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Brunello to Remain 100 Percent Sangiovese; Probe Continues

Jo Cooke
Posted: December 31, 2008

Brunello di Montalcino will remain 100 percent Sangiovese, after an October meeting of the Consorzio di Brunello di Montalcino at which 96 percent of the 250 producers voted down any changes to production rules.

The meeting took place six months after a Siena magistrate impounded more than 800,000 cases of Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino as part of an investigation into whether some wineries were blending in grapes other than Sangiovese. Prosecutor Nino Calabrese released a statement days before the meeting charging that about 122,000 cases of Brunello and 50,000 cases of Rosso di Montalcino have tested positive for other grapes.

The 2003 Brunellos of some major producers were released during the summer. But 490,000 cases of Brunello and 24,400 cases of Rosso di Montalcino await testing.

The scandal led some consorzio members to propose that the rules be changed to allow other grapes. Banfi, the largest producer of Brunello, argued that Sangiovese should remain the basis of Brunello, but urged the institution of a 3 percent to 5 percent tolerance level of other varieties, "to provide for human error in the winery or vineyards." The proposal evidently fell on deaf ears. "One percent you might regard as a tolerance level," said consorzio president Patrizio Cencioni. "But 3 to 5 percent starts to look like a blend."

One of the leading advocates of maintaining 100 percent Sangiovese in Brunello was Franco Biondi Santi, the veteran producer whose family is credited with producing the first Brunello, in the late 19th century. "I believe that keeping Brunello 100 percent Sangiovese is the salvation of Montalcino," Biondi Santi told Wine Spectator after the meeting.

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