Thursday, January 13, 2005

Sagrantino di Montefalco

Oddio! (Italian for “Dear God!”)
Here’s a story of protectionism in Italy, and it’s kind of ugly…

The town of Montefalco in Italy has some producers of what has – until now – been a local grape, Sagrantino. (BTW, Montefalco is NE of Orvieto, south of Assisi…if you’re trying to find it on a map of Italy – I’m not sure if it suffers the same parking nightmares that Orvieto suffers, but don’t be expecting to find a spot on any given weekend unless you get up with the proverbial ‘gallo nero’…)
One of the main producers of that varietal, Marco Caprai, is lodging formal complaints with the government regarding the plan of some Tuscan vintners to plant Sagrantino in Tuscany.

He's attracted considerable support among fellow Umbrians, among them Maurizio Ronconi, agriculture commissioner of the Italian Senate, who calls the planting of Sagrantino in Tuscany "a grave act of piracy."

But people knowledgeable about such matters say the Italian government is unlikely to stop anyone in Tuscany from planting Sagrantino there.

Caprai says he hopes to meet with government officials soon to try to persuade them to do just that, though.
"The richness of Italian wine lies in its native vines," he says. "A Sagrantino made in Tuscany, in a different climate, with different soil, lacking in the polyphenols that are unique to Montefalco and that give our wine its color and its tannins, would be a very different wine."

If it’s true that "The richness of Italian wine lies in its native vines," then the Italians should still be farming the Bituric, Helvolans, Arcelacans, and other vines of the Romans, shouldn’t they? (Did you notice he isn't quoted as saying that the Tuscan Sagrantino would be a crappy wine, just 'different'...? What's wrong with that - unless he's afraid it'll dilute his market and possibly raise the bar for his own performance!)

Sadly, the argument that planting Sagrantino in other locales will undermine the 'true place' that it holds as a local product is the one (and apparently only) argument they're pushing - the hypocrisy shows through so readily.

Yes hypocrisy, because even though Montefalco is the traditional area where that grape’s grown… they also cultivate AND produce wines from Sangiovese and Trebbiano Toscano there as well, both grapes that are forever associated with the Chianti region of Tuscany. If they are so worried about moving one cultivar to another location then they never should’ve “pirated” Tuscan grapes to start with.

My advice to Sr. Caprai : Get ready for some competition - it will do you good, and it sounds like it’s long overdue.

Ciao Signore …


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Umbrians should not take umbrage. HA!

January 13, 2005 8:36 AM  
Blogger Huge said...

It really goes back all the way to the individual tribes of the Italian peninsula (Sabines, Romans, Etruscans, Celts, etc.) and the fact that there's STILL a lot of individual cultures mingled together to make what we view as a single "Italian" culture.

(I once asked a shop owner in Rome "Parla inglese?", only to have her reply - somewhat haughty I might add - "Solo Italiano e Romano!"...that's "Only Italian and Roman!"...
It was a tacit acknowledment that the Roman dialect varied from the 'standard' Italian, as does the Milano, Napoletano, etc.)

The culture of Italy, though unified on the surface, is in some ways as individual and provincial as it was 2,000 years ago.
In some resects those tribes/regions are still at war...


January 13, 2005 9:22 AM  
Anonymous Marcello Fabretti said...

Well, I'm about to plant a vineyard to Sagrantino in Western Australia, so if he has a problem with Tuscans, then he's gonna have to spread that ire further afield. What about the Bordelaise? They've lost so much of their once unique varities to international competitors. Hell even varieties they ditched (like Carmenere and Petit Verdot) are thriving in the New World!

I'm looking forward to sending Marco a bottle of my Sagrantino Di Antipodea. We'll see what taste it leaves in his silver spoon-fed mouth.

Marcello, Mt. Barker

August 29, 2005 5:06 AM  

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