Nicolas Belfrage, master of wine, prende posizione contro il cambio di disciplinare del Rosso di Montalcino

In attesa che lo facciano i produttori, sinora molto silenziosi sull’ennesima convocazione di assemblea dei soci del Consorzio avente come oggetto l’ipotesi di modifica del disciplinare di produzione del Rosso di Montalcino, registro con grande favore la chiarissima presa di posizione, nettamente contraria a questo cambiamento, di un grande amico, collega e maestro.
Sto parlando di quello che va considerato il massimo conoscitore dei nostri vini del mondo britannico, Nicolas John Belfrage.
Nato a Los Angeles nel 1940, dopo aver vissuto a New York si è trasferito in Inghilterra, dove ha completato i propri studi, Belfrage ha cominciato ad occuparsi di vino italiano, da wine writer e da persona impegnata anche nel trade (dapprima con una sua piccola società di importazioni, ora come broker) verso la metà degli anni Settanta, diventando uno degli esperti di riferimento e una delle autorità indiscusse.
Per molti anni collaboratore di Decanter, e ora collaboratore regolare e degustatore di The World of Fine Wine, Belfrage, Master of wine (il primo nativo degli States) nel 1980, ha al suo attivo libri che hanno avuto una fondamentale importanza nel fare conoscere il vino italiano agli appassionati anglofoni.
Dapprima Life Beyond Lambrusco, del 1985, quindi Barolo to Valpolicella, del 1999 e Brunello to Zibibbo del 2001.
Dopo aver collaborato al settimanale britannico Harpers, con una column dedicata ai vini italiani, e aver curato per sei anni la sezione italiana del pluripremiato annuario internazionale Wine Report, diretto da Tom Stevenson, Belfrage, che ama l’Italia al punto da possedere una piccola casa di campagna nelle colline vitate del Chianti Rufina, lo scorso anno ha dedicato un nuovo volume all’Italia e ai suoi vini, e precisamente ai vini della Toscana e del Centro Italia, indagati e raccontati con la consueta passione e competenza in The Finest wines of Tuscany and Central Italy (a regional and village guide to the best wines and their producers) per la nuova collana Fine Wine Editions, edita dalla Aurum Press in Inghilterra e dall’University of California Press negli Stati Uniti per la cura dello staff editoriale di The World of Fine Wine.
Fortemente colpito dalla possibilità che il Rosso di Montalcino possa essere “supertuscanizzato”, Nick, che conosce bene Montalcino e ne apprezza i vini, ha deciso di scrivere questa lettera aperta che nei prossimi giorni proporrà di sottoscrivere ad altri colleghi wine writer internazionali.
Condividendo questa lettera aperta in toto, ho deciso di pubblicarla integralmente, in edizione originale (nei prossimi giorni la pubblicherò anche in italiano) su Vino al vino, augurandomi che siano in molti a fare proprie le parole e l’invito del grande giornalista.
Ecco la lettera aperta ai produttori di Montalcino di Nicolas John Belfrage.

“I understand that, on Wednesday Sept 7, 2011, a vote will be held in the Assemblea of Montalcino wine producers on whether to allow a small but significant percentage of other grapes, which everyone understands to mean Merlot and/or Cabernet and/or Syrah, into the blend of Rosso di Montalcino DOC, which is of course at present a 100% Sangiovese wine.
I would urge you in the strongest terms not to support this change. Rosso di Montalcino, like Brunello di Montalcino, has created for itself a strong personality on international wine markets based largely on the fact that it is a pure varietal wine.
In these days when more and more countries are climbing on the wine production bandwagon it is more important than ever to have a distinctive identity, to make wine in a way which no one else on earth can emulate. It is my belief that the strongest factor in the identity of Rosso di Montalcino (and of course Brunello di Montalcino) is the fact that it is 100% Sangiovese.
I am not disputing the fact that Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah are excellent grape varieties, but it is their very excellence, their very strength of personality, which threatens to compromise the unique character of Rosso di Montalcino.
Who could ever imagine the producers of Bordeaux voting to allow 15% of Sangiovese into the Bordeaux blend? The idea is absurd – or would be treated as such by the Bordeaux producers. There are many who think that a reverse situation, in Tuscany’s finest vine-growing area, would be equally absurd.
Yes, in many cases it may improve the wine – especially in weak vintages or where Sangiovese does not succeed every year. But it will fatally undermine the personality of the wine.
I am aware that a lot of Merlot  and  Cabernet are planted in the Montalcino growing zone, and that there may be a need in the short term to find a commercial use for these grapes. But there are the options of St. Antimo or IGT Toscana.
Perhaps, instead of compromising the purity of one of Montalcino’s unique wines, there should be more effort in the irection of promoting these other wine-types.

You will be aware that many of us fear that a compromise in regard to Rosso di Montalcino would constitute an opening of the door to a compromise, farther down the line, of the purity of the great Brunello – one of the world’s great wines.
Whether or not that might be the case, I am convinced that it is against the long-term interests of Montalcino to allow any other grape variety, including any Italian or Tuscan variety, into the Rosso, just as it would be fatal to great Burgundy, for example, to allow Syrah to be blended with Pinot Noir, as was once widely practised – with, one might add, some notable successes, but with the inevitable distortion of the style.
You, the Montalcino producers, hold the fate not only of your own future market in your hands. You are the representatives of all of us who will not have a vote on September 7th. We urge you, please, to vote NO.
Nick Belfrage”

83 pensieri su “Nicolas Belfrage, master of wine, prende posizione contro il cambio di disciplinare del Rosso di Montalcino

  1. Pingback: Nicolas Belfrage says NO to Merlot in Montalcino « Do Bianchi

  2. Italy is asleep , lulled by perfect pasta and smooth Chianti. Time to get up, milk the sheep, get the poison out of the vineyards, the pharma-industrialization out of the cellars. Time to restore your beautiful country before she is ruined by greed and poison and wines that taste like coca cola.

