A cent'anni” Thoughts about the past and the future, 50 years after the institution of the denomination of origin, first attained by Vernaccia di San Gimignano on the 6th of May 1966.
Organised by the Consorzio della Denominazione San Gimignano to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the San Gimignano appellation, the convention “A cent'anni” bears the title of the market research carried out by Prof. Alberto Mattiacci of Rome’s La Sapienza University, presented on this occasion.
Past and future entwine in the presentations of all the speakers: what the denominations of origin meant then and what they mean today, which form must they take in the future and what will be their role.
Letizia Cesani, chairwoman of the Consorzio della Denominazione San Gimignano
The Consortium’s job is to reflect on the future, which is why we have organised this convention. We don’t just want to celebrate the first 50 years of the DOC of our Vernaccia di San Gimignano and the centuries of history behind this wine; we also wish to reflect on the decisions to be made to ensure that it will be successful tomorrow.
Giacomo Bassi, Mayor of San Gimignano
Fifty years ago, San Gimignano and its wine were assigned an important acknowledgement. Our Vernaccia was the first wine in Italy to receive the denomination of origin. Today, half a century later, that acknowledgement is symbolic of how this town, its territory, its people and their ingenuity have succeeded in looking way ahead into the future. Today we raise our glasses to that future, looking to another tomorrow and another achievement. Our first thank you goes to the Consorzio della Denominazione di San Gimignano and its eclectic chairwoman, Letizia Cesani. Together, they have managed to make the most of this prestigious product from San Gimignano in a completely unexpected way, taking the value, not only of a wine but also of an identity into the world; an identity which, like the antique grape variety of Vernaccia, has its roots in the intellect, the fatigue and the pride of our land and our producers. With this in mind, the municipal authorities will always be on the front line, alongside the Consortium and the winemakers and those who, over the past 50 years, have managed to create economy and employment around the name of San Gimignano, preserving the delicate balance between the countryside and a medieval town known all over the world. Today, we toast to the fiftieth anniversary, raising our glasses and looking towards the centennial of the denomination of origin.
Riccardo Cotarella, Chairman of Assoenologi.
The Denominations of Origin have been an essential tool for the development of Italian wine, contributing to the growth of the wines and to their promotion on the markets, encouraging winemakers to join forces in Consortia and become “communities” which follow the same rules and production regulations. In short, they have contributed to the formation of the Italian winemaking sector as we know it today.
The aim of those who make wine is to sell it, and in order to do this, they have to adapt to the market. This is why the regulations have to be dynamic, not static and closed to change. They have to evolve with the markets.
The regulations of Vernaccia di San Gimignano are exactly that: yields per hectare have diminished over the past fifty years, in response to the market which has gone from wine produced in large quantities to searching for high-quality wines. The same can be said for the alcohol content, which has also diminished.
Wine is not only the most interesting product made here, it is also the product that best represents Italy as a whole. Certain wines are indissolubly linked to their territory of origin.
Not all markets are attentive to the denominations of origin and some areas fail to understand them at all.
Oenologists have helped improve the quality of Italian wine.
Never before have there been so many politicians close to the wine world and “Palazzo del Vino”, promoted so strongly by the Government Minister Maurizio Martina at Expo 2015, was proof of this. No other Italian product had a space reserved specifically to it at the event. Politicians can do a lot to improve the bureaucracy of wine, which is now extremely invasive, thanks to innovations such as the digitalisation of reports and the Consolidated Law. We are experiencing an important moment, rewriting the rules which will allow us to align with the world of today and that of tomorrow.
Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, chairman of Federdoc
There’s strength in numbers: the producers in the Consortia, the Consortia in the associations that pursue shared goals.
Historically, appellations derive from the typical geographic origin: the wine of a certain place was “appreciated” more, in the sense that it costed more than wines from other places. But their birth was also accompanied by the birth of fraud. Hence the need to create appellations for the defence of wine and consumers, followed in 1992 by the DOCG certifications, with an efficient and coordinated control plan.
2008 was a very important year, with the new CMO for wine and the birth of the DOP and IGP, set up with the aim of bringing the origin of a product at world level as a public value to defend in opposition to trade marks. The DOP and IGP appellations represent our collective heritage and, as such, they are defended by the government against fraud and imitation. In the United States they are not all acknowledged, so it is necessary to register the brands to prevent falsification.
Today, however, it is necessary to reflect on the appellation “system”. In Italy there are 595 appellations, among Doc, Docg and Igt, of which 75 produce more than 90% of the wine. The other 450 are too small and their representational capacity has to be rationalised. When treaties are drawn up on the denominations of origin in the EU and abroad, it is hard to defend them all, especially considering that we are not the only country to have them. It is necessary to think of aggregations between consortia, perhaps bringing several denominations under a single consortium, where possible, seeing certain very small denominations possibly as subzones of larger ones, the idea being to simplify international defence. Just think, that in the USA, the world’s most important wine market, it is necessary to invest in the complex and costly registration of the brands, because certain denominations are not recognised.
Tomorrow’s market is the Internet, which escapes rules, and it is very hard to avoid online fraud.
