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Montalcino changes demanded by markets, says consorzio

Changes to Rosso di Montalcino are essential for key markets such as Germany, Canada and China, a Consorzio board member has said.

Sangiovese: no longer 100%?

Fabrizio Bindocci, oenologist at Il Poggione, and on the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino’s board of directors told Decanter.com these markets want a softer style of Rosso, the ‘second wine’ to Brunello di Montalcino.

‘The proposals would allow producers to continue to make Rosso with 100% Sangiovese if they want, while giving others the option of adding other grapes. Many markets, like Germany, Canada and China, are demanding rounder, softer Rosso di Montalcino. Producers should be allowed to fill this demand,’ he said.

Bindocci added that although he supports the proposed changes to Rosso, he ‘will continue to make Rosso with 100% Sangiovese’.

Montalcino is bracing itself for a controversial vote tomorrow, 7 September, that would not only allow other grapes into the wine, but that would eliminate several key vineyard requirements.

While many small producers have contested the timing of the vote, at the start of the harvest period, a strong turnout is expected.

‘With such an important decision, we are expecting a turnout of the vast majority of firms,’ consorzio president Ezio Rivella told Decanter.com.

As has been reported, the vote is on whether to change the production code of Rosso di Montalcino, which like Brunello is currently made with 100% Sangiovese.

Two separate proposals call for the creation of up to three different Rosso di Montalcino. The upper levels would demand 100% Sangiovese while a lower level, basic Rosso di Montalcino, would only have to be 85% Sangiovese, allowing 15% other red varieties grown in Montalcino.

Rivella, Banfi’s director and winemaker from 1978 until 2000, will abritrate the vote.

The first order of business will be to decide whether to vote by secret ballot or a show of hands, he said.

Not all members have equal voting status. Italian laws governing consorzios give more voting power to higher volume producers, meaning the minority of large firms often override the majority of smaller producers.

Before he became president of the Consorzio, Rivella openly advocated allowing other grapes in Brunello and Rosso, but now says he will ‘accept what the consorzio members want,’ even if personally he would like to see ‘producers have the possibility to personalize their Rosso. If that includes adding other grapes, they should be allowed this possibility’.

However, some observers claim the proposed changes are in reality a way of utilising the 450ha of grapes, mainly international varieties, registered to Sant’Antimo, a denomination set up in 1996 allowing a variety of red and white varities.

Many consider Sant’Antimo unsuccessful: according to Rivella it ‘never took off’.

As of 2008, Banfi alone had 242 ha registered to Sant’Antimo DOC and 322 ha registered to IGT Toscana, as reported in the conosorzio’s publication I Produttori.

There are other crucial changes in the proposals, which would allow for emergency irrigation, currently banned, as well as changes to vineyard location.

Currently, Rosso vineyards must be on hills and slopes, and not above 600m, while terrain must be from certain geological periods.

The first two conditions would be eliminated and the third modified under the new proposals.

‘Vineyard requirements will eventually have to be revisited for Brunello as well,’ Rivella said.

Such modifications, as well as the high number of hectares of international grapes in Montalcino, have madeveteran producer Franco Biondi Santi clarify his position. ‘I will absolutely vote NO on any changes to Rosso di Montalcino’ thanks to ‘huge modifications’ of the original idea proposed three years ago. ‘Unfortunately, the culture of quality wine has evidently still not arrived in Montalcino,’ the winemaker said.

Written by Kerin O’Keefe

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