Soldera: Rorschach & (probable) resolution

soldera criminal

Above: I took this photo of sunset over Soldera’s Case Basse estate in 2010.

Nearly two weeks after more than 60,000 liters of wines were destroyed in an act of vandalism at the Soldera Case Basseestate in Montalcino, Italian wine industry observers generally concur that the atrocious and senseless crime cannot be attributed to organized crime. The theory that it was an act of retribution for the 2008 Brunellopoli controversy, believed by some to have been sparked by Gianfranco Soldera, has also been discounted by Montalcino insiders.

This week, leading Italian wine blogger Franco Ziliani quoted a private message sent to him by lawyer Bernardo Losappio, who represents many Montalcino wineries and winemakers.

“I am certain,” wrote Losappio, “that the author of the crime will be sought among persons with whom Case Basse has had private relations” and not among “external” actors.

gianfranco soldera montalcino

Above: Soldera (left) with chef Roberto Rossi in 2010.

In an article published online this week by Panorama (a leading weekly), author Gianmaria Padovani, whose family makes wine in Montalcino, noted that the crime is not being investigated by an “antimafia” investigator. This fact, he writes, precludes a “mafia connection.”

In my personal email exchanges with persons on the ground in Montalcino this week, everyone of my friends and colleagues has expressed the belief that it was an ex-employee of Case Basse who committed the crime.

Many have written that it’s only a matter of days before the case is solved.

One thing is certain: this act of heinous vandalism and “intimidation,” as Soldera has called it, has prompted a collective gasp of disbelief and horror that stretches across the world.

As in a Rorschach test, every subject has reacted differently: many saw the hand of organized crime, some called it an act of retribution by “big” wine, and others simply expressed their inability to wrap their minds around this atrocious act of violence.

Our morbid fascination with this episode surely reflects the role that wine plays in contemporary bourgeois society as an emblem of wealth, luxury, and power. Nearly two weeks after news of the crime spread through the internets, we have observed how the power to destroy wine — an act that took just a few minutes — is almost as enthralling as the power to produce it. And we continue to be nonplussed by the disparity between the energy expended to make this wine (six vintages of maniacally cultivated fruit and meticulously vinified wine) and the energy employed to destroy it.

In other news…

This week, the Case Basse winery declined an offer by the Brunello producers association who had called for donations of wine to be given to the Soldera family to use at its discretion. In a statement, published online (and reposted by Franco Ziliani), Soldera thanked the consortium for its solidarity but proposed that the wine be given to the Universities of Siena and Florence for research.

The winery also announced that it is suspending sales of its 2006 Brunello di Montalcino in order to discourage “speculation” in pricing. On the popular Italian wine blog Lavinium, leading wine writer Roberto Giuliani reported today that an Italian wine shop was selling the 2006 for Euro 4,500.

“Patiently and phlegmatically”: Giulio Gambelli, more remembrances…

Photo via Decanter.

A few more remembrances of Giulio Gambelli, whose transcendant personality galvanized a generation of Sangiovese growers, bottlers, shippers, and lovers…

From Lavinium, a passage quoted from Carlo Macchi’s hagiography of Gambelli (in Carlo’s voice; translation mine):

    A few years ago I was with Giulio at the Isvea Laboratory. A woman approached us with a printout of analysis results in one hand, a glass in the other.

    “Giulio,” she asked, “What’s the acidity [level] in this wine?”

    Giulio took a sip of the wine, spit (with his signature radial spitting technique), and then declared, “5… 5.2 at the most!”

    The girl read her results on the printout and then grumbled peevishly, “I must have done the analysis wrong!”

A heartfelt and very Tuscan tribute by friend and Montalcino great Fabrizio Bindocci:

    A highly capable man but at the same time a paragon of modesty who believed in the potential of Tuscan wines produced using only Sangiovese. He always said that winemakers are the ones who make the wines together with the land and the vine. He was a simple taster who gave his advice to winemakers on what to do in the cellar without forcing them to denaturalize their wines.

    He made his first visit to Montalcino in the early 1970s when the Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino asked him to visit all of the producers in the appellation. He drove his famous Renault 4 from winery to winery, tasted the wine from the barrel or vat, and then he would patiently and phlegmatically explain the importance of cleanliness in the cellar, precision in vinification, the importance of racking, etc. But always with the humility typical of the greats in the world of wine.

Patiently and phlegmatically… Words to live by…