Recapturing the vibe (Montalcino, Italy – Day Two)

It’s such a relief to simply be in holiday mode after most of the past 14 months have been spent not only travelling but researching and arranging appointments and then writing as much as I can. I have joined my parents who have flown up from Melbourne for us to travel in Italy for my last six weeks in Europe. Not only is this a great experience for me not having seen them for over 14 months, but also my mother brought me as a baby to Italy for five months whilst she worked on her masters in a dialect from Campania. I may have mentioned in a post back in April that I was actually returning to Italy after almost 30 years, and now my mother and I are reunited in Italy as well. As I am travelling I won’t be doing much writing in the hope of making the most of the trip with my parents, but they are interested to visit a few wineries whilst we are here so I will write about them. I raved to them about how beautiful Montalcino was, and as we were staying a few nights in Siena to the north and we were passing through, I made an appointment to a winery that I didn’t visit when I was here before.

Poggio di Sotto

I spent five days in Tuscany back in April which is nowhere near enough, in fact it wouldn’t be enough just for Chianti let alone San Gimigniano, Scansano, Bolgheri, Maremma, Montepulciano and Montalcino as well. I did manage to get out to the coast to Bolgheri so I could visit Grattamacco which is my favourite ‘super tuscan’ from this region (mostly because it is one of the few I have been able to taste), and I was hosted by the winemaker Luca Marrone. Luca is the group winemaker for Collemassari who also own Grattamacco and Poggio di Sotto in Montalcino, and thus Luca asked if I was visiting the Montalcino estate. Knowing I was coming back to Montalcino I was really happy to get in contact with Luca to try and visit, and I fortunately this was possible at a very quiet time of the year. We were welcomed by Chiara Antoni who handles the marketing and communications and she gave me the GPS coordinates for the winery just outside of Castelnuovo dell’Abate which is about 10km away from the Montalcino village. After stopping for lunch at San Giorgio where I had eaten last time I was here, we trekked off and almost didn’t find the winery as it is perched on top of the hill and the entrance isn’t signed. The view is astonishingly beautiful and luckily the rain from earlier in the day had subsided so that we could get photos like this.

The view from Poggio di Sotto

Poggio di Sotto was established back in 1989 during the boom in Montalcino when many new estates were created or old estates were re-established. The original owner sold the estate to Collemassari a few years ago and they decided not to change anything. There is very little reason to do so, as the estate is in great condition. On the 32 hectares of property they have 10 hectares of sangiovese which are organically farmed to exclusively produce Brunello di Montalcino. The remaining land is used for some olive trees that are used to produce olive oil, the winery itself and the rest to natural vegetation.

A combination of oak and stainless steel fermenters are used

From the beginning the philosophy was very traditional, and as such small format French oak casks were eschewed for 1200 litre Hungarian oak Veneto coopered old barrels. Yields are cut back by 50% as is the fashion in Montalcino with very careful fruit selection made in the vineyards before it is brought in and gently de-stemmed and crushed. After a gentle fermentation and extended maceration at natural temperatures with only pump-overs, the wine is transported through gravity down to the barrels where it stays there for the aging. It is only after this initial assemblage and aging that the wines are then classified into Rosso, Brunello and Brunello Riserva, which is a little different to the more common practice of classifying before or during fermentation. All these practices combine to create a very delicate fresh yet refined and elegant wine that in my opinion better expresses the soils and the vintage than wines that have more done to them in the cellar. The 2007 wines we tasted were exceptional, but it is in the tougher vintages that a wine like this truly shines. I just hope that in the future I can have an opportunity to taste the 2006 or 2010 wines. Click here to read my tasting notes.

Large oak casks for the maturation of the sangiovese

Click here to see more photos from my second day in Montalcino, albeit about seven months from the first day.

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