    Italian wines are in a Golden age and old men and their hubris, once again, are stealing the future.

  3. I hope that Nicolas read this discussion. I would like to know what Nicolas think about a new Rosso di Montalcino DOCG Superiore (with Sangiovese 100% and other requirements in the vineyard and winery) to incrise the unique character of Rosso di Montalcino, as other Consortium did for Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, Asolo Prosecco Superiore, Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Bardolino Superiore, Cesanese del Piglio Superiore, Conegliano valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore, Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore, Soave Superiore, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze, Valtellina Superiore, Vermentino di Gallura Superiore and so on in Italy. Practically to emptied the DOC Rosso di Montalcino that can accommodate changes of grapes composition. In all italian DOC the name ”rosso” specify a blend of two or many grapes.

  4. This is happening all over Italy (see Ciro and Primitivo di Manduria for example) and, typically I’m afraid, the rulemakers have got the timing all wrong. All over the world the trend now is towards purity and geographical authenticity. Please don’t pollute a great local expression (and one of Italy’s welcome relative bargains.

  5. For those who seek to allow blending in Brunello, this is, indeed, a way to get in through the back door. It is wise to keep all doors closed. The comparison to Bordeaux is apt. Regional identity is vital.

  6. I agree wholeheartedly with Nick’s point of view, which he succinctly expressed in his excellent letter. I would also like to add a few more observations: Haven’t Montalcino’s producers spent the last four decades, and more, telling the world how Sangiovese excels only in Montalcino? And now that the world has gotten the message, and just when wine lovers around the globe are turning their attention to unique, terrior-driven wines with character and soul, Montalcino’s producers are thinking about adding 15% other grapes? To do so would merely dumb down what is currently a wine with great personality, and one of the very few pure varietal wines of Italy.

    It would be counterproductive to say the least. Rosso, hailed in Montalcino as an historic wine since it was the first time a denomination made two wines from the same vines, has a strong market for what it is: 100% Sangiovese. To add other grapes would be to make just another run-of-the-mill Sangiovese-based wine. It would encounter serious competition with Vino Nobile and Chianti Classico, not mention the myriad of other Tuscan wines made from the same blends.

    Also, aren’t producers the first to tell us that Rosso is Brunello’s best quality safeguard, thanks to declassifying certain lots of Brunello to Rosso? How will this work if Rosso’s production code is changed?

    The real problem is that Montalcino’s producers have difficulty selling their wines made wholly or in part with international grapes. However, throwing these international grapes into Rosso will only put this respected wine in jeopardy, and as Nick suggests, I also fear the negative impact this would have on Brunello in the future.

    Producers: Do not change Rosso’s production code.

  7. Il lato “b” dovrebbe essere scritto con la maiuscola. A me piace senz’altro più del Brunello (anche al mio portafoglio, ma non solo per questo). Meno legno c’è nel Sangiovese e meglio è, quando il Sangiovese è ben coltivato e ben vinificato. penso anch’io che le cose dovrebbero essere lasciate come stanno, ma purtroppo non sono un produttore di Montalcino e non faccio parte del Consiglio di Amministrazione del Consorzio. Leggete bene i nomi e cognomi di chi lo compone. Se il Presidente continua pedantemente a sostenere una modifica, possono benissimo sceglierne un altro, prima ancora dell’assemblea. Non lo fanno. Significhera’ pure qualcosa, no? Un motivo per cui c’e’ Rivella a presiedere il Consorzio e Rivella sapevano tutti benissimo che era un fautore dei vitigni internazionali aggiunti non solo al Rosso, ma anche al Brunello, ci sarà. Un quinto dei terreni vitati a Montalcino chiede una modifica ad un quinto dei vini prodotti a Montalcino. E non smettera’ mai di farlo, finche’ non operera’ altre scelte. Che sia finalmente un tacito lodo per non toccare piu’ il disciplinare del Brunello? Invece la barricata per non toccare nemmeno il disciplinare del Rosso ha assunto i toni della campagna preventiva per difendere un altro assalto al Brunello. Comprendo le ragioni di chi difende il Rosso 100% Sangiovese perche’ e’ un vino eccellente, che non ha bisogno di stampelle, che va bene così e che resti così. Ma allora va difeso maggiormente, facendone una DOCG con l’aggiunta della dizione Superiore. Svuotare la DOC di questo che e’ il meglio, consentirebbe a Rivella e a chi per lui di accontentarsi, aggiungendo in una percentuale di non oltre il 15% le uve delle vigne di cui non sanno ormai come disfarsi e che nessuno vuole nemmeno comprare, ma solo nella DOC eventualmente modificata. Un patto d’acciaio: DOCG al Sangiovese 100% (sia Brunello che Rosso Superiore) e niente più rotture di scatole ogni pochi mesi, tanto piu’ in vendemmia, quando i piu’ piccoli non parteciperanno perche’ hanno ben altro da fare, DOC al resto. Altrimenti la guerra continua, fino al patatrac. C’e’ anche chi per valorizzazione del lato b intende l’impalatura di qualcuno, che puntualmente avverra’.
    Poi a me non me ne frega niente: amo il Barbaresco, il re. Che ha un disciplinare esemplare. Ma questi gran competitori (a parole) di Montalcino ci riusciranno mai a precisare nel disciplinare i terreni? Un territorio di 21.000 ettari teoricamente a coltura (agraria, boschiva, viticola, olivicola) ha tutti i terreni vocati? Sono certo di no. Eppure nel disciplinare c’e’ scritto che si puo’ fare su “tutto il territorio amministrativo del Comune”. Questa sarebbe la qualita’, eh?

