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“Wine is linked to agriculture and territory. Smart consumption must be defended with science”

Speech by Luigi Moio, president of the International Organization of Vine and Wine, at Congress No. 44 in Cadiz (June 5-9)
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Luigi Moio, president of the International Organization of Vine and Wine, in Cadiz

Reiterating that wine is a direct product of an agricultural act and linked to the land, unlike other beverages, alcoholic and otherwise, and that its “intelligent”, moderate consumption, paired with meals and in a healthy lifestyle context, has positive value. Learning from history and the recent past, when also due to the lack of an authoritative scientific reference, the wine itself, a cultural beverage par excellence, was cornered by counterproductive and scientifically unjustified choices. As in part is still in danger of happening today. And from which it must be defended, with the force of science. Also in view of the centenary since the birth of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) on November 29, 1924, with 2024 sought to be proclaimed “International Year of Vine and Wine”, something that would have a high symbolic value, but not only. These are the reflections at the heart of the opening speech of the World Congress of Vine and Wine No. 44, staged in Cadiz, Spain, from today to June 9, in the words of Professor Luigi Moio, president of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV).
“I have the privilege and great honour to welcome you to Spain, a country that in a century of the OIV existence, is hosting us for the sixth time. But this year’s invitation has something special: the Congress”, Moio said, “is the one that will conclude the first one hundred years, ferrying our organization into the next one hundred. Therefore, as OIV president, I feel the duty and responsibility to express some brief remarks on this very special moment and on the crucial role that the Kingdom of Spain has played since the beginning in the birth of the OIV”.
At the end of the nineteenth century, with the arrival of phylloxera, Moio recalls, there arose an urgent need for international coordination and comparison among scientific experts from different countries. In 1874 an international scientific commission was created that initiated and encouraged studies on the biology and epidemiology of the insect. “Subsequently, as we well know, with strictly biological criteria, the problem was brilliantly solved”. But, after the phylloxera disaster, in addition to the drama of World War I, European wine producers, who accounted for 90% of world production, found themselves facing other problems, such as “the uncontrolled increase in fraud with the production and trade of adulterated and manipulated beverages that were called wine; the lack of a common definition of wine that would allow for unified regulatory control to regulate trade and combat fraud; the culpability of wine, which was included in the list of spirits to be banned, in the decade of prohibition in the United States, from 1920 to 1930; and the lack of an international body to compare and study the various technical and scientific problems of the wine industry.
So it was that exactly a century ago, on June 4, 1923, senior representatives of Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece gathered in Paris for an International Ministerial Conference of Wine Exporting Countries”.
And as Moio recalled, the fundamental points addressed by the OIV’s “Constituent Assembly” 100 years ago are, for the most part, very relevant today. “First of all, to study and develop suitable measures to make known and appreciate the positive value of moderate wine consumption, in combination with meals and in a healthy lifestyle context. Regarding this first objective, it is worth recalling that the first article of the OIV’s founding act, dating back to 1924, stated that the organization was to: “collect, study and publish information demonstrating the beneficial effects of wine”. In fact, to give an immediate and concrete impetus to the dissemination and promotion of wine culture in 1930, “le Prix de l’Oiv” was established. A prize that at that time was entitled: “The Truth about Wine” and is now the oldest in the world. In 77 editions it has been awarded to the authors of more than 800 editorial works. The second point under discussion was aimed at examining the regulations adopted in the various countries on the definition of wine, in order to prepare a common definition of wine, which is still valid today”, Moio added, “and to encourage the development and adoption of analytical and regulatory procedures aimed at guaranteeing the purity, authenticity and integrity of the wine. Finally, the third objective was to create an International Wine Office to devise agreements on a scientific basis to be transmitted as recommendations to member states in order to facilitate harmonization of their policies and facilitate international trade”.
And so, the story goes, on June 6, 1923, after three days of work, the five delegations agreed on the principles discussed and approved them at a second diplomatic conference held from June 30 to July 5, 1924, and joined by the countries: Austria, Hungary, Luxembourg, Tunisia, Chile and Mexico. The two conferences finally led to the signing of the agreement that sanctioned the establishment of the OIV: November 29, 1924.
“Spain, therefore, from the very beginning”, recalls President Luigi Moio, “participated in the construction of what later became the International Organization of Vine and Wine”. This is evidenced, among others, by the two Spanish presidents of the OIV, Engineer Eladio Asensio Villa, the first non-Frenchman to chair the OIV, from 1963 to 1968; and Dr. Gabriel Yravedra, president from 1991 to 1994, who passed away recently, but also Pau Roca, Spain's first director general, still in office, whom Moio wanted to mention by thanking him and especially by paying tribute to his unstoppable work that with great passion and determination he carries out in the exclusive interest of the OIV's growth, which, reminded Moio again, it is precisely from Spain that the sequence of events for the Organization’s centennial celebrations will begin, with the proposal, to be formulated during next Friday’s General Assembly, to proclaim the centennial year the “International Year of Vine and Wine”, closing on November 29, 2024, the exact day of the centennial. “The announcement of an International Year of Vine and Wine”, Moio added, “in addition to its high historical value, is intended to stimulate and animate meetings and debates of a scientific, technical and cultural nature in all wine-growing countries of the world under the general theme: “The Vine and Wine of Tomorrow”.
“Theme that is in perfect harmony with the topics covered in this congress”, OIV President Luigi Moio further explained, “on new information technologies in viticulture and oenology. Indeed, digital information has rapidly entered the entire wine supply chain, from production to consumer, offering amazing opportunities for the development of increasingly accurate and sustainable production processes and the dissemination of complete and correct information in real-time. But today the wine sector, unfortunately, experiences alarming concerns. Current and especially future society may be evolving toward patterns that would threaten to challenge the legitimacy of wine, especially because of changes in the perception of alcoholic beverages. A new neo-prohibitionist wave could lead to a radical change in wine consumption, both in modes and quantities, leading to a rapid decline in consumption within a few generations. Therefore, the world of wine needs to be reassured and protected, because the cultural space that this drink has occupied in society for millennia could risk incurring real delegitimization”.
“It is necessary, therefore, to reiterate in every forum that wine is a beverage different from all other alcoholic beverages, both because of its profound historical and cultural values and because of the way it is taken, that is, in small sips that slowly accompany food. It is in this way that wine, like no other beverage in the world, complements and amplifies the sensory perception of food by contributing to the pursuit of bodily, immaterial and intellectual happiness of humans. The times we are living in will inevitably lead to radical changes both in production, particularly in the vineyard, and in the promotion of responsible consumption of this beverage, but fortunately the high cultural value of wine, at least in traditional wine-producing countries, cannot keep us from supporting “intelligent” consumption with serious education and training programs. Finally, there is another important aspect that is very close to my heart. We must never forget to reaffirm in every context that wine is the result of an agricultural act linked in a direct way to the territories of production and that viticulture is a vital safeguard for many territories whose importance is becoming increasingly evident in this particular period of climatic upheaval. It is the link with the land that is the great strength of wine, and this will only continue to be the case in the future since it is precisely this exceptionality that makes it an entirely agricultural product and consequently totally integrated into food systems. All this and many other originality of wine must be explained and told, because as we are perceiving, one hundred years later history repeats itself and wine, once again, has a strong need to be defended, protected and preserved in its integrity. The scientific world is fully involved in this and absolutely must take charge. Let’s just hope we have the time to do so! Long live wine, long live the International Organization of Vine and Wine, long live Spain!” concluded President Luigi Moio.

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