Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Venice, Padua and the Wines of Veneto: Annual Conference of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) in Italy, 2017

Picture: Venice Canale Grande

The American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) is a non-profit, educational organization dedicated to encouraging and communicating economic research and analyses and exchanging ideas in wine economics. The Association’s principal activities include publishing a refereed journal — The Journal of Wine Economics — and staging scholarly conferences that are forums for current wine related economic research. Members of AAWE are economists from around the world — in academia, business, government, and research.

I have published 4 book reviews in the Journal of Wine Economics in the past few years:

Book Review by Christian Schiller in Journal of Wine Economics (Vol 11, No 3): MARK E. RICARDO: Simply Burgundy: A Practical Guide to Understanding the Wines of Burgundy. Mark E. Ricardo Book, 2014, 56 pp., ISBN 978-0990513704 Q4 (paperback), $12.99

Book Review by Christian Schiller in Journal of Wine Economics (Vol 11, No 2): JOHN WINTHROP HAEGER: Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry. University of California Press, Oakland, 2016, 369 pp., ISBN 978-0-520-27545-4, $39.95

Book Review of "Wine Atlas of Germany" in Vol 10, No 1, 2015 of Journal of Wine Economics (Cambridge University Press)

Christian G.E. Schiller's Review of the Book: Ralf Frenzel (ed.) - Riesling, Robert Weil. Tre Torri, Wiesbaden, Germany, 2013, in: Journal of Wine Economics, Volume 9, 2014, No. 1, Cambridge University Press

This year's Annual Meetings took place in Padua, half an hour by train from Venice, in the Veneto Wine Region. The program focussed on the presentation of research papers by participants and also included a tour of the Prosecco Wine Region and a visit of winery in the Venice Lagune.

I am preparing 4 postings:

Venice, Padua and the Wines of Veneto: Annual Conference of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) in Italy, 2017
Touring the Prosecco Wine Region, Italy
Winemaking in Venice: Michel Thoulaze and Orto di Venezia
Schiller's Favorite Wine Bars in Venice

Annual Conference of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE) in Italy, 2017

JUNE 28 – 11.00 Guided Tour of the Old University Building

JUNE 28 – 16:30-19:30 Welcome Reception & Registration at the Padua Town Hall

JUNE 29 & 30 – 11th Annual Conference at the Orto Botanico di Padova/Botanical Garden

JUNE 29 – 18:30-22:00 Dinner at Praglia Abbey, including a Guided Tour of the Monastery by Father Anthony

The Praglia Abbey is a Benedictine monastery at the foot of the Euganean Hills, some 12 kilometers southwest of Padua, and four kilometers from Abano Terme. The monastery was founded in 1080.

The Abbey was thriving until Napoleon. In 1797, Venice was conquered by the French under Napoleon, then quickly transferred to Austrian rule in 1798. Napoleon again took the city in 1805. As part of Napoleon's secularization the community of the Praglia Abbey was dissolved.

After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna 1814/1815, the Republic of Venice was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it joined the newly united Italy in 1866. In 1834, with the support of the Austrian Government, the monks returned to the monastery. In 1867 the community was dissolved for a second time. Most monks went to the monastery of Daila (Croatia), then in Austria. Only two or three monks remained in Praglia as custodians of the monastery. In 1904 the monks were able to retunr and resume the full regular life that continues until today. There are about 20 monks.

JUNE 30 – 20:00 Gala Dinner at Pedrocchi Restaurant

JULY 1 – 9:00-20:00 Conegliano & Valdobbiadene – Prosecco Area

JULY 2 – 8:30- 21:00 Tour of the Venice Lagoon

The Wines of Veneto

Jancis Robinson: The Veneto, centred on Verona in the hinterland of Venice, is Italy's wine factory. Here lakes of pale red Valpolicella and Bardolino and watery Soave and Pinot Grigio are drained into bottles by the million for shipment to Italian and Italianate restaurants around the globe. Vineyards that are typically flat and fertile have been allowed to spew forth over-generous yields of characterless wine with as little cachet and interest as, say, Liebfraumilch.

The difference, however, is that whereas no one would even try to make truly serious Liebfraumilch, more and more ambitious winemakers within these three wine zones are making extremely good wines. As their influence, fortunately, increases, the real challenge for the consumer (and the wine retailer) is to distinguish the goodies from the baddies.

