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Wine Crime in Montalcino

December 5, 2012

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.

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