Opinion: Oportet ut scandala eveniant

Click here to read a preview of David Lynch’s article, “True Brunello, the future of Tuscany’s signature sangiovese,” featured in the April issue of Wine & Spirits Magazine.

I applaud David Lynch for his excellent article, “True Brunello” (Wine & Spirits Magazine, April, 2008). This serious, well written, and meticulously documented piece reveals what a treasure Sangiovese represents for Montalcino.

Sangiovese is and must continue to be the backbone and hallmark of the appellation, a wine known throughout the world for its greatness. All of the producers and enologists interviewed by Lynch have declared their “faith” in the Sangiovese grape and have made it clear that there is no logical reason to make Brunello less “Montalcinian” or more international by changing the appellation’s regulations through the addition of other grape varieties, French or otherwise.

In the light of the recent scandal and inappropriate practices in the cellar by certain winemakers who lacked both respect for the appellation regulations and common sense, Lynch’s article is important also because it reveals that Montalcino producers were aware of the existence of “strange” wines labeled as Brunello. The scandal was a time bomb bound to explode sooner or later. It was clear to everyone that there were irregularities and it was time to stop pretending that everything was being done by the book.

All you had to do was to look at the dark color of these wines and experience their aromas (completely different from Sangiovese), their concentrated flavors, their resemblance to Merlot and their utter lack of refinement, elegance, and the character of Sangiovese: it was clear that some producers were freely “interpreting” Brunello and transforming it into something that it wasn’t meant to be.

How should we respond in the face of a scandal that threatens to damage perceptions of Brunello and the hard work of the overwhelming majority of producers who respect the law and honor the land, history, and identity of Brunello and Sangiovese by creating real wines that truly taste of Tuscany? As the Latins use to say, oportet ut scandala eveniant, it’s good that scandals happen.

It is my hope that this scandal will give winemakers an opportunity to bring clarity and “purification” to the appellation, a chance to begin anew and make Brunello di Montalcino even greater than before: the authentic, unique, inimitable, powerful legacy of a land where Sangiovese grosso is transformed into Brunello — and certainly not into Cabernet, Merlot, or Syrah. Today, the most important response is to believe in Brunello and to continue to buy, uncork, and cellar the many great wines that continue to be produced in Montalcino — and for Bacchus’ sake, there are a lot of them!

When Brunello enthusiasts are doubtful about a given wine, they should simply ignore it and reach instead for the tried and true. They should choose and reward those Montalcino producers who fulfill their duty and who — now more than ever — need our support, especially in this moment of insanity when they may be tempted to conclude that Brunello is no longer a credible wine. Brunello is indeed a credible wine and so are those producers who represent its connective tissue, its strength, and its past, present, and future.

— Franco Ziliani

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One thought on “Opinion: Oportet ut scandala eveniant

  1. Excellent, Franco. Especially given the various metaphorical spankings you’ve received for opening this scandalous can of worms to the world.

    (Thanks to Jeremy for the translations of these articles for the Anglophones.)

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