The Tocaj case n.1

In: Senza categoria

18 ottobre 2016

On May 12th, 2005, the European Court of Justice of Luxembourg has set «as stipulated in 1993 agreement between the European Union and Hungary, the prohibition of using – after March 31st, 2007 – the denomination “Tocai” for some Italian wines». Saved the case there will be further development, the dispute between the historical Tocai Friulano – glorious grape of Friuli Venezia Giulia – and Hungarian Tokaji, is over and the renowned Italian grape was defeated. Nothing could do the historical and well documented evidences which supported the very good Tocai Friulano. The European Court has in fact set «the regulation about homonymy of the examined international agreements do not allow that, in consideration of the Hungarian geographical denomination “Tokaj”, the appellation of the Italian grape variety “Tocai Friulano” cannot be used anymore for the designation and identification of some Italian wines». A verdict leaving few hopes on the future of Tocai Friulano – of course – on its name only.

In fact, the excellent grape from Friuli – luckily – will not disappear from our glasses: it will simply arrive with a new name

 As a result of the aforesaid European Court of Justice decision (and despite, let me note, Italian Tocai being a dry white wine and therefore completely different from HungaRian Tokaji, which is a sweet wine), Italian authorities and Tocai producers from the two affected regions (Friuli and Veneto) needed to come up with a different nameto call their own grapes and the wine made out of them.

In one of the best examples of Italian bureaucracy at its finest, a decision was made to call the same grape variety in two different ways: “Friulano” in the region of Friuli and “Tai” in the region of Veneto. As if being required to drop the Tocai designation altogether had not brought enough confusion in the market…

Regarding Friulano (or Tocai) as a grape variety, DNA profiling has shown that it is identical to Sauvignonasse, an old white-berried grape variety that originated in the Gironde region of France and that (despite what the name would make you think) is not related to Sauvignon. Sauvignonasse vines were brought to the North-Eastern Italian region of Friuli in the XIX century where it was given the name Tokai, which later on muted into Tocai, in the first quarter of the XX century (information on the grape varieties, cit. Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, HarperCollins 2012).