Allegrini 2018

Luigi Moio, from lockdown a different world, and wine as a response to homogenization

At WineNews the reflections on a historical moment, a moment of transition, destined to change even wine, from production methods to its cultural role
The future of wine, according to Luigi Moio

We live in an era of great change, social, economic and cultural. An era in which people’ supposed omnipotence is undermined by their limitations, those that only nature can and knows how to impose on him, an era influenced by a virus that has forced us to stay at home for weeks, pushing us all to a serious reflection, an era from which a different world will arise, perhaps not too much from the one we lived in before, but which will necessarily have to review its priorities. Bringing back to the center, without further delay, respect for the environment, which has now become an undelayable objective and shared sensitivity. A journey that closely concerns the world of wine, touched and upset like few others by the COVID-19 epidemic, but able to discover itself as a response to the crisis and the moment of passage like no other product of the earth. Because in a changing world, which has to slow down and reconsider consumption models based on standardization, wine, especially in Italy, has the answer in its genes: it is born from interaction with the earth, it is anti homogenization by definition, it is capable of recounting diversity and runs towards sustainability in the vineyard and in the cellar, bringing with it a unique cultural richness and educational value, capable of putting humans in the right place in their relationship with the world, with the territories, with beauty itself and its passions, as told to WineNews by Professor Luigi Moio, Professor of Oenology at the University of Naples and Vice-President of the OIV, the Organization International de la Vigne e du Vin, but also a wine intellectual and researcher, in a beautiful reflection on today, focused on wine and its social role. “In the first two months of the pandemic, we all had the opportunity to reflect and look in the mirror, interrupting the hectic life we were leading. Before COVID - remembers Moio - I spent my time at the University and much more traveling by plane than in the vineyard: every time I left, I would photograph the vineyards of the company and watch them during the flight. On the other hand, in these months closed in the company, as a privileged person, I watched it every day, realizing how many beautiful things we did, and how fascinating the world of wine is, if done in a certain way, namely preferring a purely agricultural approach.
We have all slowed down, and perhaps enjoyed other things. We should continue to experience this, even if the first need remains to resolve the health emergency. Then, everything will recover, but slowly. I have listened to and followed a few tastings on the web, but I am convinced that we need to look into each other's eyes to explain the wine, see the vineyards, observe the wineries, meet the producers, talk.
In the world of wine, and not only that, obviously today the problem - underlines Luigi Moio - is the economic one: if we think about the wineries that produce wine, the incoming economic flow has stopped or slowed down a lot, while the outgoing one, especially for those who make wine, has continued, because the vineyard doesn’t stop, the biological cycle goes on, the plants grow and must be cared for, and the vintage goes on. I won’t go into detail, because the sector is heterogeneous, and the needs are different”. Looking at the wine, the preponderant, and now unavoidable, aspect concerns its relationship with environmental sustainability, a sensitivity that concerns the vast majority of the world’s population. “As for the essence of wine, the way I live it and teach it, there are aspects that, in my opinion, should no longer be hidden, but brought to light. Let us always remember that viticulture has 10. 000 years old, but enology is relatively young, for example, suffice it to say that it was only in the 1950s that malolactic fermentation was precisely defined, and enology itself was born just one hundred and fifty years ago, with the advent of biochemistry and microbiology studies, when first Lavoisier demonstrated that sugar could be transformed into alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat through alcoholic fermentation, and later with Pasteur, who demonstrated that wine is life as it the yeasts, living organisms, work the miracle of fermentation. In those years the problem was to identify methods of analysis, to develop microbiological and physical-chemical stabilization methods, to preserve it well-avoiding alterations, to better manage fermentation: all this has been perfectly acquired over the years, today’s problems - points out Moio - are no longer the analytical and technological ones, but those linked to this enormous growth in environmental sensitivity on the part of society. And we see it also in this reopening, because since the end of the lockdown people prefer nature to the cities, “isolated” holidays, the density of holidays by boat has increased slightly, the same as that of isolated villas, preferably with swimming pool. People try to isolate themselves, looking for strong contact with nature.
This has been the Coronavirus too. But this sensitivity has grown over the years, and today we are witnessing a serious and strong awareness. And also on this, as emerged in our scientific meetings at the OIV, the debate is lively. And it directly concerns social and environmental issues, i.e. issues such as green agriculture, and therefore clean and pure agriculture concerning the environment, the plant, professionals and consumers, which are no longer postponable issues. Before they were commercials, marketing, which divided producers into groups, conventional versus organic versus natural, and had its positive effects, because it made everyone think, and now we can only go in that direction, no one excluded”. In a future in which mass travel will be reduced, and the world could rediscover distances that seemed by now shortened and relative, “wine has a great chance - resumes the professor of Oenology -: it will save humans, because in an increasingly globalized world, where everything tends to conform to conventional models (think of airports, all the same; the goods displayed in duty-free always the same), wine is a winner. It is a metaphor for diversity, it is anti-standard by definition and its greatest strength.
There are many grape varieties, many areas, different technologies, links with the territory, the return of the place of origin, and then within the same typology, since it is a product that changes continuously depending on the vintage, it is always different, and it is a wonderful thing compared to the standardization towards which we are heading. In Italy, we should seize even more strongly the opportunity offered by the many grape varieties we have. Even on wine, in recent years, there has been a sort of leveling off, caused by the diffusion in the world of four or five varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, above all. Italy has the answer: our grape varieties, perfectly adapted and integrated in our territories, which can show all their diversity in wine. A Nebbiolo - recalls Luigi Moio - is different from a Sangiovese, which is different from an Aglianico and a Nerello Mascalese, and so on. The great diversity of wine is less evident for the other products of the agri-food industry, and it is the strength and the cause of the planetary success of this extraordinary beverage”.
