Death to Brunello

Yesterday morning, wine proprietor Gianfranco Soldera made a shocking discovery: Someone had entered his winery overnight and emptied out 62,600 liters of his prized Brunello di Montalcino—not an act of theft, mind you, but simply left to drain away.

As the New York Times‘s Eric Asimov reports,

The winery’s American importer, Paolo Domeneghetti of Domaine Select Wine Estates, said intruders had entered the wine cellar, near the town of Tavernelle, south of Montalcino, and opened up large vats holding wine dating from the 2007 vintage up through 2012, draining the wine onto the floor. Gianfranco Soldera, the proprietor of the estate who resides above the cellar, discovered the damage the next morning, Mr. Domeneghetti said.

“Some wine is left, but the majority of the stuff is gone,’’ said Mr. Domeneghetti, who had spoken by phone with Mr. Soldera. “We still don’t understand what happened.’’

Of course Soldera is insured, but the value of those wines is staggering. “In its statement,” writes Asimov, “the winery estimated the loss at 62,600 liters, the equivalent of almost 84,000 bottles. Bottles of the 2006 Soldera, the last vintage released, sell for $250 to $350.”

Some suspect the work of organized crime—but wouldn’t you think those guys would have an appreciation for a fine Brunello? According to Asimov, “Other speculation centers on Mr. Soldera’s role in the scandal that racked Brunello di Montalcino in 2008, when a number of leading producers were indicted on charges of blending unauthorized grapes into their Brunello di Montalcinos, which by law is supposed to be made only of the sangiovese grape. The scandal was only the most outward symptom of a deeper identity crisis, as producers have spent years debating how Brunello should be made and how it should taste.”

As Gene Shalit might say, “Here’s one mystery we need to uncork!” “Sounds like Soldera’s bottled up a lot inside!” “Stay tuned as this story continues to ferment!”

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski

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