. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Did you know...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Did you know...

...that in Montalcino in the late 70s the Mariani brothers, owners of Banfi, asked all the farmers in the area to plant Moscadello instead of Sangiovese?
The story of the Mariani in Montalcino is controversial, as their influence could have had a significant destructive effect on one of the best wines in the world - the Brunello di Montalcino.
In the late 70s, John and Henry Mariani bought 1,800 hectares in southwest part of Montalcino, a property that would soon expand to 2,830 hectares. They also built a humongous cellar and restored the castle for a cost of 200 billion of the old Lire. The two brothers made their fortune selling Lambrusco in the States, and their business plan was concentrated in making Moscadello frizzante, a sweet slightly fizzy white wine, and selling it in the USA to reply to the success of the Lambrusco.
They planted 350 Hectares with Moscadello, which is a marginal grape for Montalcino's climate and soils. They also made mistakes in choosing the training system for the vines, selecting one that didn't allowed the grapes to be exposed to the sun. And worst of all, they even asked the other growers, during an open city board meeting, to replace their Sangiovese in favor of the Moscadello, promising to buy the grapes from them. If it hadn't been for people like Piero Talenti, who at the time was in charge of Il Poggione, Franco Biondi Santi and many others who refused the offer, Brunello di Montalcino may have ceased to exist - forever. But because those that loved and had a much better understanding of the area kept their Sangiovese, one of Tuscany's signature wines remains intact.
The story's aftermath tells us that the steadfast Tuscan farmers were right to keep their Sangiovese. The Mariani brothers couldn't really sell much of their formerly promising sparkling wine, and eventually eradicated the Moscadello and planted Sangiovese.
Today Banfi is the biggest producer in Montalcino. Their lands are in the lowest and the flattest part of Montalcino, which is not ideal in any way for vineyards. Yet still, they are known around the world to be synonymous with Brunello di Montalcino, even though they tried to wipe out the Sangiovese, the very grapes used to create Brunello.
That is why I usually choose not to comment when I hear about how much good Banfi did for Montalcino, and for the promotion of Brunello di Montalcino around the world. While all of that might just as well be true, the fact remains: if it had been left up to the Mariani brothers, we would not have any Brunello today, whatsoever.
Buona Bevuta a Tutti

5 comments:

Domenico said...

Maybe you should have them talk to
Ruffino, Gabrio. They are kicking ass and making Banfi lick it up.

I [heart] Carlo.

De Vino said...

Yes I notice yours and Terry's unusual affection for Carlo...

Anonymous said...

The Mariani brothers were trying to make money, so they embarked on a venture that failed - big deal! It didn't work, they moved on, and now we can all enjoy Brunello. I don't drink Banfi, but it seems the Marianis were at least trying to try something new and take a risk...not always a hallmark of the Italian wine industry. By the way, I found that MANY Tuscans have this attitude where they dislike the big success story - many people in Tuscany will criticize Biondi-Santi in favor of Soldera, instead of finding pride in their success.

James Koch said...

I came across your blog while do some research for my "Lambrusco Chronicles" (http://www.prontolambrusco.com/lambrusco-chronicles.html). WOW, quite a story!

James Koch said...

...while doing...