Soldera Case Basse 100% Sangiovese 2016
94 points - Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, January 2022
One of Italy's most sought-after and collectible unicorn wines, the Soldera Case Basse 2016 100% Sangiovese is mysterious, illusive and hard to find. From a classic vintage, the wine's personality is extremely delicate and ethereal, following lock in step with the house style passionately promoted and secured by the late Gianfranco Soldera. The man himself, remembered as an outspoken genius who made invaluable contributions to the Brunello di Montalcino appellation, died in 2019. This vintage was made under his watchful eye, and it ties in nicely with recent past releases of this wine (once a Brunello) now labeled rather matter-of-factly (and with a tinge of provocation) 100% Sangiovese. The bouquet offers wild cherry, blue flower, candied orange peel and hints of rusty nail. The mouthfeel is polished, fine and silky. There is a hint of iodine or medicinal gel that will not appeal to everyone, but then again, beauty is sometimes found in the unexpected.
Italian wine lost one of its most talented and outspoken winemakers, Gianfranco Soldera, on February 16, 2019. He suffered a heart attack in his car on the road to his beloved Case Basse estate in Montalcino, Tuscany. He was 82. Known for his strong views and uncompromising style, Soldera earned a loyal following among the world’s greatest collectors of fine wine for his Brunello di Montalcino and his Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Case Basse. His best vintages, such as 1979, 1982, 1990, 1995 and 1999, represent a pinnacle of achievement for the appellation and for Sangiovese. Gianfranco Soldera was born in 1937 in the northern town of Treviso. He grew up in Italy’s banking capital of Milan and eventually became an insurance broker. In 1972, he moved to Tuscany and purchased the 23-hectare Case Basse property in Montalcino. He planted Sangiovese vines in 1972 and 1973 and immediately set out to make a noninterventionist’s style of Brunello guided by strict adherence to Tuscan winemaking traditions. His first bottled wine was produced in the 1975 vintage, and the first vintage of Case Basse Brunello di Montalcino was 1977 (released in 1982). Soldera continued to make Brunello di Montalcino until the 2006 vintage. Later, he would declassify his latest vintages to Toscana IGP 100% Sangiovese. Gianfranco Soldera is survived by his children, Monica and Mauro, his grandchildren and his wife, Graziella. His daughter Monica was kind enough to answer the following five questions: 1. Gianfranco Soldera died three years ago. What changes have been made in the vineyards and at the winery since then? My family follows the same farming, production philosophies and practices that were started by my father. Our past experiences teach us that we never cease to learn and adopt to changes related to the evolution of nature, the climate and the differences in the growing seasons. With the support of researchers and their studies, we continue our work with passion and focus, but nothing has changed. There are no changes to winemaking, and there have been no new wines introduced besides our Toscana IGP 100% Sangiovese. We continue the approach we have always followed, and using an outside professional consultant is not part of the plan. All winemaking decisions are made in the family. Everyone is involved. My mother oversees the botanical garden, I am estate manager and my husband, Paolo, is in charge of production. My brother, Mauro, and my sister-in-law, Valeria, are always at our side but are also involved in their own professions. Each one of us is tasked with his or her responsibilities, and each has his or her personality. Teamwork is what characterizes this new chapter since the death of our founder. 2. What are the vintages that had the strongest pull on your father’s heartstrings? Each vintage is unique and memorable on its own merits. The 1979 and the 1999 vintages were celebrated thanks to the special bond my father felt for them, but there are others. I remember that he always showed special pride for the challenging years, like the recent 2002 and 2003 vintages, that allowed him to experiment with and strengthen the values of the Case Basse terroir, the soils, the microclimate and the importance of viticultural and winemaking protocols based on low yields, hands-on farming, natural fermentations and the use of large Slavonian oak botti. 3. The “Soldera style” represents the essence of Montalcino tradition and Sangiovese purity. What inspired your father to set his sights on this style with such steadfast dedication from the very beginning (and much before most of his peers)? A significant moment for my father was when he observed others drinking his wines; his eyes would shine with pleasure knowing that he could offer them a memorable experience. Conviviality and the joy of living life to the fullest, enjoying the beauty of music, art, literature, food and wine is what inspired him. Everything that characterizes Case Basse and its production is fruit of his choices, small and large, and there are too many to list. His passion for this estate and his dedication to his work was all-consuming. He recognized the value of the extraordinary patrimony of the Montalcino territory and of Sangiovese. He often remarked that the breathtaking beauty of the view of Case Basse from the road gave him the same joy he felt the first time he saw it in 1972. Curiosity and amazement for the wonders of nature are what guided him. 4. Instead of Brunello di Montalcino, the estate now makes Toscana IGP 100% Sangiovese. Do you think you will ever return to Brunello DOCG? The decision represents an emphasis on the Soldera style, and it came about after much consideration and input from our clients who appreciate the typicity of our wines. If you consider the core values of the estate as I have described them above, you can see that the decision is a coherent one. The aim is to highlight what makes us unique within the context of Montalcino and the outstanding identity this territory gives to its many expressions of Sangiovese. For those looking for a wine that satisfies their personal taste, Montalcino offers enormous range to its greatest admirers. 5. A new chapter started at Case Basse three years ago after the death of your father. Where do you see the estate in the next three years? My family has a long-term vision for Case Basse that extends far beyond three years, and what we see for ourselves in the future continues on ideals instilled by my father and mother. Our founding principles will be protected, and we will continue to learn—we will enhance the values of our terroir, we will continue to develop our skills and we will make sure that all the instruments in this orchestra continue to play in harmony, even when a new generation is called up to the stage. - Monica Larner