  8. Anch’io ho faticato a capirne tanti. Del resto a quest’ora mi ci vorrebbe un caffe’ con i fiocchi. Fa un caldo boia anche qui in Polonia e il bianco spagnolo che sai tu mi andava giu’ come l’acqua, a pranzo. Forse troppo? Io bevo il vino, non le etichette.

  9. I think this would be a big mistake. Growers in Montalcino should spend more time telling their own story, which includes Sangiovese, and not chase the market in this sort of way, which would be a disaster

  10. I am very grateful to Nick Belfrage MW for drawing this issue to wider attention. The very essence of Montalcino is to express its local variety. Sangiovese does not need an artificial boost from international varieties. Please do not change the rules.

    • anche l’amica e collega Carla Capalbo, ha inviato questo commento alla lettera aperta di Nick Belfrage:
      Dear Nick Belfrage,
      I read with great interest your letter to the Montalcino producers regarding their vote on September 7th. As a wine writer for Decanter and consultant, I would like to express my wholehearted agreement with you in urging the producers not to compromise the unique character of Montalcino’s Sangiovese by allowing other grapes into the blend of Rosso di Montalcino. I too think it would be a mistake commercially and, in the long run, in terms of image too. Buyers outside of Italy are already confounded by the vast array of grape varieties and DOCs available in Italy and there are precious few that rely completely on a grape variety as noble and recognizable as Sangiovese. To do away with that clarity of expression would be a very short-sighted step and one that would lessen the identity of this fantastic wine.
      Please pass this letter on to the people who are going to be involved in this important decison. In the meantime, I will help communicate it to wine critics in Britain and the US.
      Good luck, and all the best,
      Carla Capalbo

  11. Mi piace assai la risposta di Jancis Robinson: “All over the world the trend now is towards purity and geographical authenticity. Please don’t pollute a great local expression”. Traduco, perché è esemplare: “In tutto il mondo la tendenza è verso la purezza e autenticità geografica. Si prega di non inquinare una grande espressione locale”.
    Purezza e autenticità geografica.
    Mi risulta che le uve siano tutte coltivate autenticamente lì a Montalcino. Non arrivano in cisterna da fuori, come avviene invece ancora oggi per alcuni vini francesi di osannata qualità ma che sono rinforzati in gran segreto da quelli pugliesi e siciliani. Per quelli, però, c’è sempre stato il silenzio assenso dei grandi winewriters, come se avessero avuto le bende sugli occhi. Mi sembra strano che vedano tutte le pagliuzze negli occhi di Montalcino quando non vedono le travi in quelli di Bordeaux. Ci sono voluti i braccianti ed i coltivatori francesi che rovesciavano le cisterne sulle strade per sollevare tanti anni fa quel problema così ben taciuto da tutti quelli che pure avevano già allora la penna famosa per poterne scrivere abbondantemente. Quindi, per favore, non parliamo di purezza e autenticità geografica, richiesta per giunta a gran voce soltanto per Montalcino e per i vini italiani, chissà perché. All’estero, invece, tutti gli altri possono fare quel che vogliono e nessun winewriter gli ha mai messo il dito nell’occhio. Anzi, dovreste vedere i panegirici, le ovazioni, i punteggi! Ovviamente, ogni riferimento a fatti realmente accaduti e a persone coinvolte nel presente dibattito e’ frutto della mia fantasia malata o perlomeno puramente casuale.
    Almeno questo commento si capisce o no? O devo mettere su un’altra caffettiera?

  12. Pingback: Should Brunello di Montalcino change its rules? : WineWisdom

  13. I find it extraordinary that elements of the Italian wine industry so regularly appear to ‘shoot themselves in the foot’. Do they have some misplaced and perverse ‘death wish’? Or is it all, as so often, just about money and local politics with little regard to wider public perception and a future market at home and overseas.

    In the case of Rosso di Montalcino, I suspect that some hasty over-planting of international varieties in the Brunello district and some very strong personalities will be driving this issue for a short-term solution to a problem rather than taking the long-term view. Short-term solutions are rarely the best.

    Italian wine has gained so much international respect over these last few decades not only for the massive quality improvement but above all for the unique individuality of its wines. And it has achieved all this with precious little ‘generic’ promotion or assistance from government or any umbrella industry body and purely on the quality and individuality of its wines.

    Why now impose a long, slow death on one of the precious geese that laid a golden egg?

    International varieties, and particularly those with strong personalities such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot etc., do have their place in Italy but surely not to tamper with the most accepted and loyal of all the 100% Sangiovese DOCG/DOC wines of all!!!

    Destroy it at your peril!!!

  14. Franco:

    Thank you for sharing Nick’s passionate letter. He is correct in his argument that anything less than a 100% Sangiovese for Rosso di Montalcino would be a sham. There are other options available to producers, but certain lazy individuals, instead of trying to promote those options, by improving their quality, opt to make a “new and improved” Rosso.

