Malanotte and Carmenère

Malanotte and Carmenère

Doc Piave, one of the largest Designation of Origin areas in northern Italy (50 municipalities in the province of Treviso and 12 in the province of Venice) has been enriched with two new types.
A recent Ministerial Decree has, in fact, made important changes to the production disciplinary of the Piave wines. First of all, he recognized the “Carmenère” variety, an ancient Bordeaux variety that arrived in Northeast Italy together with Cabernet franc in the nineteenth century and was immediately confused with the latter. Confusion that does not concern the winemakers, who have always distinguished this grape, called “Cabernet franc italiano”, as much as the law that has long forbidden its use to make wines that declare its name on the label, but also the cultivation of grapes so denominated. So after that in 2006 the Doc Arcole obtained the recognition of its Carmenère Doc, now also the Doc Piave (together with another DOC Treviso, Montello and Colli Asolani) will be able to produce wines with the name of this vine almost completely forgotten in the its original France, but recently “reborn” – both oenologically and commercially – in the New World of wine.
The president of the Consorzio Tutela Vini del Piave, Antonio Bonotto, is delighted, noting that “since 1991, since the Experimental Institute for Viticulture has clarified the identity of Carmenère, the process for obtaining the authorization to plant this vine with its real name. Now, finally, thanks also to the industrious collaboration of the Veneto Region, we have been able to complete the bureaucratic process that allowed interested winegrowers to self-certify the possession of Carmenère vineyards, for the quick registration of the same in the appropriate Register “.
With the other substantial change, less immediate in the results but no less important, the establishment of the “Piave Malanotte” typology, the Consorzio Tutela Vini del Piave wanted to give the new typology “Raboso Piave Doc Superiore” an additional name capable of releasing the wine from the name of its vine, using a term long sought and debated among producers, then accepted by the National Committee for the protection and enhancement of designations of origin and geographical indications typical of wines. Wanting to pay homage to the long history of Raboso Piave through a particularly relevant figure in its centuries-old path, the choice of an additional name for Raboso Piave Doc Superiore fell on “Malanotte”, from the name of a family that – although originally from – has conditioned and modernized viticulture in the Piave area, through two centuries of running a luxuriant farm in Tezze di Vazzola which extended almost to Conegliano and Lovadina, over an area of ​​a few tens of square kilometers, today all land with Controlled Designation of Origin “Piave”.
The name “Malanotte”, in addition to evoking a period of great agricultural innovations and flourishing Raboso wine trade with nearby Venice, was chosen also and above all because a term that complies with the rules of contemporary marketing, which will dress the bottles of a wine of great body, good structure and strong alcohol content with a winking label, with a name that can be easily memorized even by foreigners that lends itself to the most diverse interpretations and evocations, in effective communicational contrast with the severity of the disciplinary that will guarantee the content of those bottles.
In a time when one of the first moral duties of a winemaker is to defend his product from the pitfalls of globalization through the proposal of its typicality, uniqueness and unrepeatability, the producers of Raboso Piave Doc wanted, with the name “Malanotte”, emphasize the exclusivity of this wine. Which already has the good fortune of being “Raboso Piave” and therefore enjoying a name inextricably linked to its territory, but which now, with the name “Malanotte”, is even more linked to its history, protecting its exclusivity and giving it a name different from that of the vine, equal only to the wine produced according to the disciplinary of the Doc “Vini del Piave”.

