Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 - Foreword

Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 - Foreword

As I am fond of saying, this book represents a labor of love. From the inception of Italian Wine Unplugged in 2017, to the publication of this new and improved version 2.0, we have been driven by the constant desire to provide the highest quality educational content possible. Thanks to the invaluable contributions of our many editors, writers and graphic artists, as well as the distinguished faculty members of the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA), and its inimitable chief scientist, the one and only Professor Attilio Scienza, this book demonstrates what happens when a passionate community of experts in their field unite behind a common objective.

The purpose of the first edition was to create a schematic reference book, a study guide for students and lovers of Italian wine around the world. Little did we know what a herculean project that would be, bringing together information and study references for over 500 indigenous Italian grapes, as well as providing history, context, geographical, geological and climatic data, to tell the story of Italian grapes and all the multitude of wines they produce. We developed icons and infographics, regional maps and mind maps. We invested a great deal of energy, blood, sweat and tears in the project and experienced triumphs and setbacks along the way. The culmination of all that effort was the first edition of Italian Wine Unplugged, a book that represents a benchmark in Italian wine education, and one that appears on the reading list of many wine education courses.

In the intervening five years since the publication of the first edition, the book has been used in a variety of different ways, most notably as the set text for the Vinitaly International Academy (VIA). Over the years, we have gratefully received comments and suggestions from readers, as well as a wish list from VIA faculty members, Italian Wine Ambassadors, and students more generally. We also had one or two ideas of our own about how we could make Unplugged even more compelling and useful for our readers. We realized that the best way to respond to all these new ideas and harness the array of new material that had been generated was to launch a brand-new edition. This way we could incorporate all the improvements we wanted to make and give our current and future readers everything they needed to take their passion for Italian wine to the next level.

We also understood that Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) has arrived at a crucial point in its development, and we were inspired to aim high with the new edition. VIA represents the gold standard of Italian wine education. It offers a complete educational path with standardized courses that teach professionals and educators to master the diversity of Italian wine in a structured and rigorous way. VIA’s mission also includes fostering a global network of highly qualified professionals, which includes Italian Wine Ambassadors and Italian Wine Experts, who support and promote Italian wine throughout the world. Unplugged is a key resource, not just in delivery of the course itself, but also as a reference tool as Wine Ambassadors go about their work spreading the gospel of Italian wine throughout the international wine community.

The certifications that VIA endows on successful participants have become increasingly visible, recognized and respected across the global wine sector. VIA courses are challenging but rewarding, renowned for their rigorous approach to Italian wine education, as well as providing the opportunity for participants to join a vibrant international network of wine professionals and enthusiasts. As the core text for VIA students, there is an onus on us to ensure that Unplugged is fit for purpose; that it continues to challenge, educate and stimulate its readers. That obligation has informed many of the updates and improvements that have been incorporated in the second edition.

At the heart of these improvements is Professor Attilio Scienza, who is not only VIA’s Chief Scientist, but also our dear friend. Professor Scienza continues to share his wisdom, expertise and unparalleled knowledge of the history and science behind Italian grape varieties with authority, charm and generosity. The new edition of Italian Wine Unplugged owes a great debt of gratitude to Scienza’s scholarly approach, and we are privileged to present his most recent contributions in a special chapter he has written exclusively for this edition. The individual regions also bear the hallmark of Scienza’s work, having been rewritten entirely by him for the sole purpose of improving the depth of content for students.

Carlo Petrini, the President of Terre Madre International, recently remarked, “drinking wine is for everyone, but only a few know how to really talk about wine. Passion, study and experience have distinguished Attilio Scienza as one of the most authoritative voices in the oenological field. If we know today what we are drinking, it is only thanks to people like Attilio”. Indeed, we are extremely fortunate to have Professor Scienza, whose reputation and immense body of work gives our text unique depth, authority and originality.

This new edition of Italian Wine Unplugged is dedicated to converting wine lovers to experts, by providing the skills and resources necessary to communicate about Italian wine, both at home and in the professional arena, in a precise and informed way. The second edition represents a carefully re-organized evolution of the original text. In the course of what turned out to be a monumental undertaking, we updated the structure of the book, reorganizing the material to make it easier to follow and more user friendly. Its publication reflects the growth of Italian wine’s international popularity, as well as the need for an academic-driven text that supports the serious study of Italian wine. Version 2.0 was born of our desire to take the great book we already had, and turn it into an even more accessible, content-rich, study tool for anyone interested in the fascinating but highly complex world of Italian wine.

