Friday, January 10, 2014

Are There Too Many DOP’s in Italy?

Since Italy aligned their wine regulations with the European Community in 2012, the unbridled enthusiasm to rush wine towards the vaunted DOCG position has been stultified. With 73 DOCG’s and 330 DOC’s rolled into the DOP categorization, some have wondered aloud if there are too many (403) appellations in Italy. With more DOCG’s coming on line (Nizza in 2015) and some confusion as to what is a DOP wine (is it DOC? DOCG? Both? Something else?) and looking at the large numbers of wines with appellation (DOC/DOP) that make up a minute amount of actual wine produced, Carlo Flamini (who has submitted some interesting comments here) has written an article in the “Il Corriere vinicolo”, "Tempo di Scegliere", (password required) proposing Italian winemakers (and lawmakers) might step back and revisit how they are promoting "Brand Italy" to the world.

Thanks to Donatella Cinelli Colombini, who lives and works in Tuscany for a thought provoking piece on here website, “Le 327 piccole denominazioni di vino devono sparire?(translated here for English speakers) which in essence outlines a proposal by Flamini to consider eliminating 327 DOC/DOP wines in Italy.

The rational is that 92% of the denominated wine in Italy is produced by 76 appellations and the remaining 327 account for only 8%. For purposes of driving the Italian wine brand in the world, some think the efforts to promote the more obscure ( and small production) wines takes away from the bigger picture of making Italian wine more important and easier to understand to people in America, China and everywhere else that Italian wine is sent via global trade.

There is also talk of folding some of the smaller DOC/DOP wines into larger ones, in order to give those wines a greater chance for promotion and exposure within the larger, more visible appellations.

As one would expect, producers of some of those 327 appellations are concerned that their story will be lost, or at best, homogenized into the story of another territory.

Identity is at the very heart of the issue here. While Italian wines seem complicated to the outsider, to those inside those small wine producing areas, there are generations of families who have husbanded and cared for the land and the name. And really it has only been since the end of World War II that the development of Italian wine has become a more global enterprise. So if you are a producer of, let’s say, Bolgheri DOC/DOP, does it make sense to roll it into the Suvereto DOCG/DOP appellation? All the while there is talk of Bolgheri is fractioning off a new DOC/DOP, Bolgheri Sassicaia. Which direction are we going, towards more appellations? Or Less? And which is the best thing for the individual territory?

I think the producer of Sassicaia think having their own DOC/DOP is a rational evolution. If it’s good enough for Chateau Grillet, it should be good as well for Sassicaia?

But does a small, less visible (or less affluent) territory, like Orcia, or Aprilia, or any number of those 327 DOC/DOP wines run the risk of having their identity disappear even further into the fog of Italian (and now European) wine laws?

What do you think? The logs are on the fire for the debate. In all likelihood the 327 will not lose their place and their appellation. But what are we doing to promote and make aware to wine drinkers around the world these many wonderful (and obscure) wines?

I have not tasted all 403 (currently) DOP Italian wines and I don’t know how many people in the world have. If I were to take a test, I’d probably be able to name 100. After 30 years on the wine trail in Italy, I admit to failure in embracing all that Italy has to offer. But for the producers, the farmers, the winemakers, and young people who live and (have work) work on the land, to be minimized in a country (and world) that it is already proving very challenging to make a life in, I have to stare into the crystal ball and wonder where this is going?

Where is Italian wine being led?

Who has the vision?

Thoughts, anyone?

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