Florentine Officials Continue to Consider Controversial Plan for Selvapiana Mega Incinerator

On Friday, March 14, Decanter.com reported that Florentine government administrators will announce their decision on whether or not to allow the construction of a controversial so-called mega-incinerator in Selvapiana (Chianti Rufina) in June, 2008. Many believe that the planned expansion of the current incinerator (above, left) will threaten winemaking in Chianti Rufina by overwhelming the zone with pollutants and creating an eyesore that would hinder wine tourism.

The proposed mega-incinerator would lie literally a stone’s throw from the famed Bucerchiale vineyard, where one of Chianti Rufina’s most famous crus is sourced by the Selvapiana winery.

Nicolas Belfrage and VinoWire’s Franco Ziliani published this editorial in Harpers on November 10, 2006.

Barbaresco Santo Stefano 2004 Castello di Neive

When you mention Santo Stefano, the first wine that comes to mind is one of the greatest wines ever produced: Bruno Giacosa’s Nebbiolo della Langa Albese, which he produced for many years. But few remember that the entire Santo Stefano property (8 hectares, of which 6.72 are planted with Nebbiolo and just over 1 hectare of Barbera) is owned by the Stupino brothers, owners of the Castello di Neive winery, a beautiful estate, known for its Roero Arneis, Dolcetto d’Alba Basarin, and their fantastic Barbaresco Santo Stefano.

Castello di Neive first produced its Barbaresco Santo Stefano in 1967. 24,000 bottles were produced from the 2004 harvest, a great vintage.

Some call Santo Stefano a “magic vineyard”: southern exposure, 270 meters a.s.l., calcareous marl subsoil, vines 30-40 years old, planted mostly with Nebbiolo Lampia and a reasonable amount of Nebbiolo Rosé. The grapes were picked in October, maceration and fermentation lasted 15 to 20 days. Fermentation was carried out in stainless-steel fermenters with automatic punching down of the cap. The wine was aged in 30-50 hectolitre oak casks and then in bottle for at least 6 months before release.

I tasted the wine in London in December 2007 and made the following tasting notes:

    Color of medium intensity. The bouquet is very particular and fascinating: cocoa powder, dried roses, aromatic herbs, licorice, tobacco, and talc. Great freshness, lively, vibrant, fleshy fruit, solid tannins, great structure, large, full of energy, very satisfying, with a long finish. A great Nebbiolo expression, a true vin de terroir! Good aging potential: buy and lay down in your cellar!

– Franco Ziliani

What If All Tuscans Became Super Tuscans?

Does the world really need another Super Tuscan? This question plagued me as I tasted through the wines on display at the Gambero Rosso “Top Italian Wine Roadshow” at the San Diego Wine and Culinary Center in downtown San Diego where I was asked by many presenters to taste this or that “new” Super Tuscan.

Some believe that the term Super Tuscan was coined by Nicolas Belfrage and was first used in print in Life Beyond Lambrusco (1985), co-authored by Nicolas and Jancis Robinson. The early Super Tuscans were generally made with international grape varieties and the wines generally saw some time in new wood. Because the wines — most famously, Sassicaia and Tignanello — did not meet standards for any existing appellations at the time they were first released, they were officially classified as vini da tavola or table wines, even though they were marketed as high-end wines.

According to usage, a Super Tuscan is a Tuscan-made wine that 1) does not meet requirements set forth by local appellation laws (in many cases, this is due merely to the fact that a given wine uses grape varieties not allowed by the appellation); or 2) has been intentionally declassified by the producer. While barrique aging is often used for Super Tuscans, barrique is not a sine qua non.

One of the reasons why the term Super Tuscan helps winemakers to sell wines in the United States is the moniker itself: it just sounds good and it implies that the wines are somehow better, that they surpass the rest of the field.

But because the term Super Tuscan is now applied to wines made in Bolgheri (on the Tuscan coast), Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina, Chianti Colli Fiorentini (and other subzones), Montalcino, Montecucco, Montepulciano… and the list goes on… it has became a de facto über-classification that eclipses the personality of those places and the character of the persons who make those wines.

Tuscans are a highly diverse group of people and their language, their food, their traditions, and their wines change from city to city, town to town, from village to village (and from principality to principality, we would have said in another age). Just ask a Florentine what s/he thinks of the Pisans and you’ll see what I mean (and I won’t repeat the colloquial adage nor the often quoted line from Dante here). I’ve traveled extensively in Tuscany and have spent many hours in its libraries, its trattorie, and wineries. I would certainly be disappointed if the Tuscans, like their wines, all became Super Tuscans.

