Pierpaolo Penco, Wine Intelligence Country Manager for Italy, discusses the latest Merano WineFestival and the growing importance natural and organic wines in Italian culture
As a wine lover, I first attended the Merano WineFestival in 1999, and it’s safe to say several things have changed since. This year’s event, the 27th edition, is less an occasion for wine connoisseurs and collectors and more an upmarket festival for people with a passion for wine, high quality food, culture and leisure. The tastings encompass all elements of Italy, with culinary specialties, craft beers, spirits and liqueurs, and the event brings together PDO consortia and representative groups of the various regions. Overall, it is an event to celebrate the quality of Italian products selected by Helmuth Köcher, The WineHunter and patron of the Merano event.
The Merano WineFestival is one of the most prominent pioneers of biodynamic and natural wines in Italy. This year, the second annual Naturae & Purae conference occurred where wines and foods of ‘pure nature’ were discussed at length. Renowned chefs performed spectacular cooking shows dedicated to natural foods as well as ancient and new fermentation experiences. Attendees were able to taste selected organic, biodynamic and PIWI varieties wines (for example, wines deriving from the new viticultural genomes obtained from the crossover of vines resistant to fungal diseases) of over 100 companies from all over Italy.
One of the seminars included a discussion called ‘Wine Poison or Wine Food? At the roots of drinking’ where experts and interpreters in the world of wine discussed the topics of sustainability, nature and purity in correlation to wine. Through a wide historical and cultural overview concerning fermented drinks, the speakers tried to understand if the wine can still be considered (in the right measure) a food, or if its alcoholic nature and the use of preservatives, such as added sulphites, have reduced wine to be considered a ‘poison’.
The outcome? Wine is not a poison. Wine is a food that can still contribute to the well-being of man. Professor Lucio Lucchin, head of Dietetics and Nutrition at the Hospital of Bolzano and one of the leading authorities in this field stated, “Its intake in the canonical small quantities has always provided an important nutritional element for human nutrition, especially in the context of the Mediterranean diet based on products such as extra virgin olive oil and possibly whole grains”.
Among all the buzz about natural and organic wines, I have been invited to present the results of the first Wine Intelligence multi-market report on ‘SOLA’ (Sustainable, Organic & Lower-alcohol) wines, which confirm that the principles of organic farming are highly esteemed by the consumers, who are more conscious about what they eat and drink. More information on the event can be found here [LINK].
Organic, biodynamic, no-sulphites, PIWI, orange wines and low-intervention wines are all areas that the Italian wine industry are pursuing with conviction, especially in order to provide an adequate response to the needs of modern consumers who see in the naturalness and purity of wine an element of distinction. But above all, these wines provide an affirmation of a lifestyle based on healthy and environmentally-friendly elements, for which consumers are willing to pay the right price.
Author: Pierpaolo Penco