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Letters: In defence of Suolo

Published:  18 January, 2007

I write in response to the column by Nicolas Belfrage MW and Franco Ziliani in Harpers (9 September). As a winemaker,
I absolutely respect everyone's right to judge a wine organoleptically in their own way, and if the authors of the column feel that Tenuta di Argiano's IGT Rosso Suolo wine (the 2002) has been drowned in international-oak aromas', then who am I to disagree, even though my winemaking style (if you can call it that) is to try to favour fruit flavours over those of wood, something I learnt from my winemaker father [Peter Vinding-Diers], who was recently described, in Monty Waldin's Biodynamic Wines (Mitchell Beazley), as habitually using less new wood than is found in the veneered dashboards of most company cars'.

However, for the authors named above to use Suolo and its perceived deficiencies as a touchstone to illustrate why Super-Tuscans are being rejected by the public' is confusing, when Belfrage and Ziliani castigate modern Super-Tuscans for being based on international grapes'. Suolo is made from two plots of grapes at Tenuta di Argiano called Oliviera (near the villa) and Vignoni Fornace on the northern, or Montalcino, side of the estate and containing our oldest vines (planted in the 1950s). Both plots, and therefore Suolo, contain only Sangiovese vines, so a less international' Tuscan wine would be hard to find. Consistency, it seems, is as elusive a commodity for us winemakers as it is for some wine critics. Both Ziliani and Belfrage have argued consistently against the arrival of international grapes in Tuscany in their Harpers column (I remember Belfrage coming to blows with David Gleave MW at least once in your letters page over this issue), so it is something of a shock each year to see Belfrage recommending, in the top 10s of his chapter in Tom Stevenson's Wine Report (published annually by Dorling Kindersley), so many Tuscan wineries and wines that rely on the likes of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah. It is also, I believe, disingenuous of Mr Belfrage in particular to recommend Tuscan wineries in his column as paradigms of the Super-Tuscan phenomenon in which he has had, and may continue to have, a commercial interest. I look forward to welcoming Nick Belfrage and Franco Ziliani back to Tenuta di Argiano in the future, so I can show them how we are attempting to take our Suolo project (which dates from 2000) even further forward, by instigating a biodynamic trial that, we hope, will give us deeper rooting vines below ground and more erect canopies above ground and, therefore, red-wine grapes displaying minerality as well as fruit - thus our commitment to making Suolo taste as faithful as possible to its terroir.

Hans Vinding-Diers