Thanks for the link. For our anglophone friends, too bad that the article pointed by link is in Italian only. It offers a controversial point of view that is not very often available to Wine Spectator's readers and posters.
Excerpts from Kerin O'Keefe Brunello book about Gianfranco Soldera:
"...Soldera, one of the most plainspoken and colorful winemakers states: Barriques are only for deficient wines that don't get enough tannins and flavors from the grape and need to make up for this lack with oak sensations."
"...pointed finger at him as being the whistle-blower that led to the investigation known as Brunellogate, Soldera adamantly denies the accusation."
"...widely credited by other producers as having helped guide the Consorzio into the crucial 2008 vote that threw out any proposed changes to Brunello's production code."
I looked them up after learning about the evil vandalism that destroyed years of work. I was convinced it was a classic mafia-related crime, but now I have my doubts, perhaps local police in Montalcino should look elsewhere.
Good point Simon and thanks for sharing the excerpts, I will receive Kerin O'Keefe book in the next days.
I listened to a taped interview Gianfranco Soldera gave to web site winenews.it after the attack, so I can contribute back some highlights which I think are very significant.
"I always said what I thought and I always fought what was wrong"
"evidently those who did this did not understand that I would never bow"
"those who did this were not crooks"
"I asked the police that the investigations will be at 360 degrees"
I knew it was not mafia-related but I have to admit I was wrong not dismissing right away conspiration theories about vendettas from other producers. It was simply a former employee, the carabinieri have done a good job nailing him down, they seem to have a strong case against him, with phone tapping and even a pair of wine-stained jeans which will be tested to see if they can match the stains with Soldera's wine http://bit.ly/ZJco97
Better lodging? C'mon. Seriously. Either the suspect is mentally unstable or there are bigger reasons why he would do this. I still don't exclude a vendetta from other parties.
Great wine requires a mad man to grow the vine, a wise man to watch over it, a lucid poet to make it, and a lover to drink it. - Salvador Dali
"Mimik" on cellartracker.com
They take thread count very seriously over there.
All joking aside, it's a very sad story.
As an update to the book, which covered up to the 2006 vintage, here are Kerin O'Keefe favorite 2008 Brunellos, as published in Wine Searcher: Biondi Santi, Costanti, Gianni Brunelli, Il Colle, Salvioni, Uccelliera, Il Marroneto, Caprili, Le Potazzine, Donatella Cinelli Colombini, La Fiorita, L’Aietta, La Gerla, Il Paradiso di Manfredi, Il Palazzone, Col d'Orcia and Canalicchio di Sopra.
Thanks Simonbeve for update, 2008 looks like an interesting vintage for Brunello, but wines need to be chosen carefully.
I just finished the book and my impression is very positive. In a world where there is an abundance of superficial analysis and self-published opinions it is refreshing to see in-depth research published by the University of California. Working in the academic field myself I know quite well the pain involved with dealing with an editor, peer reviewers, editorial committee, etc. The author's pain turns, in most cases, in a better, more rigorous work for the benefit of the readers. There are also constraints in the process, for example it would have been nice to see color maps and pictures in the book, but these days how many books do you know that are manufactured (on recycled paper) and printed in the US? It costs more but it gives you comfort knowing that jobs are maintained in the US with the added benefit to rest assured that the ink is not toxic.
Kerin O'Keefe book is well researched, both through in-depth analysis of historical sources and academic research, as well as extensive foot work by means of interviews, vineyards and cellar visits. Relevant aspects of history, geology, pedology, viticulture and enology, together with an excursus into the so-called Brunellogate (in Italy we called it Brunellopoli) are presented in a way that makes it attractive to read, not an easy feat. About 100 pages are dedicated to those subjects and they cover about one third of the book. The author loves pure Sangiovese expression and her arguments are quite convincing: Montalcino proves to be the best terroir for Sangiovese, but it has been planted in many unsuitable vineyards, which contributes to explain the heavy handed approach of many wineries in the cellar.
