In a much-anticipated live blogging summit held Sunday, January 18, in the conference room at the Gaja estate in Barbaresco, winemaker (and producer of Brunello di Montalcino) Angelo Gaja met with a group of Italian wine bloggers to answer their questions about the recent and current “Brunello affair,” as it has come to be called in certain circles. Last year, at the height of the still unresolved crisis, Gaja published an open invitation to bloggers to participate.
The editors of VinoWire have faithfully translated the following passages from the live blogging session.
On “improver” grape varieties, i.e., international grape varieties used to improve 100% Sangiovese: “It’s not up to me, being from Piedmont, to go tell them what to do in Montalcino. I have my thoughts on the subject but I am very prudent when I express them. I prefer not to reveal them. I don’t want anyone to say, “Gaja said this or that…” The winemakers of Montalcino know best and it’s their responsibility to share their thoughts.”
“Remember: until 1982, appellation regulations for Brunello allowed for up to 10% of other grape varieties — even grapes grown outside Tuscany! The 10% [allowance] was eliminated with [the creation of] the DOCG. But it wasn’t because the local winemakers wanted it. The ministry in Rome wanted it.”
“Given that the need to change the appellation regulations is acknowledged, I like to simply the rules. I am in agreement with Ezio Rivella on this (even though he and disagree about many other things).”
“If the percentage of adulteration were [shown to be] high, then we would need to consider the fact that success has led many winemakers to consider the coefficient of the wine’s drinkability.”
“Some have said, ‘make Sant’Antimo’ [instead of Brunello]. This is not a request that can be made of me because I have made an investment [in his estate in Montalcino, Restituta]. And I am ready to throw away [wine], as I did even before the scandal — two vintages, 2002 and 2003. But I made that investment so that I could produce Brunello.”
“Wasting another two vintages is not acceptable.”
“Sangiovese has its weak points. The expansion of vineyards in Montalcino (which, by the way, was good for many others besides the winemakers!) has reached 2,000 hectares in a short period of time. This has led some to plant Sangiovese in sites located ‘in’ the township of Montalcino but not evidently well-suited” for the grape variety.”
“Some probably realized that Sangiovese is a bit lean and so they decided to risk it — and I don’t think there is a justification — by ‘improving’ it outside of the appellation regulations.”