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In defence of our column

Published:  18 January, 2007

In response to Hans Vinding-Diers' letter on the subject of Super-Tuscans (Harpers, 14 October), we did not, in the context of Tuscany, confine the definition of international' to wines containing French grapes, but extended it also to wines in which the oak character seems dominant over that of the fruit (like, in our view, Suolo, which we indicated is 100% Sangiovese). So we see no inconsistency' there.

As for the shock' of our (not just Belfrage's) recommendation of certain international'-style wines in Tom Stevenson's Wine Report, we perhaps should have made it more clear that we do not reject such wines. Indeed, we regard them as potentially deeply impressive, monumental at times - not easily drinkable, too expensive, and not typically Tuscan, perhaps, but very much some people's cup of tea, which we also have to respect and recognise.

Finally, the old chestnut of Belfrage's commercial interests, acting as he does/I do as a broker specialising in Italian wines. I tried to deal with this at some length in my introduction to Brunello to Zibibbo (Mitchell Beazley), pointing out that, as others have said, writing about wine by people with commercial interests has a long and honourable history. I also stated my view that it would be a great shame if the practice were to be booed down, seeing as the commercial hacks often have more insight into certain aspects of wine than pure journalists, by virtue of their trade. If I, or people of my ilk, had to point out every time we write something that we have a commercial interest in wine, it would quickly get boring. We must rely on our readers' trust in our integrity when wearing the journalist's hat.

By the way, I have no commercial interest in the wines recommended in the column, with one minuscule exception. If I were barred from mentioning Flaccianello by some strict code of conduct, it would hardly be fair on Flaccianello, as it would on countless wines that I have sold in a longish career as a retailer, wholesaler and broker. Indeed, if past involvement is to be taken into account, it should be pointed out that I was once upon a time the agent for Argiano, whose villa, incidentally, was beautifully displayed on the original cover of Brunello to Zibibbo.

Anyway, Franco (who was actually the one who visited Argiano, and who has no commercial interests) and I look forward to taking up Mr Vinding-Diers's invitation to Argiano, when perhaps we will be obliged to eat, or drink, our words. At the present price, however, we won't be buying it.

Nicolas Belfrage MW and Franco Ziliani