Image courtesy of Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99405169/)
Travelling back from the motherland, I had plenty of time to catch up on some wine news today and news there were aplenty from spiked champagne with deadly consequences to the dawn of a European Prohibition and the latest updates on designations of origin in the Old World. All this in this week’s JollyCellarMaster Weekly:
Dangerous Sparkling, Chianti and Quality Plus Is This Really About Cancer?
Imagine you recently participated in one of those bizarre tv shows that nowadays have become the norm. Naturally, you’re mighty proud of your literal fifteen minutes of fame and you want to celebrate it style with your friends. Nothing else will do but champagne, the king of bubbles. That’s the premise of a story that took place in German Saturday where a group of friends got together in a restaurant to watch the show. They opened a magnum bottle but it soon became apparent that the sparkling wine was off.
All eight of them immediately fell seriously ill and despite the efforts of the medics, one of them died of poisoning.
It wasn’t any of the usual faults that can be found in wine that caused the emergency. The police quickly established that the bottle contained extensive quantities of methyl enedioxy methamphetamine, commonly known as ecstasy.
While that much is clear, the investigators haven’t found out or disclosed much about how the drug got into the bottle. The public prosecutor’s office announced that it doesn’t consider that the bottled had been spiked on purpose as part of some bigger plot against the people affected but assumes that the bottle came in its original packaging. At the same time, the officials did not rule out though that the bottle had been opened and resealed in a way to make it appear as new.
Still, this begs the question how and why it got in there in the first place. The report in today’s print edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine did not give the name of the producers but stated that it had not been contacted yet. Since the investigators will have to follow all steps along the chain of distribution until they find out more, it’s probably on their list.
Prohibition in Europe?
The Wine Searcher picked up on the upcoming meetings of the European Parliament that will discuss the report of the organisation’s Special Committee on Beating Cancer (BECA).
The report stated that there is no alcohol consumption without health risks. So, on February 16, the European Parliament, which has been reviewing the report for the past weeks, is to vote on its findings. Depending on the outcome wine producers across the member states of the European Union could face a series of restrictions. These range from the way the product is promoted, how it is priced, and the funding received from the EU. If you want to know more about the outcomes that we discussed last week, have a look here.
The Wine Searcher’s angle on the story is an interesting one as it points out that a century ago, Europeans scoffed at silly Americans for making wine illegal. Jumping straight to the conclusion that we could soon see something similar to the American prohibition on this side of the Atlantic could easily be accused mere razzle-dazzle for the sake of getting our attention. True, it may have gotten exactly that but the article quickly makes it clear that wine is not going to be outlawed by the European Parliament this week or next, but stresses that “the continent is marching toward Prohibition, and it’s very possible the European Parliament will issue regulations after its February 14 meeting that will damage the wine industry worldwide”. It indeed is a slippery slope and anyone versed in the history of wine in the US knows of the immense damage it has done the industry. Clearly, that cannot be in the interest of the EU and though I don’t want to bore you again with my two cents, I’d like to reiterate that their clearly must be a middle way between the beneficial effects of wine drinking (health, culture) and prohibition, right?
The Effect of Classifications on Wine Quality
That’s exactly the question I keep asking myself: do designations of origin, be it for instance as part of the EU system or assigned by private organisations contribute to the quality of wine?
I’m still looking into it and it’s clear that it isn’t as straight forward but regardless of what I may think or discover, classifications and categorisations are often used to promote the quality of a wine from a specific place. If that wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have seen more announcements last week that came with that intention.
The first one came from one of the world’s best known wine regions, Chianti. The Chianti DOCG – which shouldn’t be confused with the Chianti Classico DOCG – currently has seven sub-zones: Chianti Colli Aretini, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Chianti Colli Senesi, Chianti Colline Pisane, Chianti Montalbano, Chianti Montespertoli and Chianti Rufina. The Consortia of Chianti Wines announcedthat soon a new sub-zone called Terre di Vinci will be added that consists of four municipalities in the province of Florence: Vinci, Ceretto Guidi, Fucecchio, and Capraia e Limite. Currently, these are part of the basic Chianti DOC appellation.
The second comes from Austria ‘s Wagram district. Following the wine scandal of the 80s, Austrian wine had a lot to recover from and they’ve done a great job producing and promoting quality wines. One of the elements used was the introduction of DACs, which stands for Districtus Austriae Controllatus. The DAC is a designation for regionally typical Austrian quality wines, where the region itself, rather than the variety, is more significant and so far 16 regions could add the acronym to some of their produce. Now, Wagram becomes the 17th wine-growing region in Austria that can apply the protected DAC designation as part of a Collective amendment of the Austrian wine laws. For sake of completeness, the update also defines Ortsweine for the Kremstal with nine legally defined Ortswein (villages wines) origins. Lastly, as part of the new rules, Sekt with a protected designation of origin (Sekt g.U. (PDO)) will be named Sekt Austria from now on.
And lastly, Decanter writes that the DOC Sicilia strengthens traceability with government-minted labels. The article says that “the State label, which is mandatory only for DOCG wines is an important marker and identifier of the most important Italian DOCs: each label shows a unique alphanumeric code that traces the entire production process, from vineyard to bottle. While the state label may be more difficult to forge than most labels, the question is whether it will help to achieve its purpose to protect Sicilian wine from counterfeiting.
And that’s all for the week but if you have an interesting story to tell or simply want to chat about wine as a guest on the Podcast, connect on Twitter or drop me a line. And if you want to stay in the loop about things happening at the JollyCellarMaster and the world of wine, make sure you sign up to our newsletter.
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