    While one person above points out that the word Rosso elsewhere in Italy means a blended red, that does not mean it should apply here. Montalcino is one of the cradles of Sangiovese in Italy – thus any wine that contains the word Montalcino, be it Brunello or Rosso, needs to remain 100% Sangiovese if it is to have a true identity.

  15. Ci risiamo, e ci risaremo sempre finchè non si eliminano due piccoli problemi, e cioè le centinaia e centinaia di ha a vitigni internazionali che il sant’antimo non riesce aa smaltire e la possibilità di usare la dizione Montalcino in etichetta. Di qui l’assalto continuo e reiterato con foga degna di miglior causa. Pur essendo favorevole al rosso di solo sangiovese mi sa che prima o poi il fronte cederà. E comunque se non altro ora si potrà identificarlo (vabbè..) le proposte precedenti se non ricordo male mettevano tutto in un unico calderone, vini in purezza e vini in uvaggio.
    Considerazione finale: ma Rivella non era quello del moscadello? ecco, farsi dettare la linea da uno così, che chiaramente anticipa le tendenze di mercato, può avvenire solo in italia, comunque se lo sono votato quindi contenti loro…
    ps ma il superconsulente dov’è finito, facce ride professò

  16. Thank you Nicolas for bringing this to our attention. I immediately forwarded your open letter to two of our producers,fully endorsing your position. Roberto FULIGNI at once responded as follows:’Be sure that we will vote NO. But the issue has been amplified and probably there won’t be any votation. If there will be there are no chance that the formula of Rosso di Montalcino will be changed.’ But then again, this is Italy we are talking about….

  17. This is such a painful topic for me in many ways. Italy has unmatched viticultural riches, yet they insist on appealing to what the market is told it wants.

    We may be at the leading edge of the resurrection of authenticity in wine, but all around me I hear people asking about, and looking for the wines that speak uniquely of a place. Rosso di Montalcino risks loosing it’s share of that audience, which in turn will evolve into the next generation of enthusiastic fans of Brunello.

    This is a slippery slope, and Nicholas is absolutely correct in that we can not allow for this incremental degradation of one of Italy’s, and the worlds great vinous treasures.

    Rosso di Montalcino means damn fine Sangiovese to me. If the producers choose to change that, I can only let my opinion be heard through my actions. Simply put, I will choose only to review Rosso di Montalcino made exclusively from Sangiovese.

  18. un altro intervento di un importante wine writer, Marc Millon:
    “I am writing in support of Nick Belfrage’s eloquent and well-argued letter to safeguard the traditions of Rosso di Montalcino as a mono-varietal wine produced entirely from Sangiovese.
    The introduction of so-called international grape varieties to Italy’s varied wine regions has of course been going on for decades. Few would deny that in many cases excellent wines have been and are being produced, both wines vinified ‘in purezza’ as well as those made from blends where such grapes have been added judiciously along with traditional varieties. That is not the argument. The reputation of Brunello di Montalcino – and by extension Rosso di Montalcino – has long been based on the particular character and style of wine that results from wines made entirely from Sangiovese grapes grown within the delimited vineyard. Allowing the addition of international grape varieties in Rosso di Montalcino will not only distort the traditional character of the wine, it will also only bring considerable confusion to the consumer. That is not to say that such blends should not be allowed, rather that they should be marketed under existing IGT denominazioni (Sant’ Antimo and Toscana) that offer the freedom of expression for such non-traditional wines.
    Marc Millon, author ‘The Wine Roads of Italy”

  19. Grazie, Franco di aver messo questo articolo sul tuo sito.

    It is very important to draw attention to what is happening in Montalcino right now. The vast and ancient history of Italy’s regional wine making is at risk! If our generation of wine drinkers and consumers does not stand up and protect authenticity, we will forget entirely what is authentic. We simply cannot allow these noble wine traditions and ancient grape varieties to become lost in the shuffle of internationally-styled wines. Please, producers of Montalcino, say NO!

  20. Altri interventi a sostegno della lettera di Nicolas Belfrage di altri importanti personaggi del mondo del vino internazionale.

    Il wine writer Stephen Brook
    Nick, Of course I agree with what you say in your letter to the Consorzio. Growers who want to use French varieties have other options than Rosso.
    Best wishes
    Stephen Brook

    Il wine writer e Master of wine Peter McCombie
    I would like to endorse Nick Belfrage’s call concerning the integrity of Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino. Nick has been an outstanding guide to the mysteries and joys of Italian wine for many of us for many years. I can’t add much to what Nick has written but agree that it would be a tragedy if the producers of Montalcino allow the discipline to be diluted.
    Peter McCombie MW

    Il wine writer Howie Sayers
    Caro Signor Belfrage & Ziliani,
    Just a quick e-mail in support of your open letter and to lodge a no vote against the proposed rule change for the Rosso di Montalcino DOC.
    It is sometimes hard enough to sell / import Italian wines due to there relatively high prices compared to some other regions, but the main reason they are popular is beacuase they have an identity, a heritage, and stand out as something different from the rest of the crowd. Customers love having the intricacies of the Italian wine world explained to them by knowledgable sales people, it makes the selling easier in a way!! So,one, stay original, proud for what you stand for, and two, dont undermine the people who put in a lot of time explaining / selling your wines if you then want to undermine them with this rule change for the sake of following fashion and to make an easier sell!! If you really wanted to make selling Rosso easier, perhaps the price of Rosso should be considered, as it is relatively high for what it is compared to many other grapes varieties/wines available. Many customers in fact often buy Brunello instead of the Rosso, as they consider it better for value for money to pay the extra for a good Brunello rather than a lot of money for a Rosso. Cari saluti Howie Sayers

