A “Gentlemen of Wine” who left us not long ago used to say: to be successful, a wine has to be
enjoyable and drinkable!” Around 25 years ago, in a time of cultural Renaissance after the
methanol scandal, opulent, super-structured white and red wines were in fashion. Red wine was
not enough without 34 grams of dry extract, deeply coloured, super-tasty, super-perfumed.
Preferably, also quite velvety and aged in brand new barriques. We were aiming for the
deforestation of Europe to do so! The result was a successful wine, but on the dining table such
rich that the first glass was often the last, and the bottle sat there, not finished. Following the
trend of the moment meant standardizing a significant part of our production and we were
losing touch with the value of our traditional taste, losing the palate for delicate and unique
wines. Not all of the producers went that way, to be exact. Producers in terroirs with a strong
vocation for wine discussed the matter, splitting themselves between traditionalists and
innovators, but they continued to develop quality and uniqueness!
Today things changed for the better. We eventually understand that being successful in wine
sales, alighting from the lower price range, means raising the awareness and value of our
immense viticultural and oenologic heritage.
Selecting the varietals, indigenous or not, that better fit a peculiar environment, making wine
focusing on quality, enhancing the importance of the terroir together with its history and
tradition. In this way, one can stand out in the world wine market. Let’s not forget that China
will be able to grow Nebbiolo and Nerello one day, but they will never be able to make Barolo,
Amarone or Etna. The world is thirsty for Italy. They admire us and study us; we need to give
them something at the height of their expectations.
If this is true if the quality of our wines depends on the terroir, what’s the reason for wines
made without any usage of modern techniques? Why do we run fermentations putting the
outcome in the hands of the fate? Why should we smell acetaldehyde and high volatile acidity in
our wines? What does “farmer’s wines” mean? Too often we hear this noble expression used with
a negative connotation. Moreover, what about indigenous yeast? No indigenous yeast in a
vineyard can define the terroir and make it perceivable in a wine.
The rise of organic and biodynamic growing changed our way to think agriculture and more
specifically viticulture. We are trying to have more respect for the environment, and of the
world, we live in. These practices have become so popular that someone decided to adopt some
of the concepts and use them in his or her wineries, trying to transform the art of winemaking
into a “natural” art.
Of course, new ideas bring along positive aspects, a push to rethink and improve things, but how
far? Is all of this bringing health into our glass of wine? To what extent is going back to ancient
practices helping to explore new boundaries? If that was the case, could it give a new positioning
to a wine, and give it different characteristics to make it unique? Are we sure that the search for
a stronger flavor, as many wine enthusiasts appreciate nowadays, can characterize a product,
while being in discord with balance and elegance? How can these organoleptic properties
enhance a terroir? There is a veiled superficiality hidden below this trend.
I hear lots of producers and consumers celebrating the virtues of ancestral wines, obtained
through maceration of the stems, stating that the stem is an integrating part of grapes thus
necessary for the wine. Well, I can’t recall a vine making wine straight from the plant, nor I
want to eat cherry or apricot jam with kernels in it. I would like to talk to those producers that
are magnifying white and red wines with days, months of skin maceration, with no sulfites
added, fermented with indigenous yeast, and tell them that if that’s their taste it has to be
respected, but it is not the way to communicate the value of a terroir. You respect a terroir
appreciating the flavor of the grapes; these techniques, instead, drive the grapes towards a
neutralization of their nature. These methods were abandoned long ago because they were
inappropriate. I want those producers still using them to taste the grapes before making their
wine: “taste the grapes and try to find the same sensations in the wine that you will produce
from them.” If you taste several orange wines made in different regions, you will confirm they
all taste similar. Try the same comparison with wines macerated with the stems: you will get to
the same conclusion. Drink wines without sulfites, and you won’t perceive much of the grape
that generated them. Try some wines with hyper oxidation: you will recognize great longevity,
but no clue about the terroir. Compare wines fermented with indigenous yeast and with selected
yeast, used as fermentation starter and not as poultry feed: in the first case you will find alien
aromas, sometimes negative; in the second case if you operate correctly, the character of the
grape.
To conclude, let’s try to approach wine with respect and care, let’s rediscover uniqueness in
drinkable wines. Everything else is personal taste, easily related to the sentenze, My wine is the best!
Umberto Trombelli

Many thanks to Diego Vardanega Export Area Manager CASTELLO DI RONCADE, for the spotless translation.

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