Above: Franco Ziliani is one of Italy’s most revered and controversial wine writers and his writings have always been an inspiration to me — for their verve, erudition, and the hard-hitting truths he brings to the tasting table (photo by Ben Shapiro).
No, this bout won’t be broadcast from the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas. But it will be streamed via internet from the Aula Magna or Great Hall of the University of Siena on Friday, October 3, 3 p.m. local time: enologist and ex-director of Banfi Ezio Rivella (an outspoken proponent for a change in appellation regulations that would allow for grapes other than Sangiovese to be used in Brunello di Montalcino) and wine writer Franco Ziliani (a steadfast traditionalist and defender of Brunello made from 100% Sangiovese) will face off in an unprecedented debate on the future of Brunello. Other panelists include Teobaldo Cappellano (Barolo producer and founder of Vini Veri) and noted Italian enologist Vittorio Fiore. (The debate will be “streamed” live at www.InToscana.it and www.Vinarius.it.)
Above: no, that’s not the rhino sported by the label of spoofulated Barbaresco. It’s a gravity defying ungulate that hovers above Ca’ del Bosco’s “gravity flow,” whereby the newly harvested grapes travel only by virtue of gravity as they are sorted, destemmed, and transformed into wine. Not only is Ca’ del Bosco a wonder of modern technology, it is also a objet d’art: works of art — ranging from Arnaldo Pomodoro to Igor Mitoraj to Helmut Newton — adorn the grounds and winemaking facility.
During my recent trip to Italy, I had a chance to taste with Franco in one of his favorite appellations, Franciacorta. Ben Shapiro, Giovanni Arcari (a Franciacorta winemaker and consultant), Franco, and I toured and tasted at the amazing technicolor dreamcoat that is the Ca’ del Bosco winery before we retired to dinner and confabulated late into the evening, lingering over Giovanni’s excellent Camossi Franciacorta rosé (would someone please import this wine to the U.S., Strappo?).
Above: a detail of one of the riddling racks in the Ca’ del Bosco cellar. Note the sediment in the neck of the bottle.
The highlight, however, was a stunning 1979 Ca’ del Bosco, disgorged à la volée by one of the winery’s technicians in the cellar. Comparing the ’79 to the recent vintages, it is clear that Ca’ del Bosco’s style has remained unchanged since its early years and these superb wines stand apart for their character, personality and terroir expression. Excuse the pun, but that wine was fly! (Brooklynguy would have loved its oxidized nose and intense hazelnut flavors.)
Above: one of the extraordinary Mitoraj sculptures on the grounds of the winery. Ca’ del Bosco does offer guided tours and tastings by appointment. I highly recommend it: the state-of-the-art winemaking facility is among the most impressive I’ve ever seen, much of the technology developed and patented by the winery itself.
Tornando a bomba, as they say in Italian, getting back to matters at hand… I’ll be publishing a report of next Friday’s Ziliani vs. Rivella face-off. Rivella has long championed changes in appellation regulations (in Piedmont and Tuscany) that would allow for liberal blending of international grape varieties. I regret that the current political climate in Italy appears outwardly amenable to such changes. I don’t believe that Franco and Teobaldo are the “last of the Mohicans.” But I do believe this unprecedented public forum represents a defining moment in what has become a national debate in Italy.
Don’t touch that dial…