The following is a translation of page 131, from the chapter, “Art at Any Cost (Sryah from Cortona),” from Italian journalist Andrea Scanzi’s new book, Il vino degli altri (Other People’s Wine, Mondadori, 2010), released in April 2010 during the annual Italian wine industry trade fair Vinitaly. According to Scanzi’s blog, the book chronicles his “voyage in search of the best wines of the world (and their Italian rivals).” VinoWire editor Franco Ziliani has published a digital scan of the page on his blog Vino al Vino.
In 2006, Tenimenti d’Alessandro changed enologist.
“There’s a problem with in-demand winemakers” [said owner Massimo d’Alessandro]. “All they care about is their fee. They work with 60 wineries. They live out of their cars. And every month they trade their car in for a newer, more expensive model. [Enologist Stefano] Chioccioli would come work with us for a few days and then he would head out again. He wasn’t the right fit for our type of winery.”
Was there a risk of all the wines being made the same? It seemed an obvious question but this is where the first volley was launched.
“I’m about to tell you something that you shouldn’t write about. But I’m going to say it anyway. The Tuscans are a shrewd bunch. They have always made wines that were somewhat fake. It’s part of their history. You know full well that there is a very serious investigation of Tuscany wine going on right now.”
“Yes, I know,” I said.
“It’s much more than an investigation. The bottom line is that they found out — according to allegations — that an important enologist, Carlo Ferrini, was making wine in Tuscany using wine that came from other regions. From what I understand, they caught the supplier with his invoices and everything. The supplier was from Abruzzo and his trucks traveled at night so they wouldn’t be discovered. Justice will take its course and it’s not my place to come to any of my own conclusions. I’ll only tell you what I know. But people have been talking about it more and more because the investigation is now in the hands of an honest magistrate. Do you want me to be brutal? I’m afraid that wine has always been made like this in Tuscany.”
I asked, “What do you mean?”
“Poorly tended vineyards, low-quality vines, and wines improved using base wines from other regions. The base wine always has a high quantity of dry extract. The flavor is neutral so that it won’t be detected and it is always produced using highly technical methods: infrared rays and such. It gives the wine color, structure, and extraction. Wine has been impounded all over the place. I’m a friend of Brancaia. They told me that 75,000 bottles of their wine, already sold to the Americans, were seized. The same thing happened to Frescobaldi and to others as well. Do you know what the only solution is? Get rid of that magistrate because this way of doing things is too widespread in Tuscany. It will never change.”
The following is a translation of response sent by the owners of Brancaia to Mr. Ziliani, who promptly posted their letter on his blog Vino al Vino.
Because of a publication by journalist Andrea Scanzi this week, we feel obliged to make a formal statement.
For many years, we have worked passionately and strenuously to produce the best possible wine from our terroir — with the greatest respect for nature’s resources and with the wholehearted devotion of our team.
We produce three top wines: Brancaia Il Blue (IGT), Brancaia Chianti Classico (DOCG), and Ilatraia (IGT).
For these wines we use only grapes grown in our vineyards: 25 hectares planted to vine on our estate in Chianti Classico and 40 hectares planted to vine on our estate in Maremma.
Our easy-drinking wine, Brancaia TRE (IGT), is made from grapes that we have not selected for our top wines.
Because of the success of and demand for Brancaia TRE, in addition to the grapes we grow ourselves, we have been buying grapes and bulk wine — both Toscana IGT — for some time now. This is no secret and it is by no means a crime.
Here are the facts:
– Two Tuscan sellers of bulk wine are under investigation for having sold wines with falsified documentation (fraud).
– As a result, all of the bulk wine, and even the wine already delivered to producers, has been blocked.
– Since we bought wine from these sellers in good faith, the wine that was used for Brancaia TRE has been blocked.
– During the inspections, we showed all of the documentation requested and we answered all questions.
– Following inspection, Brancaia TRE was released.
– We have purchased only a small amount of bulk wine and only for Brancaia TRE.
– The use of purchased grapes and bulk wine is allowable by law and is based on high quality standards.
– All of our other wines have been made only with grapes grown by us.
We feel that we have always acted appropriately and we patently deny the statements made by Massimo d’Alessandro as reported by Andrea Scanzi.
As far as such statements are concerned, we reserve the right to protect our good name and our reputation with all the competent authorities.
—Barbara and Martin Kronenberg Widmer