Opinion: Giacomo Tachis, an uninspired choice for Decanter’s Man of the Year

With all the dutiful respect due to this man, to his not so tender age, to his white hair, and to that Cheshire cat expression of his, am I allowed to dissent from the predictable hosanna and applause that will greet the news that the longtime Tuscan-based Piedmontese enologist Giacomo Tachis has been named the Decanter 2011 man of the year?

With all respect for the long and illustrious career of the man who is being celebrated as the “father of Italian wine,” is it permissible to harbor some reservations — however gentle — not only regarding the question of whether or not Tachis is “the guiding light behind the renaissance of Italian wine in the 1970s and 80s,” but also regarding the role he has played in Italian wine in recent decades?

There is no doubt, as the editors of Decanter wrote, that “in five decades at the forefront of Italian winemaking, the Piedmont-born Tachis has been instrumental in the introduction of practices that are now standard at the top end of Italian wine production: clonal selection, high-density, low-yielding vineyards, and refinements in malolactic fermention and oak ageing.”

And it’s equally true that “it is for the introduction of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals in the original ‘SuperTuscans,’ Sassicaia, Tignanello and Solaia, that Tachis is most renowned.” Such an observation certainly does not warm my spirit. In fact, it sends a chill down my spine when I consider that just other day someone published the following statement on a popular blog: “Giacomo Neri has brought prestige and fame to Montalcino and to all of Italian enology.”

Without going as far as to call him an ill-intended teacher, can we be sure that his loss of identity in the name of fatuous internationalization did not lead degenerative phenomena like Brunellogate? Did his style as the “architect of blending” (as another celebrated enologist has called him) contribute to the current lack of direction in Italian wine? I’d much rather remember him for his wonderful book on Tuscan Vin Santo.

Personally, I don’t feel right celebrating the man who declared: “It’s time to open our minds because the appellations [of the Italian DOC system] are a load of bollocks concocted by people who don’t know a thing about wine.”

A team of psychologists and anthropologists and scholars should be commissioned to study the human behavior of enologists like Giacomo Tachis and Ezio Rivella. These two Piedmontese found their success in Tuscany and yet they openly attack the very same appellation system that — whether they like it or not — defines the past, present, and future of Italian wine.

Consider the many names of those who have received the Decanter Men and Women of the Year award from 1984 until the present: Prof. Émile Peynaud, Aubert de Villaine, Marcel Guigal, Ernst Loosen, Miguel Torres, Jancis Robinson, Hugh Johnson, José Ignacio Domecq, May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, Michael Broadbent, Max Schubert, Angelo Gaja. They are all true giants of the world of wine. I can’t honestly consider the current choice as one of the most inspired. There are many figures that I’d rather call “fathers” of Italian wine. Tachis isn’t one of them.

—Franco Ziliani

4 thoughts on “Opinion: Giacomo Tachis, an uninspired choice for Decanter’s Man of the Year

  1. Franco, forgive me for going off on a tangent but please don’t forget our local winemaker, Paul Draper of Ridge vineyards, Decanter Man of the Year 2000. A winemaker who had the courage to make restrained 13% alc mountain Cabernet blends (Montebello) even during Parker’s/Wine Spectator’s “hedonistic” glory days of the 90s and 00s.

  2. With all due respect to Mr Tachis and Decanter, isnt it time to look forward, not back?

    I’m sure the editors thought it was time to put his name up there with Antinori and Gaja and the other luminaries, but Italy is plagued with this old man mentality in a country filed with young people dying to break out of the mold.

    If I were a young winemaker in Italy this would give me pause to think about what will be important in the next 50 years for Italian wine. We have only begun to explore the Golden Age of wine in Italy.

    Time to move ahead.

  3. Franco: You forgot one good reason for the nomination of Giacomo Tachis: his Super Tuscans all need a decanter to tame the burly Cabernet! Shall we chant: No Decanter, No Tachis? The only man worth wearing the laurels in Tuscany is Sangiovese Butterfly Giulio Gambelli.

  4. If he thinks that the DOC and DOCG system is “bollocks” he gets my vote.

    The whole system needs to be thrown out and rewritten. When wine experts can’t even figure out if there are 59 or 60 DOCG something is seriously wrong.

    The awarding of new DOCG status seems to have little to do with who is producing consistenty high quality wine that speaks of its location. It doesn’t help the consummer, doesn’t help the wine maker it needs to be dumped.

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