“What we kept” includes the sections Grape Groups and Families, Lesser-known Native and Traditional Varieties and Rare Native and Traditional Varieties. The Classifications section also remains, although in edited form. For these existing pieces of the first edition, re-worked in 2.0, we once again thank Geralyn Brostrom, Lingzi He, Michaela Morris and Michele Longo for their contributions.

“What we changed” refers to many updates, the most obvious one being that the book is no longer subtitled “Grape by Grape”. This change reflects the fact that the VIA course has evolved, and we recognize that Italian wine is not just about the grape varieties, but also the wealth of history, geology, culture and tradition that informs everything we study and teach. There has been a considered and thorough reorganization of the material and we hope readers will find the new flow of information more useful as they study. The appellation maps, courtesy of Federdoc, have all been updated, and the photos of individual varieties courtesy of VCR Vivai Cooperativi Rauscedo have been expanded with photos from the Ministry of Agriculture.

“Things that are brand new in 2.0” are too numerous to list. However, in order to get the most out of this new edition, it is important to point out what we added and why we did it. Looking at the specifics, the book is a larger format than the first edition, with paper more suitable for making notes and more space left for jotting down key points and questions. The second edition has added “benchmark wines” to each “must know” grape variety, offering our readers a clear path to identifying some of the producers of wines our experts consider worthy examples that should be tasted to develop a more profound understanding of the grape variety in question. By no means a comprehensive list, our benchmarks are intended to create an immediately useful roadmap to finding and trying quality Italian wines in a way that will enhance the learning experience. We look forward to curating and sharing an ever-increasing list of “benchmark” wines in the future and we hope this new feature will lead curious readers to find reliable examples of wines to taste outside of Italy. To further add value to the individual grape descriptions, we have included “at the table” suggestions for food and wine pairings, particularly when a grape is known for traditionally accompanying certain local dishes. Some grapes do not have this information, simply because they work well with a wide variety of food, and/or are not known for specific historical pairings.

The new edition begins with contributions from distinguished members of the Vinitaly International Academy faculty. The first, by Sarah Heller MW*, reflects on taking a modern and intellectual approach to wine tasting; while the second, by Henry Davar IWE*, expands on the theme of “what makes a benchmark wine”. Both topics are integral to VIA’s concept of how to study Italian wine, particularly since so many of Italy’s best wines are virtually unknown outside the country. Identifying the best examples of these hard-to-find wines, as well as learning to understand the unique nuances of those wines in the glass and on the palate, are two key elements that distinguish Italian wine experts from Italian wine lovers. To get the most out of tasting key Italian wines, the VIA faculty has developed a tasting grid for its students taking the IWA course. Faculty member Sarah Heller’s unique descriptions of wine - including visual, vocal, mental, emotional and written clues - culminated in the creation of this unique tasting tool that incorporates detailed elements particular to Italian wines, including texture in whites, a critical characteristic that is often left unexplored. To learn more about the tasting grid and the theory, we invite you to take the course!

The VIA community has grown exponentially since the inception of its first course in 2015, with over 1100 members worldwide today. We asked several of our certified Italian Wine Ambassadors to assist in rewriting grape descriptions and identifying relevant benchmark wine producers as previously discussed. We have also moved the images of the “must know” grapes from the stand-alone photo gallery chapter and placed them alongside the information on individual grapes, providing readers with an immediate visual aid.

After much discussion, we chose not to include the Mind Maps section, created by J. C. Viens, in order to avoid any confusion with the new hypotheses found in Professor Scienza’s work. We know many students benefit from mind maps as a study tool, and we are happy to direct our readers to the Kindle version of the first edition, where the mind maps remain unchanged.

Above all, the invaluable contribution of Professor Attilio Scienza to this book cannot be overstated. In many ways, he is the driving force that underpins all the educational resources we produce, and the refinements to the second edition were shaped by his interpretation of the latest science surrounding grape pedigrees and DNA, as well as by his unique perspective on the ancient migratory and trade routes that shaped viticulture as we know it today. Under his guidance and supervision, we have made several very specific changes to the text.

First, the Italian regions have been relocated from the back of the book to the beginning, recognizing that location and context are critical to developing a meaningful understanding of grapes, their natural habitats, and the various influences affecting growth, harvest, style and characteristics.

