Follow thewinehub on Twitter

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rosso di Montalcino shouldn't be blended with other grape varieties - A letter from Nicolas Belfrage MW


On 7 September, Montalcino wine producers will vote if other "authorized" grape varieties can be used in combination with Sangiovese in their Rosso di Montalcino wine.

For several reasons we don't believe this should happen... and we are posting here a letter from Nicolas Belfrage MW (the author of The Finest Wines of Tuscany and Central Italy: A Regional and Village Guide to the Best Wines and Their Producers) urging the producers to vote no.


Here is the letter:

"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 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.

Nicolas Belfrage MW
30 August 2011"

What do you think? Please feel free to express your opinion.
Cheers,
LA

http://www.thewinehub.com/
One of the pillars of TheWineHub is Wine Tourism. Whether you are a wine maker, or a wine drinker, we all enjoy having discoveries...
TheWineHub exists to help you with that. 

11 comments:

Luiz Alberto said...

This was posted on my FB wall earlier today by Eckhard Supp:
"Many critics - like my old friend Nic Belfrage - forget that there has rarely been "purity" in Rosso up to this date. I find this whole discussion in Italy rather boring. There is no purity in any of the historical wines of that country. The whole 100-%-thing is an invention of the last 20, 30 years. Even the most historical of all Brunellos, Biondi-Santi's, has never been pure - there always was a small percentage of other grapes in their old vineyards. Chianti as well has never been pure (historically even produced with white varieties, even Nebbiolo has rarely been pure (often with some Barbera or other) in history. What those wines would need is a clear expression of "terroir" (as being a combination of all natural and cultural elements that make up the organoleptic identity of wines from a precise geographic area) but not of a somehow arbitrarial varietal "purity"."
I believe he is making a very strong statement... let's see if other people agree with this...
LA

paula said...

This is quite normal .... there is no puruty 100% also for technical reasons. The Brunello has always been blended with Sangiovese, I know many oenologists and I can assure you that one thing is the journalist and the critics and another one is the winery, the enologist and so on... the wine must be sold first of all! And the same is with other great wines... it is something to accept, that's all.

Daryl Gaitan said...

Seem to be engaged in two discussions. The first, is Rosso di Montalcino actually made entirely of Sangiovese? Without establishing this certainty, it is difficult to discuss the petition to prevent blending of the Rosso.

If it is already being blended, this discussion is of no value. There is nothing to preserve.

However, I am bound by the word of the producer. If Alessandro Bindocci of Il Poggione tells me his Rosso is made from 100% Sangiovese, how do I dispute?

To answer your question, I choose to preserve, not defend, my perception of the Rosso.

Anonymous said...

Dear Luiz, I live in Florence, trying day by day to understand deeply what the Tuscany wine philosophy is going to build in the next future..( its also my business..) I d love to ensure the characteristic of each tuscany appellation, like the Brunello di Montalcino as well the Rosso doc. really convinced that tomorrow authoctons grapes will take more importance in the wine world, exactly becouse represent 100% the terroir in which it grows. We have also to manage the market ( :-( We know the its difficult to mantein the level prices in this crazy world... too much uncertainty. Hope that the Brunello producers next time will be almost bravery to keep the blans as today. I know many of them fighting everyday for their vineyards, planted so long time ago from their parents...The problem is to keep the same dress every year, if you like it, or change it becouse the style change...The question is hard to solve...personally i prefer vntage clothes....;-) So i agree totally with mr Belfrage!ciao!

L. Barbui said...

Dear Luiz
I live in Hungary and I work with Hungarian wines for the Brazilian (I’m Brazilian) market. I’ve got a close contact with Italy for having lived and also to belong to a traditional family of Italian origin.
I understand that producers of Montalcino as well as here in Hungary came to a crossroads that represents in one side the tradition and for other side the modern, global world of business.
Do not take me wrong because I am against this proposal, and I think in a medium term the Rosso is doomed to lose the charm and the characteristics that lead it to, in some vintages, to be the best wine of the region.
Atenciosamente
Luiz Barbui

Giampaolo said...

