Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meeting Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli in San Gimignano

Elisabetta Fagiuoli from Montenidoli San Gimignano
Me & Elisabetta Fagiuoli
If I could visit wineries in Italy every day meeting the winemakers, sampling the wines and touring the land I would be a happy lady, but the second best thing is meeting the winemakers when they visit locally. My most recent tasting I had the pleasure to meet Elisabetta Fagiuoli, the owner and winemaker of Montenidoli in San Gimignano, Tuscany whom was visiting the Pairings wine shop in Winchester, MA where they always host great events and opportunities such as this. This entertaining and charismatic woman at the age of 77 had such vibrancy when discussing her wines and vineyard that she referenced as her “big garden”. Funny, but my garden looks nothing like hers!
Elisabetta started her organic winery in 1965, but the estate dates back to the 1700's. She also operates an agriturismo there, equivalent to our B&B's, along with running the vineyard. Lots of work, but when you love what you do the passion takes over. Her excitement about the way she takes care of her “garden” was very evident. She doesn't cut branches or green harvest and her vineyard has dense plantings. Green harvesting is when you cut some of the more unripe grape clusters in order to allow the others to fully ripen, which decreases the yield of the grapes, but helps winemakers to get their desired quality that they are looking for. The reason that Elisabetta doesn't green harvest is because it causes the vines to struggle forcing them to deepen their roots in the soil creating more complexities in the wine. The soil in her vineyard is clay and very fallow containing shells left behind from the Ligurian Sea providing minerals to the soil.

Elisabetta, with her crew of about 10-12 workers annually and 30-35 workers during harvest, hand pick all the grapes and produce about 10,000 cases annually. I sampled 6 of their wines that night and wanted to discuss a few of my favorites, which were the 2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia, the 2011 Montenidoli Colorino and lastly the 2005 Sono Montenidoli.

2011 Montenidoli Tradizionale Vernaccia di San GimignanoStarting with white I compared her 2011 Tradizionale Vernaccia DOCG, which I enjoyed more than the 2011 Montenidoli Fiore Vernaccia DOCG, both of these being made 100% of the vernaccia grape. The difference between these two is that the Tradizionale is macerated with the skins and then fully pressed, where the Fiore is about ½ the production and is just the must and free run juice, which isn't pressed. The Fiore had a nice elegance and finesse and showcased more fruit where the Tradizionale was drier, but I enjoy this style of Vernaccia.
2011 Montenidoli Colorino San Gimignano

For reds I had the 2011 Montenidoli Colorino, which was 100% colorino. These colorino vines were planted at the winery in 2006 with its first release in 2012. This wine was actually sold out for the night temporarily, but I was still able to sample it. It is aged 12 months in barrels. The colorino had good body with very noticeable cassis on the palate with a little dryness and tannin creating a very approachable and enjoyable wine. Colorino is a lesser known grape that is usually added to chianti for its deep color, but stands very well on its own in this wine.

2005 Sono Montenidoli sangiovese
The last red wine that Elisabetta called the “big baby” was the 2005 Sono Montenidoli made of 100% sangiovese. Definitely the highlight of the reds and comes from Elisabetta's best sangiovese grapes. It is aged 12 months in barrels and another 3 years in the bottle. It had such structure and power and even though it was a 2005, it was still younger and has such aging potential. It was fuller bodied with lots of fruit present as well as tannin and had such a long lived finish.

It was such a pleasure to meet Elisabetta and share in the works of her passion. Have you ever visited Montenidoli or tasted Elisabetta's wines?