    Peter Edward dell’Association of Wine Educators
    I entirely agree with Nicholas Bellfrage, on every point he makes. If the winemakers in Montalcino need to make a different wine for commercial reasons, so they should, but they should give it a different name and Rosso should remain as a wine representing 100% Sangiovese. To my mind this would give producers the best of both worlds.
    Peter Edwards, Member of the Association of Wine Educators

    Il wine writer David Furer
    Franco/Nicolas, Forgive my presumption but wasn’t one of the key reasons the RdM DOC was instituted was to allow producers the opportunity to market their wines earlier than that allowed by the BdM DOC and less to create a distinct category of wines? And doesn’t Italy already have respectable options for these proposed wines via IGT and/or VdT assignations? As a wine writer with nearly 2 years hands-on vineyard & winery experience I respect the cash-flow and other commercial needs of winemakers anywhere. I’m glad for Montalcino’s success and wish the producers there continued growth and experimentation. However, if this ‘adaptation’ is enacted I’ll be less likely to recommend or purchase these wines, just as I now hold many Chianti and other Tuscan wines circumspect for their ‘adjustment’ with Merlot, Syrah, etc.
    Kind regards, David Furer

    • E ora si é aggiunta un’altra amica, un’altra Master of wine che ben conosce la Toscana ed i suoi vini, tanto che le ha dedicato due libri. Parlo di Rosemary George:
      Dear Franco I’ve just seen Nick’s letter about Rosso di Montalcino and wholeheartedly agree with everything he says. If they want to grow Merlot and Cabernet, put it in Sant’Antimo, but do not, above all, ‘internationalise’ a classic Tuscan flavour. What is the Consorzio thinking of? They must need their brains tested! Ciao Rosemary

  21. In the best Polish tradition I support this “no”, but I’m also concerned about the long-term prospects of Montalcino. Refusing to talk about any compromise is just not going to solve the many issues of Montalcino. Let’s stop this war and talk seriously about the hundreds of poorly located hectares, inadequate wines being granted the DOCG every year, the lack of marketing strategy for Brunello, and so on. Some ideas in my blog post here:

  22. The proponents of ‘diluting’ the Rosso di Montalcino are fighting yesterday’s war! I second Jancis’ comments above. – Personally I favor authenticity in wines and I despise ‘cuvees’, especially if they cater to an ‘international’ taste accustomed to Cab, Merlot and Syrah add-ins.

  23. Sono completamente d’accordo sulla questione che Mario Crosta tira fuori riguardo al silenzio assenso dei wine writers sui produttori bordolesi.
    Tra l’altro mi risulta che quando questi wine writers vengono a Montalcino anche per Benvenuto Brunello, spesso e volentieri snobbano il Rosso di Montalcino e ora sembra che a Montalcino sia il vino più importante.
    Ziliani, tutti questi wine writer che rispondono ai suoi appelli, mi ricorda quando nel 2005 la Chiesa fece fare ai preti nelle parrocchie campagna sul referendum sulla fecondazione assistita invitando i fedeli a non votare…

  24. Have just read Nicholas’ letter via an e-mail from the IMW.
    I have to agree fully with the sentiments he expresses.

    Every wine country makes great Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah/Shiraz.
    They all have difficulty selling at least some of it.
    Only Toscana makes truly great Sangiovese.
    One of the biggest buzzword phrases in marketing is “Unique Selling Point” (USP). Most people who (ab)use it have no idea what the word ‘Unique’ actually means.
    The producers of Toscana/Rosso di Montalcino need to enhance the awareness of their actual, real “USP” and not volunteer instead to destroy it.

    Rod Smith MW

  25. I agree with every word in Nick Belfrage’s letter.

    The world is awash with Cabernet and Merlot. Thank God for the pure Sangiovese,
    particularly when there is olive oil on your plate! In advertising speak, Sangiovese
    is the “product plus”., so keep Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello pure Sangiovese.

    Call blends containing C-S and Merlot by another name.

    Robin Don MW

  26. Dear Nick,
    Please add my signature to your petition, that this should remain 100% Sangiovese –

    which has my full support

    best regards Anthony
    Anthony Hanson MW, Senior Consultant

    Christie’s International Wine Department

  27. I am obviously missing the point here. Why do they want to include other varieties when they already make such good wine? I cannot see that it is to improve the quality or the image or even the marketing – as most have already said we are already drowning in anonymous wine. Economics may be the reasoning – has some highly paid marketing consultant come up with the bright idea. Let’s hope sense prevails.

    Liz Gabay

  28. I can only say that I fully agree with Nicolas’ statement, the whole idea being totally opportunistic not to say quite ridiculous. Will people never learn?

  29. Pingback: Montalcino still at war « Polish Wine Guide

  30. In Tuscany there are already enough examples of wines that have lost sight of their heritage by seeking a broader market and the addition of non-Italalian grapes, there is no need to dilute another DOC by rewriting the rules. It seems counter intuitive when so much work has been put into recovering “lost” varietals in Italy to take a step backward by including cab, merlot, and syrah into a uniquely Italian wine when there is already an over abundance of wines made from these varietals already.

  31. I can’t agree more with the above comments made by some of the most well versed and respected people in the wine community today.
    As a wine retailer I do believe that the trend in wine is moving more toward consumers looking for an identity and purity in a wine coming from a certain region. To change the DOC laws regarding Rosso di Montalcino will only take away an experience of the region that some consumers can only get in a glass. The result will be a lose of cultural identity for the people of Montalcino.

