Please Save Montalcino!

WARNING:  Cultural Identity Crisis Ahead!

Next week and group of Montalcino wine producers will meet to determine the fate of a thousand year old winemkaing tradition.  These people will single-handedly decide whether or not to allow a certain percentage of “other grapes” in to the blend of Rosso di Montalcino DOC.  The fate of Montalcino hangs in the balance.

This historic and proud DOC presently delineates a wine made from 100% Sangiovese, the autochthonous grape of the area.  This means that you, the consumer, can now with confidence purchase a bottle of the Rosso di Montalcino knowing that the grapes in the bottle are authentic, traditional, and therfore will taste something like the place from which they come.  Should this allowance for “other” grapes be made- next year you could be drinking Merlot!

Franco Ziliani and Jeremy Parzen both posted an incredible piece by the great Master of Wine, Nicolas Belfrage, which implores the community of Montalcino producers to vote NO.  I encourage you to leave your comments here and on their web pages.  This is an issue too serious to ignore.

Another traditionalist who took up the cause to protect the innocent.

At risk is not only the authenticity and overall quality of Rosso di Montalcino, but also the essence of Italian Culture.  Wine laws and denominations evolved to protect the fragile yet enduring heritage of a people and place.  The more future generations alter these guidelines, the more history we lose.

This is not to say Merlot and Syrah and other grapes cannot be grown and vinified successfully in Tuscany and elsewhere.  However this is what the “IGT” and “Vino de Tavola” designations were designed for.  Make whatever wine you wish- just please do not destroy the noble heritage of Montalcino’s DOCs.

I am honestly sad to hear that this issue is even up for debate.  As an Italian-American I have sought for my own roots in Italy, and have found it to be a country full with people proud of the past and their heritage.  There is still something Italian there for me to identify with- tradition, art, music, language.  When we begin to hide these pieces of history and tradition on a shelf somewhere it becomes impossible to bring them out again- we forget where we have put them and they are lost forever.

Join the debate– just don’t stay silent whatever you do, or Montalcino will never recover.  Stop the world from becoming a place where lovely, sprightly (sangiovese) Rosso di Montalcinos become thick and dark, like a cassis Slurpee.  This is a world where I don’t want to live!

As Jeremy Parzen puts it…

… especially in my Rosso di Montalcino!

About The Author

I love all things Italian: the beautiful country of Italia, the Italians themselves, the language, the food… and above all, I love Italian wine. The people I meet in my charmed life are fascinating, the wines are extraordinary. I needed a special place like this to write about them, and to remember them.

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8 Responses

  1. Mario Crosta

    I read on the “The Brunellogate affair is now officially over, but tensions continue (including a recent – rejected – attempt at modifying the rules of Montalcino’s less expensive wine, Rosso di Montalcino, to allow other grapes than Sangiovese)”. It’s true. On the next 7 september will be another assembly of producers. As on the (Franco Ziliani’s blog) and (Jeremy Parzen’s blog), I also ask You what You think about an other new possible Rosso di Montalcino DOCG Superiore (with Sangiovese 100% and other requirements in the vineyard and winery) – my proposal – to incrise the unique character of Rosso di Montalcino, as other Consortium did for Aglianico del Vulture Superiore, Asolo Prosecco Superiore, Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Barbera del Monferrato Superiore, Bardolino Superiore, Cesanese del Piglio Superiore, Conegliano valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore, Dolcetto di Ovada Superiore, Soave Superiore, Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze, Valtellina Superiore, Vermentino di Gallura Superiore and so on in Italy. Practically to emptied the DOC Rosso di Montalcino (always under discussion) from the best wine, that could after accommodate changes of grapes composition in the DOC. In all italian DOC the generic name ”rosso” specify a blend of two or many grapes. Only in Montalcino generic name want be accurately: this is not clarity…

    • Joanie Karapetian, Italian Wine Geek

      HI Mario- thanks for commenting! I am not sure I fully understand your point about the other DOCs you mention, but as to the idea of the word “Rosso” specifying a blend of two or more grapes, I think I can comment. Rosso di Montalcino has always meant 100% Sangiovese, like Brunello di Montalcino, but without the same vinification and ageing requirements. In other geographical areas delineated by “Rosso” di XXX, as you point out, this can and does sometimes mean a blend of two or more grapes. My point is that whatever the traditional composition of a wine (as in the case of a Rosso di Montalcino), I believe we should strive to protect the respective traditions. I believe this is a vital part of each regions’ wine making history, and I would be very sad to see this history compromised.

      • Mario Crosta

        “Rosso di Montalcino has always meant 100% Sangiovese”. It’s not true. Also some Brunello before changes of Brunello DOC specifies at the begin of 1980 were minimally blended. Today Brunello is DOCG and specify 100% Sangiovese. Rosso is DOC (without G) and specify also 100% Sangiovese. But in the past Brunello as not 100% Sangiovese, for exemple in the years ’60-’70. What is tradition in this case? I have an e-mail from Stefano Cinelli Colombini (Wine Museum in Montalcino) on this matter. Please write to him. I like 100% Sangiovese. My modest proposal increase the Rosso di Montalcino quality with a new possible DOCG Rosso di Montalcino Superiore.

  2. Do Bianchi

    Joanie, this is awesome! Thanks so much for raising awareness of this issue. As you write, there is so much more than just wine at stake here… Avanti popolo!

  3. Mario Crosta

    ULTIME NOTIZIE. Sembra che non ci sia da votare o SI o NO come ha detto Nick Belfrage, ma semplicemente ci sia da scegliere invece o questa NUMERO 1 o quest’altra NUMERO 2, cioe’ la modifica ci sarebbe comunque!!! Scusate l’italiano, ma scrivete a Franco Ziliani e fatevi spiegare il problema in inglese, che lui lo sa bene…


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