2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva, a lovely parve Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), and the Brunello di Montalcino story

Two weeks ago saw us laying low and the weather was turning cold and wet.  It was also the night before Halloween (Hallows Eve’s).  We love when the kids come around the house and we get the chance to hand out candy.  This week after shabbos was over, we handed out Halloween pencils and it was a ton of fun.  It was even more enjoyable because last year was a train wreck.  You see Halloween fell on Friday Night last year, and since we cannot hand out food or anything else on shabbos, we were not able to share stuff with the families that came by.  So given the situation, we went with Spaghetti Bolognese (san fromage), which we have had a few times in the past.  A quick aside, we almost exactly copied the past attempt, without even trying – which is cool!  Anyway, to pair with this dinner, I chose a bottle of wine that I have been looking forward to trying, because I love Chianti and it is Mevushal, and further, it is a Chianti Riserva.  You see Italy defines its regions and regulations through an older and somewhat maligned group called the Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) and the more reputable Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).  The DOCG was created after many in Italy’s food industry started to raise serious concerns over the DOC’s “loosey-goosey” denomination that it seemed to give to anything that was not moving.

In many ways this is all quite ironic and sad, because the very accusations that were levied on the DOC are now bearing down on the DOCG, like a freight train down the Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Incline Railway (sorry I got caught up with Tennessee – watching the CMAs).  For the better part of three years the DOCG’s reputation has been under fire because of an allegation against some of the top red wine producers in all of Italy, the famed wines of Brunello di Montalcino.  These wines were given the coveted DOCG recognition in 1980, and quickly became one of the best red wines in all of Italy.  But in September 2007, the wine world was shell shocked by acquisitions that one or more percent of the Brunello wineries and some major ones as well, were substituting grape varietals for the requisite Brunello Sangiovese grape!  The very same accusations that were leveled on the DOC were being brought down on the DOCG in late 2007.  But the story only gets better!  A month or so after the accusations were leveled, the consortium of Brunello producers voted to keep Brunello 100% Sangiovese.  To put perspective on this, say U.S. orange juice producers (who placed a label of 100% orange juice on their containers) were to be accused of not using oranges for their juice, and so the USDA started pulling the orange juice containers from the store shelves.  So what contrived answer would they come up with?  Why that is obvious of course, we will just change what 100% orange juice means!  AHH!!!  Are you kidding me!  What a joke!  Well, thankfully, they all voted to keep things status quo, but to me, just the vote alone shows the corruption and ineptitude that riddles the DOCG and the DOC.  Well, if you thought that is where it ended, just you wait!  Man we need to make a movie out of this stuff!  If there were not enough bureaucracies (DOC, DOCG, Siena public prosecutor, etc.), involved in this mess, the USA had to way in!  Yep – we always need to stick our noses where it does not belong.  Under the guise of consumer protection the TTB has demanded that all Brunello bottles have a label reassuring consumers that the Brunello bottles sold here in the USA are 100% Sangiovese.  Well, after two plus years of investigating, the Italian authorities have come back, and have stated that they have magically closed the case.  So, you would think it would be riddled with accusations, charges, fines, etc. – NOPE!  No real data at all.  So in a game of chicken, the TTB has come out saying that they will not play these games, and require a real answer and continued labeling until they have more answers, and as of this pointing it is still the case.  Even if the consumer is not the real story, we have to be happy to see the TTB strut their stuff, and try to get to the bottom of this mess.

So where does all this leave us?  I saw a wonderful posting by Tom Maresca, and it does have its points.  Still, I have serious issues with what lies below the surface.  We as a nation and a country are slowly becoming more and more desensitized to wrong doers.  We are also willing to let things go when they are actually not such a light subject.  You see, the real issue here my friends is that if the DOCG and the Brunello producers were serious about their jobs, and prideful about their history and artistry, they should either fess up to what they really are (or are not) or just admit that they are not doing their job.  The DOCG should maybe rethink their name FDOCG (Forse Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) or DOCG?  Come on, The DOCG cannot guarantee anything it is not scientifically or conceptually enforceable.  It is the classic story of trying to sell yourself as more than you are.  The DOCG should not be selling themselves as more than what they are – an organization that defines the rules, but not one that can or should be attempting to enforce them.  If there is a closing line to this whole thing – I would go with a small Brunello producer, who under a veil of anonymity, spoke with Jeremy Parzen, and came up with an awesome line and story.

As a small producer, we have been treated like we had nothing to say. We felt absolutely NOT represented by the Consortium, neither protected. DOCG means that our Appellation of Origin is Controlled and Guaranteed. This was the only supposed role of the Consortium. None of these things was provided by them: obviously NOT the controls, NOT the guarantee and, sometimes, NOT even the origin. So I am asking myself what is the reason of the Consortium to be. Right now, the Consortium is just a cost for a small producer, and it’s giving no advantages at all. Many people will soon leave, I am sure.

I could not have said it better myself!  I hope I have brought a different angle to this madness and I hope you have enjoyed it.  The wine notes for the Chianti follows below:

2006 Borgo Reale Chianti Riserva – Score: B – B+
The nose on this dark ruby to garnet colored wine is initially hot but blows off soon, rich cherry, raspberry, roasted herbs, and heavy vanilla. The mouth on this medium bodied wine is soft and mouth filling without it being mouth coating, the tannins are integrated nicely, and give the wine a slight lift, along with cherry, raspberry, and plum. The mid palate is brightly acidic, along with coffee and vanilla. The finish is medium long with bright red fruit that lingers long on the palate after the wine is gone. The wine need to be drunk ASAP, it is throwing sediment, and does not last long after the bottle is opened. I opened the bottle Friday night and by Saturday day it was astringent and most of the fruit is gone.

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Posted on November 15, 2009, in Food and drink, Kosher Red Wine, Wine and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thank you for the kind words about my blog. The situation in Montalcino is very complex, and most of us Americans — journalists and agencies alike — would be smarter to keep our noses out of it, because the odds are we will never fully understand it. Tuscany in general and Montalcino in particular is an area riven by multiple deep divisions — class and wealth and politics are only the most obvious ones. Old families and new comers, former tenants and former landlords, traditionalists and innovators, family animosities dating back centuries or only decades — the list could go on endlessly, and each factor is another piece of grit in the gears. The tradition of the anonymous denuncia as a way to settle scores is ancient in Italy (in some places even formalized as a police procedure). Consequently, I don’t think any journalist should repeat anything he is told “off the record” unless he can externally verify it. That’s just responsible journalism. I couldn’t begin to recount to the number of accusations that For example, for years I’ve heard — all off the record, of course — about figures such as Angela Gaja adulterating his fabulously expensive wines. I’ve never repeated those stories, because there has never been anything to them. I think it’s time for the same kind of control and fact-checking in Montalcino.

  2. Sorry for the delayed response here. I’m just catching up on my blog reading.

    Thanks for the shout out!

    I love your blog and I love what you’re doing with kosher wine: showing how they can be enjoyed in the context of food AND wine and in modern Orthodox living. Great stuff!

    Ol’ Tom needs to read up on what’s going on in Italy and Montalcino: I don’t know how rusty his Italian is but the reports from Montalcino are not hearsay… they are from the Italian Treasury Department and they were made in an official press conference this summer…

    Looking forward to hearing more about Italian kosher wines! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Tasting of kosher wines from Italy and Italian varietals | Wine Musings Blog

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