The other two thirds of the book - about 200 pages - are covered by 58 producer profiles of variable length, from one page to several pages. The choice, aside from the top producers by size which are included because of their relevance, is made by O'Keefe based on what she thinks are the best expressions of Sangiovese. So there are some tiny producers which are only turning out a few thousands bottles a year, which have a cult following in Italy, that I know are very hard, if not impossible, to find as personally experienced in my frequent visits to the US. The profiles are packed with information, but are written in a style that is pleasant to read. Tasting notes of recent and old vintages are at the end of each profile.
The Wine Spectator reviewed the book http://www.winespectator.com/magazine/show/id/47640 and, while praising it ("...well-researched, detailed work, is a must read for Brunellophiles.”), was somewhat critical as the author “...does the reader a disservice by not discussing several reputable producers whose wines are highly regarded by both American and international critics”. I find the logic of this argument tenuous at best, as it is auto-referential. It is like saying I do not like your choices as you have not included the wines I like. Kerin O'Keefe, an American wine critic based in Italy, has been writing for Decanter and World of Fine Wine for many years. Isn't she entitled to have her own preferences?
In addition, I find that WS tastes are getting closer to O'Keefe's tastes anyway, as Biondi Santi have moved from being “tired and acidic”, one of the few bad wines in “The greatest Brunellos ever” report published in WS in 2002, to getting high 90s scores for its recent vintages. Was 1997 Biondi Santi really that bad and the house that invented Brunello has now dramatically increased its quality, or has WS changed its mind on Biondi Santi's wines?
What do you think?
Interesting discussion. I think Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Gambero Rosso in Italy were wrong in their evaluation of Biondi Santi's wines. They all seem to love their wines now, but that is due to change in personnel in each organization.
+1. Also, Biondi Santi's wines, from my limited experience, tend to be a little unyelding when tasted young. Not crowd pleasers at all.
RIP Franco Biondi Santi. He passed away Sunday, he was 91 years old.
In the flurry of comments I noticed this tweet by Eric Asimov: "Biondi Santi Brunellos were subject to fierce criticism, but they are among the most beautiful wines I’ve ever had. They set the benchmark."
Simonbeve, Soldera himself seems to think you were not wrong.
Those who read Kerin O'Keefe profile on Soldera in her book, as well as what was behind the Brunello scandal will not be surprised by this wild turn of events in crazy Montalcino.
In an interview with leading Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera http://divini.corriere.it/2013...sorzio-del-brunello/ Soldera said that he does not think that his former employee opened the taps just in spite of him but that he must have had other motives. He does not say that he might have been pushed by other producers, but what other motives could there be?
Then he talks about Brunellopoli (or Brunellogate) reviving his suspicions of foul play.
Finally, the Consorzio's producers wanted to gift him with some wine to make up for his loss and perhaps make a special bottling. He turned down with disdain the offer saying it would have been a "fraud to the consumer". Producers and Consorzio got pissed off - rightly so I think, as they were just trying to help - and they expelled him from the Consorzio (even if he already had voluntarily left) and sued him.
Crazy, isnt'it? Hey but what do you expect from us, a country where comedian Grillo won the elections? Bear with us Italians though, we are a bit nuts but our wines are the best in the world.This message has been edited. Last edited by: Giovanni V,
Mostly agree with what Giovanni said (in particular about Italians!).
I am not sure that the other producers were just trying to help, though. Together with this very respectable aim, I can't avoid imagining some marketing intent in their move. Nonetheless this is not necessarily a malicious thing, as the public image of Brunello needed some help after the recent issues.
So, I can understand that a wounded man like Soldera could be suspecting that this generosity act is not really done to help him; saying that this is a fraud against consumers is not correct, though.
Also, please consider that we are not just in Italy, but in the Provincia di Siena. Here none agrees with others about anything, not just Siena against Firenze, but even any contrada of Siena against all the other contradas. Part of the charme of the place...
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