Not even the great Luigi Veronelli, who properly called barriques by their Italian name, carati, succeeded in finding an Italian name to translate the magical French word “cru” with all its many powerful connotations. After some reflection a group of friends and outstanding producers decided to launch the Comitato to unite winemakers with records of high and constant quality over a span of at least 20 years to distinguish them from weekend warriors who entered the wine sector on a whim, with a lot of capital to invest and lavish sums to pay trendy enologists. But we too had to yield. We also had to use the word cru, which since the Napoleonic classification of 1855 has indicated the best wines of our French cousins.
The Comitato (the French call it the Conseil) dei Grandi Cru d’Italia was founded about eight years ago. It has a simple yet complex purpose: to unite under the name appearing in its Internet address, www.grandicruditalia.it, and used in its publications, most of the producers and their wines in particular that for at least 20 years have guaranteed the world wines of the highest quality.
During the Expo in Paris the French had Napoleonic authority to decide, essentially on the basis of price as an indication of quality, which wines were grands crus and to divide them into various categories, ranging from premier cru to grand cru classé to simple cru classé, in Italy, no authority now exists that can make such a selection.
But there is today an authority that is more authoritative than a government entity, the free market, where there are wine critics, magazines and guidebooks that classify each year the best wines consumers can acquire.
The Comitato has selected around 100 wines and producers that stand on top of Italian and international rankings, embodying quality, consistency and affinity among each other and all representing the different wine territories of the whole country.
It was in that way that the list of the Grandi Cru d’Italia was assembled, and it, different from the French Conseil, is fundamentally open. In more than 150 years, only one wine has been added to the Napoleonic classification: Château Mouton. Philippe de Rothschild, a partner in the first wine classified in 1855, Château Lafite, dedicated more than 40 years of his life not as a banker like his cousins but as a dramatist battling to succeed in his campaign to grow the Napoleonic list by only one unit. The story of this fascinating adventure is told by Philippe de Rothschild himself. He died some time ago but he left his account of the struggle to his daughter, Philippine. She has published it in a magnificent edition, Vivre la Vigne, presented as a dialog with a nephew of the same name. It is a book that every producer and wine lover should read.
Since the list is open, the roster of the Comitato Grandi Cru d’Italia will be periodically updated. To be admitted, the producers must possess all the characteristics required by the articles of incorporation, which can be summarized as: active as growers and winemakers for at least 20 years and with at least one wine recognized as excellent by critics and the market.
These are the fundamental features to show the wine sector, consumers and professionals, who in Italy divide primacy in production with France. There are companies that guarantee maximum quality. They are united in a Comitato that in turn represents a guarantee of the best Italian wines. That is, competitive non only with French grands crus but also with the best wines of the entire world.