company logo

31st August - Latest copy of Il Mio Vino out now

The August issue of Il Mio Vino is available now for an
online read click on the cover!!

to view the back issues online please click here

31st August 2011 - Keep Rosso di Montalcino pure!

by Walter Speller

News from Montalcino almost always seems to be bad nowadays. After the hugely damaging scandal of adulterated Brunello wines surfaced at the beginning of 2008, it seems as though the region still cannot resist seeking the spotlight again, even though in a most unfavourable way. Fortunately, Nicolas Belfrage MW (pictured) is leading a campaign to resist a damaging current proposal.

Readers may recall that just at the beginning of Vinitaly in April 2008 news broke that several Brunello producers were being investigated for adding, illegally, international grape varieties to a wine which by law must be a 100% Brunello. The scandal became known as Brunellopoli, or Brunellogate, and took a turn for the worse when high-profile producers started to debate in public whether it was possible to produce a premium wine by using the fickle Brunello (Sangiovese) grape only. This culminated in the 'take no prisoners' comments of one of Italy's most influential oenologists, Ezio Rivella (who since then has become the president of the Consorzio of Brunello di Montalcino), who was quoted as describing 100% Brunello wines as necessarily 'undrinkable'. In a referendum put forward to all producers of the Consorzio, a large majority were eager to stick to a pure Brunello wine and voted against any changes to the regulations. But with Rivella elected as the Consorzio's new head, no one expected that the matter would be put to sleep indefinitely.

And so the Consorzio's very recent proposal to change Rosso di Montalcino, 'Brunello's little brother', comes as no surprise. Rosso di Montalcino has always been 100% Brunello by law too, but is subject to a shorter mandatory period of ageing. The Consorzio has now announced a vote to be taken during its next meeting next Wednesday 7 September to change the production rules for Rosso di Montalcino to allow up to 15% of any other grape variety than Brunello. Critics defending the genuine expression of terroir, which, according to them can be transmitted only by a pure Brunello wine, are extremely concerned that this vote could also effectively provide a back door for the original idea to change the regulations for Brunello itself. Curious, to say the least, is the timing of the meeting, which coincides with what is the busiest part of the year for any Tuscan wine producer, the harvest [although newcomer to the region, Francesco Illy of coffee fame, is pleading for a postponement of this meeting, if I have translated correctly - JR].

One of the people who has tirelessly promoted and supported Italian wine on the international market for the last 40 years is Nicolas Belfrage MW, the author of several seminal books on Italian wine. In defence of a 100% Brunello Rosso di Montalcino, he appeals to all Brunello producers in the open letter below and asks them to decline the proposed changes, which would lead to the 'internationalisation' of one of Italy's most revered wines, and in doing so risks destroying its inimitable Tuscan character

You can register your view on this issue by adding a comment here, as I have, below Nick's article on the website, the blog of Nicolas' colleague and collaborator Franco Ziliani  - JR.

Nicolas Belfrage MW to the producers of Montalcino

I understand that, on Wednesday 7 September, 2011 a vote will be held in the Assemblea of Montalcino wine producers on whether to allow a small but significant percentage of other grapes, which everyone understands to mean Merlot and/or Cabernet and/or Syrah, into the blend of Rosso di Montalcino DOC, which is of course at present a 100% Sangiovese wine.

I would urge you in the strongest terms not to support this change. Rosso di Montalcino, like Brunello di Montalcino, has created for itself a strong personality on international wine markets based largely on the fact that it is a pure varietal wine. In these days when more and more countries are climbing on the wine production bandwagon it is more important than ever to have a distinctive identity, to make wine in a way which no one else on earth can emulate. It is my belief that the strongest factor in the identity of Rosso di Montalcino (and of course Brunello di Montalcino) is the fact that it is 100% Sangiovese.

I am not disputing the fact that Merlot, Cabernet and Syrah are excellent grape varieties, but it is their very excellence, their very strength of personality, which threatens to compromise the unique character of Rosso di Montalcino. Who could ever imagine the producers of Bordeaux voting to allow 15% of Sangiovese into the Bordeaux blend? The idea is absurd - or would be treated as such by the Bordeaux producers. There are many who think that a reverse situation, in Tuscany's finest vine-growing area, would be equally absurd. Yes, in many cases it may improve the wine - especially in weak vintages or where Sangiovese does not succeed every year. But it will fatally undermine the personality of the wine.

I am aware that a lot of Merlot and Cabernet are planted in the Montalcino growing zone, and that there may be a need in the short term to find a commercial use for these grapes. But there are the options of St. Antimo or IGT Toscana. Perhaps, instead of compromising the purity of one of Montalcino's unique wines, there should be more effort in the direction of promoting these other wine-types.

You will be aware that many of us fear that a compromise in regard to Rosso di Montalcino would constitute an opening of the door to a compromise, farther down the line, of the purity of the great Brunello - one of the world's great wines. Whether or not that might be the case, I am convinced that it is against the long-term interests of Montalcino to allow any other grape variety, including any Italian or Tuscan variety, into the Rosso, just as it would be fatal to great Burgundy, for example, to allow Syrah to be blended with Pinot Noir, as was once widely practised - with, one might add, some notable successes, but with the inevitable distortion of the style.

