To say that I came late to knowing Soldera is an understatement. I’ve heard of the name, uttered in passing but never sought it out until now. This dinner was supposed to have been attended by Monica Soldera, though with Gianfranco Soldera’s sudden passing, she understandably could not make it to Hong Kong.
I always admired someone who sticks to their own guns and you cannot a more emblematic winemaker than Gianfranco. A stickler to his own philosophy and a perfectionist’s zeal, he has elevated Brunello di Montalcino to new heights. He has persevered even after setbacks such as the vandalism scandal in 2012, where barrels storing vintages 2007-2012 were emptied, and his eventual break from the association in 2013. 2013 is the first vintage in which production levels are back to normal, however it does not mean that you should drag your feet into getting a case with Gianfranco’s passing. His attention to detail (such as the design of the cork and the bottle) and demands on himself are equally admirable.
The wines of the night were a line up of vintages 1994, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2013. Although quite used to drinking verticals of a singular, never before have I seen such dramatic changes across vintages before. It is clear there are decisive stylistic changes as oppose to the quality of the harvest or vintage, as he varied between uses in oak, time spent in oak etc. He is a meticulous and sensitive man, so it is to no surprise he was forever evolving. That said, sadly I cannot find enough information on the precise periods which he pursue a particular style, for how long and/or for what motivations. Nevertheless, the wines seem to speak for themselves.
To Gianfranco, I wish I could have gotten to know you better but am grateful to be an acquaintance through your wines.
Toscana Sangiovese IGT Case Basse di Gianfranco Soldera 2013: Despite 2013 being a ripe vintage in Tuscany, the elegance, finesse and readiness associated with Soldera is here. Pretty wafts of violet and plum opens readily and the tannin seamlessly coats the mouth. However it is easy to think that this is all the wine can offer — which to be fair tastes like great well rounded Burgundy. However its Tuscan rustic characters are reveal themselves after opening the wines for a while with the signature herbal sweetness and spice showing through. Definitely a wine that can be drunk young but also one to keep.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse Gianfranco Soldera 2004: This was hands d0wn WOTN, by good measure. Why? It has the prettiness of 2013 crossed with the depth and personality of the 1994. It is a total babe of a wine that has more up her sleeve than the way she looks. Liquorice, tobacco and mint all on the first whiff however the palate takes you away with its rich plum-iness. One of the finest examples of Soldera you will ever find.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse Gianfranco Soldera 2001: Many that night enjoyed the 2001 over to the 2000 but personally thought they were quite similar. This was a big and powerful upon opening, which reminds me of a Bordeaux. Even with some minerality, it lacks the complexity of the 2013, 2004 and 1994.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse Gianfranco Soldera 2000: Ditto with the above, not at all a bad wine but nothing to write much on. Rustic, sweet and gigantic.
Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse Gianfranco Soldera 1994: Only managed to have a small taste but it was enough to make an impression. Beautiful yet intense bouquet of plum, spice and herbal notes. However the palate blows you away with its intensity and exceptional depth. The layers of dark plum, cherry, violet and a certain sweet elegance slowly unfolded in the mouth a good hand of cards. Beautiful and still with ageing potential.