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Antinori Brunello released by authorities

Antinori’s ‘Pian delle Vigne’ Brunello has just been been released by the Italian authorities – who are now satisfied it is ‘100% Sangiovese’.

The news comes nearly four months after authorities confiscated Brunello 2003 from several top producers including Frescobaldi, Banfi and Antinori in an ongoing grape blending scandal that has convulsed the denomination.

‘The prosecutor is satisfied that our wine is 100% Sangiovese and that our Brunello is no longer under confiscation,’ Antinori’s director and winemaker Renzo Cotarella told decanter.com. By law, Brunello must be 100% Sangiovese.

Cotarella said the individual grape’s unique anthocyanin profile – the material that gives wines their distinct colors – was tested.

‘This technique can detect the presence of other varieties, or as in our case, the lack of’.

Yet not all producers and scientists trust this new experimental testing method. In a circular letter to its clients, ISVEA, one of the leading Italian laboratories specialising in this test and in Sangiovese, said, ‘due to a lack of in-depth data and experience with the new methods, the test should not be considered an infallible scientific benchmark or a legal reference point’.

The scandal continues to feed rumours that producers may want to change the Brunello production code to allow blending with other grapes.

The new Minister of Agriculture, Luca Zaia, has declared that the time has come to set aside tradition. ‘If consumers, who barely know what a production code is, want rounder, fruitier wines, then wines should be made that satisfy them. Austere wines have had their day – tastes have changed,’ he told Italian newspaper L’Espresso.

Many producers however, warn that adding other grapes to make Brunello ‘easier’ and approachable sooner, would spell disaster.

‘If other grapes were added, Brunello would lose its identity and be in direct competition with less expensive New World wines. Most producers here would fight this change ferociously,’ said leading producer and traditionalist Franco Biondi Santi.

‘Adding other grapes to Brunello would be a grave mistake,’ Cotarella said. Both producers agree however that the current laws governing the monovarietal wines in Italy should allow a tolerance level of up to 3% of other grapes, in order to cover mistakes originating with commercial nurseries who occasionally send producers a rogue vine of other grapes.

Two years ago Brunello producers unanimously voted against changing the production code.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe in Varese

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