For anyone in
Montalcino fearing a dull Easter, Gianfranco Soldera of Case Basse (pictured here by Jon Wyand) had a timely
surprise in the form of an exclusive interview with the Corriere della Sera, one of Italy’s most important dailies, in
which he explained his departure as a
member of the Consorzio of Brunello di Montalcino. The article, in the form
of an interview entitled ‘why I left the Consorzio’, was so accusatory in tone
that it has triggered an equally fierce reaction from the Consorzio, so much so
that the Italian wine blogosphere has already dubbed the hostile exchange the
Soldera was news
after a disgruntled cellar worker opened the taps of vats in which six vintages
of Soldera’s eyewateringly expensive Brunello were ageing, the complete content of
which was literally poured down the drain. The employee has since been tried
and sentenced to jail, and from the very beginning the Consorzio condemned the
act in the sharpest of terms while offering Soldera its support by offering
wine from its producers. It would be foolish to think that the Consorzio ever
expected Soldera to take up the offer, as he more than once and completely
openly declared that his Brunello was the only true expression of the terroir.
But it could have never imagined how this offer would backfire, as it did
in the interview. Because in it Soldera accuses the Consorzio of swindling by
offering him other producers' wine to be bottled under the Soldera name. He literally
said he felt 'offended' by the offer, not least because his proposal to donate
money for research – focusing on Brunello's DNA in order to develop a method to establish whether a wine was made exclusively from Sangiovese from Montalcino - remained unanswered.
accusation seems far-fetched, also because the idea of supplying wine to Soldera
to compensate for his loss originally came from an Italian journalist,
who suggested that wine should be bottled as 'Brunello della Solidarieta’,
Brunello of solidarity, and the money from sales should be given to Soldera.
Perhaps the Consorzio phrased the offer unclearly but it is easy to see it
never had any malicious intention, despite Soldera's imputations, especially as
the offer was made via an explicit official press release.
What may have
triggered Soldera’s disproportionate reaction is the fact that he was always very
vocal in his protests against any change in Brunello’s production regulations that would move away from a 100% Brunello wine and allow other
grape varieties to be included. But Soldera was not the only one against the change
because a large majority of the producers voted against any amendments in the
regulations that could have brought this into being.
comments in the Corriere interview
that after the Brunellogate scandal, he demanded that a vote be taken to ensure that the people involved should take a back seat within the Consorzio and the region. He failed in this and instead Enzio
Rivella, a staunch supporter of a change in the regulations
in favour of allowing international varieties in Brunello, was voted in as the new president.
The Consorzio in
the meantime has issued a press release in which it condemns the interview, and
doubts Soldera’s honesty in accusing it of fraud when he had previously thanked
the Consorzio for the offer (but declined). It also refutes Soldera’s claim
that it is not interested in research by pointing out that it has invested €150,000
in a project carried out by the Fondazione Edmund Mach di San Michele all’Adige which looks into DNA, the study of anthocyanins to establish varietal origin and research on stable isotopes that would make it possible to trace the geographic origins of Brunello. According to the Consorzio, and confirmed by Dr Stella Grando, the head of genetics at the Istituto di San Michele all’Adige, the DNA method which Soldera insists upon is unsuitable because the results are not reproducible, thus preventing reliable control of Brunello production.
When asked by the Corriere della Sera what he thought of
the four-year sentence his former employee received, Soldera said that ‘doubts
remain’. According to him, the reason for the conflict was his telling the
employee off for pouring water over the oak casks, which could have damaged them.
To retaliate for that in such a manner, and more than three months after the
incident, seems extreme to Soldera.