One easy (although not infallible - this is Italy, after all) starting point is to look for wines described as Classico, produced within the original central zone rather than the current much larger regions cynically expanded to make the most of the names' currency on international markets. Valpolicella described as Superiore must be at least 12% alcohol and aged at least a year before bottling (whereas basic Valpolicella may be just 11% alcohol and as much of a rush job as Beaujolais Nouveau). Another indicator of quality, it must be said, is a premium price. Valpolicella that is lively crimson rather than sludge pink, and tastes of bitter, juicy cherries rather than just tasting bitter cannot be produced cheaply. Yields must necessarily be much lower than on the flatter, more easily mechanised vineyards. Reliably superior Valpolicella producers include Allegrini, Boscaini, Dal Forno, Masi, Quintarelli, Santi, Trabucchi and Tedeschi.

Something has gone wrong with the Valpolicella recipe. Corvina is by far the most characterful of the three grape varieties from which it may be made, and all-Corvina wines are outlawed by the Valpolicella regulations. The Molinara vine tends to produce thin, acidic wine, while it can be difficult to squeeze much flavour out of Rondinella. (In fact largely because the regulations allow a maximum of only 70% Corvina, the seriously good producer Allegrini withdrew its wines from the Valpolicella DOC, threatening just as much anarchy in the Veneto as has been common in Tuscany.)

The classic way of adding depth and bite to Valpolicella (which should be a refreshing, tangy wine rather than one to age years and years) is to add additional grape skins, ideally those whose sugar content has been concentrated by drying, a technique known as ripasso or 'repassed', which increases the final alcohol and phenolic content in wines described as passito.

The Veneto's true distinction in the world of wine is that it is the only region where any serious quantity of wine is still made using grapes dried to concentrate their sugar content. This was the only way the Greeks and Romans had of increasing the resulting wines' alcohol content, because distillation and therefore alcoholic spirit was still unknown. Such wines are described as Recioto, and may be red or white, dry or sweet. If all the grape sugar is fermented out to alcohol, such wines are also described as Amarone, or ‘bitter’, for Valpolicella grapes dried to yield a wine of perhaps 16% alcohol can certainly taste extremely intense (and should be sipped with care, ideally like port after a meal rather than swigged throughout a meal). The quality of Amarone di Valpolicella has soared in recent years and there are now a host of good producers to choose from.

The white wine version, a refreshingly sweet Recioto di Soave, is much less common but it too concentrates the inherent qualities of the local grapes, in this case the appley Garganega, and can be a delightfully tangy alternative to heavier sweet wines such as Sauternes.

Soave, the Veneto's most famous white wine ambassador, is every bit as unpredictable in quality as Valpolicella, with the added variable that a wider range of grape varieties may be used: not just the local Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave (Trebbianos of various sorts abound in Italy) but also Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and the neutral Trebbiano Toscano. Good Soave – more likely to carry the moniker Classico or Superiore - is straw coloured and has a distinctive flavour reminiscent of almonds and apples.

Anselmi and Pieropan have for years shown that Soave can be so much more than a vapid, aroma-free mouthwash, but other producers now giving them a run for their money include Bertani, Cantina di Castello, La Cappuccina, Fatorri & Graney, Gini, Inama, Prà and Tamellini. There is now sufficient confidence in the green terraces of Soave that producers of this calibre bottle all sorts of different vineyards’ produce separately, so much character does each imprint on the wines produced there. Some of the wines have so much flavour and concentration that they can stand up to barrique ageing. Such characterful wines are a world away in quality (and price) from commodity Soave produced in such quantity mainly by the co-operatives that dominate this region.

Bardolino, made on the shores of Lake Garda, is basically a lightweight Valpolicella and good examples from producers of the calibre of Corte Gardoni, Guerrieri Rizzardi and San Pietro can make delicious summer drinking. The rosé version is called Chiaretto and local, potentially pretty Soave-like whites include Lugana (just over the border in Lombardia) and Bianco di Custoza. Gambellara is made just east of Soave and is also difficult to distinguish from it. The varied wines, red and white, made around Vicenza and Padua with their handsome Palladian villas are known as Colli Berici and Colli Euganei respectively. These wines are based on a mixture of local grapes and such international travellers as Merlot, Cabernet and Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc). A similar range of grapes is grown around the town of Breganze just north of Vicenza where one hard-working producer, Fausto Maculan, and one local grape, Vespaiolo, have been responsible for putting Breganze DOC on the world's wine map. Vespaiolo is thought to get its name from the wasps attracted to its particularly sweet grapes, which Maculan has proved can make great sweet white wine. Torcolato is made from semi-dried grapes and manages that Italian sweet white wine trick of being very sweet but also very tangy and refreshing.