  32. Dear Montalcino Producers
    I disagree to the addition of any oter grape varieties into the blend of Roso di Montalcino DOC. This great Tuscan red, I believe owes part of its success to the purity of its makeup – 100% Sangiovese – a true Italian grape variety and a true Italian wine in every sense. To change its makeup would dilute its personality and its heritage. Leave one of Tuscany’s grat wines alone and instead take steps to promote this great wine and not change its character. I urge you to vote NO to any changes
    Amanda Mencacci
    Hallgarten Druitt
    Dallow Road
    Luton LU1 1UR

  33. Ziliani, era una battuta ironica.
    La cosa che non capisco è che lei si è mobilitato con tutti questi writers e MW ma alla fine sono le aziende di Montalcino a dover vendere e a incassare… E in più non mi ha risposto sul fatto che snobbate sempre il RdM e ora tutti accaniti su questo vino…

  34. I believe the unique characteristics and point of difference that 100% Sangiovese gives to Rosso di Montalcino are necessary to give the wine a qualitative edge in the market. From a purchasing standpoint, I would be less interested in a Rosso containing a percentage of other grape varieties.

  35. Reading the ‘discorso’ from Michele Rossi, I agree that it is for the producers of Montalcino to sell and bank the cash – but it is for others (worldwide) to sell their products on to the consumer. The world is ‘awash’ with tasty, commercial wine made from many combinations of grape varieties available at low to middle prices from every wine producing country I can think of. Rosso di Montalcino is not available at low or even middle prices – so why consider turning it into a ‘me too’ style with no obvious indication of provenance or individuality and still anticipate selling it at current prices? It has a USP – keep it!!

  36. It would be nice if some Italian winemakers stop trying to be French or impress Parker. The authority in Italy should be ashamed of this proposal with all the native grapes already in Italy. Soon enough Italy will be one large DOC(?) where ALL grapes are included and tradition goes out the window. Once again(with wine anyway)Italy seeks an identity. Brunellogate part 2!!!! KEEP ROSSO 100%!!!

  37. Ziliani come spesso fa risponde solo a quello che le pare…
    @Mrs. Hunt
    I understand the RdM has a USP but unfortunately some markets aren’t quite ready to understand USPs and to them a wine is a wine and unfortunately it has to match their taste. The proposal to change the RdM regulations to my opinion does not force the producers to blend their Sangiovese. They can do different kinds of Rossos to match the different markets. I know it sounds sad, but the producers do have their cellars full of wine and they need to pay loans, employees, etc. And unfortunately, in different parts of Europe you can find low priced private labelled RdMs and BdMs. More and more often. I believe at least they can provide a good quality blended Rosso with their actual label and make the consumers curious and interested about the whole Montalcino experience and eventually move into 100% Sangiovese wines. To conclude, to my opinion blending Sangiovese (and not necessarily with non indigenous grapes, but also with Canaiolo, Colorino, etc.)doesn’t necessarily make it worse.

  38. Thanks for posting the letter Nick. I never cease to be amazed at how a region can so blithely contemplate ruining their USP. The world is teeming with Cabernets and Merlots. Do we really need more? Even a tiny percentage can dominate the blend and ruin the purity of the Sangiovese. Would I want to sell one? I doubt it. Maybe it’d be better concentrating getting consisitency of quality and elegance across the region?

    Jo Ahearne MW
    Marks and Spencer

  39. I wish everyone good sales and an inspiringly good glass of wine. To the producers who are pushing for the changes to the Rosso rules, I say you might increase your sales, you are likely to increase your margin, as there are still many, many people who prefer power over elegance, and price, to them, is a measure of their own prestige. God speed to you. Jack up that wine we used to know as Rosso di Montalcino. Onward! Conquer the elderly, stately idea of Brunello di Montalcino. I presume you feel you are the owners of the heritage you are about to shape into your own very contemporary (or perhaps a little retro – circa 1982) image. Like the Elgin Marbles, your heritage must ultimately be protected from outsiders’ good intentions if it is to remain yours. Own it then, and watch as the smaller producers who have no truck with your imported varieties become the heralded inside-outsiders standing in defiance with foreigners against your blithe effort to destroy the influence of your artful and unpredictable muse, Sangiovese.

  40. I find Michele Rossi has some curously misplaced views. It would seem ‘anything goes’ in order to sell a product and cash the proceeds. It is suggested that R di M must be made to match market requirements. There are 1000’s of wines that are made in this way and few have real personality or a sense of authenticity and place. Why make another? For sure, a small addition of other local grapes could potentially be OK but not those with such dominant personalities in colour, aroma and flavour such as Syrah, Cab. Sauvignon and Merlot as an sdjunct to Sangiovese. The real answer to the problem is improved selection of site for Sangiovese vines, improved care in the vineyard and improved attention in the cellar not a change of legislation to assist producers sell wine that is already qualitatively inadequate.

  41. I agree with all Nick has said and said so clearly. For a long time Montalcino has promoted and supported pure Sangiovese. The quality, purity of style has improved dramatically during my 50 years in the Wine Trade. It would be criminal to throw this away now. Montalcino means Sanviovese do not change the nature, flavour of this great wine there is no need.

