Allegrini 2018

Carlo Petrini: if wine abandons its territories, it will lose a part of its identity

The founder of Slow Food told WineNews “one of the best solutions to get out of the situation we are currently living is to strengthen local economies
Carlo Petrini

Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, gastronome and sociologist, as well as one of the most authoritative International voices when it comes to food and not only, told WineNews in a face to face interview about wine, “the history of the last half century has been the history of the “Renaissance” of Italian wine, and how one of our most important agriculture sectors has become autonomous and self-sufficient, to the point of becoming a leading example. What the wine world has achieved would be a virtuous attitude that could also be extended to other sectors of the agriculture system. It is a hope, and we are voicing it in a particular moment in which the needs of our planet require us all to behave virtuously. And, we must also respect the fertility of the soils and the environment. The wine sector’s example represents a point of reference”. “Sana Slow Wine Fair”, is the new event at BolognaFiere, under the artistic direction of Slow Food, in partnership with the organic and biodynamic federation, FederBio and the businesses confederation, Confcommercio Ascom Bologna, plus support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and ICE. It will be held from March 27th to 29th in Bologna. It will be the first meeting of the Slow Wine Coalition, i.e., the International Alliance of producers, trade and people, which will start the revolution in (and from) the wine world. Petrini, one of the “heroes of our time” for “Time” magazine and one of the 50 people who could save the planet for the “Guardian”, believes that wine represents the model of the system change necessary in all agriculture, which is also merit of the “political” role it plays.
And, as a matter of fact, when the world wine united, it united its entire supply chain. It beat its fists on the table, together with Italian politicians, and the results were immediate since the battle over distinguishing between consumption and abuse in the “Cancer Plan” in Europe was won. So, maybe we should learn from this experience. “When we are aware of the strength that the sector has at the media level as well, we obtain excellent results”, emphasized Carlo Petrini, “but there is another thing that needs mentioning, and that is, in the great upheaval the Pandemic has caused, the wine world has come out less drained than other sectors. And, this is the reason it is important to be aware that unity is strength. It is impossible not to notice how many shops, which among other items also sell wine, are closing down in every corner of the country, and that the restaurant industry is in distress. The logic is very simple. If we want to get out of this Pandemic, we need elements of solidarity and cooperation. It’s not good and won’t work if everyone looks after their own interests. I remember when the wine world was on its knees after the methanol scandal. Well, in that moment, those who contributed to re-launching the image of wine were the restaurateurs and wine shop owners, who all worked together. Now the time has come to team up with other players. I see, for instance, an element that is very worrisome, which is the truly impressive expansion of online sales. If the wine world is no longer present on the territories, in restaurants, wine bars and neighborhood shops, it will lose a part of its identity, which is what the whole world envies us when it visits Italy. It is time to start reflecting on these matters”.
Wine has a very important role to cover, which is to maintain the quality of its territories that are very famous today and whose wines are exported all over the world, through relational economy. “Relationship is an element of a different kind of economy”, Petrini explained. “I am convinced that the world situation requires everyone to reflect for a moment, and realize that one of the best solutions to get out of this situation is strengthening local economies. Local economies are those that we can govern, and that are based on relationships and common good. Understanding this means building community. If wine does not form a community in its territories and instead becomes merchandise without a soul, it is then destined to lose its main essence, in the short term. We must be careful not to lose the distinctive elements of wine culture: sociality, community, and territories. I live in Langa, but if I were to think of Langa with its towns and villages but no longer have the possibility of tasting wine here in the area, I would also begin to be very worried about the future of Langhe wine”. The foundations for success - and, we add also for the future - of Italian wine territories are to be found precisely in the social cohesion achieved over the past several years between producers and citizens, and never forgetting their humble and agricultural origins. Maintaining this integrity is "another role I am hoping for”, Petrini said.
Cooperation, and doing away with the logic of competitiveness, is essential to achieving the objectives of “ecological transition”. “Relying on competitiveness alone is not the sign of the times”, Petrini reflected, “cooperation is what allows us to achieve new goals and I repeat, in my opinion, the most concrete economic model is strengthening local economies. Nothing more than wine is synonymous with territory, and identity. The day it becomes a commodity and loses its relationship with the territory, wine will lose more than 50% of its distinction. This is the element that we must always keep in mind. In some respects, some vendors might even say “we are doing fine; we are selling”. Yes, this is true, but one must look to the long term - without the identity of the territory, even turnover will decrease”.
The “Slow Wine Coalition” and “Sana Slow Wine Fair” will launch all these messages. Once again, is Slow Food starting a revolution in the wine world, too? “Fortunately, the history of the last 50 years has seen many main players involved in change”, Petrini concluded, “producers, technicians, communities, and even Slow Food. Evolution is never the result of a single component. Our movement played a role, but I do have to add one more thing. This generational change with virtuous attitudes was very important. Now it is time to understand that other components of the system are in difficulty. Therefore, we need to team up and get out of this situation of distress to be able to envision new paths. I hope the Bologna event will be the place to reflect on these issues”.

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