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Montalcino Accused of Selling Out To Foreign Investors

L-R: The cellars at Argiano; the estate pictured at night; Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano
© Argiano S.p.A. Società Agricola | L-R: The cellars at Argiano; the estate pictured at night; Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano
Reports are emerging that Brazilians have taken over Brunello producer Argiano — and it's not to everyone's liking.

The new owner of historic Montalcino estate Argiano is rumored to be a group of Brazilian investors who have paid around 40-50 million euros ($53.8-67.2m), according to the latest reports from Italy.

The 100-hectare estate has been in the hands of Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano since 1992. Italian website Winenews.it reports that she now wishes to concentrate her efforts on her Argentine venture, Bodega Noemia in Patagonia.

The estate, which was implicated in the Brunellogate affair, produces 337,000 bottles annually, of which 100,000 qualify for Brunello di Montalcino DOCG status.

“I have left the future of the wine cellar to people that love Brunello di Montalcino,” explained Noemi Marone Cinzano in a letter sent to employees and business partners, seen by Winenews.

However, Italian wine expert and journalist Franco Ziliani has expressed concern on his blog that Brunello di Montacino is losing its cultural identity by selling its soul to foreigners. In December, an Argentine billionaire purchased vineyard land from Fattoria dei Barbi for a reported 15 million euros ($20.2m).

He is concerned that foreign investors in the region are only in Montalcino to make money and will sell the businesses on once they have made a good return – or when they realize that the wine business is not always profitable.

The new general manager of Argiano, Giorgio Gabelli, has responded to Ziliani's criticism, claiming that the new owners are keen to uphold the region's traditions.

"The investors have told me that they are coming here with good intentions of renewing the tradition of Montalcino wines, which, thanks to non-indigenous grapes has been made less serious and been corrupted by production of wines that were easy to sell," he explained. this was presumably a reference to the addition of international varieties to sangiovese to suit the international palate, which led to the Brunellogate scandal.

The owner of Fattoria dei Barbi, Stefano Cinelli Colombini, has also become involved in the online exchanges, claiming that both locals and newcomers who come to Montalcino to "defend the region's traditions and the purity of sangiovese" are welcome.

"Do not look at the arrival of outside investors as negative, as long as they respect and love our earth," he declared.

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