It must be said, and last but not least, that it is also a name that the Cantina Sociale di Tezze chose almost twenty years ago to identify its Raboso Doc Piave, also registering the intellectual property of the consequent exclusive use. And a special thanks therefore goes to the availability but also to the foresight shown by the Cantina Sociale di Tezze which sold the “Malanotte” brand to the Consorzio Tutela Vini del Piave Doc and consequently to all the producers who wish to have it available to identify with this name the Raboso Piave DOC wine that meets the requirements of the new disciplinary to be identified as “Malanotte”.
200 years of Malanotte history,
from the Val di Sole to the Piave, until the decline
The “Malanotti” or “Malanotte” belong to one of the most important and noble families of Caldès; first municipality of Val di Sole, a few kilometers from Malè.
On the etymology of the surname, which is not known, some hypotheses are formulated. It can derive from: Evil known, ie malanno, as well as from Mala (neutral plural of malum which means “apple”) and night, or from Mala nocte, in the sense of tragic, evil, bad night. The first two derivations seem unlikely, while the third, considered the most reliable, derives from several popular versions.
In Caldès the oral tradition speaks of an ancestor of the Counts called Malanoth for having spent a good night in an inn, at the entrance to the town. Some even claim that Bernardino de Parolinis (c. 1450-1520) inherited the nickname of Malanoth due to his troubled birth, which caused a bad night for the whole family.
In the towns of the lands of the Piave, however, it is said that the etymology derives from “tragic night” spent by a hunter on a generic tree to escape the assaults of a bear. But there is also talk of a bad night spent in the company of a female from the underworld, easy morals and few scruples, which cost him a large part of his fortune. In any case, the Latin surname Malanoctae also appears in the oldest archival documents, which chronologically becomes Malanocti and Malanotti. And in Tezze di Piave, from 1800, it returns and remains in the ancient version of Malanotte (Innocente Soligon and Giancarlo Bardini: “Borgo Malanotte”, Borgo Malanotte Group – Tezze di Piave, 2000)
Around 1674, to cope with the enormous expenses of the wars against the Turks, Venice offered the “Communal Goods” for sale and offers favorable opportunities both for interesting investments in houses, whose rents are considerable, and in the management of the “Beni Ecclesiasitci” , the most important of which are the prerogative of the Venetian patricians while the minors (churches, hospitals, etc.) are destined for the small nobility of the mainland.

In this period, a line of the Malanotti moved to Verona, Padua and perhaps Milan, while the branch that was distinguished by the use of one of the oldest versions of the surname – to which Gio Batta Malanotte belongs – decided to emigrate to Venice for escape the general impoverishment of Trentino, where the devastating Thirty Years’ War and the consequences of the plague of 1630-31 had caused the crisis of the valleys, forcing the people to starve, while the nobles tried to leave the country.
The attention of Gio Batta of the noble Malanotti, attracted by the particular situation, is concentrated in the purchase of municipal assets in the plains of the Piave and palaces in Venice. And immediately his ability as a businessman is measured against one of the main agricultural resources of his new “country residence”. Between 1686 and 1689 there are numerous large batches of black wine produced in Tezze di Piave which he sells in Venice (State Archives of Venice, “Archivio Tiepolo”, I deposit, b.253, fasc. 2, cc.tv, 12r.)
The descendants of this Venetian branch of the family are the founders of the Venetian villa, built in the 17th century in the locality of Tezze di Piave, where the ancient farm of the local Bonotti family becomes Borgo and in the 18th century it takes on the name of the new noble owners. Those that have distinguished themselves from the others since the eighteenth century for the use of the oldest Latin version of the name Malanocte, Italianized in Malanotte.
Thanks to numerous “purchases at the level” (cash loans with mortgages on the real estate of the debtor who continued to work the land and remain in the mortgaged house by paying a kind of rent in the form of interest on the capital received), of which about a hundred traced in the notarial deeds, the Malanotte rapidly increase their land assets, forcefully inserting themselves in the landed property of the country, determining its development and economic life.
The family thus accumulated over 700 fields and several manor houses in Conegliano, and with Pier Antonio Malanotte, in the second half of the eighteenth century, reached its maximum splendor.

