Famed Italian Winery Hit by Vandals Destroying $25 Million Worth of Wine

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Gianfranco Soldera Photo: Courtesy of Case Basse di Soldera

A highly respected winery in Tavernelle, Italy, south of Montalcino, was the target of a calculated attack on its cellars this week that may have been an act of revenge by rival winemakers who were tired of being bad-mouthed. Case Basse di Soldera is a top producer of Brunello di Montalcino, with bottles of their last vintage (2006) selling for around $300 apiece, and as the New York Times reports, vandals succeeded in opening up vats containing six years' worth of vintages and dumping the wine out onto the floor. The motive for the crime? Estate proprietor Gianfranco Soldera maybe kinda needed to be put in his place.

Soldera has been a strident critic of many of his fellow Brunello producers, some of whom have been advocating different blends and aging processes using French oak that are geared toward appealing to contemporary tastes. Soldera has said that any such techniques are just proof that his competitors have "bad wine" to begin with. Rumor has it that this latest act of vandalism may stem from a 2008 scandal in which Soldera may be seen as to blame for the indictment of several of his rivals for illegally blending unauthorized grapes into their Brunello.

Yes, this is some major wine-world drama unfolding here.

In total, some 62,600 liters, or 84,000 bottles, of Case Basse di Soldera were destroyed, covering vintages from 2007 to 2012 — Soldera is among few producers who age their Brunello upward of five years before even releasing it, thus the huge cache of old wine. No bottles were stolen, adding to the evidence that the crime was not motivated by theft or monetary gain.

Soldera is described as obsessive in his winemaking and self-aggrandizing in the wine-making community, so perhaps his being targeted shouldn't seem so surprising.

Vandals Destroy Prized Brunello di Montalcino Wine [Diner's Journal/NYT]