– Jeremy Parzen

Click here to see VinoWire’s Jeremy Parzen video tour of the Gambero Rosso Roadshow tasting in San Diego (including interviews with Darrell Corti, Daniele Cernilli, and Marco Sabellico).

Franciacorta DOCG Tasting, March 19, Florence

The Grand Hotel, Florence (Piazza Ognissanti 1, entrance on Via Montebello), will host the Franciacorta Consortium tasting on March 19, 4:00 p.m. – 9 p.m. (Giardino d’Inverno Room).

Participating wineries: Antica Fratta, Barone Pizzini, Bellavista, Berlucchi Guido, Bosio, Ca’ del Bosco, Ca’ del Vent, Cantina Chiara Ziliani, Castel Faglia, Contadi Castaldi, Conti Bettoni Cazzago, Cornaleto, Faccoli Lorenzo, Ferghettina, Fratelli Berlucchi, Gatta, Il Mosnel, La Montina, Lantieri de Paratico, Longhi de Carli, Majolini, Mirabella, Monte Rossa, Montenisa, Ronco Calino, Tenuta Monte Delma, Uberti, Villa, Villa Crespia Fratelli Muratori

At 6:30 p.m., registrants can attend a seminar entitled “Franciacorta, un territorio, un vino” (“Franciacorta, a Region and its Wines”).

To register, contact Francesco Ruchin at the Tuscan chapter of the Associazione Italiana Sommeliers at (011 39) 055 8826803 or Ass.toscana@aistoscana.it.

This touring tasting will also visit Padua, Parma, Erbusco, and Berlin. For details, visit www.franciacorta.net.

VIGNA Recommends Development of Pathogen-Resistant Vines

The VIGNA genome-sequencing project presented its findings on March 9 at a conference organized by the Institute of Applied Genomics in Udine (Friuli).

Although the vine genome had been successfully sequenced by August 2007, the results were not released until the March 9 conference, chaired by project-coordinator, Professor Michele Morgante (left).

“The problems of agriculture,” said Professor Morgante, “can be solved in three different ways: farming practices, chemistry, and genetic improvement. In the case of viticulture, only the first two approaches have been employed. Notably, [grape growers] have relied only on the use of chemicals in the battle against pathogens while grain growers, for example, have tried to develop resistant species. The contribution of genetics to viticulture has been minimal: that’s why the grape varieties we use are the same as those of 100-200 years ago… As a result, although only 5% of Europe’s farmed surface area is devoted to grape growing, viticulture accounts for 46% of the pesticides used, 460 thousand tons per year, 70 or 80 times as much as that used for grains.”

One of the more remarkable findings was the number of “genes devoted to the synthesis of compounds used to produce the final quality of wine: in its 19 chromosomes, there are 89 genes for terpene synthase (an enzyme necessary for the biosynthesis of terpenoids, which give wine its aroma) and 43 for the synthesis of stilbene synthase, needed for the synthesis of resveratrol.” Surprisingly, the vine genome “is more similar to the human genome than to that of other plants,” said Morgante.

Researchers must now translate the project’s findings into practical applications, noted Morgante, who suggested that further genetic research should be devoted to the development of pathogen-resistant species.

Frescobaldi Indicted on Fraud Charges

On Thursday, March 6, the Corriere Fiorentino reported that fourteen people have been charged with fraud and falsification of public documents following an Italian Treasury Department investigation of Tuscan winery Frescobaldi. The names of those indicted include Lamberto Frescobaldi, the winery’s Director of Production, as well as the winery’s enologist and six southern Italian grape growers.

According to investigators, who launched their inquiry in 2005, Frescobaldi purchased grapes in southern Italy and shipped the fruit to Tuscany where it vinified and labeled the wine as Tuscan DOC and IGT.

Lawyers for the accused claim that while grapes from different parts of Tuscany were used in the production of wines labeled as “Tuscan,” fruit sourced from southern Italy was used exclusively in the production of Frescobaldi bulk wine.

The trial is scheduled to begin in Florence on November 17, 2008.

Bruna Giacosa Confirms Dante Scaglione’s Resignation

Following VinoWire’s report (Tuesday, March 4) that Dante Scaglione had ended his relationship with the Bruno Giacosa winery, VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani spoke to the winery’s director of marketing and media relations Bruna Giacosa (left, photo courtesy of the Bruno Giacosa winery).