    Derek Smedley MW

  42. Mrs. Hunt,
    I will never get tired of saying, and I am confident that as a MW you know this, that the RdM has been created as a “relief valve” back in time. Few producers have really invested their attention, time and money on this wine. Also, the public opinion when visiting Montalcino and its producers, have often snubbed the RdM; now it has become something everybody fight for.
    They say that the RdM will be blended with international varieties, but by reading the documents, blending is not mandatory (Sangiovese from 85% up to 100% or Sangiovese 100% for a Rosso di Montalcino Superiore) and Internatioal grapes, as in my previous comments, are not the only ones permitted in Tuscany.
    They also say that eventually the changes will be made to the BdM rules. I don’t read this anywhere either.
    I am considering giving up my commentaries on this blog, unfortunately sharing my thoughts over here, if they don’t match the host’s point of view, is like tilting at windmills.
    Furthermore I would do my small part leaving the producers their freedom to think about their future and to express their opinion on September 7th by voting with no external influences. The vote is the most democratic mean. The producers have the right to choose by themselves in a free voting.

  43. Authenticity is a highly fragile asset. It takes decades to build it up but only a minute to tear it down. Dear Montalcino producers, think back to what we have done in Germany in the early 70ties and see how hard we still have to work on the healing of this – even after four decades!

    Frank Kämmer MS

  44. M.Rossi, of course you are correct. RdM was created as a ‘relief valve’ but the key difference, at present, is that by law it requires less time before release to the market. For cash flow, this makes absolute sense and it gives an opportunity for grapes from young vines or less prestigious vineyard sites to have a better commercial advantage.

    If, however, the right to blend or not is available what will the consumer come to anticipate or trust? The whole authenticity of R di M will be bastardised and there will be no guaranteed typicity. We could agree for sure that even now there is no guaranteed typicity because some producers make excellent wine and some make dreadful wine – and all from 100% Sangiovese. But to complicate the issue further with the addition of grapes with much stronger personalities than Sangiovese seems to me to be a very short-sighted concept.

    The producers will vote as they wish – that is democracy – but it is also democracy for the wider audience and especially those of us that sell on to the consumer to have an opinion and voice it, as we have, with the intention of influencing the vote. Your views are just as valid as mine or any of the others who have posted their contributions to this blog. It may be that the producers are all with you and do not appreciate the voices of so many that oppose the idea of allowing a blend.

  45. So once more a group of Italian producers are contemplating the easy, lazy route; seeking short term expediency at the expense of long term respect and renown. But this time it’s one of the pinnacles of their production that they are about to bring down. I despair.

  46. Mrs. Hunt, typicity will remain if the producers blend their Sangiovese with indigenous grapes grown in the area of production. Actually in Montalcino there are Cabernet and Merlot vineyards that are even 20/30 years old, if I’m not mistaken. In theory those could be considered quite typical, too…
    I respect the fact that like me you are out there in the market, but indeed the British consumer is historically very well-educated about the most traditional kind of wines.
    With regards to showing opinion and influencing the votes, my issue here is that it seems like our host has invited only those he knew would have totally supported his ideas. This, to my opinion, makes the conversation fairly unbalanced. Furthermore, when he states that the changes will eventually apply to the Brunello, too it is quite unfair and not true as it is not written anywhere.

  47. To state the obvious, if Rosso di Montalcino adds “other” grapes to its wines, it subtracts its point of difference, rendering the wine just another international blend among other countless, faceless blends of no distinct personality. NO is the only sensible vote.

  48. These pretty sad turn of events has been a bit of the nail in the coffin for me – I am about to leave Italy after having lived here for over 4 years, (including a year in Montalcino) dealing with a lot of these cultural issues. Italy has an unending capacity for self-sabotage in all senses. This is just the latest example in the wine world. The Ciro’ DOC is a recent change as well, and that flew largely under the international wine scene radar, as Ciro’ somehow manages to do in general, though it’s made in a part of the country that has a wine history about 2000 years older than Brunello di Montalcino. I digress.

    I think it’s interesting that in the Decanter article on this topic, Biondi Santi said: … suggested that parts of the region were not ideal for Sangiovese. ‘In some areas the vine excels, in others it simply does not,’ he said. ‘Rather than change Brunello, we should think about allowing other red grapes, grown within the denomination, to Rosso di Montalcino.’

    What this means is that somewhere between the 1960’s and today, Brunello producers multiplied from about 11 to hundreds. Hundreds of families cashed in on this product, but there really wasn’t enough space for them all. Since sangiovese is not always easily grown to create a quality Brunello, some people want the crutch of the other varieties to continue to cash in. This is a classic example of how the southern mafia mentality sometimes migrates north without Italians even realizing it – a mafioso would never do something that benefits him in the long run if it shorts him financially today – after all, tomorrow he could be in jail or dead or who knows. Yet again Italians sell themselves short marketing-wise, ruining years of consumer education just for the quick buck. Do they really think your average consumer today, (not wine lovers/experts like those who comment on this blog) are going to keep three versions of Rosso straight? They’ll profit now and pay the consequences later.

    The best we can hope for is, as the commenter Cornelia Sutphin wrote above, in the end the small producers that stick to authentitity will be sought out and have higher value. What a shame that so many average consumers that don’t know Italian wine well will miss out on what a Rosso di Montalcino really is.

