The additional geographical definitions
The idea behind Additional Geographical Definitions is to allow wines to be defined according to their exact place of origin, thereby adding the names of smaller, more personal zones within the Denomination.
Taking the example of Barolo, there has long been discussion about its so-called ‘sub-zones’, but these could only be accepted by the Ministery of Agriculture if over a certain size, owned by several producers and if the zone in question possessed distinct characteristics when compared to the surrounding area. Barolo’s true ‘sub-zones’ could thus be defined as belonging to the areas of Piedmontese Nebbiolo when vinified as Gattinara, Barolo, Barbaresco, Ghemme, Lessona and so on. The importance of soil type or of whether a vineyard faces south or north has always been of the utmost importance when considering Piedmontese hill vine cultivation and this has often guided the naming of Cascina-produced wines, right from the days of Vignolo-Lutati, through those of Renato Ratti, up to our own times with Carlo Petrini’s ‘Atlas of Langa Vineyards’.
For various reasons (historical, political and geographical), it has never proved possible to define these differences using a French-style ‘cru’ system. However, over time, various ‘names’ have come to the fore, indicating quality of terroir, techniques in the both the vineyard and winery and, not least, the producer’s ability to ‘make a name’ for himself. These ‘Additional Geographical Definitions’ have long been present on the best labels but the lack of a system to prevent exploitation of their usage led the Ministery of Agriculture (through the ICQ Institute for Quality Control) to request that the exact position of these zones – with measurements of boundaries and number of hectares involved – be defined. In this way, production from these named areas would be traceable via the Harvest Declaration. This mammoth task was undertaken by the Consortium together with local municipalities and the Province of Cuneo.
The work has taken years to complete (it was finally concluded in 2009): often, boundaries were historically unclear, more than one person made claims for ownership, or the area seemed to expand and contract according to who was listened to.
The same task was completed for Barbaresco, a smaller area, in 2007. The third wine to boast ‘Additional Geographical Names’ is Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba: the work on this wine actually began way back in the 1980s, taking the dialectal word ‘sorì’ as an indication of a particularly favourable vineyard.
Work will, however, continue to include other Doc and Docg wines in the area.
The ‘Additions’ list is not the exclusive territory of wine, either: in fact, if other agricultural products are cultivated in the same area, they can benefit from the special name. The Barolo zone includes 166 such ‘names’ approved by the new Disciplinary Regulations of December 2009. The use of such a term is not to be confused with the name of a particular vineyard (‘Vigna’), which requires even more stringent application of yield reductions in order to be applied to a Doc or Docg wine. This was originally intended as an attempt to create an Italian ‘cru’ system, but it has not been widely adopted.