Just a quick response and banter to the September 9th Wine Spectator article, “No Merlot di Montalcino : Brunello winemakers reject a plan to allow grapes other than Sangiovese in Rosso di Montalcino”. The gist of the article is that the local Consorzio rejected pressure from 30% of its growers to allow for a 15% non-Sangiovese blend in its Rosso di Montalcino. I posted a non-edited version of this article to the comments section of the Wine Spectator article …
I love history and terroir and maintaining a special niche for certain wines, but COME ON ! A debate over allowing just a 15% non-Sangio blend in the Rosso, the younger sibling to Brunello ? … Grow up Consorzio ! At the end of the day growers and vintners don’t JUST “do it” for passion and family. Winemaking is also a business and people need to maintain their livelihood. Giving producers more flexibility in vinification (and again, just a BIT more, not A LOT) would provide for more strategic maneuverability in the market and more options to stand out and separate their wines from the pack.
A lot of New World growing regions allow wines to be labelled Merlot, even with a 20% blend of other grapes, for example. Granted this might be a bad comparison and I’d air on transparency in this case and require that the “other” varietals be listed on the back label, which I believe is the case, although I could stand corrected.
In the end winemakers MAKE wine for it to be consumed right ? If there’s a drop in sales and a disinterested market, then let’s be progressive and creative and stir the pot a little (or vat and barrel rather), trying out some new recipes !
PS : Okay so this is just a very brief and rather generic counter to the Consorzio’s vote and the majority opinion of the local growers. What does the rest of the public have to say ? I’ll kick-start the counter to my arguments with a very interesting August 31st article on JancisRobinson.com, “Keep Rosso di Montalcino pure!”, including a letter to the Consorzio from Nicolas Belfrage MW, urging against allowing the 15% non-Sangiovese blend.
PPS : And just to admit that I’m a total hypocrite, I worked in business development (just a quick 6-month contract) for Domaine du Closel, a Savennières producer of the Clos du Papillon, Loire Valley Grand Cru and a representation of Chenin Blanc at its pure state of hedonistic perfection ! How’s that for objectivity ?! ;-) I can’t say that I’d support even an ounce of blending in these wines. It’d be sacrilegious ! So do I have any argument against my hypocrisy ? Not really although wait I think I do ! I guess the key difference is that Clos du Papillon (and Coulée de Serrant and Roches-aux-Moines) are designated Loire Valley Grand Crus. Savennières is essentially legislated and syndicated as the birthplace and essence of the beauty, expression and typicity of Chenin Blanc, whereas Rosso di Montalcino is the litter sister (or brother) to Brunello. Therefore, I’m sorry but little brothers and sisters get beat up on sometimes. So i say preserve the integrity of 100% Sangiovese in Brunello di Montalcino and loosen up the little sibling a bit. Although I do love the irony in the 2008 comments of Ezio Rivella, one of Italy’s most prominent oenologists and current President of the Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino. Ezio referred to 100% Brunello blends (i.e. Sangiovese) as “undrinkable”.
In either case I digress, the vote already passed and no changes will be made anytime soon. So on that note, cheers to 100% Sangiovese ! ;-)