As some of you might know, the producer's association of Brunello di Montalcino narrowly prevented a vote earlier this year that would have allowed producers to use grapes other than Sangiovese in the production of their Rosso di Montalcino wines. This comes in the wake of the scandal over the past years that showed that some producers were already adding international varieties to their wines, and those wines were frequently being lauded for their qualities by critics and pundits more used to assessing Napa Valley Cabernet than Sangiovese.
There are, of course, two sides to every argument and in this case the lines are clearly drawn. One side wishes that it be free to "improve" their wines by liberalizing the rule. The other side believes that they have something unique and special that would be lost with these sorts of rule changes. The truth is, there is no doubt that so-called "improved" wines have a broader critical appeal and points translate into easy sales and money. In the face of increasing sales, many producers would be tempted to follow suit and change their blends as well, but to what end? Does Brunello want to remain an iconic Italian wine or is market penetration the metric by which success is to be measured?
Yes, it's easy for me to Sunday quarterback this one since I don't have any Brunello to sell, but I have to say I come down firmly on the side of those who wish to preserve what is a unique and beautiful wine. And besides, I prefer my Brunello to be all about Sangiovese anyway! Thanks to Jeremy Parzen and his excellent blog Do Bianchi for translating and publishing the moving appeal by Brunello producer, Stefano Cinelli Colombini of Fattoria dei Barbi. It's definitely worth a read and I love the line "it takes more than slapping a Ferrari label on a (Fiat) Panda to sell it for Euro 100,000!