Inspired by that Prince of Paronamasia, Thor, I was tempted to entitle this post, “Brand on the Run”… But have you ever known me to mince words?
Above: The Castello di Brolio, site of the Ricasoli winery. The “Iron Baron” Ricasoli, winemaker and Italy’s second prime minister, re-branded Chianti in the late 19th century when he replanted his vineyards with Sangiovese. Would he recognize the wine his family makes today?
Reading Eric the Red’s brutally honest column on Chianti Classico yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder out loud: would the “Iron Baron” Ricasoli, father of pre-industrial Chianti Classico, recognize the wines that his family makes today?
Even more chilling was the thought: in the light of Montalcino’s “vote for modernism,” as Ms. Robinson put it, is Brunello heading down the same path as Chianti Classico?
In other words, will we not recognize the wines that are going to be made there 20 or 30 years from now, leaving us as befuddled as Eric and his colleagues? “Of the 20 glasses before us,” wrote Eric, “many did not look like Chianti Classicos, the designation for Chiantis made in the Chianti region’s heartland in the hills of Tuscany. Or at least they did not look the way I expect a Chianti Classico to look.”
By the time Ricasoli was purchased by behemoth Seagram’s in the 1970s, Chianti had already achieved antonomastic status in the collective consciousness of the American consumer. In other words, it had become synonymous with “Italian wine.”
I cannot tell you how many times I come across the common misconception that Italians pair pizza with Chianti. The other day, a young Sicilian woman here in Austin told me that the traditional pairing for Parmigiano Reggiano was Chianti.
As the apologetic title of the column reveals (“Tasting Report: Chianti Classicos, So Dark and Oaky, but Still Recognizable”), the wines that Eric and colleagues tasted did not resemble the wines that they expected to uncork. In fact, “Many were densely colored and dark, almost impenetrable in their blackness.”
As rumors of corporate take-overs in Montalcino abound (reminiscent of the heady Seagram’s years), I fear I see a (literally) dark cloud in my wine horizon. To borrow a phrase, from Mel Brooks, “Let’s hope for the best…” You already know the next line…