East of here, across Piave river above the plains stretching towards the lagoons and Venice, is the source of north-east Italy's favourite sparkling wine, Prosecco, based on the Glera grape. Many a traveller has fallen in love with this at Harry’s Bar where it was first blended with peach juice to make a Bellini, or at the Locanda Cipriani on the spookily silent island of Torcello where it is served in glass jugs. Conegliano Valdobbiadene is the best zone, with the hill of Cartizze acknowledged as the most favourable site within it, though in 2008 the wider Prosecco appellation was dramatically extended, such is the demand for this easy-drinking fizz on export markets around the world.

Most of the still wines made on this fertile plain go under the name Piave or Lison-Pramaggiore. They tend to be decent, light (though generally uninspiring) Cabernets, Merlots or the local white grape Verduzzo. More interesting (if uncompromisingly dry) are reds from Raboso and Refosco grapes.


summerinitaly,com: Padua is often overlooked as a destination, which is a shame as it is a vibrant art city. With 210,000 people it is lively and offers city culture with the feel of a smaller town thanks to its historic center. Padova was named Patavium by the Romans, lies less than an hour from Venice and was historically tied to the Republic though it has been inhabited since 1183 BC. The location is perfect for seeing northeastern Italy - within an hour you can reach Venice, Treviso, Verona and Vicenza, while just a little farther afield are Ferrara and Lake Garda.

Padua is home to the second-oldest university in Italy, which was founded by discontented scholars and professors from Bologna who established it in 1222 for more academic freedom. Dante and Copernicus studied here, Galileo taught here, and the university today continues its well-established reputation as an elite place of higher learning. The student population give Padua vitality while the university district offers stores, pubs and markets. The university's primary areas of excellence traditionally were law, medicine and astronomy.

The city offers a lot, with its mix of modern and medieval, it is cultured and casual at the same time. There are renowned treasures to see here. The Scrovegni Chapel is called "The Sistine Chapel of the North," a lovely chapel completely covered in frescoes by Giotto, an attraction that merits the trip to Padua alone! The Musei Civici have masterpieces by Tiepolo, Tintoretto and Veronese, among others. Don't miss the Church of Sant'Antonio, one of Italy's most revered saints, the reason many boys are named Antonio all through the peninsula. Here he is referred to merely as "Il Santo" (the saint) without any further name needed. The fanciful Romanesque basilica has Gothic touches, a Byzantine dome and a Moorish bell tower. Out front is the monumental statue of Gattamelata, a revolutionary equestrian statue by Donatello, a break-through in sculpture at the time and much studied by art historians. Other works by Donatello are found in the basilica and around Padova.

The city is also home to the oldest botanical garden in Europe, a park that merits a visit. The Duomo is beautiful but it's the magnificent Romanesque baptistry that steals the limelight.

Padova is a city of surprises, with rich culture, gorgeous art, a vibrant atmosphere and a great location.

Prosecco Area

Italy's Prosecco (schiller-wine): Prosecco has enjoyed a boom worldwide, notably in the US and Germany. This sparkling wine with its roots in a region north of Venice has become very popular on both sides of the Atlantic. But the expanding consumption of Prosecco has encouraged the production of Prosecco not only in its traditional home in northern Itlay, but also elsewhere in Italy and even outside of Italy, such as in Brazil. The reason for this expansion is that Prosecco is not only the name of a region, like Napa Valley, but also the name of a grape, like Merlot. As a consequence anyone can use the name of the Prosecco grape, as long as the Prosecco grape is in the bottle. Thus, other regions have tried to participate in the Prosecco boom and have started to produce a Prosecco with the Prosecco grape outside of its traditional home. The boom went so far that Prosecco started to be sold in cans at rock-bottom prices. All this will change in the future, hopefully. Back to the roots. At least in Italy and in the EU, which will probably follow Italy.

As of the 2009 vintage, the Prosecco grape has been renamed. Its new name is Glera. From now on, a wine producer in Sicily, for example, can no longer sell the Prosecco/Glera grape under the Prosecco name. Secondly, the heartland of the Prosecco has been upgraded to DOCG status and the larger Prosecco region to DOC status. Thus, Prosecco has become a regional application, just as Champagne in neighboring France. Only wine produced in the official Prosecco production zone can be labeled as Prosecco. The sale of Prosecco in cans has been banned.

Prosecco will continue to come in three categories.

First, there has always been a still Prosecco wine, as there is a still Champagne, although not available on neither the American nor the German market.

