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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Neil Beckett

The Brunello di Montalcino consorzio was too conservative in its official rating of the recently released 1999 vintage, according to its director Stefano Campatelli. Speaking to Harpers at the first large trade tasting of the vintage, in London on 12 January, when 44 producers were directly represented, he said that four stars was too conservative, and that the only reason it had not been awarded five stars (the maximum) was that it had not been rated quite so highly as the spectacular 1997. He said that with hindsight the 1998 should have been rated at three and a half rather than four stars, musing that the consorzio should maybe work on a ten-star system in future. Describing both the quality and style as being between 1997 and 1998', Campatelli said that prices (an issue since the steep rises of the mid-1990s) were likely to remain stable, with little or no increase on those for 1998, which were lower than those for 1997. Alluding to the high cost of maturing the wines for at least four years, as well as to the expenditure in both the vineyards and wineries over the past few years, he said that most of the investment is now behind the producers, and they have reached a kind of balance'. He said that exports to the US had continued to grow, but expressed the fear that the weakness of the dollar against the euro could be a problem in future'. Campatelli also welcomed the additional responsibility acquired by the Brunello consorzio in October 2003 under the Erga Omnes legislation, whereby the Ministry of Agriculture delegates a greater regulatory role to consorzi where more than 66% of producers are members. (With the recruitment of Biondi-Santi this year, 100% of producers are now members of the Brunello consorzio.) He said that previously the division of responsibilities among the region (Tuscany), the province (Siena) and the consorzio had been unclear, and that the highest priority was to secure the traceability of the wines.