise all boats in the tide. Most people are drowning and we can't seem to even recognise it!

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