This story was updated Feb. 20
Gianfranco Soldera, the outspoken winemaker and owner of Montalcino's Case Basse winery in Tuscany, died the morning of Feb. 16. According to Italian media reports, Soldera was driving on a road near Montalcino when he suffered a heart attack. Efforts to revive him at the scene were unsuccessful. He was 82.
Born in Treviso, Soldera was working as a successful insurance broker in Milan in 1972 when he and his wife, Graziella, went looking for a wine estate. He found Case Basse, near the town of Tavernelle in Montalcino. There were no vines, but Soldera believed the poor soils on the hillside were ideal for Sangiovese. He gradually planted 22 acres, farming the land without chemical pesticides. In the cellars, he took a traditional approach, aging his wines in very large Slavonian oak vats called botti.
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Soldera was one of Montalcino's most opinionated winemakers, unafraid of criticizing his neighbors when he felt their wines weren't up to Brunello's standards. He also strongly opposed proposals to allow grapes other than Sangiovese into Rosso di Montalcino. His own wines attracted a devoted group of fans.
In 2012, Soldera confronted tragedy when a disgruntled former employee broke into the Case Basse cellar at night and opened the taps on the botti, destroying the equivalent of more than 6,000 cases of wine from the 2007 to 2012 vintages. The employee, Andrea di Gisi, was later convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. The crime left Soldera with less wine to sell, but when the Brunello Consorzio offered to donate wine from other members' properties to create a special cuvée Soldera could sell, the vintner resigned from the organization, stating he believed such a cuvée would trick consumers.
Soldera is survived by his wife, two children and several grandchildren.