Tomorrow there will be a joint press conference in Montalcino featuring Luca Zaia, the Italian agricultural minister, and Ron Spogli, the U.S. ambassador to Italy. They will announce a plan to resolve the current dilemma with the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco and Trade Bureau (TTB), which has said it will block the importation of Brunello di Montalcino to the United States if the wines do not have an official certificate from the Italian government guaranteeing that they were produced in accordance with DOCG rules.
Tuscan magistrates are also finishing their investigation into Brunello di Montalcino producers, and they have released some Brunellos from impound, namely Antinori's Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino 2003.
I have heard that this governmental certificate for the TTB will be produced in living color tomorrow, and Brunello producers as well as their U.S. importers will be able to use it to prove that their wines adhere to official rules governing the production of what is arguably Italy's greatest red. This certificate, if you haven't been following closely, will guarantee that the Brunello is 100 percent Sangiovese.
I am shaking my head in disappointment as I write this. Yes, I am happy that the Italian government finally stepped in and did something about a monumental fiasco that tarnished the image of one of the world¹s great wines. But I still have to wonder what the whole thing was really about.
I've heard that it was just an example of how some wine producers can let their petty jealousies run so wild that they're willing to destroy something very special in their wine world. Apparently, it all began with one Brunello producer whose wine the official DOCG tasting panel refused to approve because it was too light-colored and unclean. And then, the story goes, this disgruntled vintner went to his friends at the magistrates and urged them to investigate the top names in the region. It sort of backfired when all Brunello imports were prohibited from entering the United States.
Anyway, I am not sure what to think. I lost respect for part of Italy's wine world in some ways. Honesty is the key to making great wines, and any dishonest vintner should be disciplined. But if this thing was really only about jealousy, then it was really just about sour grapes, and not wine.