Giacosa confirmed that Dante Scaglione, a sixteen-year employee of the company, offered his resignation on December 23, 2007. She also confirmed that Giorgio Lavagna, currently employed by the Batasiolo winery in La Morra, will become Bruno Giacosa’s new enologist on April 2, 2008. Lavagna will work with the winery merely as an enologist and not as a “consultant” on the winemaking style, stressed Giacosa.

“Despite an illness that limits his ability [to work in the winery],” Giacosa told VinoWire, “my father is more than capable of continuing to serve as the winery’s ‘consultant.’” According to Giacosa, enologist Lavagna is committed to maintaining the style that has made Bruno Giacosa one of the most collected and coveted wines in the world – from its Barolo Falletto and Barolo Rocche dei Falletto to the Barbaresco Asili and Barbaresco Rabajà.

Giacosa denied that her relationship with Scaglione was any less cordial than Scaglione’s rapport with her father Bruno Giacosa. The younger Giacosa told VinoWire that she wishes Scaglione well in his career as a wine consultant wherever the future may lead him.

The report has been the cause of much heated debate on the internet and inpsired numerous posts on the Mark Squire Bulletin Board, the Gambero Rosso chat room, and Vino al Vino, including a comment from Giacosa’s American importer. One thing is for certain: a new and important chapter has begun in the history of one of Neive’s most famous wineries.

UIV to Award Social Activism Prize

On March 27, the Unione Italiana Vini (Italian Wine Union) will announce the winner of its first-ever prize for Social Activism at Palazzo Turati in Milan. According to a survey of journalists conducted by the UIV, the Italian wine industry is considered one of the country’s most effective communicators of social causes and is widely viewed as one of its foremost representatives abroad. The winner will be announced together with the presentation of the 2008 edition of Enotria, the UIV’s annual publication. The theme of this year’s UIV report is the marketing of Italian wine.

A preview of the report reveals that Italian wineries invest an average of 5.8% of their total revenue in marketing — a relatively low number, the publication notes, with respect to other sectors. The average Italian winery allocates 15% of its marketing budget for events, 14% for display advertising, 13% for trade shows, 12% for retail promotions, 12% for public relations, and 8% for packaging and branding. Italian wineries increasingly use social activism as a marketing tool, report the editors of Enotria, addressing a wide range of issues, including racism, organized crime, and world hunger.

For more information, email info@uiv.it

Change of Guard at Bruno Giacosa: winemaker Dante Scaglione parts ways with historic winery.

After 16 years of a fruitful, illustrious parternship with the “bear” of Neive — the taciturn, often gruff but always grand Bruno Giacosa – the winery’s cellar master, enologist, and right-hand man, Dante Scaglione (left), has decided to leave the winery — a painful decision, made after many long, unforgettable years working with Bruno.

VinoWire’s Franco Ziliani spoke yesterday with Dante: a serious person, capable, and responsible, a person that we all would have liked to have seen manage the technical aspects of the winery, especially after an illness that severely limited Bruno’s presence and contribution in the historic cellar in Neive (website) and the Falletto estate in Serralunga d’Alba.

With his typical reserved manner and style, Dante merely affirmed his long-meditated choice, the result of difficulties that became apparent in his conversations and rapport with Bruno Giacosa’s daughter, Bruna, who has been taking an increasingly greater role in managing the estate. Evidently, Dante and Bruna did not enjoy the same partnership that Dante shared with Bruno — a collaboration based on faith and an exchange of ideas.

Nothing more and nothing less, and no unseemly accusations against the winery he will officially leave Friday, March 7, after bottling the new vintages of the young wines (over all, he said, he was very happy with the 2007 vintage for the Nebbiolo-based wines). A simple turning of the page in the history of Langhe wines and the end of a partnership that was born when Dante began to work with enologist Giuliano Noé, who regularly performed technical analyses of Giacosa’s wines. At the moment, Dante has made no future plans.

After so many years and such an extraordinary experience with Bruno Giacosa, it will be difficult for Dante to sign on as an employee of another winery. He hopes to consult with some of the few wineries that share his winemaking approach and to continue to develop the Giacosa philosophy. After all, the wines of Bruno Giacosa were partly also Dante’s wines.

According to Dante, his place will be taken by Giorgio Lavagna, son-in-law to the manager of the Falletto estate in Serralunga d’Alba (which is owned by the Giacosa family), a talented enologist who has many vintages under his belt at the celebrated Batasiolo winery in La Morra.

We look forward to Lavagna’s new partnership with the historic estate and to Dante’s next project. Even after the end of a long and fruitful partnership, the show must go on.

– Franco Ziliani