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baroloThis is strange but not surprising. The trend throughout much of the wine world is to create smaller sub-zones of important wine regions allowing producers to emphasize differences in terroir and, if strict rules are enforced, ensuring that wines using the name of the subzone have the quality expected of that region. It is no guarantee of quality but it does help to maintain standards.

Wine Enthusiast Magazine is reporting that one of the most important wine regions in the world may be moving in the opposite direction.

When I was in Alba and Barbaresco a couple of weeks ago, producers told me that their consorzio had just alerted them to a newly proposed wine: Piemonte Nebbiolo DOC, Denominazione di Origine Controllata. The proposal, which insiders say originated with the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e Vini del Monferrato, has producers in Barolo and Barbaresco on edge, and with good reason.

Piemonte Nebbiolo, which would allow the Nebbiolo grape to be grown anywhere in the region, would be a big step back for Italian wines. It would go against the push to create subzones in the most esteemed denominations by officially delimiting vineyard areas.

Nebbiolo is one of the most difficult grapes to grow; it requires specific soils and the right climate for it to make quality wine. Thus, Barolo and Barbaresco as well as other lesser known regions have acquired a reputation for quality because those are the regions to which the Nebbiolo grape is suited.

This proposal would allow Nebbiolo to be grown anywhere in Piemonte thus paving the way for lots of inferior juice to find its way to your wine shop.

Why would they do this? Well, because good Nebbiolo is in demand and there is not much of it around because the regions that grow it are small and fully planted. The large bulk producers would like to take advantage of that demand by  making inferior wine and pushing it onto the market at reduced prices, thus undercutting both the prices of the good stuff as well as harming the reputation of Piemonte. Of course it would make more Nebbiolo available but if it’s inferior what is being gained?

That would be a shame if it comes to pass but it would not be the first time big producers set off a race to the bottom.