Above: One of the great maestri of Brunello Gianfranco Soldera and I tasted his wines together in September 2008 at his winery Case Basse in Montalcino (before Tracie B convinced me to go back to my au naturel hair style!). Photo by Ben Shapiro.
In an hour-long documentary on the Orcia River Valley, recently aired on the national-television Sunday show Linea Verde (it’s worth watching the show, even if you don’t understand Italian, if only for the cinematic beauty of the Val d’Orcia), the presenter asked Brunello maestro Gianfranco Soldera to share his impressions of the recent controversy in Montalcino regarding producers who allegedly added disallowed grape varieties to their Brunello (which, by law, must be made with 100% Sangiovese grapes).
“Luckily,” Soldera said, “the [Italian] treasury, the magistrate, and the anti-adulteration department did a great job in their investigation and they found some big problems. Millions of liters of wine were declassified in order to protect consumers and those producers who have always used only Sangiovese, as required by law, because this is what needed to be done.” Even though the quantity of wine declassified was significant, he noted, “only a handful of wineries” were implicated in the investigation. (The segment on Soldera appears at the end of the show and it is the only occasion that I know where the general public has been allowed to view Soldera’s “secret garden.” Definitely worth viewing.)
Above: The clairvoyant Swami shared his wine predictions for 2010, including a real whopper for Tuscany.
A week or so earlier, one of America’s premier wine writers, a world-renowned expert on Italian wine, and a resident and champion of Tuscany and its wines, the inimitable James Suckling published his predictions for the year in wine 2010 on his blog, including, this ominous premonition for Tuscany: “Tuscany will be embroiled in another wine witch hunt with the magistrate of Siena along the lines of a similar debacle in Montalcino over the past two years.”
This morning, I couldn’t help but share Franco’s indignation at Suckling’s admittedly “less than earth-shattering” prediction, expressed in a post entitled, American Wine Writers: Luckily they’re not all like James Suckling.
However ugly the recent controversy in Tuscany, it “needed to be done,” as Soldera pointed out. Everyone I’ve spoken to there (except for those implicated in the investigation) seems to share Soldera’s opinion.
Of all the things to predict for Tuscany in 2010 (eclipsing the rest of Italy, btw), how about something like this?
1) The Val d’Orcia DOC will emerge as one of the coolest new expressions of Sangiovese.
2) Tastings of the 2007 harvest will reveal that Tuscany was blessed with one of the better vintages in recent memory.
3) The high-cost of barrique and the emerging trend against oak-laden, concentrated wines will lead more and more producers to make traditional-style wines using large-cask aging and less manipulation in the cellar.
4) Thanks to more flexibility in labeling, the recently implemented EU Common Market Organisation reforms will allow Tuscan producers to regionally “brand” their international-style wines without encroaching on the Brunello and Chianti de facto trademarks.
5) Tracie B and Jeremy P will win the lottery and finally be able to move into the Ripa d’Orcia castle as their “vacation home.” (There are some beautiful shots of the castle in the Linea Verde show, btw.)
Thanks for reading. Tracie B and I will soon be heading to Montalcino on our honeymoon, where we’ll have our “nose in a glass” and our “ears to the ground.” Stay tuned…