I totally agree with Eckhard. For decades Sangiovese has been and still is, blended with many other varieites. Up to the 70's the discipline of Brunello included the addition of "mosto meridionale" (must from the South of Italy) and nobody cared.
Enough of this ridiculous crusade, we "express a territory", the variety is not a guarantee of territory, it is only a means to express it.
The "great" Brunello of the 1980's were certainly blended with other varieties and no one had a problem with that.
I do not understand why the cross is thrown on the cabernet, which is present in Tuscany since 1500's, and at the time (read the writings of Antonio Micheli, Botanist of Cosimo III de 'Medici) was considered the only grape capable of making a great wine, while Sangiovese was simply one of more than 200 varieties present, when Brunello was just invented in the mid '90's.

Giampaolo said...

I totally agree with Eckhard. For decades Sangiovese has been and still is, blended with many other varieites. Up to the 70's the discipline of Brunello included the addition of "mosto meridionale" (must from the South of Italy) and nobody cared.
Enough of this ridiculous crusade, we "express a territory", the variety is not a guarantee of territory, it is only a means to express it.
The "great"Brunello of the 1980's were certainly blended with other varieties and no one had a problem with that.
I do not understand why the cross is thrown on the cabernet, which is present in Tuscany since 1500's, and at the time (read the writings of Antonio Micheli, Botanist of Cosimo III de 'Medici) was considered the only grape capable of making a great wine, while Sangiovese was simply one of more than 200 varieties present, when Brunello was just invented in the mid '90's.

Fraser Jamieson said...

It is a travesty that the onslaught of these International varieties comes at the expense of such wonderful, renowned and individual wines. The producers and growers in Brunello have worked tirelessly to distinguish their Sangiovese from the others in Tuscany and now they seem wiling to dilute and undo all that work for the sake of marketing and the global market attraction they believe Cabernet/Merlot etc will bring. Please, please vote no.

Armin said...

Curious that this is even being presented as an option by wineries as it seems to simply officially affirm what they have done for centuries. I assume that the purpose is to make this a first step toward ruining the integrity of some of the world's best wines to serve the profits of the powerful few that have established a large Western market. Whatever the case, I don't like it at all!

This stinks of international wine conglomerates attempting to pull strings to further capitalise on the large international markets they have established by creating wines of little local character.

Ugh. Please don't let it be. Is the problem for producers that they can not grow enough consistently good Sangiovese from vintage to vintage without compromising the quality of their Rosso? Or is this truly a first step to losing specificity for further projected profit in the international market?

Without really intimately understanding the wineries' supposed plight, it would seem to me that there should be enough play with Toscana IGT, Sant' Antimo and bulk sale to sufficiently make up losses in Rosso production variance to ensure no integrity loss at the Rosso and Brunello levels. Add into that the potential for high-quality single-varietal or blended Syrah, Merlot or Cabernet IGT bottlings to sell to the international market and I fail to see measurable hardship to induce such a regulation change.

It seems to me that all this leads up to officially accepting what created the Brunello controversy a few years back as well as the kind of sourcing shenanigans in Chianti Classico of late and creating a lawless "Old-West" in one of the most terroir-defined and individualistic regions of the world. Why not just go ahead and deregulate the whole damned region and then everyone can start making Western-style wines that are indistinguishable from most from California or Australia or Argentina.

"Purity" may not exist as it is, but creating an officially sanctioned "out" just feels wrong and sets a precedent for future alteration. I fail to see the wines or the reputation of Montalcino being served by this.

Verde Azul said...

I am appalled at this possibility, as the tradition must stand by its story, quality and individuality, each new label that appears not see new content that prevail traditions, as well commented "Bordeaux admit this idea ???". Let us be clear that this idea tends to take a standardized, perhaps Morelino Scansano was good, but for the love of God do not touch our classics. Auguri a Sangiovese

Luiz Alberto said...

Guys, thanks for the comments.
I'm very happy to announce (in case you didn't know it yet) that the producers Montalcino threw out the Rosso changes yesterday.
Cheers!