One of the benefits of being in the wine industry is access to the producers who bring us the wine that we love. Mostly this takes the form of what we used to call " dog and pony " shows which are not geared toward delivering information beyond the essential sales pitch, but even at these sales driven events you can usually glean some sort of additional insight. Better, though, are the non sales specific events where producers speak technically, from the heart, or both.
I had the pleasure of attending one such event this week at Stony Brook University Center for Wine, Food and Culture . This was a two-day symposium titled The Art of Balance: Cool Climate/Maritime Wines in a Global Context and I was lucky enough to sit in on day one courtesy of my friend Christopher Tracy who is the wine maker at Channing Daughters Winery located in Southampton, NY.
There were many great speakers throughout the day and the information delivered was on a very high level. I would love to debrief you on all of the presentations but in my quest to speak to the world of Italian wines I will focus on the comments of Alessio Dorigo of Girolamo Dorigo , a winery located in Italy's Friuli region.
Friuli is staking its claim as one of the world's premier white wine regions. Typical of Italian regions that are less well understood by the wine buying public the producers there are utilizing a combination of international varieties (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) and native grapes (Friulano, Ribolla Gialla).
Alessio addressed the challenges facing producers in terms of cool climate production, adherence to terroir and the realities of the market. He phrased this as the crossover set of wines created by the larger sets of "wines you can make (terroir)" and "wines you will sell" (and he used a venn diagram , which just tickles the old math geek in me to no end).
His larger point was that producers ignore the terroir of their production zone at their own peril but ultimately this is a business and that business is selling wine. Not ground breaking I realize, but Alessio’s solution was not to try and force his wines into the "wines you will sell" category but to maintain a connection to the land, create an approachable yet authentic wine, and beat the drum as loudly as you can so people will be aware of these wines.
This represents Italy's third wave position that is neither strict traditionalism (which can lead to some very out there wines - see the return of the amphora ) nor the undermining of terroir to produce high scoring international styled wines. Ultimately this balance will allow the world's smaller regions to stake a claim to a share of the world's palate without sacrificing the attributes that sets these regions apart.
NB - I did indeed confirm the Italian Agricultural Ministry's ruling involving the permission to sell some Italian DOC level wines in box packaging. There were many articles after last fortnight's post was sent off but I will only link you to the old grey lady's short piece here .
Robert Scibelli is a lecturer and administrator at New York’s premier wine school, International Wine Center .
A Cold Wind Blows
- Reply by Philip James, Aug 14, 2008.
The wine box thing is interesting and shows, as you point out, how many italian producers / law makers are trying to walk the fine line between adopting totally modern styles and standards and sticking to the most rigid traditions
- Reply by Mark Angelillo, Aug 18, 2008.
"Typical of Italian regions that are less well understood by the wine buying public..."
Would love to hear more about this, Robert. Good post.