The Methanol Scandal
After the previous articles about practical topics, we can now reminisce a historical event that had a major impact on the world of Italian white wine: the methanol scandal. During March 1986, some producers of the Langhe area, Piedmont, began adding methyl alcohol. The latter is usually present, although in insignificant amounts because it is harmful to our organism. The methyl alcohol is cheaper than sugar but into wine increase its alcohol content.
Shortly after, the first cases of poisoning, neurological damage, and 23 cases of death were registered. This tragic event led to the collapse of the Italian white wine market along with its image. In addition, farmers from the Langhe area had to face a remarkable winter hailstorm, which destroyed the best vineyards of the Barolo area.
It is in this chaotic climate that a group of young winegrowers decided to react by modifying and developing Piedmont wines, especially the Barolo. The group mainly consisted of four members: Roberto Voerzio, Chiara Boschis, Elio Altare and Giorgio Rivetti. The latters, enthralled by the French production technique, decided to actualize the same system to their family lands, introducing the barrique, utilizing the malolactic fermentation, and decreasing the duration of the maceration on the peel. Thanks to the application of these procedures, the young group of farmers obtained a Barolo that immediately draw the attention of the foreign market. In fact, the American press, re baptized the producers “Barolo Boys”, becoming stars known worldwide.
However, on the other hand, this revolution was seen as a betrayal towards piedmont patriarch, who is attached to the tradition and who do not accept the French “contamination”. This dispute will continue and will impact both the region of Piedmont and Italy, however, we have to admit that, thanks to the Barolo Boys, the concept of wine in Italy and the concept of Italian wine worldwide has completely changed.
This topic is something very important to us and for the Italian winemaking history. Hopefully you found this interesting, we’ll be back soon!