In recent days, wine producers and government officials in Tuscany have been meeting behind closed doors. They are trying to decide what to do about “Brunellopoli” – the highly publicized investigation swirling around Italy’s famous red, Brunello di Montalcino.
The allegations involve blending grapes other than Sangiovese into Brunello, which is prohibited by the DOCG rules. It may be that these other grapes were grown in vineyards in Montalcino, or came from other regions.
I have already written what I thought about the situation. I still believe it has been a witch hunt, both on the part of the public prosecutor’s office in Siena and the Italian press. It wasn’t by chance that the most damaging information came out last week during VinItaly, Italy’s international wine fair in Verona. I wonder what their motivation was? I guess the press has moved its bonfire and stake to another location this week in search of new headlines and more readers.
But those who have been burned are not forgetting. I have heard that some Montalcino wine producers, local organizations and Tuscan governmental agencies are speaking to their lawyers about the possibility of suing various news media organizations and writers for defamation. It’s scandalous how it’s all been covered.
It’s so wrong that every wine producer in Montalcino has been tried and found guilty by so many people. And not only in the Italian press. Even some comments on my last blog post incorrectly state that some Brunello wine producers are guilty, even though Italian officials have not formally charged a single person or company in the case. It may be that some producers have broken the rules, and they should pay for it. But whatever happened to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty"?
Sources have told me that the whole scandal started when a DOCG tasting panel turned down the samples from a prominent Brunello producer who is known for making light-colored, slightly volatile wines. With revenge on his mind, he went to friends in the magistrate’s office and said his neighbors were cheating. It sounds like something out of Shakespeare. This short passage from “Venus and Adonis” sums it up:
"For where Love reigns, disturbing Jealousy
Doth call himself Affection's sentinel;
Gives false alarms, suggesteth mutiny,
And in a peaceful hour doth cry 'Kill, kill!'"
Just a few weeks ago, Brunello producers were on top of the world. But today they wonder what their future holds. In the last week, those I have met with, or spoken to, are ashen and depressed. I feel for them.
But I believe that Brunello will survive this crisis because the wines are too good, too special. No place on earth grows or produces Sangiovese like the hillside vineyards of Montalcino. A few producers may have forgotten how special their region and wines really are. Now the rest have to pay for their negligence.
Steve Kirchner — Huntington — April 11, 2008 1:38pm ET
Marcello Buontempo — April 11, 2008 1:43pm ET
Steve Kirchner — Huntington — April 11, 2008 2:59pm ET
Albert Jochems — The Netherlands — April 11, 2008 5:51pm ET
Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — April 11, 2008 6:10pm ET
James Suckling — — April 11, 2008 7:32pm ET
Jonathan Hirsch — Stanford, CA — April 12, 2008 11:31pm ET
Robert Dougherty — April 12, 2008 11:38pm ET
James Suckling — — April 13, 2008 1:41am ET
Riccardo Campinoti — April 13, 2008 10:15am ET
Tony Tam — April 13, 2008 10:51am ET
James Suckling — — April 13, 2008 11:25am ET
Morgan Dawson — Rochester, NY — April 13, 2008 11:47am ET
Merlin — Zurich, Switzerland — April 13, 2008 12:49pm ET
Tony Tam — April 13, 2008 1:35pm ET
Jordan Harris — Niagara, Ontario — April 13, 2008 1:39pm ET
Michael Schulman — Westlake Village, CA — April 13, 2008 6:46pm ET
Douglas Brininstool — Portland, OR — April 13, 2008 9:24pm ET
James Suckling — — April 14, 2008 2:44am ET
Massimo Marinucci — Pound Ridge, NY — April 14, 2008 2:20pm ET
Chester Collier — April 14, 2008 9:45pm ET
Steve Kirchner — Huntington — April 15, 2008 12:40pm ET
Riccardo Campinoti — April 16, 2008 4:19pm ET
James Suckling — — April 17, 2008 3:45am ET
Riccardo Campinoti — April 17, 2008 7:04am ET
James Suckling — — April 17, 2008 10:08am ET
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