As much as I despise the editors of The New York Post, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when, over a straphanger’s shoulder, I read my favorite example of yellow journalism back in 1999: “The first shiksa wants to be a yenta!” (The article referred to Hillary Clinton’s mention of a Jewish relative.)
I wouldn’t go as far as to call it “yellow” journalism but I was so troubled by a recent post by Decanter.com that I felt compelled to post a few reflections of my own.
On Wednesday, one of Decanter’s writers, a certain Suzannah Ramsdale, wrote that “The renowned Piedmontese wine producer Bruno Giacosa has announced that he will not be bottling his 2006 Barolos and Barbarescos… Company oenologist Giorgio Lavagna says that the wine will be sold on as sfuso (unbottled wine) for use by another bottler.”
First of all, this is not exactly breaking news. Back in April, James Suckling reported in his Wine Spectator blog — with much more restrained and judicious tone — that Giacosa was making a “hard but right” decision:
It’s a courageous thing to do, and I can’t think of many wine producers who would do the same. I was at the 80th birthday of Bruno Giacosa, the legendary winemaker of Piedmont, about a week ago and he told me that he wasn’t going to bottle his 2006 Barolos or Barbarescos.
“I just don’t like the quality of the wines,” he said, as we ate lunch and drank some of his fabulous Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto including the 100-point 2000. “I just don’t like the way they are. They are not good enough for me. So I am not going to bottle them.”
Secondly, what really happened was that the British importer of Giacosa announced that it was going to be releasing Giacosa’s 2007 bottlings in February of next year (since the 2006 will not be available). Here’s the release, which was sent to me today by the importer Armit:
2006 was a difficult year for Bruno Giacosa. He suffered a serious stroke which resulted in him being absent from both the vineyards and cellar for most of the year and into the beginning of 2007.
Although 2006 was overall a fine vintage in Piedmont, now that Bruno is in a position to judge the quality of the wines personally, he is not satisfied that the Barolo’s and Barbaresco’s [sic] produced at Giacosa meet his exacting standards.
He has taken the brave and we think highly honourable decision not to bottle these wines, which is clearly a considerable financial sacrifice.
Bruno’s decision underlines the remarkable recovery he has made. He is now back fully involved, alongside new winemaker Giorgio Lavagna, and after a clearly difficult period, the focus on quality remains as strong as ever at Giacosa.
As a result of the decision with the 2006s, we now plan to release the 2007 Barbaresco wines in February/March 2010.
I hope this helps to clarify Decanter’s sloppy journalism.
– 2006 was actually a “good” although not “excellent” year in Langa; not everyone made exceptional wine, but the wines will be generally good (Franco and James both agree on this: read this exchange between the two of them on this very issue);
– Giacosa is not going to sell his wine off in demijohns as vino sfuso; that’s just preposterous; he regularly bottles using the Nebbiolo d’Alba DOC and I imagine he’ll sell some of the wine to other notable producers who will bottle it.
Above: Back in September 2007, Alice, Lawrence, and I shared a wine bottled by Giacosa in a vintage not considered one of the best.
It’s no secret that since Bruno suffered his stroke, his daughter Bruna has been looking for a buyer for the estate. It’s also no secret that last year, Bruna forced Bruno’s long-time protégé Dante Scaglione out of his position. Could it be that internal issues played a role here?
It was irrepsonsible for Ramsdale to make it sound as if Giacosa was patently dismissing the 2006 Langa vintage. When viewed in context, the not-so-breaking news reveals other forces at play.