    • anche un’altra importante wine writer americana Elin McCoy, sottoscrive la lettera aperta ai produttori di Montalcino di Nicolas Belfrage: “I definitely want to add my name. Here are my lines to add: As a wine journalist for 30 years, I’m dismayed that the producers of Rosso di Montalcino are even considering allowing the addition of other grape varieties to this delicious, traditional 100 percent Sangiovese wine. I urge you in the strongest terms to vote no. The world is filled with wines that include cabernet, merlot., and syrah. Not so Sangiovese, which flourishes best in Italy. What you have is unique, so please don’t throw away your image, too. all best, Elin McCoy Wine columnist, Bloomberg News, Zester Daily”

  49. Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are wines that our restaurant guests have heard of, and want to drink. Rosso di Montalcino, in particular, is one of the easiest Italian wines to sell, because it is both delicious and easy to understand. No-one should underestimate the significance of this. Many Italian wines (perhaps most) are confusing for customers, and challenging for junior staff to describe. This would be irrelevent if Rosso di Montalcino was in crisis, but the style is usually appealing and food-friendly, and there are plenty of good quality examples to be found. Blending the style away will help no-one (except those with large plantings of other grape varieties), and will destroy part of Italy’s wine heritage. There are other ways to make use of Cabernet and Merlot fruit, and I’m happy to buy wines which contain them – but not under the label Rosso di Montalcino.

  50. Once you dilute the wine you dilute the brand or in this case damage the integrity of a region – just look back historically within your own sector (the famed Austrian wines damaged for 15+ years in terms of reputation) and other sectors Lancia, and ford with their attempts at cheapening the Aston Martin, Coca Cola with the “new taste”, even the BBC in their dumbing down of certain shows… the point is from a purely business perspective the moment you mess with a loyal customer base then you should be prepared for a loss of sales and with it a vocal community that will work against the brand. It is a proven statistic that it is much more expensive in both time and money to get prestige and margin back than it was to keep it the first place. Stay true to your roots, stay true to your region.

  51. This is a marketing strategy for bad producers to keep a DOC classification while adultering their wine. Brunello and Montalcino are great when well made. Keep them classic and let the terroir speak. Let someone who wants to add other varietals go to IGT classification instead of DOC. If the wine is good it will sell. If not, he will not take the others down with him. Seems to me this proposal is akin to dumbing the wine down. As a wine professional, I would hate to see this happen. What happened to Italian pride?

  52. As a lover of Italian wines, please vote no. It is so wonderful to travel to Italy and experience its uniqueness: the people, the small towns, the food, and the wine. It is such a pleasure to be able to drink its uniqueness half a world away. (…impossible to taste its food half a world away…) It is the reason 50% of my wine purchases are Italian wines. I can only hope Italy’s wines continue to maintain their identity for centuries.

  53. The proper solutiion is to estaablish a 3rd name, linked to Montalcino, to be used for Rosso di Montalcino that has up to 15% of other grapes added to it. Vintners could make this wine, and market it, whenever they feel the quality of the harvest requires it, perhaps at a reduced price, or every year if they think the blend is Better Wine. There is also no reason to prevent the vintners from producing a Super Brunello wine that is a blend. Now, a vintner could market 4 types of 100% and 85% Montalcino wines, instead of 2. Ultimately, wine critics and wine consumers will decide which are the better, and hence more valuable, wines. As a consumer, I don’t care. Montalcino is well known and perhaps will become better known as critics suggest that “in this year, this vintener’s 85% blend is actually a better value than most 100% wines” or “this Super Brunello is the outstanding wine of the entire vintage.” As is , Brunello is always thought to be better than Rosso, which is seen as similar to a “second label” from a French Chateau.

  54. Take it from a native of a country with truly a very thin sliver of native “culture”, once you start down this slippery slope, good luck….

    Such silliness.

  55. Dear all,
    why only in Italy something like this is happening? Have you ever heared something like this in France? Did Burgundy try to add some other red or white grapes to a Mersault or to Nuit St George?
    Probably in Italy they are not realizing what could happen in terms of tasting in a city like London, where already that variety of styles imported from all over the world exists (Australia, New Zealand, Cile, Argentina …just to mention few without giving you a complete list) and is already difficult to explain the differences between a fuller body Chianti compare to another that is lighter! Or why there are exiting different styles of Barolo!(modern/traditional)
    We have alreday Bolgheri for the Super Tuscan wines!
    It is alreday difficult to give and mantain the same expression of style year after year, why you have to ruin every thing just to produce more quantities or enter in competition in already saturated market?
    I think we have to improve the quality of the wine by mantaining Italy’s unique expression, not by taking the easy way by adding some international grapes to a simple wine like Sangiovese (great wine as it is!)
    Just now , after 20 years , 50% of the population in England (not conosseurs) are starting to recognise the appellation Rosso di Montalicino and you want to change again?
    We have to realize that we are not the only to produce wine in the world, but we have to BARE in mind, that we are unique in the world with our autoctone varieties!

  56. To permit a change in the rules is to permit a change in the wine. We should be able to rely on the rule-makers to ensure that the wine we think is in the bottle is the wine that is in the bottle. That is the point of the rules and is the reason that AOC and DOC came into existence. These rules provide wine buyers and drinkers with a certainty that they are buying the genuine article.
    Such rules only have meaning if they are maintained on an ongoing basis. Changing the rules, diluting the wine, mean that buyers can no longer be sure of what they are buying.
    There is no reason why producers should not produce wine as IGP or “vin ordinaire”, in which case it would require to achieve a price on quality alone and not on name.
    Is it possibly the case that the producers want to have their cake and eat it?

  57. As a dweller of ‘local Italy’ I can only imagine that this is down to the bigger companies wishing to produce bigger yields and therefore make larger profits.
    In the region of Abruzzo, where I live, real wine growers would never adulterate what they see as their history, heart and passion that they put in their bottles. And this is just Montepulciano, not something as great as Moltacino!
    This would be sacrilege and against everything they stand for.

    It would be a real shame to add to these great wines

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