Angelo Gaja and the “age of responsibility”

January 22, 2009

The bishop of Barbaresco, Angelo Gaja (left), certainly wasn’t looking at the world through rose-colored glasses when he sat down with Jedi blogger Antonio Tombolini and 19 other food and wine bloggers in a conference room at the Gaja estate last Sunday (photomontage by Alfonso Cevola). Gaja had agreed to let the bloggers ask him anything they wanted regarding the caso Brunello or Brunello affair, as it has come to be known, and Antonio blogged live from their session — even taking questions from the virtual crowd. Franco and I have translated and posted some highlights at VinoWire. If you have been following the Brunello controversy, you might be surprised by what Gaja had to say and his candor.

Throughout the Brunello controversy, bloggers, journalists, and wine pundits have lamented the lack of transparency — on behalf of the Brunello Consortium, the winemakers themselves, and the Siena prosecutor’s office.

When young winemaker Alessandro Bindocci began posting at Montalcino Report, it was a breath of fresh air from Sant’Angelo in Colle at 400 meters a.s.l.: finally… finally, the world had an honest, reliable, just-the-facts source for information about what was happening “on the ground,” as we used to say during my U.N. interpreting days. Alessandro is a twenty-something and technically hip winemaker (check out his FB and if you don’t know what that means, then don’t bother). Gaja — a relative newcomer to Montalcino but an old dog when it comes to new tricks — doesn’t have a blog and so he had the bloggers come to him.

Whether or not I like Gaja’s style of Brunello (I don’t), whether or not I agree with his push to change Brunello appellation regulations and allow for blending of international grapes (I don’t), I have great admiration for him and what he did on Sunday. And I believe that — like Alessandro — he has done a great service for Montalcino and the people who live and work there by having the courage to bring some transparency to his otherwise murky situation.

Has the “age of responsibility” arrived in Montalcino? Not yet. But the “Gaja vs. Bloggers” summit, as it was dubbed in Italian, was a step in the right direction, no doubt.

I wish I had time to translate the entire thread, but I’m besieged by work these days.

In other news…

I’m not the only to make an analogy between the new political era and the world of wine writing and blogging. In fact (and I give credit where credit is due), I am taking my cue from Eric’s recent post, “Can we all get along” (I was in LA, btw, when Rodney King and the riots went down. “God damn ya, who’s got the camera?” Does anyone remember the Ice Cube song?). I was really impressed by the post and the thread of impassioned comments it inspired.

“Let the arguments rage on!” I’ll drink to that… Long live the counterculture! Et vive la différance!*

* After no one commented on my “Brunello socialist” joke, I don’t have high hopes for this this pun. Does anyone get it? Hint: note the unusual spelling.


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