How To Not Get Things Done in Italy by @TerraUomoCielo (@Intravino)

Today’s post is devoted to my translation of an article written and published today by my good friend Giovanni Arcari on the Italian wine blog Intravino. It was edited by Alessandro Morichetti, one of Italy’s leading wine bloggers.

umberto d

Above: Umberto D.

“How To Not Get Things Done in Italy”

A case study in vineyard registration in Alta Langa.

Premise: A love for classic method wines and for the Langhe Hills inspired me to partner with a Monforte d’Alba producer who wanted to produce Alta Langa [sparkling wines]. Unfortunately, nothing is ever as easy as it seems and the story that follows is as simple as it is demoralizing. There are appellation regulations to be observed and we followed them to the letter. The producer acquired land; he planted the right grapes (7,500 Pinot Nero and Chardonnay vines in Serravalle Langhe); and then he applied for the authorization to label the vineyard “Alta Langa.” From that point forward, the process was disastrous.

A week later, a message arrived in the form of a cold shower: “registration of vineyards for the production of Alta Langa is closed,” wrote the Classic Method Alta Langa Producers Association.

We asked for an explanation and resigned ourselves to our fate.

But then, by chance, we came across this brilliant declaration on September 5 of this year: “… the association is working to expand the planted surface area intended for the production [of Alta Langa]. This process will be carried out through a ‘targeted’ authorization of new vineyards in the growing zone. Its scope is that of favoring those projects where grape production already has a specific destination that will not inflate the grape market. The goal is to have more bottles on the market that make an even greater difference.”

Well, you might call this good news, especially in the light of the fact that we were asking for authorization for a sole hectare. We already have a project and the “destination” for our roughly 100 quintals of grapes is very clear: a fine, artisanal classic method sparkling wine. Case closed.

Nothing doing! We hear nothing from the producers association but on October 24, we discover that it has been taking applications when we read an announcement on the Coldiretti website. [Coldiretti is Italy’s national growers confederation.] Coldiretti isn’t exactly known for its lightening speed: the application process was opened on August 2 and today [November 30] is the last day.

But that’s not the real problem here.

Do you want to know the criteria by which surface area planted to vine will be expanded? In short, if you sell your grapes to commercial bottlers, you’ll be fine. But if you by land, plant it and sow the seeds of your dreams there, you’re screwed.

Authorization is granted on a points-based model. And it’s not entirely clear how you obtain “points, rights, and priority.” To have the maximum number of points, seven, you need to be a “professional agricultural entrepreneur who already produces and/or sells classic method sparkling wine or owner partner in a cooperative winery that already produces classic method sparkling wine.”

To obtain five points, you need to be a “professional agricultural company or entrepreneur that already owns vineyards with agricultural-environmental characteristics in conformity with the Alta Langa DOCG appellation regulations (but that are not suited for authorization) and that has an at least five-year contract for the transformation [vinification] of the fruit into Alta Langa DOCG that guarantees the total application of the grapes.”

Three points are award to a “professional agricultural company or entrepreneur who has obtained [land] rights, plants new vineyards intended for the production of Alta Langa DOCG, and who possesses an at least five-year contract for the transformation [vinification] of the fruit into Alta Langa DOCG that guarantees the total application of the grapes.”
And for a “professional agricultural company or entrepreneur different from the points above,” the association grants only one miserable point.

It sends a chill down your spine, doesn’t it?

Obviously, we were given only one point. Translation? A new winery CANNOT produce Alta Langa.

Why isn’t the grape market regulated so as to encourage the entry of new players who could enrich the appellation? Why is there such interest in Alta Langa to purchase grapes and not to have anyone else get in your way? Who profits from this?

This system stinks.

—Giovanni Arcari (via Intravino)

Giovanni Arcari

Above: Alessandro (left), Giovanni (right), and I had breakfast in Alta Langa on Sunday morning.

4 thoughts on “How To Not Get Things Done in Italy by @TerraUomoCielo (@Intravino)

  1. Hello, mr. Parzen. Following the advice of Giovanni Arcari, I started to read this blog. I’m really impressed by the depth of your knowledge of the Italian food and wine world and the way you write, precise and clear, and very respectful of the Italian language. That’s why I’m asking you if it is necessary to translate Metodo Classico with “classic method”. In my humble opinion, Metodo Classico should not be translated and should be the name the international public should remember for that type of Italian sparkling wines.

  2. Vinogirl, thanks for hipping me to “My Grappa Hell” (what a title!). I’ll check it out. :)

    Roger, thanks for being here and thanks for the overly kind words. :)

    In my experience, “classic method” is an accepted English-language designation.

    Here’s the Oxford Companion to Wine entry for “Champagne Method”:

    champagne method.

    See sparkling wine-making for this, the most meticulous way of making a wine sparkle and the one employed throughout champagne. The term was outlawed in Europe in 1994 and replaced with traditional method. On labels it is generally referred to as Méthode Traditionnelle, Méthode Classique, Traditional Method, Classic Method, or Bottle Fermented (although this last is ambiguous and could be used of transfer method sparkling wines). The French equivalent was méthode champenoise.

    Do Bianchi is meant to be a place for discussion like this and I really appreciate you’re being here. :)

  3. Hi again, Jeremy, and thanks for your kind reply. I’ll try to explain my point better. My aim was not to question the accuracy of your translation: of course, “classic method” is an accepted translation. My point is: a translation is really needed or desirable? Does it do a favour to the knowledge of Italian sparklng wines or is it better to leave the Italian words?

    My hope is that people all around the world should learn to call Metodo Classico the Italian sparkling wines made with the classic method. And that’s why I think that wine-writers and Italian wine producers and sellers should refer to them as Metodo Classico. I don’t think anyone would translate Cava, nor that the english versions of the spanish websites would translate “Cava” with “Cellar”.

    The world of Italian sparkling wines made with the classic method is quite complex: as you surely know, we have the Franciacorta DOCG, the Oltrepò Pavese DOCG, the Alta Langa DOCG, the Trento DOC, the Alto Adige DOC; then we have other DOCs allowing a “spumante” version and an increasing number of VSQ from many Italian regions (from Friuli to Sicily). But we can correctly refer to all of them collectively using the words Metodo Classico.

    Oh, by the way, the Italians are the first people who should learn to use “Metodo Classico”, since too many of them ignore the difference between a Metodo Classico and a Metodo Martinotti/Charmat sparkling wine. :-)

    Thanks for your attention!

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