Nothing but the Sangiovese

Drinks: Wines
Location: Europe, Italy

Producers in the Rosso di Montalcino area have thrown out proposals to admit ‘foreign’ grape varieties, keeping their DOC wines as 100% Sangiovese.

The plans, which were discussed on 7 September, would have allowed a small amount of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Syrah to be incorporated into the blend for Rosso di Montalcino.

But the idea came under severe attack from traditionalists, including wine writer and Italian wine expert Nicolas Belfrage MW.

In an impassioned letter to Montalcino producers in the run-up to the vote, Belfrage urged them ‘in the strongest terms’ not to support the 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,’ Belfrage wrote.

‘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.’

Those in favour of the move point out that Merlot and Cabernet are quite extensively planted in the area, and that a commercial use for the grapes has to be found – but Belfrage said they could be used in IGT Toscana or St Antimo wines, which could then be promoted separately.

Proponents also said that allowing other grapes in would improve wine quality in weak years for Sangiovese.

But Belfrage said this would ‘fatally undermine’ the identity of Rosso di Montalcino, and increase the risk of a similar move being enacted for Brunello in the future.

Image by stevehdc on Flickr

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