One of Italy’s greatest and most polemical wine writers, Franco Ziliani is first and foremost a friend. He is also a mentor and a partner: together we edit the Italian wine world news blog, VinoWire. He was one of the first to encourage me to expand my own blog and the often self-deprecating honesty of his writing has always inspired me to examine my own perceptions of wine and wine writing. I like to call Franco the Giuseppe Baretti and Aretino of Italian wine writing today. That’s Franco and me, outside the Vini Veri tasting in April in Isola della Scala.
Today, Franco has posted an appeal to the director and president of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino (the Brunello Producers Association), demanding they step down in the wake of the Italian Treasury Department’s findings that members of the consortium have “cheated in commercial transactions” (the culmination of “Operazione Mixed Wine,” an investigation launched by Italian officials in September 2007). In lieu of their resignation, he is calling on the consortium’s estimated 250 members (the consortium does not publish an official number of members) to leave the body.
It is a quixotic appeal, no doubt, but a voice that must not go unheard.
The other day, I was dismayed to read a pusillanimously anonymous comment on Alfonso Cevola’s post on recent developments in Montalcino. “Italians love their ‘crisi,’” wrote the would-be pundit, who identified himself solely as Scott, “and it was wine’s turn after calcio [football] had the headlines for a while. As with all things Italian, life goes on and things work themselves out.”
This sort of stereotypical reductive attitude is entirely inappropriate and frankly offensive in this case. And it was authored by someone who doesn’t read beyond the sports page.
What happened in Montalcino is a tragedy and the omertà — the screaming silence — that followed is doubly tragic. Just go ask the many folks there — old and young (and I have asked them personally) — who have fought vigorously if not always successfully to protect the traditions of their land against the evils of globalization.
In other news…
Some good news has arrived from Montalcino today, in the form of a post by my friend Alessandro Bindocci who reports that the Regione Toscana has approved legislation lowering the maximum yields allowed for Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino.