Let's talk about the peach tree.
Remember when the Rome wine store, Bulzoni was busted for having a section of wines devoted to natural? As there was no such thing as natural wine, selling wine as natural was a fraud perpetrated on the innocent wine drinkers of Italy.
During that debacle the authorities seized four bottles of each offending wines for analysis. However, according to to Sonia Toretto who works for Stefano Bellotti ( the much beloved Cascina degli Ulivi) a dozen each of the degli Ulivi were taken for testing.
My speculation: as Stefano has been in biodynamics longer than any other winery in the country (since 1987) he's a marked man. Perhaps they were looking for a pot farm. Perhaps they were looking for a meth lab. But what they found was equally a danger to the people.
There in the middle of the cortese vines were peach trees.
Diversity in the vines is essential for vineyard health. Mono-culture, is anathema to organic and biodynamic farming. Yet, Regione Piemonte ruled that having more than 1% extraneous plants in a vineyard is considered no longer a mono- culture of vines and therefore not worthy of public financing and right of appellation.
Over the years, the government has given agricultural incentives to many winemakers and Stefano was one of them. Now, there was the threat that because of the trees, he was going to be stripped of the Gavi DOC. Gavi is where he makes wine. The DOC is emblem of pride. In addition, he had to pay money back years of incentives.
Forms of felonious life in Stefano's vines.
Sonia confirmed that the events took an even further bizarre turn. After all, we're talking Italy. "Last Wednesday," she wrote, "the government seized about 30,000 bottles, about a third of Stefano's stocks, due to inaccurate "non conforme"--criminal labelling of the wines."
The charge? He did not use both of his certifications on the label that he was entitled to. He used his Demeter certification on the 2007 vintage. He did not use his organic certification. Fraud! Of what I am not sure.
The team Piemonte was off and running. They tested those bottles they confiscated after the the Bulzoni affair for pesticide and herbicde residue and lack of sulfur. Stefano's wines were true to his word. Yet they still fined him about 1200 euro per label for certification issue and 'correct' the labels.
But there might be some good news about those peach trees and the salvation of the Gavi DOC. The technician called the winery and did a little back-pedalling, "Maybe I might think about this some more. Because I really don't know much about biodynamics and biodiversity."
Over Skype Sonia told me, "They are paying people to make decisions who don't know anything. If you ask my eight-year-old son, he knows about the importance of biodiversity. It's just common knowledge."
It's been a strange year in the world of wine where the race to steal its soul has been full-force. The Loire cracked down on Olivier Cousin. There was the Bulzoni affair. There is Stefano. Is it merely ignorance, or is it darker? Could I project that one day Monsanto will put pressure on the EU to make sure the peach trees aren't in the vines, that biodiversity is broken, so they can sell more chemicals? Can we see the day when winemakers are punished for not using Roundup? This isn't too far fetched. The world, after all, is nuts.
No matter the reason, wrong people are being challenged ,those who don't pollute, and those who seek purity are viewed as the culprits. Who was it who said, authenticity is always threatening?