I was flicking through the February edition of Meininger's and became engrossed by a fascinating article about the creation of a new cultivar-specific DOC in northern Italy. I'll quote here a few of the more intriguing snippets.
A silent revolution took place in the north-east of Italy in 2017 when a new denomination was born... Called Prosecco delle Venezie, it includes the three regions of Triveneto - Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia - and cultivates just one grape: Prosecco.
This next bit is really crucial, so sit tight!
One of the significant problems the DOC faces is that there is no exclusivity in the name "Prosecco". Armani explains: "As nobody can claim a grape variety as his or her sole property, we could not lock it down. The Prosecco grape is part of planet Earth's collective heritage."
A revolution like this is nothing short of breathtaking, especially in the largely conservative domain of Italian wine regulation. It demonstrates a mature understanding that the only meaningful and sustainable way to beat off perceived or true competitors is to make your products better and more attractive to consumers.
Except - finally the mask slips - this article was about Pinot Grigio, not Prosecco. The above excerpts are quoted nigh-on verbatim, but wherever it says "Prosecco" revert to "Pinot Grigio".
The new Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC is a blueprint for what the Prosecco authorities could have done in 2009, before they unilaterally altered the official grape name from Prosecco to Glera and created the spurious Prosecco DOC.
Mr Armani could just as easily have been speaking about Prosecco, which like Pinot Grigio is (to some quislings, unquestionably was) an accepted name for a grape planted in Italy and abroad, but at the same time a commercially important product with justification for its protection.
After all, Pinot Grigio is planted all over the world, as is Prosecco to a far smaller extent. Australia's Prosecco pioneers Dal Zotto make a very good Pinot Grigio that sells stupendously well. Elsewhere you have Pinot Grigio planted for those consumers loyal purely to the grape, not where it was grown. As mentioned in Harper's this month by Tim Atkin, "When Copestick Murray did some consumer research for its I ♥ brand, it found that origin was very low on respondents' list of priorities... [so] I ♥ Pinot Grigio doesn't come from the expected source, it's Hungarian."
For those who care about origins - and there is a passionate minority of wine lovers who do - the new Pinot Grigio delle Venezie DOC is a grown-up attempt to compete with imitations by promising a better product, not a form of subterfuge.
Except regrettably those making the decisions in 1999 could not accept the facts for what they were, and instead we have a fudged and fundamentally bankrupt solution that may go some way to protecting whatever claim those in the Veneto have over the Prosecco grape, but could not be said to have guaranteed a better wine.
Because in the incessant pursuit of commercial motive, with every moving of goal posts and double standards - and despite the efforts of some more quality-minded producers to avert this, it should be said - the authorities behind the creation of the Prosecco DOC are only serving to weaken faith in their wine, not strengthen it.