Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gaja meets bloggers on the future of Brunello

Today at 10am Angelo Gaja (in the picture at his winery in Tuscany-Bolgheri), an iconic figure for Italian wine and whose wines from Piedmont have acquired cult status (and prices..), animated with a group of 20 bloggers (I was also invited but unfortunately unable to join) an open discussion at his Barbaresco winery on the future of Brunello, after the long discussions the took place last year regarding the terms of reference (Disciplinare) of Brunello and the possible violation by some producers (here you can read my views on this issue expressed last summer).

The way the discussions took place (you can read the entire live transcription here as reported thanks to the great work of Antonio Tombolini) cleared the doubts that some bloggers, including myself, had casted on the initiative, due to initial instructions that the results should not have been divulgated.

In reality, the success of this initiative in my opinion resulted from the open format that it took and the report done live by Antonio, in pure "blogger style".

First of all I would like to pay tribute to Angelo Gaja, who clearly exposed his public ideas regarding the Brunello (but that I believe he would also apply to other DOC and DOCG) and first of all decided to organise an event for "bloggers" (in the sense both of blog writers and blog followers). This recognizes the role that the world of blogs (which is now a major expression of the civil society) plays in modern society as an open arena for expression of opinions.

Italy in particular has an articulated and very engaged network of wine bloggers, very much involved not only in the aspects of evaluation of wines but also in the most intricated aspects related to regulations, policies, cultural identity. This meeting may well represent an impulse for the future for the organisation of more events in this direction (and Vinitaly next March could be a good opportunity to organise a meeting of wine bloggers in Verona...hope to see a good reaction on this).

Regarding the content of the discussion, it was a good exchange of views even if no new elements emerged. Gaja agrees that the extension of the area cultivated for brunello in Montalcino has also covered lands not suited for a 100% sangiovese brunello (as the "Disciplinare" requires). His view is that due to the high investments done there the producers should have the right to produce a brunello with the inclusion of other grapes than sangiovese but that those producing 100% sangiovese should be granted special recognition. Clearly the position of Gaja is twofold: on the one side he believes that it may be possible to produce for a very small number of wine lovers a high level wine that may or may not respond to a strict regulation (his cru "Sori Tildin"and "Sori San Lorenzo" are not under a DC/DOCG system), but on the other he believes that a producer is not profitable only on that basis but needs to target the "commercial consumers", that pay less and want an "easier wine", and for that reason he believes that adding other grapes to the sangiovese is more appealing and may allow to sell easier brunello produced in less favourable areas.

The discussion, however, did not touch two important elements: firstly the question of the culture of wine and the link of a denomination like brunello with sangiovese and its tradition (Patrizia Simonini raised this issue in a question but this was not duly followed); second the impact of the EU reform of wine names that will enter into force in August 2009 and wil simplify the system and oblige Italy to re-define its system of IGT/DOC/DOCG (for example the risk that "denominazioni" like Sant'Antimo and Rosso di Montalcino may disappear with important commercial consequences).

An important event that I regret deeply to have missed but was happy to have followed live online.

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