“The New York Times” (USA- 2/15/2006) “Some see a wine loved not wisely, but too well” by E.Asimov

“Strict traditionalists like Mr. Biondi Santi and his ally, Gianfranco Soldera, whose Case Basse di Soldera wines may be the greatest brunellos of all, scorn much of what passes for brunello di Montalcino today. They say the wine too often is fruity, round and rich, without any semblance of the classic angular, austere sangiovese character of old. Brunellos aged in barriques, or small barrels of new French oak, rather than in botti, they say, might as well be coming from California or Australia for all the distinctiveness they possess.”

“To taste a traditionally made brunello like Biondi Santi or Soldera is to wonder why anybody would ever want to make a different sort of wine. The Biondi Santis today are often criticized as too lean and austere and are said to require too much aging, but to my taste they are like precisely cut gems, offering clearly delineated flavors that, even in a relatively young 1999, are simultaneously graceful and intense rather than lush and rich. Mr. Soldera takes just as extreme an approach to winemaking as the Biondi Santis, perhaps even more so. He keeps his wine in large botti well beyond the required two years. While most producers are releasing their 2001 brunellos, his 2000 is still in wood — “whatever the wine needs,” he said. He is a decidedly opinionated man who recently constructed a new cellar with walls of crushed rock rather than cement, which he says destroys wine. Even in barrels, it has an unusual purity and grace, tannic perhaps, but with a lacy delicacy as well. Though you may drain a glass, you can’t say the glass is empty. The aroma lingers. Mr. Soldera points to the wine, the color of polished rubies, and assails those who assess a wine by the depth of color.  “This is the color of sangiovese – he said – you should be able to look through the wine and see your fingernail on the other side.”

“For his part, Mr. Biondi Santi has a proposal of his own. He would like to see the Montalcino zone divided into a series of subzones, each with its own character, rather than having so many contrasting styles lumped together as Montalcino. He points to the communes that make up the Côte d’Or in Burgundy as the perfect example, but acknowledges that this is unlikely to happen as it would not be in most producers’ interests. What else would he like to see happen? He answers quickly. “No more vineyards in clay soil, or below 1,000 feet. Return to Slavonian oak. Return to three years in wood. Abolish barriques. “That would be sufficient.”