With the arrival of Malanotte sul Piave, a radical transformation took place in crops. We immediately move from the pre-eminence of pastures and meadows to the extension of arable land, especially wheat and maize, with particular spread of vineyards.
One of Decima’s notifications (precursors of today’s tax returns) that the landowners presented to the Senate of the Republic of Venice, indicates that on 26 September 1740 the landed property of Abbot Girolamo Malanotte consists of 442 fields, located for the most part in Tezze and Soffratta, with various plots in Mareno, S. Michele di Piave and Visnà. From the analysis of this articulated declaration, it is clear that the most cultivated product was corn and that, together with it, wine is the most important component of the estate’s income. The farmer is entitled to half of the product, but the quota is deducted from the Quartese and the rental of the barrels. From the complaints of some Malanotte farms it can also be deduced that the wine was often sold by the farmer to replace the rent of the house.
The most cultivated vines in the Malanotte territories are the most widespread in the eighteenth century, first of all the Raboso (Rabosa or Recandina), followed by the Marzemino, the Verdiso and the Bianchette and the owners are required to supply the plants both for the new plantations and for replacements. The vines are married to poplar or mulberry, arranged in rows according to the cultivation system called “Piantana” that will characterize the agricultural landscape of the Piave until the early decades of the twentieth century.
The activity of Pier Antonio (Girolamo’s great-grandson) from 1755 to 1775 was frenetic not only in the purchases but above all in the modernization of agricultural cultures, of the Villa and of the large and complex neighboring village. He resides in Venice but is often present in Tezze, attentive to running the company in a period of agricultural crisis that he tries to resolve by following with interest the teachings of the Agricultural Academies that were trying to guide farmers towards agricultural improvement.
To make known the results obtained with his agricultural experiments, on 16 December 1769 he hosted 450 people in his company, including the major farmers of the Veneto region and all its farmers, and offered them a memorable banquet headed by the famous physiocrat Count Abbot Vinciguerra VII by Collalto. Among others there is also one of the most famous scholars of the time, the agronomist Giovanni Scottoni, who in a report published later by a specialized magazine addresses his compliments to Malanotte “for his magnanimity” and congratulates in admiration for ” the valid crop renewal introduced “(Pier Angelo Passolunghi:” Libero in Cà Collalto – from the correspondence of the Venetian agronomist Giovanni Scottoni “, in” Acts and memories of the University of Treviso “, ns 1991-1992, n.9.)
Even the winemaking undergoes great changes in this period. Initially considered a peasant task, in the second half of the eighteenth century it passed under the responsibility of the owner determined to personally supervise the phases of this delicate process that can substantially influence the quality of the product obtained. So Pier Antonio has a new cellar built behind the Villa which will be destroyed by bombing during the Great War.
It is the red wine, which is mostly obtained from Raboso grapes, the best known and most appreciated, so much so that it crosses local and even national borders. In fact, in a French guide dated 1855, intended for the first travelers to Italy, it is recommended to visit Conegliano and drink “le vin rouge Malanotte di Tezze” (Ernest Foerster, “Manuel de Voyageur en Italie”, Munich 1855).

In 1775 the very active Pier Antonio Malanotte must register the first signs of decline, registered in the numerous notarial deeds that have come down to us that record the progressive indebtedness of the family: liquidity has decreased, asset management is not at all positive and it seems to also fail. the attempt to exploit the existing structure of the company (making use of both agronomic knowledge and the men and tools of work) by borrowing money against real estate mortgages. But times have really changed, and at the end of the eighties of the eighteenth century the Malanotte lose a lot of land given as collateral for the numerous debts that they have not managed to honor.
It is also the beginning of a very difficult period for the whole of Veneto, which between 1796 and 1815 experienced a very serious crisis caused by a terrifying succession of devastating climatic and political events. The harvests are poor and there are six military campaigns with clashes between the French and Austrians, requisitions and devastation that starve the region and eliminate real estate revenues. In such contingencies it is impossible for the Malanotte to obtain a recovery on profitability which, in truth, does not even happen when the economic situation improves, starting from 1830. This is because by now the situation had changed very, very much.
Meanwhile the end of the Republic of Venice (1797) had worsened the situation and in 1802 Pier Antonio died, who left the landed properties, the Villa and the Borgo to his son Domenico, who certainly does not have the personality of his father and whose interest in company is very modest; to another son, a priest, he assigns some real estate.
However, the crisis is still latent: on the death of Domenico (1828) his only daughter, Camilla, inherits over 600 fields, with the Villa and the farmhouses. Married to the Coneglianese nobleman Francesco Concini, Camilla was left a widow in 1864 and was unable to react to the accumulation of debts that had canceled the substantial real estate assets, thus creating the conditions for the entire property, already mortgaged, to be seized by the Court. After about 200 years, the Malanotte family thus lost all their land in the Piave area and their Villa di Tezze.
On Camilla’s death, her children inherit the name of Concini from their father and, in fact, the presence of the Malanotte family in the lands of the Piave is zero. The family branch that remained in Trentino, as mentioned, has for centuries already declined its surname in “Malanotti”, while rare examples of the surname Malanotte remain in the Venetian.

