I wasn't surprised with the news today that the wine producers' association in Montalcino overwhelmingly voted to maintain current regulations for producing Brunello di Montalcino, the famous red of the region. Despite some proposed initiatives to allow partial addition of other grape varieties in Tuscany’s great red, Brunello producers agreed that their wines should be 100 percent Sangiovese. In other words, their decision mirrors my last blog post – let Brunello be Brunello.
Nonetheless, I think that Brunello producers have missed an opportunity to improve the winemaking legislation in their region and fine-tune the boundaries of their vineyards. One of the main problems with Brunello di Montalcino is that the designated vineyard area is too large, and there are parts that are not good for growing Sangiovese. This is perhaps why some producers have been cheating and adding grapes other than Sangiovese to their wines.
An alternative would be to have a ranking of vineyard areas similar to Burgundy, whereby there are premier cru- and grand cru-ranked vineyards. The best and most highly ranked vineyards would make Brunello. It’s just an idea. It would be up to Brunello makers, and the Italian government, to decide on a system. But what is sure is that some weak vineyard areas exist that have no business growing Sangiovese for Brunello.
I still believe that the best vineyard areas around Montalcino are amazing in every way. They have the perfect sun exposure, climate and soil to grow what is one of the great and unique grape types in the world. Moreover, there are very few other places – even in Tuscany – where the Sangiovese grows to such perfection.
It’s time for Brunello producers to get over themselves and put aside their jealousy and selfishness and think about the future of their region. They could take what has been a very negative experience and turn it to a positive one. Alas, Montalcino is a small town and most of the wine producers continue to point fingers at one another and remain content with the status quo.