Italians lament the end of Tocai

Italians lament the end of Tocai News Wine News
  • Wednesday 11 October 2006

Investors on the lookout for a genuine collectors’ item could do worse than snap up a few cases of the 2006 Italian Tocai vintage – the last of its kind.

Northern Italy is in mourning for the loss of their name after an EU ruling that Tokay can be Hungarian, and only Hungarian.

Wine producers in Friuli, the region where Tocai Friuliano has been made for centuries, now have to call their wine simply Friulano.

And they are just waking up to the marketing difficulties that lie ahead. ‘It’s not easy to relaunch a wine which has lost its name. In the wine industry, labelling is all,’ Bruno Pizzul of Gorizia in the centre of the Tocai region told the Times newspaper.

Winemakers are also not happy with the new name, which they point out is pointless as it is simply an adjective describing anything that comes from Friuli.

Under EU rulings on semi-generic names – which apply also to Gorgonzola, Champagne, Cheddar cheese, Parma ham and other products from famous regions – only Tokaji in Hungary can produce a wine of that name.

Various appeals to European courts have been turned down. Hungary – which joined the EU in 2004 – has exclusive rights to the Tokaji label from March next year.

Under the same rules, France’s Tokay Pinot Gris and Tokay d’Alsace are being phased out.

Last weekend the last Tocai harvest was celebrated with a midnight ceremony on a beach at Lignano, with dancing and much lamenting of the passing of a piece of local history.

According to the Times, use of the name Tocai dates back to the 14th century, when local Countess Aurora Formentini married a Hungarian count and was given 300 tocai vines as a wedding gift.

Some €15m has been promised in aid to help relaunch the new name.

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