DESTINATION OR DESIGNATION OF ORIGIN ? THIS IS THE PROBLEM
Destination or designation? That is the question. They both have a map behind them. Often the two maps coincide or differ slightly, yet they communicate only to their target audience: one for tourists, the other for professionals.
Designations of origin and destinations: so close, so far
Since spring 2020, every wine tourism discourse has focused its attention on the local visitor, widening the field of action from the visit to the cellar to the vineyard. The traveler from abroad instead remained in the background. He/She continues to be extremely curious about Italy and the opportunities offered in our country.
The destinations on the label
The Italian DO wines are distributed worldwide and are extraordinary ambassadors of their places of origin. Their labels always indicate a precise location, but in trade, this aspect is often ignored, rightly prioritizing the contents of the bottle and its technical characteristics.
Do these places on the label automatically correspond to tourist destinations? Unfortunately, not. The notoriety of wine is only minimally connected and associated with a specific place in the mentality of the final consumer and very often also of the distributor. For this aspect, we thank the sellers and ambassadors of Italian wine worldwide who communicate the peculiarities of Italian wines daily concerning their origin and places of production.
DO destinations to taste
However, many places have a unique tourist identity, often also widely recognized. At the same time, their wines are still little known, and the peculiarities of the area of origin are still challenging to transfer. Let’s take an example? The whole Western world knows where the Etna volcano is and its peculiarity. How many wine lovers in Italy and worldwide know Etna doc wines? I don’t ask how many may have tasted them given that production is still limited. I am referring exclusively to notoriety.
Many Italian wine lovers are astonished and surprised at my suggestion to visit eastern Sicily and the Etna area to taste local wines.
North and south: no difference
The south/north prejudices are not valid when it comes to wine. We can give a similar example in the far north and super-efficient Lombardy to remember how well Valtellina destination is famous, thanks to the ski championships.
Well, how many wine-lovers know the extraordinary wines from Valtellina? Yes, we call it the Nebbiolo Delle Alpi. This name undoubtedly recognizes a specific value to the wine, but how much are these extraordinary wines present in the motivations of tour operators and their proposals in everyday life?
Valtellina Superiore doc is the appellation of a peculiar area. Heroic viticulture is the definition of vine growing here because of the steepness of the hills. A flat valley where stubborn winemakers have conquered the south-facing slope over the centuries to obtain absolute oenological wonders from the mountains. Sforzato di Valtellina docg is undoubtedly an extraordinary ambassador of its origin. Still, it does not seem to be the priority of Italian food and wine tours yet.
Who is the king?
It is undeniable that Valtellina and its cellars have acquired more incredible notoriety thanks to the tourist attraction of Lake Como. Still, it is very tiring for us local wine guides to admit that the number one attraction in the area is George Clooney’s house. And not the Sforzato di Valtellina docg.
The contrary also happens
I have mentioned places that tour operators do not perceive as tourist destinations, despite their DO wines being present in the assortments of importers worldwide. In contrast to this reality, there are “denominations” whose notoriety far exceeds the idea of quality and originality.
“I need to plan a trip to northern Italy. When it comes to wine, my customers think Tuscany only produces wine in Italy,” – said an American tour operator in a B2B event recently. Tuscan producers are the best communicators, and we all have to learn from them. However, it is inevitable that not all the wines can be five stars, alongside undoubted excellence.
Communicate a destination of origin
Designations of origin are a problematic issue to communicate. They skip their function of linking the wine and the production area. This link is so important when speaking to non-professionals. The consumer associates the denomination with a vague idea of quality not correctly certified.
More than fifty years ago, the producers did not create designations
to welcome people but identify the wines with their birthplace. The purpose was to enter the wine list of the restaurants after centuries and centuries of local consumption.
Since then, all producers in southern Europe have aligned themselves with the designation system to recognize the different grape varieties connected with the production areas. The system is relatively rigid and contains all specificities that characterize one production on the other, including packaging. The European Union incorporates all the regulations and protects them from fraud in the rest of the world.
When wine-lovers understand this explanation, a real Epiphany is triggered. During an event last winter, after my introduction, a young wine-lover reacted by saying: “Thank you. Today you opened a world to me! ”
There is no greater gratification for those who tell about wine and would like to transfer their enthusiasm and curiosity to their audience.
And what will your next destination be? A place or a designation?