Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Death of Donnici

Who knew? It was just a little impoverished corner of Southern Italy. It wasn't Tuscany or Piedmont. Suckling or Cernilli wouldn’t have noticed. Rivella never cared in the first place. But when I looked at the documents last night it was a pivotal moment in Italian wine history. Italy and the patrimony of her grapes were being assimilated with international varieties. It was as if the current US Congress had arranged it, cloak and dagger, under the cover of a moonless might. It was an insidious but overt maneuver. And nobody even noticed. A brilliant score for the soulless bureaucrats in Rome and Brussels. And it was the death of Donnici.

Who cares? It was an insignificant DOC, established in 1975, in the heady days when all sorts of wines were being awarded the DOC status. The party lasted until the end of November 2011, 36 years of excesses, and falling off the wagon. What a ride it was. But ultimately someone in Rome decided to throw Donnici from the train.

Donnici, always the lesser sibling to Cirò, which is also under attack by the Rivellistas and the Cernillistis, bent on taking Italy into a world in which they will assimilate and disappear. It’s bat-shit crazy, watching men my age tinker with 2000+ years of Italian wine history as if it they were choosing music for their iPod’s. Someone will pay, somewhere down the road. After Rivella and Cernilli and I am dead, most likely.


The maneuver that took place was to fold Donnici and several other DOC’s from Calabria into an umbrella DOC, now DOP, called Terre di Cosenza. And while the other appellations also suffered minor cuts and tucks, Donnici took a hit many times over the one Cirò took.

Donnici, along with Savuto and Pollino were the first DOC’s awarded in Calabria in 1975. Cirò showed up 15 years later, with a vengeance, in 1990.

Terre di Cosenza was the 13th Calabrian DOC, awarded in 2011 as the gate was swinging shut. It appears that the transition to the EU DOP scuttled Donnici along with Pollino, San Vito di Luzzi and Verbicaro. Admittedly, few Americans or Italian have regularly enjoyed these wines. But who decided to roll these four DOC’s into Terre di Cosenza, and while they were at it allow the use of Chardonnay (for white wine production) and Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese (for red wine production)?

Recently I lamented the addition of a mere 5% or Cabernet or Merlot to Gaglioppo in Cirò. After all,Cirò has the history of thousands of years going back to that clichéd story about an Olympian in the days of Magna Graecia. Donnici, Pollino Verbicaro and San Vito di Luzzi, what are they? Johnny-come-latelies, at the very least. No, they hold no sway; they have no clout in the political arena of Rome.

Now the DOP Terre di Cosenza can also be Chardonnay. Or Merlot. Or Cabernet. Or Sangiovese. Just like Napa Valley or any number of internationalized wine growing zones. What a giant leap. But forward? Who let this happen?

This is symptomatic of the dis-ease that infests Italian wine mentality. And the South once again, has been the refuse bin of some bureaucrat’s concession, or worse, a dream, to “compete” in the international wine market.

When, oh when, will Italy get over their paucity of confidence in their resounding strengths to deliver beautiful, indigenous, wines the world wants and needs?

We don’t need another Cirò.





2 comments:

tom hyland said...

Alfonso:

This is one of your best posts, ever! It's not only an excellent summary of what happened in Calabria, but an impassioned plea for the preservation of heritage in this region's (and Italy's) winemaking traditions.

I love your line about men tinkering with history as though they were choosing music for their iPads. Brilliant!

Continue letting everyone know about these abysmal decisions. Maybe then, they will stop.

Alfonso Cevola said...

Thanks, Tom...more to come

Real Time Analytics