News, Tuscany

Letters from Montalcino: appeals on proposed changes to Rosso di Montalcino

The Brunello di Montalcio producers are meeting to vote and decide whether to change the law: to allow Rosso di Montalcino to become a blended wine, like other wines in Tuscany, (and in other parts of the world) or to remain as 100% Sangiovese. What do producers see as the problem with changing Rosso di Montalcino from 100% Sangiovese to 85% Sangiovese? A few days ago one of the bigger producers wrote an open letter to the consortium from one of the larger producers, Mastrojanni owned by Francesco and Andrea Illy (yes, the same Illy as the coffee): 

11 February, 2011 (The First Letter)

The undersigned company wants to express the disappointment, to all the Directors and Members of the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, on the proposal of the Board of Directors to change the production rules in question, since we believe that in doing so, we would be producing a wine that no longer has an identity of its territory and instead will turn into one of the many products on the market. A wine made with cuts of percentages of other grapes permitted in Tuscany, will lose that particular hand that this product has had for years, namely that of being a wine with a pure expression of its grapes (un vino in purezza).

A wine of this type was already possible with the Doc Sant’Antimo. We ask ourselves, “why has this type of wine has not been able to take off?” Because, in our humble opinion, this formula is not ‘WINNING!’

Certainly the stimulus of our Rosso di Montalcino wine would be easier, initially, allowing the sale of more bottles, but in the long run this blend will find itself to deal with thousands of other blend from Australia to France, from Chile to California, that production costs are much lower than ours. That we have a product that represents our territory with this law takes away their identity. 
We believe that the biggest problem we have with the quantity of bottles of Brunello and Rosso with as the supply far exceeds demand, so we ask ourselves … is it not worth the trouble to downgrade a larger quantity of Brunello di Montalcino to make the Reds better? 
Stop looking at Rosso as a by-product of Brunello and we begin to see it as a wine in itself: allow us to reposition the Brunello at levels which he is entitled and which has now lost! 
Then there is room for the fantasies of all wines with geographical indication or using alternative names. 
We hope that the shareholders’ meeting of 15 minutes will let us all to reflect before making such an important decision: to regulate this change, the typical watering down of our wines in the immense world supply, will eventually damage the area first and secondary producers. 
Thank you for listening to us and we will send our best regards.

The President 
Mastrojanni Ltd. 
Francesco Illy

Managing Director 
Mastrojanni Ltd. 
Andrea Machetti.

14 February 2011 (The Second Letter):

“I’ll tell you a story of coffee, not wine. 
It was the seventies, two oil shocks and the whole Italian economy was badly tanned. My father, a few years ago in full control of illy caffè spa, was in financial difficulties as many other Italian companies, and so one day he found himself explaining to banks: 
”But Dr. Illy, the company restructured formula is easy: you buy the coffees of lesser quality and much less money and its financial statements will flourish. ” 
My father, said with his usual ethical position: “I made a promise of excellent quality to my customers and do not want to betray them to save a certain budget.” 
This decision was not the prelude to a tremendous success, but tiring years of difficulty. But that in turn was the preamble of the illycaffè I imagine you all know.

I thank our father for having the courage then: we might be more in roasting coffee, but certainly not how we are doing today in nearly 160 countries. Or maybe we would be gone … … to listen to the banks whose business is another! I am afraid there is – although not so specific in terms of quality, because nobody wants to make a Rosso di Montalcino less good – a very obvious similarity to another level: that of identity. 
We all know how difficult it is to work with Sangiovese. Just as the Nebbiolo of Barolo and Barbaresco. And we all know the story, like ours, almost twenty years ago, of the Piedmont Consortium. 
They made the right choice and they get excellent results: they opted for the protection of their identity. Of their terroir. The difficult but possible way of improving their tradition.

Today we are in a situation similar to these two: both experiences tell us that those who have managed to defend its identity in the end he won. 
Because the consumer, including what is in ourselves, do not consume products with interchangeable pleasures for tastes that are undifferentiated. People consume stories of men of courage, territory, culture and passion. They search for features, specificity and personality. 
And who does not understand this … is designed to disperse his voice in a chorus of platitudes in which anyone can sing. 
Is this what we want? 
As we once lost our identity, to compete with this type of farming? And with that kind of laws on wine? 
Our identity is our first capital and it makes us different and gives us stories to tell different from anyone who does not have intensive viticulture. Think about it, before you throw away a worth that much. 
Thanks for letting me read and pardon the intrusion, but I love too much not to mention to Montalcino.

Sincerely Azienda Agricola Podere Le Francesco Illy Ripi.

What do you think of these changes?

Many thanks to Franco Zilliani website Vino Al Vino for the source of these letters.