Gianfranco Soldera helped pioneer Brunello’s “new wave,” founding his Case Basse estate in 1972. By the early 1980s his intensely concentrated, yet highly aromatic, Brunellos were already turning heads; yet, production of just a few hundred bottles kept the lid on his reputation until the stakes were raised with his 1990’s. Soldera has been famous over the years for his “rules.”
It’s long been said that he will welcome your visit to his Case Basse estate only if you share his “production and sales philosophy of enlightened agriculture.” He will sell wine to you, but only if you are approved because you “share the principles that have inspired his entrepreneurial policy.” Skeptics are unwelcome.
His methods for restricting his yields are state-of-the art: short pruning in the winter, a green pruning in the summer, and grape thinning and limited leaf stripping in the fall to maximize ultimate ripening. But in the cellar, he sounds more like Giovanni Conterno or Bruno Giacosa. While the modern-era Montalcino has seen a rush to French barrique and less time in wood, Soldera continues to age his Brunello for five years in large Slavonian oak tanks and vats, much as Biondi Santi might have done in their glory years. In fact, when you ask him who the other great Italian winemakers are, they are virtually all names from the past, including the fathers of Conterno and Gaja. Soldera’s wines combine great concentration, richness and aromatic complexity with classic structure. They truly are the elite wines of Montalcino and Italy.