Monica Soldera Interview

By Gavin Smith

Soldera is one of Italy’s most iconic and best-loved wines amongst aficionados and collectors across the globe. In top vintages it remains the absolute benchmark for Sangiovese par excellence. There are few wines in the world that can achieve the same level of ethereal beauty found in Soldera.

Soldera has always been a family affair and, following the passing of founder and guiding light Gianfranco Soldera in February last year, the remaining family members have continued his work, adhering to his strict philosophy and methods in the vineyard and winery.

Prior to the upcoming release of the long anticipated 2015 vintage we caught up with Gianfranco’s daughter Monica Soldera who, alongside her husband Paolo, has worked with her father at the estate since 2003.

The Soldera Philosophy

The Soldera story starts with the winery, Case Basse. “Its foundation is built on the history and heritage of the family", says Monica, "focused on love for nature, passion for food and wine, and pleasure of knowledge. Nowadays Case Basse follows this path thanks to the help and personality of my mum, my brother Mauro and his wife Valeria, me and my husband Paolo.

Elegance, perfume and balance have always been at the heart of Soldera from the outset. This has been achieved through a combination of factors synonymous with fine wine production: extremely low yields, strict grape selection at harvest and the all-important terroir which is so well suited to growing Sangiovese (including not only the soil but all the natural influences specific to the estate such as climate, exposure and elevation). In addition to this, Soldera has always operated under a philosophy that the family refer to as “fine-tuning”.

This fine-tuning approach at Soldera has seen the estate go into minute detail in both the vineyard and winery to improve the quality of the wines. For example, the de-stemming of the grapes is done in a special machine that safeguards the integrity of the berries and enables their selection according to size. Berries are then checked manually, one by one, before being transferred directly into 100-quintal (10,000kg) oak fermenters for natural fermentation. Movement, racking of the wine, is not practised unless absolutely necessary and the wines are aged in large old Slovenian oak casks for around four years before the wines are bottled direct from cask, completely unfiltered.

Fine-tuning also amounts to extensive research carried out at the property. Monica explains, "There are two souls at Soldera: the first is very traditional in its work in the vineyard and in its winemaking processes but the other soul is academic". Soldera has become a beacon of research in the region, commissioning in-depth studies from researchers on the soils, clones and climate within the property.

Monica says that climate change in the last ten years has been very noticeable and therefore it has never been more important to understand nature. She says, “Nature gives you a lot of signals but you need to understand what those signals are telling you.” Without research and a deeper understanding of their environment, many farmers might use aggressive methods to combat problems in the vineyard which cause more damage. “If you are scared, you act aggressively. If you are attentive to nature, it gives you confidence and you can work to protect it”.

The research continues today culminating in grants awarded to researchers who use the Case Basse vineyard to carry out their studies. This year they celebrated the tenth anniversary of 'The International Soldera Case Basse Award for Young Researchers', awarded by a commission of six agricultural professors and experts. Candelaria Castello Lloret was awarded the top prize in 2019 for her research titled 'Metabolomics characterisation of a spontaneous vine growth in Case Basse estate, Montalcino'. This type of research has enabled Soldera to continually refine their agricultural work as well as providing data for agricultural practices more generally.

The presentation of the International Soldera Case Basse Award for Young Researchers in Rome

2019 Harvest

The 2019 harvest was the first at the estate without founder Gianfranco and therefore a very poignant one for the family: “It was full of emotion and responsibility. However we are really happy with the results and the first evaluation of the wine leads us to believe that Soldera 2019 will be one of the best ever produced at Case Basse."

Monica adds, "We took care of the vineyards, we selected the grapes and we carried out the vinification according to the principles and the practices that we learned from my dad throughout the years. Even though nature can be variable and we must adapt to it. The 2019 growing season has been characterised by a different meteorological trend compared to other recent years: a cold winter with few precipitations followed by a fresh and rainy spring and a hot dry summer which led to high quality grapes very rich in fully ripe tannins, a guarantee for a long lasting wine."

"Meanwhile, 2016, 2017 and 2018 are maturing properly in the cellar and we are monitoring and tasting them regularly with the support of Professor Vincenzini and his team. All of them offer us joy and great emotions that we will share with our customers in the coming years. “

The 2015 Vintage

With the 2015 vintage due to be released in the next few weeks we asked Monica her thoughts on what to expect. She says "It has been a regular year in climate with no particular difficulties in vineyard and vinification. My father said “an easy vintage” which means no challenges in production but joyful in wine. Nature has been generous in 2015 and after having 2014, so difficult in weather, this has been a gift. The 2014 Sangiovese Soldera is thrilling, but the production has been very limited and so we were able to share it in lower quantity with our customers. Coming back to 2015, we think that drinking a wine is a personal and specific experience, nobody is allowed to tell you what you feel in your nose and mouth. At the end, what is worth is if you finish the bottle (not alone!) because you enjoy it. So I do not want to write about perceptions in tasting as a rule. Personally I would say: a rainbow of emotions." The 2015 was exceptional in Brunello di Montalcino more generally. Significantly warmer and drier than the two previous vintages of 2013 and 2014. Production levels were around average for the estate at just over sixteen and a half thousand bottles, up from just under 10,000 in the more difficult 2014 vintage. The wine was aged 45 months in barrel prior to bottling.

If you are interested in an allocation, please get in touch with your Account Manager directly or email wine@frw.co.uk.

The Effects of COVID-19 in Tuscany

In the current climate, we couldn't help but ask how Case Basse is coping with Coronavirus – Italy being one of the worst hit regions in the world. And Monica gave a heartfelt reply:

“Health is the most important treasure. Coronavirus has deeply affected us and the estate in regard to all the measures we have taken since the beginning of the crisis in order to protect the health of people “physically” connected with Case Basse: employees, suppliers, forwarders, etc. At the same time it hasn’t stopped them tending the vineyard."

She goes on to state that “activities in the vineyards and in the cellar proceed normally. In the vineyards we run the usual seasonal operations and in the cellar we focus on arranging orders to be collected (labelling, packing, etc). However all the operations are managed in accordance with the strict regulations required by government rules. In this difficult period we need not only passion and commitment but – more than ever – also communication, care and solidarity. We are keen to maintain close relationships with all the people who are part of the “Case Basse community”, customers included. We can overcome the crisis, but we can do it only together, helping each other also in business.”

To Monica, and all the wider team at Case Basse, we salute your resilience in this difficult time and we hope we can support you as best we can over these challenging months.

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