The following post is the first in a series of the “Ten Days that Shook the World of Brunello di Montalcino.” Each post will appear in tandem with the Italian version on the popular Italian wine blog Intravino (click here for the Italian).
I thought it might be fun to tell you the story of the “ten days that shook the world” of Brunello di Montalcino: The ten events that made our great Sangiovese the grape that it is today. No one remembers them anymore. Perhaps it’s because people prefer fairytales.
Let’s start with 1980.
The year 1980 is a pivotal one for Montalcino. That year, three events in particular revolutionized the economic and social balance of the appellation. They created the basis for a new model of wine production that would be imitated, with varying success, across Italy. The so-called “Montalcino model” would become a tangled and fertile web of high-priced wines, wine tourism, legend, culture, and tradition. Ultimately, per capita, the model would make Montalcino’s wine industry the most lucrative on the planet.
In 1980, without any planning or coordination, a number of Montalcino residents set into motion a series of unprecedented events. It was an incredible explosion of creativity, especially when you consider that it emerged from a community that so many believe to be rustic and uncultured — something that is obviously not true.
In July 1980, Brunello became Italy’s first DOCG. News of the appellation’s elevation would have gone largely unnoticed if it hadn’t been for the Brunello growers consortium and the township’s municipal government who actively contacted and invited hundreds of trade members to the area. Every publication was furnished with material and thousands of articles appeared. The effect on wine sales was incredible. At the time, no other wine-producing area was interacting with media the way we were.
It was the first time in Italy that an entire appellation presented itself as a unified force and the open collaboration was unrivalled at the time — another revolutionary factor.
That same summer, the first “Festival dell’Attore” (Actors Festival) was conceived and organized by Paolo Coccheri with the support of Montalcino township. Over the years, he would bring some of the world’s greatest stars to the appellation, like Ingmar Bergman, Andrei Tarkovsky, Liliana Cavani, Lindsay Kemp, Nino Manfredi, Mario Luzi, Marcello Mastroianni, Giorgio Albertazzi, Glauco Mauri, Maurizio Scaparro, Monica Vitti, Mariangela Melato, Paolo Poli, Cathy Berberian, Andrzej Wajda, and many others.
It was that year that Montalcino had its first substantive influx of tourists. The pairing of culture, tradition, wine, and an extraordinary landscape soon began to attract a tide of visitors. At the time, it was the only place that offered so many attractions. It was simply a matter of letting people know and the flow has never stopped.
Stefano Cinelli Colombini