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7th October 2011 - Italy authorises must enrichment - in 2011!

by Walter Speller

While Italy has barely finished harvesting what is generally considered a hot and early vintage, news has emerged that, against all common sense, the authorities have authorised must enrichment in practically all Italian regions.

This is the practice, sometimes called chaptalisation after Chaptal, the minister of agriculture who introduced it to France, that was regularly used in cooler wine regions pre global warming, whereby before or during fermentation cane sugar or rectified grape concentrate is added to the fermentation tank in order to increase the total alcohol in the final wine. Authorising this practice for Italy in what is considered a hot year seems bizarre to say the least.

One of the first to raise the alarm against this obviously unnecessary measure was the Federazione Italiana Vignaioli Indipendenti (FIVI), the Italian federation of independent growers. In a round robin sent to its members it makes clear its disapproval of and disbelief in the authorisation, stating that this year's growing season had several exceptionally hot phases, making must enrichment completely superfluous.

According to the FIVI, anyone applying for must enrichment in 2011 does so merely to capitalise for the last time on European Union subsidies, which will be phased out next year. In FIVI's eyes, must enrichment will only be used to produce 'artificial wines', miles away from the more natural [sic] and labour-intensive ways of transforming grape juice into wine.

FIVI is joined by Carlo Petrini, founder of the international Slow Food movement, in its concern. Petrini recently published a critical article in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in which he wonders out loud under exactly whose pressure the regions have succumbed to authorise the absurd measure of must enrichment in the hot 2011 vintage. According to him, as well as many others, this year's authorisation is also greatly counterproductive in combatting Italy's grape surplus, which only a year ago led to a collapse in grape prices to the point where, in some cases, producers didn't even bother to harvest their grapes, as that would have been more expensive than letting them wither on the vine.

Finally Italy's production seems to have come down to a more economically sustainable level (not least due to EU subsidies that have encouraged producers to grub up vineyards, also unfortunately affecting old-vine, low-yielding vineyards). The authorisation of must enrichment is therefore seen, and criticised, as an effort to accommodate large, industrial, wine-processing firms, encouraging them to continue to make huge quantities of dirt-cheap wine. Petrini suspects that there are two powers at work: on the one hand the ones who have large quantities of grape concentrate to sell, and on the other the industrial bulk wine producers. The hot and irregular vintage of 2011, however, has made it crystal clear that the subsidised must enrichment measures lead to abuse and only prolongs Italy's image as a wine producing country merely interested in serving the world with insipid bulk wines at apparently any cost, and that with official government blessing.

29th September 2011 - Pleasing the purists: Rosso di Montalcino

A vote to keep Rosso di Montalcino free of 'other grape varieties’ has been successful – and I am happy . 


In few places is the subject of wine – and what goes into it – as intensely political as it is in Tuscany.

The latest hoo-ha has been over a proposal to change the regulations of Rosso di Montalcino, the glorious red that is baby brother to Brunello di Montalcino.

On September 7, producers voted 69 per cent against allowing up to 15 per cent of “other grape varieties” into a wine that must be made purely from brunello (sangiovese).

This might sound like a small-scale technicality but the result of the vote has been much talked about because it goes to the heart of the way many wine lovers like to think about wine, viz that it’s not just an acceptable-tasting form of alcoholic fuel but an expression of land, place and people.

Imagine tacking a big modern extension with PVC double-glazing onto a Grade II listed manor house and you have some idea how small-c conservatives felt about the prospect of adulterating Rosso di Montalcino with (shudder) international varieties (think cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah).

The argument is that this would have reduced a wine with a noble history and identity into A N Other red blend. My instincts are also conservative here, mainly because I love pure sangiovese. It has such a distinctive shape. Sangiovese feels crenellated in the mouth. Add even a small percentage of merlot and you concrete over those crenellations.

Cabernet tends to bolster body and darken the colour. A smoother wine with more boom would probably be more attractive to American and other international markets, but it’s not as if they can’t find such qualities elsewhere.

Rosso di Montalcino is so Italian. Why not leave it be for those of us who love it as it is?

Intellectually, I have a harder time justifying these feelings. The rules for Rosso di Montalcino were not handed out on stone tablets; as with other wines, they evolved.

The day after the vote I met Laura di Collobiano, owner of Tenuta di Valgiano, a wine estate in the hills above Lucca, quite a way north of the Montalcino area. I made the mistake of saying it was not a part of Tuscany I knew well. At this, Laura gave me a very fierce stare.

“When you talk of Lucca you don’t talk of T-uscany,” she said, spitting the T out with such disdain I expected to see it fly across the room. “Lucca is really an independent state. Not T-uscany.”

(Lucca was an independent republic until 1799 when it was invaded by the French, before being taken over by Napoleon in 1805.)

Given this attitude, it was surprising to hear Laura describe her wine as a “traditional blend” of sangiovese, merlot and syrah.

Another firm look accompanied this announcement, so I hardly dared query the “traditional”. Fortunately, Laura continued along with the next intense stare.

“Merlot and syrah have been in Lucca since the 19th century.” So how long before something becomes traditional? And at what point are we to decide that a more recent innovation, because they feel it makes better wine, is a more traditional and true expression of the land than an old one?

Still in Tuscany but a bit over to the east, the style of chianti classico I favour (sangiovese perhaps with some colorino and canaiolo in it) would have been illegal 30 years ago because the blend had by law to contain some white grapes.

In 1984, the Chianti Classico Consorzio were forced to change the rules to permit producers the option of including a percentage of international varieties into the blend because some winemakers had chosen to do it anyway and the wines – the so-called Super Tuscans – sold as mere table wine were tremendously successful.

