Gianfranco Soldera is notoriously curmudgeonly; does not brook fools gladly; does not make friends easily; prefers not to take visits from, or sell his wine to, people who do not share his philosophy as it relates to wines and winemaking; and makes one of the most coveted and treasured wines in the world. Known almost for much as the quality of his wines as for the case where a disgruntled former employee opened valves allowing six vintages of his maturing wines to flood the floors of his cellars, Soldera famously accused his fellow winemakers of seeking to perpetrate a fraud when they offered to provide him wines to mitigate his loss. He indicated that he would resign from the Consorzio in 2015 but the Consorzio was deeply miffed and voted to oust him immediately and then sued him for gross libel.
And it was his wines that we would be tasting at Antonio Galloni's Soldera: Brunello di Montalcino Through the Ages (1981 - 2006) event held at maze Restaurant in London, on April 27, 2016. But before relating the event, following is some background on the producer and his wines.
According to Galloni, Soldera had no winemaking pedigree. His family was from Treviso, an area not known for its stellar wines, but his father was a big collector and knew all of the major producers. Gianfranco had grown up tasting all the great wines.
Soldera had made his money elsewhere and decided to use his resources to buy a property to grow winegrapes. He looked first in Piemonte because he was enamored with the great producers and their wines. But his efforts there were unsuccessful so he turned to Montalcino where he was able to purchase some land in the southern portion of the region (The chart below shows the various sub-regions of Montalcino. Other noted producers located in the southern region include Biondi-Santi, Costanti, and Pian dell'Oreno.).
According to Italian Wine Merchants (IWM), Soldera planted two small plots -- Case Basse (2 ha) and Intistieti (4.5 ha) -- to Sangiovese between 1972 and 1973, Sangiovese being the only grape, he believed, "that possessed a genuine synergy with the land." IWM states that Soldera drew exclusively on the Intistieti vineyard for early wines because its poorer soils delivered wines with structure. Antonio believes that Intistieti is the better vineyard because it produces more powerful tannic wines while Case Basse produces more feminine wines with silky tannins.
The first wines yielded from the young vines in 1975 were produced as a Vino da Tavola Rosso, a precursor of today's Rosso di Montalcino.
Soldera wines are made in the most natural way possible. Galloni see his farming techniques as biodynamic but Soldera has not sought certification as such. He curtails vineyard yields by short pruning in the winter, green pruning in the summer, and grape and leaf thinning in the fall.
His wines are made in the same manner as a Monfortino: natural fermentation in Slavonian oak vats; long maceration on skins; and long aging. Fermentations are not temperature-controlled and cap management is via pumpovers.
A driving force for Soldera has always been wines that age well. The Soldera wine is aged up to 5 years in large Slavonian oak casks and is then held in bottle for several months for further maturation. The Riserva is aged for an additional year. In certain vintages he produces shorter-matured wines which are labeled either Intistieti or Pegasos.
Each of the large casks is bottled separately, a practice that Galloni is uncomfortable with because it will yield bottle variation (based on source cask). It also goes against the winemaking grain of post-maturation blending in order to provide consistency across bottles and the best overall representation of the estate's offering.
I will report on the tasting event in my next post.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme