Monthly Archives: July 2017

Taittinger Champagne, Oysters, Caviar, Chocolate

Champagne Taittinger hosts an annual event called “The Art of Celebrating the Holidays — Christmas in July.”

This year the event also included Thanksgiving and New Years ideas for celebrating Taittinger Champagne style with Oysters, Calvisius Caviar, Black Truffles from Urbani and Jacques Torres Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier.

The room was covered with Taittinger Champagne bottles and the whole line of Taittinger Champagne was available to taste. At the entrance was a Taittinger Champagne Christmas tree.

As I entered, I was handed a glass of Champagne Taittinger Nocturne NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meunier ($84). I headed for the caviar.

John Knierim from Calvisius Caviar said Calvisius is an Italian company located in Calvisano, between Milan and Venice. It is the world’s largest farmed caviar producer accounting for 20% of global caviar production from its 150 acres of sustainable aquaculture. Taittinger Champagne and Caviar a perfect combination.

Then with a glass of Champagne Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir ($97), I headed for the oyster bar, just warming up for the Champagne and Oyster seminar that I would be attending later in the evening.

With a glass of Champagne Taittinger Brut Millesime 2012, made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir ($ 97), I headed to the Urbani Truffle Lab where they were serving risotto with black truffles.

These were perfect black truffles and one could smell their wonderful aromas from across the room.

I had one more glass: Champagne Taittinger Prestige Champagne Rose NV made from 50% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Meunier $86, before the oyster seminar. I should point out that they were all 1/2 glasses.

I would have dessert after the seminar.

Champagne and Oyster Seminar   — There were eight different types of oysters to taste and this was one of the few times I have had Champagne with oysters.

On the panel were:

Catherine Cutrei, Sr. PR director for Kobrand,

Vatalie Taittinger, Artistic Director Champagne Taittinger

Chantelle Pabros, Sommelier and Taittinger Ambassador

Julie Qui, Oyster Sommelier @inahalfshell.com

Vatalie said Taittinger is one of the few remaining family owned and operated Champagne houses. It is located in Reims, France. Its distinctive style is influenced by a greater proportion of Chardonnay in the blends and a longer aging period before release.

Julie said oysters are not that different from fine wine insofar as they are site–expressive, meaning their taste is shaped by the characteristics of their growing environment. Where wines have terroirs, oysters are defined by “meroirs.” Water salinity, temperature, the type of algae present in the water, and the seabed characteristics all factor into an oyster’s flavor.

Champagne and Oysters

Champagne Taittinger Brut La Française NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 25% Pinot Meurnier. Ms Tattinger said the Champagne is aged for 3 to 4 years, which is twice the legal requirement, and it is the staple of the Taittinger House. $62.

It has a very expressive bouquet fruity with hints of brioche, peaches and white flowers. On the palate it is fresh and lively with honey notes.

 

Oyster: Kumiai

Species: Crassostrea gigas and harvested Guerrero Negro, Baja California Sur Mexico

Grow out method: Intertidal long lines

It had a meaty texture with poignant salinity with flavors of seaweed, savory and umami packed like anchovy.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc 2006 100% Chardonnay

This is the ultimate expression of the Taittinger House Champagne style and is produced in only in exceptional years.

The grapes come from the top vineyards in the Côtes des Blancs and only the best-pressed juice is used. A small amount (5%) of the blend spends 3 to 4 months in new oak barrels. Ms. T said this is to enhance the intrinsic qualities of the final blend. Prior to disgorgement, the Champagne is aged for 10 years on the lees in 13-century chalk cellars. This is one of my favorite Champagnes and worth the price $205.

Oyster: Nootka

Species: Crassostrea harvested at Nootka Sound, Northwest Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Grow Out Method: Floating tray/ intertidal beach

Nootka are among the most remotely cultured oysters in North

America. They have very thin white meat and very black mantles. Medium salinity and very creamy. Slightly lactic, butter cream and vegetal. Nutty sweet and a clean finish.

Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosè 2006 made from 70% Pinot Noir (12% blended in as still red wine), and 30% Chardonnay. It is produced from 100% Cru grapes from the Cötes des Blanc and the Montagne de Reims. Only juice from the first pressing is used. This is a well structured and complex Champagne with hints of strawberries, cherry black currants and a touch of fresh almonds. This is a great Rosè ($262)

Oyster: Glidden Point

Species: Crassostrea virginica harvested at Damariscotta River Maine

Grow Out: Method Bottom–cultured in deep water

Many Glidden Points are hand-harvested by divers. It takes about 4 years for market size. Medium to high salinity, and silky texture (in winter they take on a much meatier, crunchier texture).

Layed minerality, kelp, and in winter cured ham and prosciutto notes.

Super sweet adductor muscle, crisp mineral finish.

Champagne Taittanger Nocturne Rosè NV made from 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier.

This is a Sec Champagne blended from about 30 vineyards and from multiple vintages. The wine is laid down for 3 years to age before disgorgement. A 17.5 g/l dosage of sugar cane combined with slow cellar aging that Ms. T said creates a round and smooth Rose Champagne. This is the first time I tasted this Champagne. It had hints of brioche, red berries and a touch of almonds.

Oyster: Mystic

Species: Crassostrea Virgibica harvested at Mystic River Estuary, Norwich, Connecticut

Growing out Method: Bottom cultured on beach

Mystics are often abnormally round and have scalloping, which some theorize comes from the strong tides ripping over the shallow-planted oysters. High salinity with springy texture, may be a little creamy in July (much firmer in winter). Flavor fluctuates throughout the year, but generally a good balance between sweet, nutty and mineral. A crisp and clean finish.

Note: Oysters enter the grow-out phase after they leave the nursery.

When we finished the oysters Julie said to flip them over and admire the “artistry” on the back of the shells.

After the seminar I headed to Jacques Torres Master Pastry Chef and Chocolatier with another glass of Champagne Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Rosè 2006 to try with the chocolates and pastries.

I have always been a fan of Rose Champagne and chocolate and it also worked very well with the pastries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Calvisius Caviar, Tattinger Champagne, Tattinger Comtes de Champane, Uncategorized, Urbani

Tasting Gaja Wines at La Pizza Fresca NYC

Recently La Pizza Fresca Ristorante in NYC celebrated its 20th anniversary. The restaurant was one of the very first in the city to serve genuine Neapolitan style pizzas and it has one of the best wine lists in the city. Brad Bonnewell, the owner, created the list and he often hosts wine dinners at the restaurant.

I have been going there since it first opened and recently Brad invited me to a dinner featuring the Barbaresco of Angelo Gaja.

Representing the winery was the charming and knowledgeable Giovanni Gaja, Angelo’s son. I was lucky enough to sit at the same table as Giovanni and therefore could ask him a number of questions.

Giovanni is 24 years old and most of the wines we tasted were older then him. He is the youngest child and his youngest sister is 14 years older than him. He joked that it was like growing up with 3 mothers.

I asked Giovanni what changes occurred to the single vineyard Barbaresco in the last few years. Giovanni told me that he and his sisters, Gaia and Rossana had a discussion with their father Angelo about the single vineyard Barbaresco. He emphasized that it was a discussion and not and argument or a fight.

Giovanni Gaja

Angelo’s children convinced him to return to 100% Nebbiolo for the Costa Russi, Sori Tilden and Sori San Lorenzo. Giovanni said that before the DOC (1966) laws Barbaresco could contain other grapes, predominantly Barbera. So Angelo had detached the wines from the DOC appellation in order to produce them as they were in the past. Beginning with the 1996 vintage Angelo Gaja used 15% Barbera in these wines.

Giovanni said every generation has the right to do things in their own way.

So from the 2013 vintage their single vineyard wines are 100% Nebbiolo.

He added they have the full support of their father, and “We can now pursue the pure expression of the Nebbiolo grape once again.”

Giovanni said that Angelo had joined his father in the winery in 1961. In 1978 he changed Barbaresco forever with the introduction of barriques and other new techniques. We can only imagine what Angelo’s father thought of this and of his planting of international grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. That same year, Angelo took a prime Nebbiolo site and planted it with Cabernet Sauvignon. Legend has it that when Angelo’s father passed the Cabernet vineyard he would mutter “Damagi,” meaning “what a shame or a pity,” or “Damn It” and so the vineyard came to be called Damagi.

So Giovanni and his sisters were just following in their footsteps of their father by doing things the way they wanted. I asked Giovanni if the regular Barbaresco was made the same way today as it was when Angelo took over in 1978. His answer was “yes” adding that they still use a combination of barriques and large barrels (botti).

Giovanni explained in detail about the 6 wines we tasted. “Barbaresco is the wine that we have always been producing for 5 generations. It is a blend of 14 different vineyards of Nebbiolo mainly located in the Barbaresco area and a small parcel in the Treiso area at an altitude ranging from 250m to 330m covering an area of 21.4 hectares. Each vineyard undergoes fermentation and maceration separately and we let fermentation take its course. According to the vintage, it can take longer or shorter period of time. After fermentation, the wine from each vineyard ages one year separately in small French oak barrels, mostly used and a small part new oak. Usually the ratio is 80% used and 20% new. After one year the wines are blended together and undergo a further year of aging in big barrels. Finally, the wines are bottled and spend a further period of aging in bottle before being released on the market to let the wine settle and balance.”

The regular Barbaresco is made from 100% Nebbiolo. Here are the wines we tasted:

Barbaresco 1988 — the bottle that we had seemed a little tired for its age. There was a discussion at the table and someone said they had a bottle of the 1988 recently and it was fine. We just got an off bottle. The aromas on all of the other wines were classic Nebbiolo with hints of black cherry, violets, blackberries, tobacco, leather and tea.

Barbaresco 1990 — for me was the wine of the tasting.

Barbaresco 1993 — was not a great vintage for Barolo but the wine was showing very well and will last for a few more years.

Barbaresco 1997 — was showing very well and most of the people at the table liked this wine along with the 1990.

Barbareso 2000 — this vintage got mixed reviews but Gaja produced a very good wine.

Barbaresco 2013 — this wine needed more time but has great potential.

pasta, sausage, saffron and parmigiano reggianp

With the wine we had Carpaccio di Manzo, Paccheri Zafferano con Salsiccia, Pizza Margherita, Pizza Savoia and Tortelli di Vitello.

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Daniele Cernilli on Checchino dal 1887 and Monfortino-a Heated Argument

I reprint a number of articles by Daniele Cernilli aka Doctor Wine because I am in agreement with his point of view on the state of Italian wine and restaurants in Italy.

Checchino dal 1887 is for me the best restaurant in Rome for food and wine.

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°219

Checchino and Monfortino

by Daniele Cernilli 17-07-2017

Checchino e il Monfortino

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

Speaking recently with a journalist who I will not name, a veteran wine and food critic, I heard some statements that were contradictory to say the least. Our conversation began with a discussion on the attitude food critics had towards certain restaurants specialized in traditional cuisine.

On my part, I complained that a guide I collaborated with had dropped the Roman restaurant Checchino dal 1887, a temple of Roman cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood where coda all vaccinara (ox-tail strew) was invented. At the same time, the guide gave high ratings to trendy restaurants in that same neighborhood that not only lacked any history but also, in my opinion, any real gastronomic merit. The great traditional dishes were overlooked in favor of a stateless and ignorant cuisine, the product of improvised fusions. Needless to say, our discussion became quite heated and I heard myself being defined as defender of “stuffy” traditional cuisine and basically a dinosaur among food critics.

I struggled to bite my tongue. Immediately after, however, I heard the same person give a sermon in favor of the most classic Barolo wines, Monfortino first among them, bitterly criticizing all those who dared veer away from the most authentic traditions by using new-wood barrels and experimenting with methods that, in his view, prejudiced the true typicity of those wines. This was crazy, I said to myself, why are the recipes from Checchino “stuffy” while by the same measure Monfortino is the best there is? Make no mistake, Monfortino is truly an immense wine and while I agreed with him on this, some consistency or coherence was warranted when defining what is authentically traditional. This because it also has to do with cultural importance, as well as organoleptic considerations, and I would put into the same boat the vaccinara from Checchino, the shanks of Josko Sirk and the Subida from Cormons as well as the “schlutzkrapfen” of Patesheider hof on the Ritten of Bolzano, just to name a few examples.

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

If you have has similar experiences, let me know.

Th

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°219

Checchino and Monfortino

by Daniele Cernilli 17-07-2017

Checchino e il Monfortino

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

Speaking recently with a journalist who I will not name, a veteran wine and food critic, I heard some statements that were contradictory to say the least. Our conversation began with a discussion on the attitude food critics had towards certain restaurants specialized in traditional cuisine.

On my part, I complained that a guide I collaborated with had dropped the Roman restaurant Checchino dal 1887, a temple of Roman cuisine in the Testaccio neighborhood where coda all vaccinara (ox-tail strew) was invented. At the same time, the guide gave high ratings to trendy restaurants in that same neighborhood that not only lacked any history but also, in my opinion, any real gastronomic merit. The great traditional dishes were overlooked in favor of a stateless and ignorant cuisine, the product of improvised fusions. Needless to say, our discussion became quite heated and I heard myself being defined as defender of “stuffy” traditional cuisine and basically a dinosaur among food critics.

I struggled to bite my tongue. Immediately after, however, I heard the same person give a sermon in favor of the most classic Barolo wines, Monfortino first among them, bitterly criticizing all those who dared veer away from the most authentic traditions by using new-wood barrels and experimenting with methods that, in his view, prejudiced the true typicity of those wines. This was crazy, I said to myself, why are the recipes from Checchino “stuffy” while by the same measure Monfortino is the best there is? Make no mistake, Monfortino is truly an immense wine and while I agreed with him on this, some consistency or coherence was warranted when defining what is authentically traditional. This because it also has to do with cultural importance, as well as organoleptic considerations, and I would put into the same boat the vaccinara from Checchino, the shanks of Josko Sirk and the Subida from Cormons as well as the “schlutzkrapfen” of Patesheider hof on the Ritten of Bolzano, just to name a few examples.

A certain schizophrenia seems to be pervading current wine and food criticism which, on the one hand, praises narcissistic and out of touch chefs and, on the other, sings the praises of “authentic” wine tradition.

If you have has similar experiences, let me know.

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Master Pizza Makers at Work

Le Strade della Mozzarella is an event that has taken place for the last nine years in the region of Campania in Southern Italy and for the last two years in New York City as well. The idea for the event is to present and share the high quality Italian food products.

The organizers of the New York event were Antico Molino Caputo, producers of specialty Italian flours, and Orlando Food Sales, which represents many of the products used. The conference lasted for two days and Michele and I were able to attend the second day. It was entirely dedicated to pizza and a series of presentations by master pizzaioli centered around the classic Margherita pizza.

Roberto

The demonstration and tasting took place at Keste Wall Street and was hosted by the chef/owner and master pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio.

“The Hands” of the Pizzaioli

The other master pizzaioli there were Giorgia Caporuscio of Keste, Giulio Adriani from Atlanta, Jonathan Goldsmith from Spaccanapoli in Chicago, Gino Sorbillo from Sorbillo in Naples and NYC, and Rosario Ferraro from Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples and Rome.

Each pizza maker demonstrated his or her own style of pizza making and it was a unique opportunity to see these great pizzaioli together, listen to what they had to say, and then enjoy their pizza all at the same event.

Luciano Pignataro

Roberto Caporuscio, and Federick Mortati from Orlando Food Sales, welcomed us. Also present was Mr. Caputo from the Caputo Flour Company, and Luciano Pignataro, a food and wine journalist and blogger who helped with the translations from Neapolitan dialect to English.

Giorgia

Giorgia Caporuscio, Roberto’s daughter and a master pizza maker in her own right, was the first to demonstrate the classic Margherita pizza, made with a well fermented dough that was crisp yet airy.

The toppings included tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil, which Giorgia said she tucks under the cheese so that it does not burn. This was a perfect Margherita.

Giulio

Giulio Adriani, formerly of Il Fornaio in New York, is currently based in Atlanta.

His pizza was topped with a combination of ricotta, spicy gianduja sausage and a drizzle of honey. Michele gave it her prize for the most creative pizza of the day.

Jonathan Goldsmith is the owner of Spaccanapoli in Chicago and a former student of Roberto, which we visited a few years ago with our good friend, wine writer Tom Hayden.

His pizza was topped with shrimp, arugula and cream.

Gino, Frederick Martati and Luciano Pignataro

Gino Sorbillo is the owner of Sorbillo in Naples, currently ranked as one of that city’s top pizzerias, as well as several others.

His new New York spot Zia Esterina opened recently featuring fried pizza, and his next NYC location coming soon is Sorbillo on the Bowery. He spoke about the Neapolitan tradition of eating a folded small pizza on the go, “a portafoglio.” His pie was another favorite, topped with crushed red and yellow cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and plump anchovies from Cetara.

Rosario Ferraro from Antica Pizzeria Da Michele in Naples and Rome made us his style of Margherita,

which is always rather free form in shape and bigger than the plate.

There was also a tasting of a delicious fried Montanara pizza.

You would think that Michele and I had had enough pizza after sampling all of this, but we stayed late at Kesté and ordered a few more of Roberto’s delicious pies and drank wine with our friend Louis Coluccio.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gewürztraminer from the Alto Adige Under $20

The Alto Adige region of Italy is located at the foot of the Alps and the Dolomites. It borders on Austria and Switzerland. The Alps protect it from inclement weather from the North and Atlantic, while the Dolomites protect the vineyards from the cold, damaging winds from the east. Along with its proximity to the Mediterranean and Lake Garda, this makes it an excellent region to grow grapes.

This is a region famous for Gewürztraminers wines. Gewurz means spice in German and Tramin is a village in the South of Alto Adige where the grape originated, though some experts say that it is Germanic in origin.

Listed below are three that I have enjoyed this summer and all are under $20 dollars.

Gewürztraminer Alto Adige DOC 2015 100% Gewürztraminer Tiefenbrunner. The grapes are grown on hillside vineyards surrounding the towns of Entiklar and Kurtatsch. The vineyard is 16 acres and the soil is calcareous silky sandy-loam and gravel Training system is a combination of pergola and single-guyot and the vineyard is at 858/1,551 feet. The vines were planted 1978/2008 and the exposure is southeastern. Harvest takes place in September/October.

The wine is vinified in a combination of stainless steel and cement. Alcoholic fermentation is 6 to 10 days and the wine remains on the fine lees. It is aged for 4 months is stainless steel tanks and one month in bottle before release. The wine has hints of peaches and apricots with a touch of honey and spice. It is full bodied with a long finish. $19

Gewurztraminer Alto Adige DOC 2015 “Vom Lehm” 100% Gewurztraminer from selected vineyards in Tramin, Egna and Margre. Castelfeder The training system is a combination of the traditional pergola (50 year old vines) and guyot (3 to 8 year old vines.) The soil is sandy, medium-deep clay and there are 3,500/7,000 vines per hectare.

Vinification: The grapes are softly pressed and clarified through natural gravity settling the sediment. The wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks at a low temperature (12 to 18C). Before bottling, the wine is aged for a minimum of 4 months on the fine lees. Residual sugar is 2.5g/l

It is a fruity wine with intense spice, floral notes and exotic fruits. Rich and full bodied with a very pleasing aftertaste. $19

Gewürztraminer Alto Adige South-Tyro 2016 DOC made from 100% Gewürztraminer from vineyards in the hills of Kurtatsch with a southern exposure. Kellerei Cantina. The soil is clay and chalk. The wine is a highly aromatic and spic, full bodied, with good minerality and hints of roses and lichees. Residual sugar 5.6g/l $12

All of these wines work very well with Asian food, lobster, shellfish, grilled fish and foie gras.

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Discovering Rovagnati Salumi

Rovagnati is one of Italy’s top producers of salumi, including cooked ham, prosciutto, mortadella and porchetta. Michele and I were introduced to their products at a dinner hosted by Lidia Bastianich at Felidia, one of New York’s best Italian restaurants.

The company began 70 years ago as a producer of butter and cheese in Brianza in Lombardy.  When Paolo Rovagnati, the son of the founder became involved, he convinced his father to begin making salumi. The company was  expanded and they began selling their products all over Italy and eventually Europe and the USA. They even took over Berkel, the company that produces those snazzy red meat slicers you see in many stores and restaurants.  Today Rovagnati is still 100% family owned and uses state of the art technologies in order to produce their high quality products.  Their Gran Biscotto cooked ham is the best-selling and most famous products of its type in Italy.

The Rovagnati meats were the stars of the evening and the kitchen produced a meal that demonstrated their versatility whether eaten alone or used in cooked dishes.  It began with platters of the perfectly sliced  Gran Biscotto, followed by mortadella, porchetta and prosciutto.  A beautiful and inventive salad of cooked and raw asparagus with burrata, topped with tender pink prosciutto slices was next. The flavors and textures were sweet and salty, crunchy and tender. A great combination.

This was followed by Cappellacci Rovagnati, handmade fresh tortelli filled with porchetta, mortadella, and Gran Biscotto in a light sauce of butter and sage that had the guests at our table swooning.  

Lidia Bastianich spoke about how fond she is of Rovagnati products and how proud she is that they are featured at Eataly.

Another pasta followed, Paccheri “Quasi Amatriciana”, large tubes of dried pasta in a tomato and onion sauce with cubes of Gran Biscotto and pecorino cheese.

The next course, “Panino di Vitello”, was not a veal sandwich, but slices of tender veal layered with rosemary Gran Biscotto (cooked ham), melted Fontina cheese accompanied with an artichoke heart and vignarola, a spring vegetable stew.

We drank the Bastianich Friulano from the Orsone line made from 100% Friulano (aka Tocai) with the meal, produced in the Colli Orientali area of Friuli. The wine is fresh tasting, with good minerality, hints of almonds and pear and a very long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

The meal ended with a light dessert,  vanilla ice cream topped with strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar.

We were delighted to discover the Rovagnati products and look forward to enjoying them at home.

 

 

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Daniele Cernilli on “The Price of Wine”

Signed DW

Signed DW | Published on DoctorWine N°216

The price of wine

by Daniele Cernilli 26-06-2017

Il prezzo del vino

There has recently been quite a stir in the wine-web community over the news that the Swedish state alcohol monopoly had launched a tender for Barbera d’Asti wine age in small barrels at a maximum price of 2.30 euros per bottle. When you consider that the average price per bottle for exported Italian wine is three euros and that exported bulk wine sells for 0.68 euros, the offer does not seem to be too bad. However, what is disturbing is that the wine in question has a top DOCG classification, which stands for controlled origin and guaranteed quality, which makes the offer is very degrading. Undoubtedly, there will producer cooperatives and industrial bottlers who will jump at the offer given that they, as opposed to small producers, have the quantity to sell at a lower per-bottle profit margin. The fact that this is a problem is not easy to understand for those not sufficiently acquainted with the wine business. It is not easy because while the DOC (controlled origin) and DOCG classifications undoubtedly have their merits, they are not enough to distinguish the diverse origins of wines and different production costs. Thus there is a real risk that Gresham’s Law, “bad money drive out good”, may come into play and mediocre wine at a low price will win over better wine, the craft wines and those made with particular care. The reality is that if the consumer has three euros to spend on wine they will buy a wine at that price. There are some fairly discreet Italian wines that cost relatively little, including the much vilified Tavernello and Ronco which are not flawed and cost around a euro. But these wines are neither DOC nor DOCG classified and in the end you get what you pay for. The basic problem lies with the system of classification itself, the way they are determined and the way the public perceives them. The DOC classification, for example, is important in the collective imagination of those with a superficial knowledge of the wine but it only guarantees origin and not quality, something which the DOCG classification does. By law, in order to receive a DOCG classification a wine must have a “particular merit”. And common sense tells us that this “particular merit” must have to do with high organoleptic qualities which cannot be consistent with low prices. Although there are surly those who cheat this system, as evidenced by the investigations by health inspectors, they are the exception and not the rule and they are not the real problem. What needs to be clarified is exactly what the classifications are supposed to represent. Whether they are there just for show or as a guarantee of quality for the consumer and for the livelihood of many winemakers. This is the crux of the problem but, unfortunately, Italian politicians and many speculators avoid tackling it and prefer to create a smoke screen and spew terms like “excellence”. This means that consumers are left to fend for themselves either by word of mouth or consulting the few sector publications left in Italy.

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