Back to Montalcino: it’s not so very long since Italians were scandalised by the Operation Mixed Wine investigation, when several producers of Brunello di Montalcino were in the spotlight for illegal blending practices – putting grapes that shouldn’t be there in the wine to beef up its taste. More than 6  million litres were impounded, and 20 per cent of it ended up being declassified to a basic Toscana Rosso IGT.

The affair created momentum for the proposals that have just been voted down. I can’t help thinking that we haven’t heard the last of this.

For now, I’m happy that Rosso di Montalcino will remain a pure-blood sangiovese – but with no better argument than that I like it that way.


Victoria Moore won International Wine Columnist of the Year at the prestigious Louis Roederer Wine Writers Awards on Monday. The judges, who included Jancis Robinson from the Financial Times, were unanimous in their decision, and Victoria beat submissions not only from the UK, but also Ireland, the US, Canada, France, Singapore and South Africa

27th September 2011 - Latest copy of Il Mio Vino out now

The September issue of Il Mio Vino is available now for an
online read click on the cover!!

to view the back issues online please click here

21st September 2011 - Italy hopeful for 2011 vintage

by Kerin O'Keefe

Italian vintners are in positive mood, with high hopes for an excellent vintage in 2011.

Planeta: 'ideal' 2011

After severe heat and drought in the second part of August, which caused plant stress that greatly lowered yields, 2011 is expected to be 10-25% down in terms of quantity.

The pulling up of over 9000ha to reduce overall wine production is a contributing factor.

‘The Italian 2011 Harvest will probably be at an all-time low’ in terms of quantity, according to harvest reports just released by UIV (Unione Italiana Vini) and ISMEA (Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare).

UIV estimates that this year’s harvest will generate 42.3m hectolitres, 10% lower than 2010’s 46.7m hl.

The heat in the latter part of August also led to a very early harvest in much of Italy.

‘We started the harvest 20 days earlier than normal this year, the earliest ever for my winery,’ Pio Boffa of Piedmont’s Pio Cesare winery said.

Andrea Cecchi, whose family makes wine throughout Tuscany, says production will be between 10-25% lower this year. ‘Not only were there fewer grape bunches, but the yields from grape to wine are much lower because the grapes held less juice.’

As for quality, vintners are optimistic for an ‘excellent, vintage, with great structure and longevity’, as Boffa said.

Cecchi, agreed: 2011 holds great promise thanks to ‘naturally rich extraction and good structure’, he said.

In the south, Alessio Planeta of Sicily’s Planeta said ‘2011was ideal, especially for Sicily’s native grapes, Nero d'Avola, Frappato and Grecanico, which excel in hot, dry summers’

He compared 2011, at least in climatic terms, to the excellent 2001.



20th September 2011 - DOCG list now 73


"On The Wine Trail In Italy" ( reports the introduction of 2 new DOCGs:

Here are the two latest deliveries :
· Suvereto
· Val di Cornia Rosso (or Rosso della Val di Cornia)

Making a grand total of Italian wine DOCG’s now, for the moment, 73

A huge thank you and shout out again to Franco Ziliani for alerting me to this development. I am ineffably grateful.

Complete (Provisional) Listing of Italian DOCG Wines (as of September 20 2011) : 73

Abruzzo (1)
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo "Colline Teramane"

Basilicata (1)
Aglianico del Vulture Superiore

Apulia (4)
Castel del Monte Nero di Troia Riserva (newest)
Castel del Monte Rosso Riserva (newest)
Castel del Monte Bombino Nero (newest)
Primitivo di Manduria Dolce Naturale

Campania (4)
Fiano di Avellino
Greco di Tufo
Aglianico del Taburno

Emilia Romagna (2)
Albana di Romagna
Colli Bolognesi Classico Pignoletto

Friuli-Venezia Giulia (3)
Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit (including Picolit Cialla)

Lazio (3)
Cesanese del Piglio
Frascati Superiore
Canellino di Frascati

Lombardia (5)
Oltrepo Pavese
Sforzato della Valtellina
Valtellina Superiore
Moscato di Scanzo

Marche (5)
Vernaccia di Serrapetrona
Verdicchio di Matelica Riserva
Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Riserva
Offida (Rosso & Bianco)

Piemonte (16)
Asti - Moscato d'Asti
Barbera d'Asti
Barbera del Monferrato Superiore
Barolo (including Chinato)
Brachetto D'Acqui (or Acqui)
Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore (or Dogliani)
Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore
Gavi (or Cortese di Gavi)
Roero (Rosso & Bianco)
Erbaluce di Caluso
Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato
Alta Langa
Dolcetto Diano d'Alba

Sardegna (1)
Vermentino di Gallura

Sicilia (1)
Cerasuolo di Vittoria

Toscana (11)
Suvereto (new)
Val di Cornia Rosso (or Rosso della Val di Cornia)  (new)
Brunello di Montalcino
Chianti Classico
Elba Aleatico Passito
Montecucco Sangiovese
Morellino di Scansano
Vernaccia di S.Gimignano
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Umbria (2)
Montefalco Sagrantino
Torgiano Rosso Riserva

Veneto (14)
Colli di Conegliano
Montello Rosso or Rosso del Montello
Friularo di Bagnoli
Bardolino Superiore
Recioto di Gambellara
Recioto di Soave
Soave Superiore
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore
Asolo Prosecco Superior
Amarone della Valpolicella
Recioto della Valpolicella
Piave Malanotte (or Malanotte del Piave)
Colli Euganei Fiori d’Arancio

For a DOCG wine map click here

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