Beppe Rinaldi, iconic Barolo grower and outspoken natural wine advocate, has died.
According to mainstream media reports, he was 69 years old and was battling an unspecified illness. He would have been 70 in just a few days.
Known to his myriad admirers as “il citrico” (literally, the “citric [one],” a nickname attributed to his unmistakable white locks as well as his acerbic wit), he was widely revered as one of the world’s greatest winemakers and an unrivaled interpreter of Nebbiolo’s greatness.
An iconoclast proudcer who often spoke out stridently against the unstoppable commercialization of his appellation, he was also a founding member of the Vini Veri consortium of natural wine producers.
“An artisanal winemaker,” he said in an interview published by Vini Veri in 2010, “shouldn’t just watch over his little garden. He needs to have a collective vision of his appellation because the appellation belongs to everyone. Wine and land are cultural resources that we need to treat with care. First and foremost, we must prevent violence against the hills and the vines. Wine needs to be a manifestation and an expression of the appellation, a voice in the world that carries an overarching cultural message from the place that produced it… A wine needs to reflect the distinctive, unique characteristics of the appellation. This is why we need to take care of our appellation and never overwhelm it.”
In recent years, he had railed against the unbridled growth of the tourist industry in the Langhe Hills of Piedmont where Barolo is grown and vinified. It was the latest cause embraced in a lifetime spent advocating for organic farming practices, traditional winemaking, and more measured development of the Barolo appellation.
His single-vineyard bottlings of Barolo are among the most collected wines in the world today, benchmarks not just for the appellation and Italy but for fine wine across the globe.
He is survived by his wife Annalista and daughters, Marta and Carlotta.
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