Indictments arrive in Montalcino

Above: A view from atop the Fortezza in Montalcino (taken in February 2010). Spring may have arrived there but skies are still dark. But bluer skies are on the horizon.

It’s been more than a week since the Italian media reported that six persons had been indicted in the Brunello controversy that gripped the appellation in 2008 and 2009. The news initially appeared in the Siena edition of national daily La Nazione but the names of those indicted were not published.

About a week ago, the names were revealed in a small article in the Florence edition of La Repubblica although they didn’t hit the mainstream feed until yesterday when Mr. Franco Ziliani broke the story on his blog.

Seventeen persons were ultimately indicted by Italian authorities for having made false statements to public officials and for having sold “adulterated” products that did not meet appellation regulations for Brunello (the wines had been allegedly with grapes not authorized for the appellation; Brunello must be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes). Of those, eleven took a plea bargain and were never officially named in the investigation. The six named in reports widely circulated today have chosen to fight the charges. Their court date is scheduled for September 17.

It’s the most unhappy form of wine writing and you can read it in English here.

The good news is that the Brunello controversy is behind us: authorities in the U.S. have lifted the requirement for Italian government certification and a string of fair-to-good-to-excellent vintages since the horrific 2002 (too rainy) and 2003 (too hot) have delivered some great wines from Montalcino — wines that most certainly deserve our attention, regardless of the style that we prefer.

Brunello, you were always on my mind

It’s hard to believe that we were in Montalcino just a few short weeks ago! That’s Tracie P, above, atop the Fortezza in the historical center of the town, where Benvenuto Brunello begins today — the appellation’s annual grand tasting, where producers present their new vintages, this year, the 2004 2005 Brunello di Montalcino, the 2003 Brunello di Montalcino riserva, the 2008 Rosso di Montalcino, and the Moscadello di Montalcino (which I’ve never seen in the U.S.).

Tracie P and I tasted some great 2004 Brunello (not an easy vintage and certainly not a spectacular vintage for those not blessed with superior growing sites) and one phenomenal 2003 riserva.

I don’t have time to pen a decent post today: we’re busy moving into a little house we rented, our first home together! But I will post on the wines we tasted and the different terroirs of Montalcino next week.

Even though I love wines from many different regions of Italy, Brunello will always be my first romance: my enophilia grew out of my first visit to Bagno Vignoni, just south of Montalcino, when a friend and student of mine lent me the keys to his apartment there in 1989.

Brunello, you were always on my mind…

My writing partner Franco Ziliani is attending Benvenuto Brunello (where, unfortunately, it’s next-to-impossible to get online!) and we’ll be posting his impressions next week over at VinoWire.