For the first time in 20 years, I was forced this year to miss out on Vinitaly, Italy’s most important annual wine exhibition. I managed to follow events though, partly watching television, partly reading the papers and partly listening to what my collaborators on the spot had to report.
The feeling I got was that the Italian wine sector is now reaping the fruits of all the hard work it has put in over the last decade. Thanks to its unceasing pursuit of quality in that period, Italian wine is now at the top of the international ratings. The hordes of journalists who invaded the pavilions in Verona are a mirror of this triumphal comeback.
Attendance figures were high and, the exhibitors with stands in VeronaFiere’s 60,000 square-meter display space covered virtually the whole of Italy’s national wine production. But let’s not get carried away; we can’t afford to rest on our laurels as yet.
I can recall less glorious times for Italian wine producers, and I hope that the people in Verona can too. We must never mislay the sense of measure that has to characterize both victories and defeats. If we do, we’ll run a number of risks: namely, eco-incompatibility, productive standardization, and the dilapidation of the heritage we have inherited from our fathers. Though the European Community has deemed it legally possible, let’s not take the introduction of GMOs to viticulture for granted. What’s now needed, in my opinion, is a probing debate and maximum transparency vis-à-vis both the funders and the results of research.
I don’t want to cast a damper on the party, but unless we manage things efficiently and sensibly, rapid, exponential growth risks spoiling everything. It’s not easy to reach the top, but it’s even harder to stay there.
Fair enough, we’re entitled to sit back and enjoy the ongoing golden period. But let’s also remember that long-sightedness has paid off in the past and that we have to use it again if we wish to repeat our success in the future.
Adapted by John Irving