Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Rising stars from historic estates: Alessia Antinori and Fiorano

On Monday, October 1, I attended a Winemaker's Dinner hosted by Italian Wine Merchants (IWM) and featuring the wines of Bodegas Chacra (Piero Incisa della Rochetta, winemaker) and Fiorano (Alessio Antinori, winemaker).  I discussed the tasting of the Bodegas Chacra offerings in a previous post and will provide the same treatment for the Fiorano offerings in the current.

The Estate

Fiorano, according to Eric Asimov (as cited in IWM Literature and Sergio Esposito's Passion of the Vine), is an estate located on the ancient Via Appia on the outskirts of the city of Rome and in what is today the Latium (Lazio) wine region of Italy.  The estate had been owned and farmed organically by a somewhat reclusive prince named Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi who produced wheat, milk, cheese, and wine on the property.  The estate's wine production was initially limited to regional varietials but, in 1946, the prince ripped out the local varieties and replaced them with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Semillon, and Malvasia Candia, varieties which were non-native and unfashionable in Italian wine-production circles.

Upon the death of the Prince, the estate was caught up in legal wrangling but was eventually inherited by his three granddaughters -- who are also the daughters of Marchese Piero Antinori, head of the famed Florentian wine-producing family -- and they have endeavored to restore it in a manner that reflects operations as they were in the Prince's time.  The goal is to ressurect an organic farm that will produce wine, goats, sheep, and bread.  To date a tank has been built in the former stables and construction has begun on a house.  The current vine inventory stands at four rows each of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The Winemaker

Prince Ludovisi managed the vines of the estate to low yields which, in turn, allowed him to produce small quantities of concentrated, intense wines.  These wines were vinified and aged in large, numbered barrels and bottled unfiltered when a customer made a purchase (Alessia relayed to us that buyers were taken into a room where they paid for the wines that they wanted.  They were locked in that room while the money was taken elsewhere and counted.  Upon the Prince's satisfaction, the customer was then taken to another room where the wines that had been bought changed hands.).  The cellar and its contents were covered in a fine white mold which, the proprietor was convinced, contributed to the quality and uniqueness of the wine.  The Prince's consultant in his efforts was the noted traditionalist -- and famed winemaker in his own right -- Tancredi Biondi-Santi.

Alessia is the youngest of the three Antinori daughters.  In her youth she worked harvests at both the Chianti Classico (Santa Christena) and Umbria (Castello dela Sala) Antinori estates and graduated from the University of Milan in 1998 with a degree in oenology and viticulture.  She worked as an oenologist in the family business upon graduation.  Alessio is currently focused on expanding the reach of Antinori's branded products, with especial emphasis on Asia.  The Antinori daughters are working with Renzo Cotarello -- the Antinori wine director -- on the elaboration of the wine-related aspects of the estate, with a goal of eventually producing 5000 bottles each of primary red and white wines and a second-label red wine.

The Wines

The Fiorano Rosso 1988 Botte #30 and the Fiorano Rosso 2010 were paired with a Braised Lamb stuffed Agnolotti with Porcini Velouté.  The 1988 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and, according to Alessia, there are only a few more bottles of this wine remaining.  The most striking characteristic of the wine was its youth on the palate when contrasted with the age on the label.  This full-bodied wine exhibited a certain rusticity and red fruits on the nose which was confirmed on the palate to accompany youthfulness and great depth.  'Tis a shame that I probably will not have the opportunity to experience this wine when it develops a few flecks of gray in its whiskers.

Alessia referred to the Rosso 2010  -- a Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot blend -- as an experiment.  The grapes are grown on 1/5th of an acre at Fiorano and only 250 bottles were made.  Alessia felt that while the wine has the structure of a Fiorano, it lacks its personality.  I felt that the wine was disaggregated and that the elements did not mesh well.  Alessia felt that when this wine comes into its own, it may be the estate's second wine.

The white wines -- Fiorano 1995 #45 Bianco and Fiorano #48 Semillon -- were paired with a selection of cheeses.  These wines had been vinified and aged in large, old casks and bottled upon demand.  They all have oxidative characteristics, both in terms of color and taste, which, according to Alessia, makes them well suited to accompany cheeses.  The wines had a certain earthiness and will be well-suited to the enthusiast who is partial to character-driven wines.

As I said in my previous post, a fulsome night, one that I would have been disappointed to miss.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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