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Delhi Wine Club
Showing Sympathy and Solidarity to Soldera

Posted: Monday, 10 December 2012 13:04

Showing Sympathy and Solidarity to Soldera

December 10 : The Mafia-like act of vandalism and perfidy by intruders who broke into the wine cellar of the cult Montalcino producer Gianfranco Soldera, draining out 62,600 liters of liquid gold of the Case Basse estate, deserves the strong condemnation it received from several wine lovers who sympathized and showed their solidarity with Soldera, writes Subhash Arora who met him for the second time at the World Wine Symposium in Villa d’Este last month.

Last Sunday night the vandals opened the spigots (valves) of 10 big barrels in which six vintages of Brunello di Montalcino (2007-2012) were maturing, thus draining out the equivalent of 80,000 liters of one of the most coveted red wines of Italy. Each bottle commands an average price of $200, making it an estimated loss of $16 million. The saboteurs did not touch or steal anything in the cellar, suggesting that it was perhaps an act of spite.

Gianfranco Soldera, the estate owner who worked as an insurance broker in Milan before buying the vineyard in 1972, said he had no idea who might have been behind the raid. His son Mauro described it as a Mafia-style act but did not point fingers of suspicion at the possible culprits. Till date, the police has not been reported to have apprehended the culprit/s.

"We've never been involved in controversy and we've never received threats. I can't get into the minds of the people who did this but I guess if someone plans to intimidate me it has to start somehow We've suffered a serious blow, not only in economic terms. But we will not give up, the estate will survive," reportedly says Gianfranco who runs the cult wine estate with 23 hA of ‘grand cru’ vineyards with his wife, 2 children and grand children.

Soldera has the support of the people of the quaint and quiet hilly town, famous for its Sangiovese based Brunello. The Consortium of Brunello di Montalcino producers held a special meeting last Thursday not only to condemn the act of vandalism suffered by the company but also to reaffirm the solidarity of all producers and of the entire region, President Fabrizio Bindocci proposed concrete steps to help the company. The 250-member  Association resolved at the meeting attended also by the Montalcino mayor, Silvio Franceschelli, to promote a collection of wine among its members to donate to the Case Basse winery and extend all possible help.

The 75- year old Gianfranco is considered a winemaking genius, like a celebrity artist who is not devoid of eccentricities. Several years ago when I wrote an article about the iconic Brunello di Montalcino wineries including his cult winery as the top couple of wine estates, I had received an email from him, followed by a beautiful book on him and the estate. I was also invited to visit the estate whenever I wished.

I have visited Montalcino 4-5 times since then but never visited his winery even though on two occasions I passed by his estate with Gaia Gaja; he is a neighbour of the Angelo Gaja owned estate, Pieve Santa Restituta, another iconic winery-in–the-making. Reason was that I had heard he carried attitude on his shoulders like some people carry a chip. One cannot discuss or criticize or cross what Soldera says, I was told-not my kind of guy.

Interestingly, last year I found him sitting next to me at one of the Lunches in the Veranda Restaurant at the Villa d’Este while attending the World Wine Symposium ’11. I didn’t recognize him but Albiera Antinori whose sister Alessia is better known to me and Rossana Gaja, younger daughter of Angelo were on the table and they introduced me to him. Quite overawed by a celebrity wine producer sitting next to me, I told him about the book story and also that I did not visit him because he was slightly…. ‘That’s me, the same guy all right,’ he said with a chuckle and invited me once again to visit his winery while giving me his email address.

This year I met him again briefly at the WWS ’12 in Villa d’Este when I reminded him about the email/book story and our conversation last year. ‘My daughter must have sent you the book’ he said, seemingly fairly fuzzy about our conversation at lunch last year. He invited me to write to his daughter!

This is surely neither the first time that someone has vandalized a winery property nor the last. A year ago, someone had poisoned the vineyard of a classified Bordeaux producer. There are lunatics and disgruntled people all over. While Soldera may be able to recover most of his financial losses through insurance though never the wine carried in numbered bottles, one hopes that the culprits are found soon and severely punished.

One also hopes that the producers in India are adequately covered against such eventualities. Soldera will be able to bear the loss, especially because of the solidarity shown by all sections, but the small Indian wineries may not be able to bear such a catastrophic loss.

delWine and I completely share the angst of the producers and members of Consorzio Brunello di Montalcino and extend sincere sympathy to the gentleman who has helped take Brunello di Montalcino to an unprecedented height in the otherwise Wonderful World of Wine.

Subhash Arora



Subhash Arora Says:

According to reports, the suspected vandal was arrested on Monday by Carabinieri (police), thus ruling out the role of Mafia in the mishap. The 39 year old Andrea Di Gisi, 39 was a former employee of the estate, who left his job earlier this year as he was upset on not being given lodging at the estate. He held a deep grudge against his former employer and took the drastic step as retribution. He was arrested in Rome and has been remanded in prison custody in Siena. He faces charges of commercial sabotage and trespassing. Subhash Arora

Posted @ December 20, 2012 16:25


Subhash Arora Says:

According to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, the suspect has been reportedly identified as a former Case Basse employee who was located in Montalcino.The crime appears to be an act of retaliation by him.An official arrest is expected to be made during the next few days. Thus, the role of a criminal organisation has been now ruled out. Subhash Arora

Posted @ December 15, 2012 13:25


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