L CARMENÈRE: HISTORY OF A FOUND NAME
The Ministerial Decree that recognizes the Carmenère Doc Piave typology was signed and published in the days of harvest, when the commitment of each wine producer was concentrated on the harvest, while the time for completing the paperwork necessary to change the registration of the vineyards from Cabernet franc to Carmenère were really tight.
Despite this, thanks to an intense teamwork between Consorzio Tutela Vini del Piave, Veneto Region (in the person of the indefatigable Dr. Giuseppe Catarin of the Agri-Food Production Management) and AVEPA of Treviso (special thanks to its manager, Dr. Alberto Zannol) and thanks to the will of the producers who have understood the importance of the new opportunity that Carmenère represents, there have been numerous requests for variations that will lead to the production of at least a dozen labels of Carmenère Doc Piave harvest 2008. This was the value minimum that the Consortium had set itself to affirm that the 2008 vintage will mark the “debut” of this new type (in Italy present only in the Doc Arcole and Montello and Colli Asolani, but in a rather smaller size than the Doc Piave can produce) and support with press campaigns and other initiatives under study the “launch” on the market of this ancient wine with a new name.
Because this is what the winemakers of the Piave will soon have to do: promote a wine they know well, but with a different name than usual. A fascinating name, among other things, with a long history that was not recognized by the Vineyard Register until recently. A name that is experiencing a brilliant present, for example, in Chile and also in California. A name, therefore, that could become an indisputable added value for a product that already has a fair diffusion and demand, of which they already know the most suitable vineyard and cellar techniques. A name of which, below, we illustrate the historical path, waiting to be able to write the future.
FROM PLINIUS THE OLD TO HISTORICAL ERROR
Certainly, as for the Cabernets, we know that Carmenère derives from the “Vitis biturica” ​​which came to Bordeaux in Roman times, even if Pliny the Elder (in 71 AD) reports that it was cultivated in the current area of ​​Bordeaux by the Celtic tribe of Biturigi, while Columella – shortly before – claims that it came from Durres (Albania) and knew that it was cultivated in various areas of Hiberia (Spain) and in particular in today’s Rioja.

In the heterogeneous family of black vines cultivated in the Bordeaux area in the last century, which were generically called “Cabernet”, Cabernet sauvignon and the Cabernet franc group stood out to the point of assuming autonomous indication. And precisely among those Cabernets, as confirmed by studies conducted in France at the beginning of the twentieth century (“Ampélographie”, by P. Viala and V.Vermorel, 1905), there was also Carmenère (whose name apparently derives from the word “carmine ”, Due to the particularly intense color of the wine), identifiable by some morphological and above all organoleptic characteristics of its grapes. In fact, since the first half of the nineteenth century, Carmenère had been distinguished from Cabernet for the larger and more sparse clusters, for the vigor, the low fertility, the aroma and the more intense color of the P. Odart, 1849), but when it was imported into Italy together with the other Cabernets – probably around 1820 by the Count of Sambuy who planted a vineyard in Valmagra – it was mistaken for a degeneration and weakening of Cabernet franc.
As a consequence, in Veneto and Friuli, this type – remarkably widespread precisely because its vigor and its need for long pruning could be adapted to the cultivation conditions and because the great quality of the wine could make even scarce productions withstand – became for ampelographers , scholars and growers the prototype of Cabernet franc.
THE MOST RECENT STUDIES
In the sixties of the twentieth century, when Antonio Calò and Carmine Liuni investigated the phenomena of pouring to which the so-called Cabernet franc present in Veneto was subject, French collections of Cabernet franc cultivated there were imported, and the differences between the two types began to appear evident. . However, it was attributed to clonal variability, so much so that a French-type Cabernet franc and an Italian-type Cabernet franc were distinguished in the practice of propagation, albeit improperly, which later proved to be Carmenère.
It was a subsequent study of varietal characterization between the French and Italian clones with biochemical markers to highlight that they were probably two different grape varieties. Doubts dissolved by analyzes conducted in 1988-91 at the Experimental Institute of Viticulture in Susegana, which showed that:

grapes have a lower percentage of peonin and acetate anthocyanins and a higher percentage of p-cumarate anthocyanins.

  • The grape then shows lower malvin acetate / malvin p-coumarate ratios
  • The chemical analysis of the seeds reveals a lower catechin / epicatechin ratio, as well as a lower content of hydroxycinnamic tartaric acids of the must.
    Seventeen years have passed since the publication of the study conducted by Antonio Calò, Rocco Di Stefano and Angelo Costacurta in the Viticola Enologica magazine which unequivocally highlighted that the Cabernet franc grape commonly called “Italian”, widespread in the Doc Piave as well as throughout the Veneto and Friuli – is actually Carmenère. And after seventeen years the concluding lines of that long article still sound “like new”, a little “by force of circumstances”, a little because they were written with shrewd foresight: “We believe that the misunderstanding of the last century is thus resolved, when when these vines were imported into Italy, ampelographic errors were made that have persisted over time also due to the lack of knowledge of Carmènere, gradually abandoned in French cultivation. The revaluation movement of old fine vines is now awakening, even in the Bordeaux area, interest in Carmenère and having maintained a cultural cradle of this variety in Italy is an important fact, especially if it is also linked to interesting clonal selections made “.


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