CMO reforms and how they relate to Italy

October 13, 2009

Tracie B and I recently opened a bottle of 2004 Sagrantino by Paolo Bea (a DOCG) that we had picked up at The Austin Wine Merchant. The wine was super tannic yet also had a wonderful “lightness of being.” We could not stop talking about it. So good… Photos by Tracie B.

In the wake of yesterday’s post on why the Italian DOC/G does and does not matter, I received a lot of positive and inquisitive feedback. So minister Luca Zaia and the Prosecco wars will have to wait until tomorrow.

First of all, some Googling this morning (prepping for my Tuscany seminar tonight at The Austin Wine Merchant) led me to this site, Agraria.org, which does seem to have a nearly complete list of DOCGs (although the new Matelica DOCG is not listed, it does include some of the most recently added DOCGs like the Moscato di Scanzo and Prosecco Asolo and Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene).

Secondly, in case you haven’t been following the European Commission’s efforts to “streamline” and “simplify” European Union markets, here’s a link to some background info.

The bottom line: in 2006 the European Commission “proposed to the Council and the European Parliament to adopt one single Common Market Organisation for all agricultural products. This project, ‘the Single CMO’ is another important step in the process of simplification, which is priority of the Commission.”

As part of this process, beginning with the current vintage, EU member states’s wines will be required to be labeled with the one of the following classifications: Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) or Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). In Italian, the acronyms are as follows: DOP (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) and IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta).

The following links will take you to some back ground info: here and here.

Here’s a link to E-Bacchus, a searchable database of all the currently registered PDOs and PGIs. There are currently 412 records in the PDO database (Italian DOCs and DOCGs) and 120 records in the PGI database (Italian IGTs).

And here’s a English Wiki entry on Protected Geographical Status.

In case you missed it, Franco wrote (and I translated) this editorial on the mad rush that preceded August 1, 2009 deadline for the creation of new DOCs and DOCGs.

On Saturday night, we ordered 2007 Langhe Nebbiolo by Produttori del Barbaresco (a DOC) at Il Sogno in San Antonio (no website). It’s one of our favorite wines and Il Sogno offers it at a fantastic on-premise price, a great value. We’re planning to serve this wine at our wedding! :-)

In my view, the CMO reforms are a good thing (for a number of reasons) and were “agreed by Italy” (as you say in diplomatic-speak): existing DOCs and DOCGs will be allowed on labeling (despite some alarmist reactions unfortunately based on sloppy blogging and reporting).

There are a number of reforms that have been implemented in Italy and Franco and I have reported on some of them at VinoWire. These include grubbing up, distillation, and use of grape must reforms, all aimed at streamlining the system and rewarding producers in member states for eliminating waste and observing environmentally friendly farming and vinification practices.

The new labeling, in my view, will help to simplify the appellation system, thus aiding those of us who buy and sell Italian wines.

From what I have read, there are other reforms as well (some of them unfortunately allowing undesirable commercial practices, like the use of oak chips).

But the most significant reform, in regard to Italy, in my view, is that at some point — and it’s not clear when — Italian winemakers will be able to use varietal labeling when producing international varieties. In other words, a wine like Planeta Merlot putatively could be labeled “Sicilian Merlot” or a Merlot from Tuscany hypothetically could be labeled “Montalcino Merlot.” Varietal labeling will not be allowed for indigenous varieties like Sangiovese or Aglianico.

Essentially, from what I understand, it will allow Italian producers to label their wines the way Californians and Australians do and consequently it will allow them to compete more aggressively in international markets.

While I’m not sure I want to drink Sicilian or Montalcino Merlot (and again, I need to stress, it’s not entirely clear how the labeling reforms will be implemented), it will free Italian producers from the yoke of currently strict labeling regulations. If someone wanted to produce a Montalcino Merlot and label it as such, that would be her or his business — literally.

Like the story of the Rabbi and the Ham Sandwich, I don’t need to drink Merlot from Montalcino. But if someone else wants to, that’s fine with me.


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