Soldera’s 100% Sangiovese from Azienda Agricola Case Basse, has been on my wishlist for some time. A visit from a good friend became the catalyst for that wish to come true. You know who you are, thank you! One of the hallmarks of great wine is its ability to draw you into the glass, they almost speak out to you … Drink Me! Drink Me!
Gianfranco Soldera’s Sangiovese is an incredible wine, you almost don’t have to drink it. The aroma is just that good. Drinking a bottle of 2009 over 5 hours was like watching a chameleon, changing with every sniff. Incredible complexity, layering, beautifully refined, perfectly developed, yet youthful. This wine has a level of precision that you rarely see. I can see why others have picked Grand Cru Burgundy as an option in blind tastings. Incredibly sophisticated, yet with such divine lingering flavours. Hopefully, I’ll see another bottle in the glass soon!
This wine has historically been labelled Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, a difference of philosophical opinion saw Gianfranco leave the Consorzio, preferring to label his wine as Toscan Sangiovese IGT (Indicazioni Geographica Typica). The wine speaks for itself!
Dedication to Exceptional Quality
Gianfranco and Graziella Soldera have conceived a project based on two deep-felt beliefs:
1. Quality production needs a complex ecosystem that makes up the ideal habitat for natural cultivation,
2. Past experience must be compared with innovation born from research. The culture of the past, i.e. from insight and developed by farming experience, must be respected but also rationally included and verified with the most modern experimentation techniques.
Thus Nature and its laws can be complied with, in order to express the maximum potential and avoid exploiting the soil and crops.
An article in The World of Fine Wine “Soldera: The Great Outsider” explores the estate’s history and philosophy in great depth and is worth a read.
Soldera’s website shares great insight into Gianfranco’s deep thought, desire to back it with science, at the same time as applying a very human touch made gentle by years of experience. His column share insights of the day to day workings at Soldera is particularly illuminating.
In a nutshell, it comes down to a few simple things. Gianfranco’s vineyards are in a great spot, they are cared for with precision and the resultant fruit is of exceptional quality.
To age his wines for 5 years in a barrel is a testament to the quality of fruit. He places no limits on mentoring exceptional wine all the way to the bottle.
The wines have incredible purity and harmony.
Balancing Science, Nature & Touch
Coming from a non-wine related background, the approach Gianfranco has taken has blended science with touch. Critical elements of the environment, vineyard, microflora, winery process literally being put under the microscope. The purpose not to make technical wine, but, to prevent issues by having an in-depth scientific understanding thereby avoiding the use of technology to fix problems.
He initiated The Soldera Award, to support young research all over the world investigating critical aspects of wine production, such is the extent to which he believes in understanding the science of grapes and wine.
A Great Wine – By Gianfranco Soldera
You can tell a great wine by its harmony, elegance, complexity and naturalness.
This means balance and proportion, refinement and manifold sensation of aroma and taste. It means using mature, healthy grapes, transformed naturally into alcohol, following their natural process, with no chemical products or colouring added.
A great wine gives satisfaction, a sense of well-being, the desire to drink it again; it creates and increases conviviality and friendship. It is unique, rare, typical and long-lived. In it you can recognize its micro-territory, the vineyard it hails from. The wine from the Instistieti cru, for example, is different from the wine that comes from the Case Basse vineyard although no distance at all separates them.
A great wine cannot be substituted, because it has unique features, like any work of art. I sold not one bottle of 1989 vintage because I did consider it up to my usual high standards of quality.
A great wine is rare, the tip of the pyramid of around 20 billion bottles produced around the world every year. No more than 50 or 60 thousand of them will ever reach the top.
A great wine is long-lived: it must improve, at least in the first twenty years, and give different sensation as time passes. It is the only natural food product that has a longer life-span than a man’s.
All these features raise the production costs considerably – and the price – of a great wine. But any product which has similar worth is never going to come cheap. Beauty and excellence take time, experience and large investments.
I produce an average of 15 thousand bottles a year. But I drastically reduce that number if, because of bad weather condition during the season, the grape harvest is not up to scratch. Out of 30 vintages, 27 have been excellent: a record. The best of the lot, historic, is 1979’s.
Wine is however and always will be subjectivity: the same bottle can be worth 500 euros to one person and not even 1 euro to another.
The 2013 Vintage
Where in the World is Soldera?
Case Basse estate, in the Brunello subzone of Tavernelle, southwest of Montalcino itself. As Kerin O’Keefe explains in her Brunello di Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines (2012), this area, especially around the small church of Santa Restituta [around which Gaja’s Brunello holdings are planted], has long been recognized as a source of outstanding Sangiovese:
“Averaging between 300 and 350m (984 and 1,148ft) above sea level, fresh nocturnal breezes cool down hot daytime temperatures during the growing season, generating aromas and complexity. The vineyards are also elevated far enough above damaging spring and autumn frost and fog, but when compared to higher areas are just low enough to enjoy warmer temperatures that guarantee more consistent ripening. In fact, most producers in this area feel they have the best of everything: perfect altitude combined with complex and predominantly rocky, well-draining soils as well as warmer temperatures.”
I will simply make two points: 1. Do not drink it with too many people; 2. Make sure you reserve 8 hours to enjoy it!