Yesterday, WineNews.it broke the news that, on Sunday night, vandals broke into Gianfranco Soldera's cellar in Montalcino, Italy and opened the taps on his barrels, destroying more than 60,000 liters of wine spanning six vintages, from 2007 – 2012. Italian news outlets and bloggers immediately speculated that this was an act of extortion connected to the mafia.
Blogger Jeremy Parzen, of Do Bianchi, was the first to report the news stateside. Almost immediately, journalists and wine lovers crowded Twitter—including Eric Asimov, Jancis Robinson, and Antonio Galloni—expressing disbelief and sadness. Destroying five years of a winemaker's work would be a financial and moral tragedy if perpetrated against any winemaker, but the fact that it happened to one of the greatest wine producers in the world is unthinkable.
Gianfranco Soldera is a former insurance broker who left Milan in the early '70s in search of an ideal piece of land to make wine. He settled on an old farmhouse in Montalcino in 1972 and began planting what would become 23 hectares of sangiovese grosso vines. Over the following four decades the Case Basse di Soldera wines have come to represent the apex of traditional Brunello di Montalcino, and Soldera himself has become an idiosyncratic icon among lovers of classic Brunello. Given the small quantity of the wines produced (around 15,000 bottles per year) and the comparatively high demand, the prices on the Soldera wines can range from about $250 on release to well beyond $500 for back vintages. But for many these wines are priceless.
Gianfranco's son, Mauro Soldera told Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Serra yesterday that he and his family have never received threats of any kind, but that he believes that this is, "a true act of the mafia."
But in a post published today by the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino, the mayor of Montlacino, Silvio Franceshelli, is quoted as saying that, "any allusion to phenomena that bear the mark of the mafia are entirely imaginary."
In a post updated this morning Do Bianchi reports that friends "on the ground" in Tuscany also believe that the involvement of organized crime is unlikely. Most believe, he says, that the act was inspired by vengeance stemming from the Brunello scandal of 2008—"Brunellopoli" as it was called by Italian press—when a number of top producers were investigated for blending their wines with illegal grape varieties in order to create a style of wine more appealing to American critics and consumers.
Many producers still believe that Gianfranco Soldera, a staunch purist, was the whistleblower. According to leading Italian wine writer, Franco Zilliani (who, by the way, wrote a post today accusing all producers who labeled Soldera a "snitch" during the 2008 scandal as responsible for this act) as well as Parzen's Italian sources, this is seen as the more likely motive.
If you're interested in watching how this scandal unfolds, do pay Do Bianchi a visit; Parzen will update his blog as new information becomes available.
· Atto Vandalico a Montalcino [WineNews.it]
· Soldera Vandalized, 600 Hectoliters Destroyed [Do Bianchi]
· Sfregio alla cantina del purista del Brunello Sei annate nelle fogne [Corriere della Serra]
· Vandali nella tenuta di Montalcino Il peroduttore Soldera [Il Messaggero]
· Caso Soldera: solidarietà di tutti i produttori di Brunello [Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino]
· Soldera Update: Making Sense of the Unfathomable [Do Bianchi]
· All Wine Coverage on Eater [-E-]