You, the Montalcino producers, hold the fate not only of your own future market in your hands. You are the representatives of all of us who will not have a vote on 7 September.

We urge you, please, to vote NO.

Nicolas Belfrage MW

30th July 2011 - Latest copy of Il Mio Vino out now

The July issue of Il Mio Vino is available now for an
online read click on the cover!!

to view the back issues online please click here

28th July 2011 - Brunello vital statistics… just a text away

by Laura Gray

At the end of December 2009 the Consorzio del Brunello launched a new traceability procedure via text messsage. The system is effective from the 1999 vintage onwards and gives the final consumer a way of checking the wine they are drinking is certified Brunello and has been produced by the estate on the label (and is the vintage as labelled). It is part of a move towards transparent practice, a positive development given the murky times for Italian appellation wines. DOCG strips are vintage and estate specific and are available in January of the fifth year after harvest. They correspond to the exact number of bottles that have been certified as Brunello.


Send a text message to 0039 366 3008880 with the three capital letters from the pink DOCG strip, the 8 numbers from the strip and the bottle capacity. Makes sure you leave a space between letters and numbers. In a matter of moments an SMS comes flying back with the estate, the approval details, alcohol, total acidity and dry extract levels. If you do it via the Consorzio website you also get the estate’s address, telephone and website.


For example, if you insert e.g. AAI 00930123 0.75 this is what you will find in your inbox:

Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Annata 2004 in bottiglia da 0.75 l. di Il Palazzone SRL. Partita di 8633 bott. per Hl 64.748 certificata da CCIAA di Siena n.15347 del 25.07.08. Titolo alcolometrico 13.91; Estratto secco netto, 31. Acidità totale 5,27.


What to make of this?

Annata means vintage. The “partita” refers to the production authorised (in our case, our total production). The CCIAA is the Camera di Commercio di Siena (the Chamber of Commerce) and the number 15347 is the identification the approval and authorisation of our Brunello. This certification is the result of a lab analysis of the wine, an organoleptic panel testing and the correspondence between our vineyards and our authorised production.

Apart from checking for fraud, the technical data that are provided actually give a key to assessing the wine’s balance and are details not normally available to the consumer. A harmonious well-made wine will show equilibrium between hard and soft elements; the potential harshness of alcohol and acidity will be balanced by the smoothness of residual sugars and dry extract. If none of these characteristics are dominant then a wine is well balanced (and therefore pleasant to drink…).


Titolo alcolometrico
The alcohol level of a wine is the natural result of the fermentation process, the sugars in the grapes are metabolised into alcohol. Alcohol in wine is measured in percentage as opposed to proof. I should probably admit that I get really impatient with people who veer away from high alcohol wines on principle, as if the alcohol on the label is an indication of “strength”. Alcohol effects the taste, texture and structure of a wine. If there is enough of everything else i.e. if the wine is balanced as above, then the alcohol level may not be evident to the person drinking (so no flushed cheeks, though this doesn’t mean you are OK to drive). A certain level of alcohol is necessary to sustain a serious wine with a long cellar life ahead of it. This is definitely the case with our 2004. Alcohol is the backbone for a wine; it is a powerful preservative and allows the wine to age. A Brunello must have at least 12.5% alcohol. There is a 0.5% tolerance permitted so Brunellos generally show 13.5% alcohol on the label.


Estratto secco netto
Dry extract is the solid substance left after water and alcohol are removed from a wine. High levels of dry extract reflect a wine with a higher body. The amount of flavour that a wine has can be directly attributed to the dry extract. Brunellos must have a net dry extract of at least 24 gr. per litre.


Acidità totale
Acidity gives wines focus and freshness. Acidity is a naturally occurring component in grapes. Wines with too little acidity can be dull and lifeless. Brunellos must have a minimum total acidity of 5 gr. per litre.


17th July 2011 The new Italian wine denomination

A few months ago some changes have been made to the Italian wine denomination. As this will affect Italian wines and labels very soon we want to make sure you know what’s coming.
The below scheme compares the current regulation versus the new one:

This is what will happen:
- currently the “Table Wine” (vino da tavola) category includes the “IGT” label (typical geographic area) which defines the area where wines are produced. With the new regulation “Table Wine” and “IGT” will become two separate categories: the “Table Wine” labels will have to specify the types of grapes used (currently they don’t); the “IGT” label will change to “IGP” (protected geographic area) and the regulation will become stricter by adding an analytic test to ensure standard quality.
- The “D.O.C.” label (certified origin) and the “D.O.C.G.” label (certified and guaranteed origin) which are currently separate will become part of a bigger category called “D.O.P” (protected origin). It will be mandatory for “D.O.P.” labels to specify the vintage. With the new regulation a “D.O.C.” wine will only become eligible to upgrade to “D.O.C.G.” after 10 years.
- It becomes mandatory for any “D.O.C.” bottle to carry the government pink label..
- No regulations have been approved for the biological products at the European level since there was no agreement between the member states. The main biological associations decided to follow the last draft written by the EU even if not approved.
Most probably the old denominations will still stay on the labels together with the new ones to help the consumer understanding the change.


« StartPrev12345678910NextEnd »

Page 9 of 15

© 2011. All Rights Reserved. Developed by ICM Solution (UK) Limited.