A ray of hope in Montalcino (election results expected tomorrow)

Above: I photographed this pristine bunch of Sangiovese grapes in the southwestern subzone of the Brunello appellation in September 2008, just a few days before harvest began.

So many amazing bottles of wine (Italian and otherwise) have been opened for me and Tracie P over the last few weeks and I have a lot to post about, but today Montalcino is on my mind: tomorrow Thursday, if all goes as expected, the Brunello producers association will announce the name of its new president.

The good news is that presidential front-runner Ezio Rivella, who previously proposed a change in appellation regulations that would allow for grapes other than Sangiovese to be used, has publicly pledged NOT to change the rules.

My colleague Mr. Franco Ziliani, author of Italy’s most popular wine blog, Vino al Vino, reported the story last week, and this morning, he and I have posted my translation of Rivella’s interview with the Corriere di Siena over at VinoWire.

Above: Neither my friend Ben Shapiro (in the photo), who accompanied me on the trip, nor I will forget that beautiful fall day in Montalcino, our last in the appellation before we headed over to Maremma.

His words come as a relief, to me and to many observers of Montalcino and actors on the ground. The thought of Brunello with even just 5% of Syrah in it… well… makes me want to heave…

I imagine that the backroom compromise went something like this: after being elected to the consortium’s advisory council (who in turn will elect a president, to be announced tomorrow), Rivella vowed not to change appellation regulations to allow grapes other than Sangiovese in exchange for support for his presidency and a willingness to revise the Rosso di Montalcino and Sant’Antimo appellations to allow higher percentages of international grape varieties.

The fact is that most producers — at least from what I hear directly — want Brunello to continue to be produced using 100% Sangiovese grapes.

Fyi, Rivella has teamed with viticultural giant Masi to produce Brunello on the Pian di Rota estate in Castiglione d’Orcia (not far from the estate where Masi is growing grapes for its Bello Ovile project). To my knowledge, no Brunello has been produced there yet…

Stay tuned…

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