Friday, November 03, 2006

Italy passes No Wood Chips in Wine Law

Italy has once again moved to protect itself from Cowboy Capitalism so rampant here in the US. I have written about the new processes employed by worldwide manufacturers adding Wood Chips to Wine to force the flavor of the wine. Adding chips is a precursor to pouring wood extracts directly into the wine. Needless to say, both chips and liquid flavoring reduces significantly the quality of the wine. It is like buying a Versace winter coat and finding out that the filling between that beautiful, puffy coat is actually crumpled newspaper.

US winemakers will complain that this is unfair trade practice but our government could learn something from Italy. Italy continues to grow GDP. Italy maintains high quality manufacturing and production. Italy provides fresh produce from numerous sources instead of just two mega farms. Italy’s working class is making twice the US worker, has national health insurance, six weeks paid vacation, University is free to everyone, and a functioning pension program. Companies are very careful about worker safety and their relationship with the community because in cases like Texas City some executive ends up in jail.

What is the context of this comment? Quality wins over quantity every time. Shortsighted companies will cut quality to pay less for materials and labor in an attempt to please short-term financial markets and bring home hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses. The decisions make no sense for the company and for the country in general but they do make sense for the executive management and the investment community. If one guy brings a gun to the poker game, all the players have to bring a gun otherwise they are at a disadvantage. The laws protecting quality are, in fact, banning guns in the poker game of business.

For us, the consumer, it has a different connotation. It means that we can buy Italian wines without having to spend hundreds of hours researching the producer’s processes, trying to determine if they are superficially pumping the wines to reduce quality and cost. In other words, California producers, if you do not use chips or liquid flavoring in the wine you need to say it. Put it big and bright on the label otherwise you will be again at a quality disadvantage.

An Italian Wine Blog, Aristide, has been promoting a fight to inform the consumer when a producer uses wine chips or worse liquid flavors. It seems that common sense and good business practice has won a battle with this one.


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Blogger Jim Belshaw said...

David, this was very interesting. Somehow I had missed your earlier post on this, so I followed the link through and read with interest.

The Italian reputation for quality is critical. I grew up in Armidale, the centre of one of Australia's fine wool growing districts. Each year the highest price for the best bale of wool was paid by Italian garment makers. This remains true today.

1:00 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Jim Quality has allowed Italy continue growth, create better paying jobs, and keep out foreign competitors. They shut down most businesses where quality was not a determining factor.

The wine business has been under attack by just about every country in the world thinking they can plant a few grapes and tap into the market. Even the French have fallen prey to the temptation to overproduce, reduce quality to guarantee a uniformity in the product over the years.

Just think if Italy were like the US, quality wine would be gone, Michaelangelo and Leonardo's works would have been cut into pieces and sold of to the highest bidder so some ugly frame and glass office building could be placed in prime real estate, fashion designers would be successful not based on professional quality instead whether or not they have a hit album, open markets would be replaced with canned fruits.

I think I am going to take on a new slogan "Give me quality or give me death!" This is appropriate since liberty was sold to the corporations about 20 years ago.

2:53 PM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

i heard about the wood chips...problem. i am so disgusted and it has lowered, even more (if that were possible) my regard for california wine and makes me fear for the influence that we are having on the wine world.

12:59 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Tracie b. I also have a bit of difficulty with most California wines. I have found a few passionate winemakers with genuine wines. Hopefully the growing US market will push for better quality wines and the big California producers will realize the importance of Quality over Quantity.

2:32 PM

Blogger Tracie B. said...

i would love to have a wine that could change my mind without costing me my primogenito. unfortunately i've just given up...any suggestions?

11:18 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Tracie b. I understand what you are saying. As you know I do not like the industrial processed wine produced by many countries including the big California names. The few California wines I do drink are from small producers and usually something they made for themselves. I believe Italian Wine Guy can identify them better than I could.

I also have a friend who quick investment banking after 9/11 and now makes wine in Maryland. The only problem is that his entire production is sold only in local restaurants.

12:52 PM


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