Second, the maps of the DOC/DOCG areas and their requirements have all been enlarged and updated to include the newest denominations and recent regulatory changes, as well as provide a more easy to read format for students.

Third, and most importantly, the introductory section has been expanded and significantly enhanced, incorporating Professor Scienza’s latest thoughts on grape DNA and pedigree, the impact of prejudice in viticulture, the role of soils in grape characteristics and vineyard management, as well as exploring the incredible journey individual grape varieties have been on, going all the way back to antiquity and beyond. This wealth of material adds depth and insight, enhancing our understanding of Italian wine through the ages and helping us to better understand and appreciate the current success of the Italian wine sector and how the challenges of the future might be best met.

Marchese Piero Antinori commented that Attilio Scienza’s “great competence and profuse passion in his numerous studies relating to the fascinating universe of wine and the grapevine … will make yet another important contribution at the frontier of the sector”. Though not without its challenges, we hope all our readers will appreciate the contextual depth and unparalleled advancements that Scienza’s material has added to our study of Italian grapes and wines.

We are proud of the ever-expanding library of resources we have created for Italian wine lovers and students, and of our commitment to creating educational content that is both authoritative and stimulating. We know that modern learning doesn’t stop at the written word, and we are excited to offer ever more layers of audio, visual, and social media content to instruct, inform and educate – spreading the gospel of Italian wine, which has long been my personal mission. In keeping with our philosophy of providing as much varied content as we possibly can, our list of additional resources now contains links to relevant podcasts on our Italian Wine Podcast and Mamma Jumbo Shrimp YouTube channels, as well as our own set of Wine Study Maps created in-house with an accompanying Map Study Guide, and all the other resources we have published since Italian Wine Unplugged first came out in 2017, including several books authored by Attilio Scienza himself.

Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone who worked so hard to bring this book together. Our crack team of Faculty members: Sarah Heller MW, Henry Davar IWE, and Professore Attilio Scienza; our in-house team of writers, editors and graphics: Cynthia Chaplin, Jacopo Fanciulli, Richard Hough, Andrea Darra, Miriam Ferrari, Marina Lovato and Sara Zambon; and all of the VIA community members who pitched in: Must Know Grape Editing Assistance from Julianne Farricker and Corinne Keddie, Must Know Grape Rewrites from Peggy Baudon, Paul Bologna, Bev Bourdin, George Caflisch, Cynthia Chaplin, Staci Daniels, Brie Dema, Erin DeMara, Jay DiDonato, Noell Dorsey, Andrea Eby, Susannah Gold, Stephanie Guth, Jodie Helman, Slawek Kominski, Russ Lorber, Emilia Marinig, Ciro Pirone, Gianluca Queriroli, Annie Replogle, Gabby Rossouw, Rebecca Severs and Jessica van der Schee.

As always, our goal is to present the very best of everything Italian wine has to offer, and to inspire an ever-broader audience to take up the challenge of learning all the myriad pieces that make up the Italian wine puzzle. This new edition decodes the mysteries of the Italian wine story, from individual grapes and the history and science behind them, all the way through to current trends in winemaking styles and the ever-evolving system of denominations and regulation that govern the industry. This new book is authoritative and practical, an invaluable resource for wine professionals, wine geeks, and wine lovers alike. We tried our best to bring as many suggestions and wishes as possible into this new version and all the remaining mistakes and imperfections are solely ours. I hope Italian Wine Unplugged 2.0 will become “la chiave di lettura” - the key to understanding Italian wine, the Holy Grail, if you like. More importantly, I hope you enjoy it, learn from it, and continue on your own personal journey in the endlessly fascinating realm of Italian wine.

With a heavy heart and great admiration, this book is dedicated to Roddy Ropner, wine writer and one of our own Italian Wine Ambassadors. We have lost a true gentleman of wine and we hope this book will do him proud.

Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Grape Varieties - Introduction

Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Grape Varieties - Introduction

Welcome to the Jumbo Shrimp Guide to International Varieties in Italy. This...
Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wine - Foreword

Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wine - Foreword

Welcome to the Jumbo Shrimp Guide to Italian Wine. This guide is...
Vine and Prejudice - Forward by Stevie Kim

Vine and Prejudice - Forward by Stevie Kim

Often a book idea begins while I am listening to one of...