Alarming news has begun to circulate in the press and on the web that Europe can admit the watering down of wine. Then, there are those who wrote that it is fake news.
However, there seems certainly that there is a discussion in Brussels about the regulation of partially or completely de-alcoholised wines, whether they are obtained with the addition of water or with other systems.
Behind that, there is the expanding marketplace of wines with low alcohol content (or totally free of alcohol). All revolves around the crucial question: are these drinks wine? Or rather, will they be able to boast this important indication on the label? Here everything is at stake: if they will be able to write wine on the label, it will be decisive for the future market of these products, but … I hope not.
On the one hand, there are politicians from northern Europe, with a prohibitionist approach, who want to limit the consumption of alcohol, pushing towards de-alcoholic products. One wonders, rhetorically, why the main target of these politicians is always wine, produced in the Mediterranean countries and central Europe, and not the huge multinationals of spirits (with a lot of money and a lot of ability to advertise, as well as than to impose themselves politically). In fact, I think that people that abuse of alchool don’t exceed with Bolgheri or Barolo or Lambrusco. I think it happens more frequently with vodka, beer, other spirits or cocktails. However, Europe seems pushing in this direction, using terrorism techniques on our health. They start from even partially correct considerations, which are however communicated in an extreme way, in an increasingly paternalistic vision of power.
On the other hand, there are those who see enormous opportunities for the sale of de-alcoholised wines in Muslim countries, where the consumption of alcohol is formally prohibited (even if it is often used privately), or in markets where wine still fails to enter.
Politics will therefore decide what to write on the label, but is de-alcoholised wine real wine?
I think not. Wine is a millenary drink, that is the result of the transformation of grapes, of a land and its culture, of a meticulous and respectful work in the vineyard and in the cellar. Those who believe in artisanal wine, in its inseparable link with the territory and nature, doens’t see kinship with these products. Call them what you like, but not wine.
Michele remembers in the 1980s, when he was still studying at the agricultural institute of San Michele, a similar story with regard to “wine coolers”. At the time, always with the idea of capturing consumers from countries not accustomed to wine or the younger generations, the production of wines with added fruit juices (like ready-made cocktails), called “wine cooler”, seemed to be tempting. What happend to them? Forgotten and without success (thankfully). I don’t demonize them, but all of this has little to do with real wine. These are attempts to sell low-quality wines, which are otherwise difficult to sell, manipulating them in the most diverse ways. They are, in fact, different drinks: let’s not ruin the real wine by confusing it with them.
Some, in Italy, positively judge these de-alcoholization techniques, with the aim of lowering the gradations of wines which are always higher. I state that I do not share too generalized discourses on what is pleasant or not in wine taking into consideration only a single element. There are 12-13 degree wines that are unbalanced and heavy. There are wines at 14 degrees, or even more, which are perfectly balanced, with a lot of complexity and also freshness.
The climate change certainly plays an important role in this regard. However, remember that the alcoholic strengths began to rise well before, for other reasons as well. A good part of the world of wine has been pushing in this direction for thirty years already, with determined and well-targeted choices of winegrowing and winemaking.
Is it really necessary to use the de-alcoholization to return to having wines that are more drinkable, less heavy and less alcoholic?
Certainly not. Let’s not forget that wine is born first of all in the vineyard (and it’s not just a cliché). Let’s go back, for example, to choosing the most suitable varieties for the territory and not for the market. Let’s go back to rethinking the exposure of the vineyards, the training systems, the planting density, the thinning, etc. Whether it is to change wine fashions or to combat climate change, the good viticulture, that is, the skilful care of the vineyard, is the best ways towards more balanced and pleasant wines. These chooses are much more sustainable, as well as able to preserve our culture of wine and the territory.