It was very important to prevent the liberalisation of planting rights, to avoid an uncontrollable excess offer. But if applications for the planting of new vines have concerned 66,000 hectares when 6,000 a year are granted to Italy under the new EU authorisation system (which envisages +1% per country per year - Ed’s note), something is not quite right.
Then there is the matter of the web and the domains .wine and .vin, that of sustainability and reflections on the regulations, which are anything but unchangeable. All the regulations in force today should be the basis for thinking of those of tomorrow, keeping the identities stable but thinking that many things within and around the wine world change, from the climate to the environment and markets.
Two last things:
men shall drink wine, the other animals shall drink at the fountain
wine drinkers live to be 100!
Michele Antonio Fino, University of Gastronomic Science of Pollenzo
The DOP certifications were born for wine, then the concept of the wine appellation was extended to all food products.
The main aim of the DOP is to defend the products of the single areas recognised as the place of exclusive origin, and to contrast fraud.
However, defence is not always that easy. On some markets, like the USA, the names of the DOP wines often become “general names” which cannot be protected: names like “Chianti” or “Champagne”, for example, are semi-general terms so, in theory, an American winemaker can write “Chianti” or “Champagne” on the label of a wine made in the US. Hence the need to register the trademarks of DOP wines on foreign markets.
Sometimes defence is difficult because the name of the DOP is actually a general name, such as “Culatello” for instance.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano is well protected in the EU, and on foreign markets the Ttips agreements envisage rules for the acknowledgement of DOP products that guarantee it. It is impossible that someone can have used the name “Vernaccia di San Gimignano” before the denomination was created.
If, however, Vernaccia di San Gimignano were to become very famous, no one could prevent the Vernaccia grape variety from being planted in vineyards in the rest of the world, because there are no limits as to what can be planted and cultivated in the world.
Whatever is cultivated cannot be protected, so the Vernaccia grape variety is not covered by complete protection. The other words that make up the name, “San Gimignano”, which is the geographic origin, which represents the real identity of this wine and its strength in the world, are protected however, as is the case for other great appellations and denominations (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chablis, Montalcino, etc.).
In response to Riccardo Cotarella: the DOP regulations must be stricter and harsher towards the market, protecting the grape variety and the territory regardless of trends, which pass quickly and can harm the products.
Alberto Mattiacci, La Sapienza University, Rome
The research began in summer 2015, with the collection of information through interviews with winemakers, trade operators (wine stores, bars, restaurants, buyers and import-export companies), opinion leaders and consumers.
Our research describes a denomination which is much healthier than perceived, even by the winemakers themselves.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano, the first wine in Italy to be awarded the denomination in 1966, ranks tenth in the list of Italian native white wines in 2016, third in terms of average production price of bulk wine among the middle range white wines, third for renown amongst consumers (67% of those interviewed for the Nomisma Vino research know of its existence), and ninth in mass retail sales in terms of most exponential growth.
Renown amongst consumers is particularly important, because publicising a product is the top priority of every marketing and advertising agency. Two out of three consumers who read or listen to a message about Vernaccia di San Gimignano, can identify the product, which can then be found in the points of sale.
Despite interacting with a competitive environment, a market which prioritises red and sparkling wines, which thinks white wines should be aromatic and perfumed, Vernaccia di San Gimignano has the advantage of characteristics that transform into real strengths. It is a white wine that is ideal with all courses of a meal, and there are numerous organically produced Vernaccia wines. It has a strong personality that is communicated to consumers and it has a long cellar life, improving as it ages.
All we had to do was explore the market with an open mind to glimpse the possibility of reviving this white wine, which I like to describe as a “masculine white: for a niche populated by wine lovers, with organic and non-organic interpretations of Vernaccia di San Gimignano which speak to the mind and senses”.
Vernaccia di San Gimignano has everything it needs to become a huge success in its second fifty years of life: a strong identity, excellent reputation, good distribution, an enthusiastic Consortium, increasing numbers of excellent product interpretations. Vernaccia di San Gimignano has numerous key words: Tuscany, denomination, with all courses of a meal, niche, organic, Boccaccio, unique, wine lovers, adolescence, longevity, authentic, savoury, sea, antique… Vernaccia di San Gimignano is all this: a native denomination, antique, typical, unique in terms of history and territory, authentic, versatile, reminiscent of the sea and surf, but ideal with dishes from the turf in the kitchen. A wine that isn’t for everyone, but is perfect for many; an “active” niche, which the denomination has to build around its strengths, rather than a “passive” niche, to which the market relegates those whom it fails to comprise.
We have entitled this study "A Cent'Anni!" because we believe in the potential of this white grape variety, the unique son of the great winemaking Tuscany.
Paolo De Castro, Member of the European Parliament, present with a video message from Brussels
This is an important birthday for Vernaccia di San Gimignano which, along with the other denominations, has characterised these 50 years of history. The future of the Italian wine denominations requires international protection, on which we work constantly, also in the hope that some of the simplifications promised by the Commissioner for Agriculture, Phil Hogan, do not become new burdens.