Espressamente destinato a tutti coloro che hanno letto, non senza sorpresa, questa news sull’edizione on line di Decanter, e soprattutto il suo titolo, ma anche a tutte le persone che seguono, senza fette di salame sugli occhi, gli ultimi sviluppi di Brunellopoli, segnalo questo splendido intervento del wine writer britannico – e amico – Monty Waldin, (di cui anche lo scorso anno pubblicai un “vivace” articolo, in inglese e anche in traduzione italiana) apparso nel forum del sito Internet di Jancis Robinson. Da leggere e meditare…
“For those of you have read this news item in Decanter on the Brunello “scandal” my response to Decanter is: Yes, the investigation is closed in the sense that no new names are going to be added to those investigated or charged for “Brunellopoli”, which essentially covered possible rule-breaking in the Brunello zone during the 2003 and 2004 vintages. In that sense the detective work has finished (by the way in the first instance the wines were subjected to laboratory tests conducted by an independent laboratory in the north of Italy, not Florence).
However, the investigators are still investigating the evidence they amassed during “the investigation” (bear in mind we are in Italy here, so it all makes perfect sense) so in that sense the investigation is, erm, not closed. Decanter seems to have picked up a non-story about Brunello being “case closed” published recently in an Italian news periodical.
Decanter also swallowed a press release last year in which Brunello’s biggest winery Banfi declared itself as innocent – when this was absolutely not the case as the Siena prosecutor subsequently made perfectly clear. Although some (most in fact) of the wineries who were investigated have not been charged others – perhaps with something to hide, perhaps not – have taken the option of plea bargaining pre-trial (a perfectly legitimate option in Italy if you, ahem, feel you may have broken the ‘Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese’ rule).
Wineries can voluntarily declassify Brunello which may, ahem, have broken the rules. If they are allowed to trade in bulk wine they can then buy legitimate Brunello and bottle it under their label. This allows the winery to avoid the pain/shame of “missing” a vintage.
Other wineries are still under investigation and may still be subject to potential judicial sanction if they chose not to take a pre-trial plea bargain, end up in court, and are found guilty of wrong-doing. Wineries in this situation can’t trade in wine from the vintage under investigation, either their own wine or wine they buy in.
To its credit Brunello’s wine producers’ council or consorzio has improved its act as far as making meaningful rather than telegraphed checks on vineyards which were designated for use as Brunello and therefore should have contained 100% Sangiovese (Brunello) grapes but which in fact may have contained Sangiovese grapes on the outside rows only with Merlot, Cabernet, Syrah and the surprisingly popular Petit Verdot hidden in between. Heads have rolled – and not before time.
However, the consorzio must go further. What also needs to happen – sooner rather than later – is that vines on poor terroir incapable of producing the kind of first growth wine Brunello purports to be are declassified. This is under serious discussion – we will have to wait and see if self-interest wins over common sense here.
Spot checks on wineries (and some of the less scrupulous consulting oenologists) need to be ramped up as well – especially on those reliant on bulk wines from outside the Brunello zone which in theory can only be sold as either table wine (vino da tavola) or the French equivalent of vin de pays.
The best Brunellos really can be be good wines (I drank a 1977 Brunello the other day which was clearly 100% Brunello ie Sangiovese in purezza: pale but limpid and by now tawny colour, crisp but very digestible fruit and tannins which were politely forceful on what was a very hot day) – but they are few and far between, and in the modern era have become fewer even as the vineyard zone expanded because foreign ie French grapes were allowed in, ostensibly for vin de pays.
For some, apparently, the temptation to blend may have proved too great in a bull market. The region does have a future, whatever may or may not happen in court, but only if those who govern Brunello face reality: the good times are over for many, but they need not be over for all”.