James Tarmy, who writes on arts and culture for Bloomberg Muse, interviewed me recently on the subject of Sauternes, the great sweet wine of Bordeaux. The interview is here.
One of the worst wine crimes I’ve heard about occurred last Sunday night in Montalcino at the winery of one of the top producers of Brunello di Montalcino, Gianfranco Soldera.
According to various accounts – I read about this at Jeremy Parzen’s dobianchi.com, the first in the U.S. to report the event – someone broke into the Soldera cellars and opened the valves of big oak casks aging the last six years of Soldera’s superb Case Basse Brunello, allowing the wine to flood out over the floor. Soldera only makes about 15,000 bottles a year, which sell for $200 to $350. Destroying much of the vintages 2007 to 2012 seems to me far beyond vandalism.
What kind of person would do this?
Soldera is a strict traditionalist, and the maestro of Brunello. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a number of vintages of his cult red, including the sublime 1980 Riserva.
Rumor has it that it might be vengeance, or, as they say in Italian opera, una vendetta. Soldera was outspoken in his objections to any change in traditional Brunello, such as aging in small French oak barrels or deviating from the concept of Brunello as a wine made from 100 percent Sangiovese grapes. That’s embodied in the regulations, but in 2008, it was discovered that various producers were illegally blending unauthorized grapes into their Brunellos. Several were indicted, in a scandal that became known as Brunellogate.
Sadly, even if whoever is responsible is caught, that won’t bring back all that beautiful lost wine.
Last week I was in Izmir, Turkey to moderate a communication workshop at the EWBC digital wine communications conference, and had the chance to taste an amazing array of wines from Turkey and surrounding countries—and while I was there visit Istanbul, Ephesus, and Cappadocia. More all on this in coming columns….
After my column on 2011 Bordeaux futures prices went out on the Bloomberg Newswire earlier this week, some of my top wines of the vintage finally released their prices: The deep, polished, rich, and truly delicious Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou, a St. Julien 2nd growth, is just over $110 a bottle (£800 a case in the U.K.). That’s a pretty good price, even less than the 2008, which wasn’t nearly as good.
Next came one of my faves, Vieux Chateau Certan, a wonderfully scented, very complex and silky Pomerol. With its return to a high percentage of cabernet franc, it’s even better than the superb 2009 and 2010. Price? $145 a bottle (£1050 in the UK, if you can find it).
These are two wines definitely worth buying as futures.
Frederic Engerer, president of Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour, announced in a letter to negociants last Friday that the 2011 will be the last vintage of the château’s grand vin offered as futures during en primeur. Instead, the château will release bottles only when wines are ready to drunk.
This raises plenty of questions: How will Engerer decide when the wines are ready to drink? How much more will the wines cost? And also, will other first growths feel compelled to follow suit?
I’ll be at the VINO 2011 wine industry conference in New York, held at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel January 23-27. My two panels are: “The Future of Italian Wines: as Seen from the Point of View of Leading American Wine Professionals” January 24, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm and “Italian Wine by Numbers: Top Industry Experts Review Current Trends and Import Figures to Evaluate the Market Outlook” January 26, 8:30 am – 10:00 am.