March 29, 2012
Organic Wines Debut at Vinitaly in Verona

"Euro-Leaf" logo for organic wines will start with 2012 harvest
"Another love story in Verona" is the tagline for the 46th edition of Vinitaly, the International Wine & Spirits Exhibition that concluded on March 28th, and the phrase perfectly evokes the long-running love affair between wine and this gracious Northern Italian city. As the largest wine show in the world, Vinitaly showcases the absolute excellence of Italian wines during four jam-packed days filled with major events, meetings, tastings and targeted workshops that, in 2011, brought more than 156,000 visitors to Verona of whom 50,000 came from abroad.

An important innovation at this year’s fair was the exhibition space set aside for Italian and international companies that produce wines in accordance with the rules of biodynamic agriculture: from care of the land to respect for the natural fermentation process and the use of earth-friendly, sustainable farming techniques that do not rely on pesticides or chemical fertilizers. ViViT (it stands for Vigne, Vignaioli, Terroir; “Wines, Winegrowers and Terroirs” in English) is name of the new association for winemakers and traders who promise to utilize only production methods that ensure a low environmental impact, both in the vineyard and in the wine cellar.

Only 100% organically grown grapes make the cut
Organic wines represent a trend-setting niche market that, beginning with the 2012 harvest, will be allowed to display the so-called “Euro-Leaf” logo on their wine bottle labels. This is very good news for consumers who will be able to tell at a glance that the wine they are buying is made from 100 percent certified-organic grapes, with a small amount of added sulfites to help stabilize the wine so that its taste will not change during transportation or storage. Without the addition of diluted sulfur dioxide any wine – white or red – tends to deteriorate and turn into vinegar in a matter of months. Sulfites are what let wines age and develop all of those complex flavors that wine lovers enjoy so much.

For the Wine Enthusiasts

Choose from almost three dozen wine-related activities at SelectItaly.com, including "Women in a Man's World: Tuscan Wine Tasting" at the beautiful Montalcino estate owned by Donatella Cinelli Colombini, winner of the prestigious Premio Internazionale Vinitaly 2012. 

European organic certification allows for the use of a tiny amount – well below the quantity used in standard wines – of added sulfites. This differs from the U.S. where organic wine must be made without any added sulfites at all, a rule that is fine for "drink young" wines like Chardonnay but would not be good for a "drink in a year" wine like a Cabernet Sauvignon, much less a Brunello di Montalcino that must be aged in wood casks for two years and in the cellar in bottles for another three.

The creation of a completely sulfite-free wine is virtually impossible since all wine contains natural sulfites produced during fermentation. And the commonly held idea that sulfites give you a headache is just not true; there is something in red wine that causes headaches but exactly what this substance is has not yet been discovered – it may be the histamines contained in purple grape skins (also found in strawberries) or possibly the tannins (also found in tea). Until this substance is determined, three basic rules apply for a headache-free drinking experience: 1) avoid cheap wines, 2) don’t overindulge, and 3) do as the Italians do and drink wine along with food, perhaps a slice or two of the savory bread known as Casatiello described in Gennaro’s recipe included in this issue.

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