Second, there is a fully sparkling Prosecco (spumante). It is produced using the Charmat method. The second fermentation does not take place in the bottle, as is the case with champagne. Champagne re-ferments in bottles, which is labor-intensive and expensive. Prosecco, like many other sparkling wines, re-ferments in large tanks, a process that keeps prices down.

Third, in between there is the lightly sparkling Prosecco frizzante. It is produced using a process of carbon injection (or carbonation). This does not involve initiating a secondary fermentation but rather injecting carbon dioxide gas directly into the wine. This method produces large bubbles that quickly dissipates and is generally only used in the cheapest sparkling wines.

Fully sparkling wines, such as Champagne, are generally sold with 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure in the bottle. EU regulations define a sparkling wine as any wine with an excess of 3 atmospheres in pressure. These include German Sekt, Spanish Espumoso, Italian Spumante and French Cremant or Mousseux wines. Semi-sparkling wines are defined as those with between 1 and 2.5 atmospheres of pressures and include German spritzig, Italian frizzante and French petillant wines.

Finally, the Bellini, the long drink cocktail that originated in Harry’s Bar in Venice, is a mixture of Prosecco and peach puree. Today, it is popular also at the bar’s New York counterpart.

The Venice Lagoon

wikipedia/ wikitravel: This sanctuary on a lagoon is virtually the same as it was six hundred years ago, which adds to the fascinating character. Venice has decayed since its heyday and is heavily touristed (there are 56000 residents and 20 million tourists per year), but the romantic charm remains.

Venice is situated across a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave River.

Venice gradually morphed into a fully independent city state between the 9th and 12th Centuries A.D., and its naval and mercantile might soon led to its status as the link between the East and much of Western and Central Europe. An empire was formed that included Crete, a collection of Aegean islands, the Istrian Peninsula, the Dalmatian Coast and areas inland from Venice all the way up to the Alpine slopes. By 1300, Venice was the wealthiest city on the European continent. During the Middle Ages, Venice gained valuable trading privileges with the Byzantines, successfully resisted the power of the Papacy and became the "printing capital of the world."

The Decline of Venice

When Venice unsuccessfully tried to defend Thessaloniki and Constantinople from the Ottomans, the end result was a costly 30-year war, the loss of their overseas possessions and elimination of their top trading partner. Next, the discovery of new routes to Asia by the Spanish and Portuguese in the 1490's reduced the relative value of Mediterranean commerce. Finally, in 1575, 1577 and 1630 plagues drastically reduced Venice's population.

In 1797, Venice was conquered by the French under Napoleon, then quickly transferred to Austrian rule in 1798. Napoleon again took the city in 1805 and again lost it to Austria in 1814. A revolt broke out in 1848 but was crushed by 1849. Finally, in 1866, Venice joined a newly united Italy.

Modern Times

Under Mussolini, in 1933, Venice's long-time Jewish population was deported. During World War II, the city center was not bombed much, but its rail connections to the mainland and its few industrial areas were targeted repeatedly. By the time Allied troops came to liberate the city on April 29th, 1945, rebels had already freed it from Nazi control.

Since World War II, Venice's population has been cut in half as many have moved to the mainland. However, the tourist industry has boomed and become the city's economic mainstay. Despite a devastating flood in 1966, the city has recovered and become one of the top tourist destinations in Europe.

Art and Music

It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. After the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Republic was annexed by the Austrian Empire, until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866, following a referendum held as a result of the Third Italian War of Independence.

Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi. Venice has been ranked the most beautiful city in the world as of 2016. The city is facing some major challenges however, including financial difficulties, erosion, subsidence and an excessive number of tourists in peak periods.

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Book Review by Christian Schiller in Journal of Wine Economics (Vol 11, No 3): MARK E. RICARDO: Simply Burgundy: A Practical Guide to Understanding the Wines of Burgundy. Mark E. Ricardo Book, 2014, 56 pp., ISBN 978-0990513704 Q4 (paperback), $12.99

Book Review by Christian Schiller in Journal of Wine Economics (Vol 11, No 2): JOHN WINTHROP HAEGER: Riesling Rediscovered: Bold, Bright and Dry. University of California Press, Oakland, 2016, 369 pp., ISBN 978-0-520-27545-4, $39.95

Book Review of "Wine Atlas of Germany" in Vol 10, No 1, 2015 of Journal of Wine Economics (Cambridge University Press)

Christian G.E. Schiller's Review of the Book: Ralf Frenzel (ed.) - Riesling, Robert Weil. Tre Torri, Wiesbaden, Germany, 2013, in: Journal of Wine Economics, Volume 9, 2014, No. 1, Cambridge University Press

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