Returning to the environmental sensitivity of society, the main theme of a reflection that looks to the future of wine but not only, “is an aspect that must be faced with in-depth technical and scientific knowledge. In recent years - Moio continues - another element of discussion within the OIV, which concerns the entire supply chain, from the grapes to the bottle: the concept of “eco winery”, therefore of sustainability from the vineyard to the winery. In addition to all this, I have started a discussion and reflection among the expert delegates of the various countries, on the concept of an enology that I have defined as “light”, a sort of mild-enology that obviously can only be pursued if I grow the right plant in the right place, and therefore if the conditions are created to have an oenological potential in perfect harmony with the soil and climate context. This is an interesting and proper aspect of wine, because to do so only a bunch of grapes is needed. No other product needs so little, perhaps those of dairy origin, To make beer, or bread, or any other fermented product, you need more, first of all water. In wine all the “ingredients” are in the bunch of grapes, starting with the water that is of vegetation, together with the other chemical and biochemical components necessary for the fermentation to go on properly until the end”. In this sense, enology has an even more important role, far from blurred, which goes in the sense of exalting diversity. “Quality wine made with a “light enology” can only be born from a must produced from a bunch of grapes in which all the components are already in perfect balance, in a harmony created by the soil, the plant, the climate, in short, we must return to consider with accuracy and knowledge the genotype-environmental interaction because if it is not perfect, humans must intervene much more to compensate, to correct, to recompose a balance.
This is why I often say that nowadays good wines are made everywhere in the world, but great wines can only be made if there is a perfect interaction between the plant and the soil and climate environment, an entirely agronomic condition. In order to achieve all this, it is necessary to have even more solid and in-depth technical and scientific knowledge, and always be able to doubt: those who are too certain about their beliefs risk getting lost. Knowing the complex issues well allows us to prevent, to reason and consequently to intervene as little as possible to proceed, instead, in an action of process assistance”. Another aspect, emphasizes Luigi Moio, which cannot be postponed, is the biological conversion, which is necessary, but not everywhere this agronomic approach can be carried out correctly. In this sense, COVID has made us reflect on the delirium of the omnipotence of humans, who must convince themselves that they cannot do everything everywhere, and even in the world of wine this is the case, at least when talking about great wines. “These are issues to be faced with humility and with the help of scientific research and knowledge. You can no longer tell fairy tales, it is time to be serious, responsible and prepared, to explain what quality viticulture is and how it is done. Another important issue (which I am dealing with in the new book I am finishing, editor's note) concerns the aspect of tasting: there is indeed a strong subjectivity, however, I believe it is not true that wine, especially if it is of high quality, does not have an objective consistency but depends only on the inclinations or whims of individuals, that is to say, personal taste. Even though I consider how important is personal involvement in the experience of wine tasting, I believe it is possible to describe its beauty with more precision and objectivity. For this reason, it is necessary to taste it with competence and passion and certainly with an attitude of continuous doubt, continuous verification and self-criticism. In this way, probably, it is possible to grasp the infinite differences between wines, and enjoy the extraordinary diversity that this wonderful drink, authentic and natural, offers us”. And then there is another aspect that deserves to be explored in depth by all the players in the chain - producers, consumers and communicators - namely that wine is a formidable tool for education aimed at moderation compared to other alcoholic beverages. “To choose a bottle of wine we have to understand what kind of wine we want to drink, how we combine it, wine virtually takes us to its places of origin, drags us through cellars and wine shops, opens debates and discussions, brings with it a ceremonial and liturgy of the highest cultural value, and all this virtually takes the alcohol away from the drink. All this is unique, but it requires responsibility on the part of all those involved in the chain. Wine - recalls the Professor of Oenology at the University of Naples - is an extraordinary pedagogical tool, and in the future, we should be good at telling it well, without trivializing it, because, in the end it is, in all cases, fermented grape juice, it is not what can fascinate”. Finally, another reflection should be made on wineries and their role in the territories, not only as catalysts for the tourist experience but also as centers of culture. “I remember when they were closed - says Moio - but now the Movimento Turismo del Vino, at the beginning with Cantine Aperte, and not only that, has changed everything for the better, and today, as we know, they are permanently open, becoming cultural reception centers.
I dream that wineries transmit knowledge and training, not just visiting the cellar: people must leave having learned something about wine and reflect. In this we need to work together, to structure a national network of hospitality and wine tourism, also with the help of the State, as happens with museums and places of art: the cellars, in some ways, are places where you can deepen a multidisciplinary knowledge. Wine is beauty, at least if we are talking about great wines, and attracting people to the wineries has an important economic value for the entire territory, it is an attraction, it happens in France, and even more so in California, where they were very good in the eighties at introducing their quality wines to consumers by attracting them to their places of origin.
“In Italy,” Luigi Moio recalls, “we have a natural advantage, it is the most beautiful country in the world, but we must commit ourselves to make the most of the exclusive potential that Italy offers us, and not only on wine”.
In short, Moio concludes in his analysis, “wine for me is not only scientific research and cold analysis, of which I have always been involved, but it is above all this, so it must be properly framed. Italy is, in my opinion, the true country of wine, the historicity and varietal richness offered by our vines and places, which give rise to wines of great quality, tells us. So much has been done, but now we must move forward more neatly, with less haste and with greater responsibility and precision, in order to preserve and enhance more and more a rare wealth that was fortunately left to us by those who preceded us”.

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