The why, the what and the how of...
At times controversial but a perfectionist in the truest sense of the word, Gianfranco Soldera was famous for taking his own ingredients to restaurants, designing his own wine glasses, and believing French soil is “only good for growing potatoes”.
Established in the early 1970s by Gianfranco and Graziella Soldera, Case Basse is a 23-hectare estate in the southwest area of Montalcino, where Sangiovese Grosso vines are grown to produce their famous wine. Their daughter, Monica, is now also completely involved in the estate after Gianfranco passed away in February 2019. She is supported by her husband Paolo and brother Mauro. The 9 hectares of vines are suitably placed on high-altitude, south facing slopes with a dry and sunny climate, which give their vines excellent conditions to flourish.
Taking a more technical approach to their farming techniques, the vineyards and the wines are subject to continuous study by the agriculture faculties of various universities. An electronic switchboard constantly monitors climate changes over the course of the year, reporting temperature, humidity and quantity of rain. Daily controls during the wine-making stage are performed by the microbiology department of the University of Florence. The same faculty studies and controls all phases of the production cycle, monitoring the wine all the way from grape, to bottle, to palate.
One cannot talk about Soldera without mentioning the incredible 2-hectare botanical garden that surrounds the estate, which the family believes has helped create a complex ecosystem in which the vines can thrive. A real garden of Eden and the 1,500 different kinds of antique roses attests to this.
In spite of their high-tech approaches, the vineyards are managed with a respect for traditional rules. The vineyards are kept small to permit manual cultivation and to allow for a speedy harvest. The vines are pruned short in the winter, with another green pruning during the growing season. Grape thinning and limited leaf-stripping in the autumn provide more light for the grape clusters and excellent fruit ripening. No herbicides are used, and each row of vines is cultivated by hand.
Once in the cellar (14 metres underground), grapes are destemmed and natural fermentation using indigenous yeasts takes place in large 15,000-litre Slavonian oak vats. Fermentation lasts up to a month, using only the free-run juice. Aging takes place in 25-hectolitre Slavonian oak, in some cases for up to six years and more. The winery’s underground location allows for natural circulation of air and keeps the humidity at a constant 85%. Production is around 15,000 bottles a year.
Soldera’s key philosophy is “if you want to make the best, time is the most important element.” This philosophy, in both vineyard and cellar, has given birth to one of the most genuine, complex and delicate expressions of Sangiovese in Tuscany today.