Pinocchio Wine & The Future of Europe
The Europe we all know and love from history, the one in which factions, tribes and families fight among one another for power, influence and self interest is emerging in the debate about what to do to do with a lake of European wine no one wants.
The past few months has been a busy one for European wine policy. The EU released a proposal that would result in the ripping out of 400,000 hectare of vineyards and reduce the amount paid for turning wine into industrial alcohol. Meanwhile, a deal was struck with America that would allow wines into the EU that didn’t live up to previous standards of production and at the same time grant Europeans the right to use production methods such as oak chips and oak staves in place of oak barrels for aging.
The debate over the EU’s proposal to restructure European wine by reducing the number of vineyards begins today. A block consisting of France, Spain, Italy and Portugal are against the reforms. These are the major wine producing countries. Those not SO against the proposed reforms are England and new producing countries like Slovenia.
The difference? The major wine producers get billions in subsides from the EU while the likes of England and other smaller producing nations get next to nothing.
That’s not to say that the main concern among the European Nations is a reduction in subsides. The Italians, for one, are in a tizzy over the dreaded "Pinocchio Wines".
Pinocchio Wines. You know, any wine that is produced with the addition of oak flavoring that is not imparted simply by putting the wine in a VERY expensive oak barrel. In other words the Italians are upset, indicated by debates in their Parliament, that the new EU rules allowing the use of oak flavoring tools such as chips does not also demand that use of these "artificial aging" techniques be outlined on labels.
The argument the Italians are making is that by not noting the use of oak chips on Italian wine labels leads to " the standardization of wines at the
lowest level to the detriment of the consumer."
(One wonders to where the line is to be drawn when it comes to listing ingredients and winemaking techniques on labels.)
You see, here is the problem in criticizing the use of Oak Chips as something underhanded as the Italians seem to be: Whether it is oak barrels or oak chips, the desired result is the same. There is a manipulation of the wine. What many Italians don’t like is that it’s far cheaper to use oak chips than it is to age wine in oak barrels. And in many cases, the results are very difficult to tell apart by the average drinker.
The Europeans will work this out…in time. The debate over the restructuring of the European wine market, subsidies for distillation and the removal of vineyards is far more interesting and important than the "Pinocchio Debate" that is ensuing in Italy.