Montalcino to stay 100% Sangiovese

Winemakers of Montalcino recently voted against a proposal to change the formulas for both Rosso di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino from 100% Sangiovese (to allow for some blending of international varieties like Cabernet). According to Wine Spectator, 69 percent voted against the proposal.

The impetus for this change was around Rosso di Montalcino, with some producers arguing that it would be more marketable worldwide if blending was allowed. Though a change to Brunello was less likely in the near term, some argued that this would open the door to that change down the road. A slippery slope? Perhaps, but the concerns can certainly be understood. 

Though admittedly I am not close enough to the situation to understand the intricacies, from a 10,000-foot consumer perspective, I’m happy with the outcome. I’m not against innovation, but I do fear that this change would get in the way of preserving a great tradition that has produced some amazing wines. In addition, it is not as if these winemakers cannot make blended wines today – they simply have to label them IGT Toscana.

Apparently some producers claim IGT wines command a lower price than the DOC Rosso. While this may be true in general, I’m not sure I see it as a valid reason for change. There are quite a few Super Tuscans that are far, far out of my price range, that seems to be highly successful year after year, so there is certainly precedence for highly-priced IGT wine. In addition, they wouldn’t have to pay the one euro fee for the little blue label on each bottle, which must add up.

Part of the reason Rosso di Montalcino does not have more wide appeal may be that it is overpriced. It’s certainly a nice wine, but simple and not overly complex, and hardly a regular buy at $25-30 (for most of us at least). Sure, some are closer to $18-20, but it’s easy to find a Chianti of similar quality for under $15. I’m not a winemaker, so I’m not sure why this wine is so expensive, but I’d imagine more Rosso would fly off he shelves if it was regularly $12-15. I know I’d buy more.

Is this issue dead? I doubt it. Blending will probably pass at some point, to keep up with Chianti and Montepulciano, and more importantly British and American palates. But for now, a win for tradition. Enjoy it while it lasts (if you can afford it).