This is the second part in VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani’s two-part interview with winemaker Renzo Cotarella of Marchesi Antinori. Scroll down for part 1.
What led to the investigation of Antinori?
In Montalcino, Marchesi Antinori has 62 hectares under vine, of which 31 are registered as Sangiovese for [the production of] Brunello. The rest are in Sant’Antimo, even though we still haven’t applied for this DOC. These grapes — various red varieties — are destined for our Villa Antinori Rosso IGT Toscana, as is some of the Sangiovese that comes from the Monteriggio zone.
[An error arose] because of a superficial mistake, due to our intention to maintain moderate amounts of this variety in Montalcino, even though it’s an accepted and authorized variety: 3.2 hectares in Sant’Antimo had been registered as Sangiovese but they were actually Petit Verdot. [It was] a technical error that led investigators to believe that those grapes could have ended up in the Brunello di Montalcino, even though the analysis — and I will never get tired of repeating this — has shown that there is only Sangiovese in our Brunello: Sangiovese from Montalcino.
None of us — employees and colleagues at Marchesi Antinori — has the authority to act like an idiot or to do anything less than correct whether it be in Montalcino or on any of our other estates. In 2005, when the scarcity of the vintage could have led us to [employ] the practice of “talking vats,” using grapes sourced from other Tuscan estates, in Montalcino we chose to purchase officially registered Brunello Sangiovese grapes.
Do you think that appellation regulations should be changed to allow other grape varieties other than Sangiovese?
Montalcino is one of the few places, together with certain, limited zones in the Chianti Classico area, where [winemakers] should work with 100% Sangiovese. Brunello should have a consistent, recognizable style. In Chianti Classico, Sangiovese can be blended with up to 20% of other grapes. In my opinion, this is excessive. To do this [in Montalcino] would be a mistake because 10-15% of Cabernet in a Merlot or vice versa doesn’t really change much. But when you add 15-20% of French grapes to Sangiovese, things change a lot.
[The idea of] flexible appellation regulations is a complicated one — for example, allowing up to 10% of other grapes (but which ones?) in difficult vintages like 1992 or 2002. [It would be better] if the law of the market permitted it, to decide not to make Brunello and skip the vintage when Sangiovese shows ripening or other type of problems. But, frankly, this would be unthinkable. A small margin for error [could be allowed], no more than 2-3%, in the case of errors by grape growers or accidents in the cellar.