Consorzio Votes Next Week To Make Montalcino Wines 15% LESS Awesome

Vinted on September 2, 2011 binned in commentary, wine news

On September 7, the Consorzio del Brunello di Montalcino will vote on a proposal to potentially make Brunello’s little brother, Rosso di Montalcino, less awesome. 

Specifically, they are proposing to allow Rosso di Montalcino, currently made with 100% Brunello (a form of Sangiovese) grapes but with less aging requirements than Brunello di Montalcino wine, to be made with up to 15% other grapes – as in, any other grapes.

To make a long story short(ish), using a time-honored approach in which Italian regulatory bodies seem to liberally apply double-standards, the Consorzio’s plan to effectively water-down Rosso di Montalcino seems to undercut entirely their stated life’s purpose: “The work of the Consorzio consists in safeguarding, controlling and enhancing the value of the Denomination of Origin wines of Montalcino.”  My suggestion is that you flood their Inbox at [email protected], tell them to pull their heads out of their… barrels… and make sure this proposal gets a NO vote.

Why am I upset about this, aside from loving Brunello enough that I named my dog after it?  Because this move is, as my grandmother would have said, the “lazy man’s load”…

It’s Totally Unnecessary

Look, Brunello isn’t easy drinking even in its slightly more accessible Rosso form. So why not shake things up and make it even more acessible? Why not soften it up a bit?  Theoretically there’s nothing wrong with making Brunello more easy-drinking, but the problem I have is that the move to change Brunello regulations to do this is totally unnecessary.  They could simply use the designation of IGT Toscana for those types of blends and see how they fare in the marketplace.  That would protect a product unique in the wine world while also promoting progress and allowing producers to officially introduce other grape varieties in the region. That’s assuming the the Consorzio’s real aim is actually “safeguarding, controlling and enhancing the value of the Denomination of Origin wines of Montalcino” and not “finding a higher-priced outlet for a glut of non-Brunello grapes in the region,” that is.

Brunello Is “Winning!” – And Is Unique Enough That It Shouldn’t Be F*cked With

Brunello has found devoted wine geek fans worldwide for more than forty years.  And it’s not inexpensive stuff – even the Rossos aren’t exactly cheap and can often run over $20.  But… those fans don’t buy those wines to pop open a day later and then say, “damn, I wish these were easier to drink, but I still don’t mind paying $40 for ‘em!”  They buy them largely because of the fact that they are age-worthy wines, not despite the fact that they are age-worthy wines.  Normally I’m all for progress, and certainly would love to see many vitivultural regs in Europe shaken up a bit, but it’s not like the formula in the case of Montalcino is somehow all wrong.  These are big, burly wines, in the best case with unique expression of grape and place, and they are meant for people who are patient and want to drink… big, burly wines.  Why do I keep bringing up Brunello di Montalcino when the proposal is about changing Rosso di Montalcino?  Because…

It’s A Slippery Slope, Slick!

Once Rosso di Monalcino gets changed, Brunello di Montalcino (also currently 100% Brunello by regulation) will almost surely follow, and thus similarly get watered-down – in fact, the Rosso idea might have been born from a previous, similar idea to change the regs for Brunello itself. Recently, Jancis Robinson summed up the situation nicely on her website:

“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.”

Should this change to Rosso di Montalcino be approved? Clearly my take aligns with Jancis’s, and is a resounding “NO”… and if you’re of the same mind, I hope that you will tell the Consorzio to shove the proposal!






  • nick

    RdMs on the high end can be real nice for the $, but the lower end stuff is some of the most brutal unenjoyable stuff i've tasted.. and it's not just "cause they're young" …

    that being said i'm all for preserving the "traditional" DOCs.. especially because these wines could be IGTs or part of the Sant'Antimo DOC

    • 1WineDude

      nick – true, but that quality ratio is probably not all that different from any other AOC/DOC action in Europe. And as you state, the IGTs are really perfect for this stuff so they have a ready-made solution at their fingertips if they want to try something new. Cheers!

  • 1WineDude

    Just saw this on the way-cool website Do Bianchi:

    Apparently, there is NO option in the voting to leave the current Rosso regs unchanged! Damn, this bites enormous donkey bong…

  • Doug Thomson

    I don't see why this is a problem. It goes to the whole modernist-traditionalist debate. If the rules of the DOC change, some producers will remain traditional while others try new things. In my mind, that's a win-win.

    • 1WineDude

      Doug – theoretically, yes. BUT… how are consumers going to know which are traditional and which are not? They really cannot know unless the producers take pains to point it out.

      • Doug

        I think that's still an issue now. I don't know whether I'm getting traditional style or modern style Brunello unless I experiment to find out or pay for a subscription to a publication that reviews these wines for me. Varietal options in Brunello might make the variation more extreme, but the issue exists regardless for the consumer, especially the novice consumer.

      • Doug

        I think that's still an issue now, Joe. I don't know whether I'm getting traditional style or modern style Brunello unless I experiment to find out or pay for a subscription to a publication that reviews these wines for me. Varietal options in Brunello might make the variation more extreme, but the issue is the same. I think you just don't want your beloved Brunello messed with :).

        • Doug

          Hey, check out Do Bianchi, Joe! Biondi Santi's with ya!

          • 1WineDude

            Doug – yep, have been checking it out, thanks!

        • 1WineDude

          Fair point, Doug – I think you are hinting at the relatively scandals and issues with Italian wines not always using the grapes they state that they are using? And it is true, I don't really want Brunello messed with, which is not like me, I am usually fairly progressive about this stuff. :) Cheers!

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