Last week on our Italian site, we published an article regarding the wines from Al Bano winery in the southern region of Puglia, which are selling at €1.91/bottle ($US2.15). It got an incredible response, and was followed up by articles in Yahoo, the Huffington Post, Il Giornale and Dagospia.
Albano Carrisi, the singer-turned-winemaker and owner of the eponymous winery, bit back: “Slow Food? They’re snobs and just jealous. My wine is excellent: it’s €2 because I want it to be of the people.” Actually, our article was a much broader comment on the price of wine, without the intention to name and shame a single winery. But we don’t want to pass up the opportunity to reply to the famous winemaker. The president of Slow Food Italy, Gaetano Pascale, responds:
“Don’t worry, we at Slow Food also like wine at a good price! In fact, our Slow Wine Guide indicates those with the best value for money. But first we should clarify what we mean by a good price. In our point of view the value of a wine or food is fair when it guarantees adequate return for everyone who has worked to obtain it; when it has been produced with respect for the environment without dumping its hidden costs on the community; and when, in relation to its quality, the price is accessible to the consumer.
Specifically, considering all the costs involved in growing the grapes, processing and packaging (considering VAT at 22%), €1.91/bottle (regardless of whether the producer is Al Bano or another) seems a little low to guarantee quality and respect for the environment and workers. It also puts out of business many small-scale producers who through their work contribute to protecting the landscape and giving prestige to the Italian wine sector.
Could we be wrong? Possibly. Therefore we hope that somebody explains how it is feasible, so as to let small-scale producers in on the secret of how to stay on the market at these prices. Because the winemakers that we know simply cannot survive selling their wines for €1.91, €2.00 or even €3.00.”
Cost cutting can happen in any step, but when it begins to harm the health of workers or the environment, we should stop and ask ourselves the true cost of what we are buying. Why does Slow Wine talk so much about the price of wine? Because for us it’s important to let our readers know that wine–like food–has a base cost, below which it’s difficult to maintain quality, not just in the bottle, but also in the production process.