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During the Italian summer that has just ended, two officers from the agriculture ministry paid a surprise visit to the Enoteca Bulzoni wine store in Rome, which has been operating on the Viale Parioli since 1929. Its owners, Alessandro and Ricardo Bulzoni, grandsons of the founders, were formally notified that they would be fined – and possibly prosecuted – for selling “vino naturale” (natural wine) without certification.
But therein lies the sting: While it is against the law in Italy to sell natural wine without certification, it is also impossible to sell it with certification, since no such category of wine exists under Italian law.
A ministry official quoted in the newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano explained that “the phrase ‘natural wine’ does not exist and, therefore, does not correspond with the accepted appellations, and, for this reason, it is not verifiable.” He continued: “No similar appellation exists in the regulations that govern the commercialization of wine in Italy or in the European Union.”
The official added that the regulatory regime was designed to protect the consumer. Using the label “natural wine” was misleading to the public, he said, and damaging to the Italian wine industry.
When the owners of Enoteca Bulzoni were duly fined, Alessandro Bulzoni said: “I’m not complaining about the fine itself, but about the legislative loophole in the definition of the term ‘vino naturale.'”
Legally, natural wine in Italy is in the same position as in the rest of the world: there is no official, universally accepted definition of “natural wine,” and unlike organic wine, there are no “natural wine” certifying bodies. (Organic wine is different from natural wine in that it simply has to be produced from organically grown grapes, whereas the vinification of natural wine is as important as the grapes from which it is made.)