I have a lot of posts lined up from our trip to Italy: this is the next in chronological order… A lot of folks have written me about our visits to Rinaldi and G. Mascarello (organized thanks to our extraordinary guide Franco) and as soon as I “move” through Tuscany and Emilia, I’ll post those tasting notes as well… but first some Montalcino terroir… thanks, everyone, for reading!
Above: On our last night in Italy, in Rome, where we ate at an excellent if cantankerous Roman trattoria, we treated ourselves to a 2000 Brunello di Montalcino by one of my favorite producers, Poggio di Sotto, which lies in the southeastern sub-zone of the appellation, where the wines have an earthier and more pronounced mineral character in my opinion.
Our second day in Italy, we spent the morning in the farmhouse where we were staying (more on that later), sipping stove-top coffee and munching on cookies. After a quick visit to Montalcino proper, we headed south to Castelnuovo dell’Abate to visit one of my favorite people in Montalcino, Federico Marconi. As Fabrizio Bindocci said to me later that evening, when Federico walks into a room, you just can’t help but smile and be in a good mood. It’s really true.
Above: Federico is one of the coolest dudes I know in Montalcino. We have a dream of creating a rock band called the Ramontalcinos (for our shared love of the Ramones; I think that we might also need to recruit McDuff for the project).
Le Presi, where Federico works, is a tiny winery and estate, founded in Castlenuovo dell’Abate by Bruno Fabbri in 1970. Bruno learned about winemaking and developed a passion for Brunello because he worked as an electrician in the legendary Biondi-Santi winery in the “Croce” subzone of Montalcino (just south of Montalcino proper).
Above: One of the things that makes the Castelnuovo subzone unique is the presence alternating layers of sandstone and volcanic subsoils, as illustrated by this cross-section. Le Presi lies on the edge of Castelnuovo (literally newcastle) and one of its walls coincides with the ancient wall of the hilltop town. The volcanic deposits come from the nearby Mt. Amiata, to the south, once an active volcano.
I love the wines of Le Presi, which I first tasted at Vinitaly in 2009: they’re old-school Brunello, sourced from two small growing sites, just south of the town, vinified in a traditional style and aged in large cask. Like Federico, Bruno Fabbri (below) and his son Gianni (who now runs the winery and makes the wine) will tell you that the high concentration of volcanic subsoil (as you can see in the image above) gives their wines their distinctive minerality (and earthiness in my opinion). They call their top growing site “Muro Forte” (literally, strong wall, named after the wall in their cellar that coincides with the ancient town wall).
Above: Tracie P and I really enjoyed talking to Bruno, who seemed happy to share tales of his earlier years, working at Biondi Santi, and making wine in Castelnuovo.
When I mentioned to Bruno that we were staying at the Il Poggione estate in Sant’Angelo in Colle (one of the southwest growing zones), he pointed out that Castelnuovo doesn’t have the same “maritime” influence (i.e., ventilation arriving via sea breeze) that Sant’Angelo has. Some would argue that the one or the other is better (can you guess which subzone Bruno favors?) but one this is for certain: the wines from Castelnuovo (at least those made in a traditional style) have different flavors from those produced in other subzones.
In the words of James Brown:
- Some like’em fat, some like’em tall
Some like’em short, skinny legs and all
I like’em all, huh, I like’em proud
And when they walk
You know they draw a crowd
See, you got to have a mother for me
Let me just put it this way, the wines of Le Presi have a mother for me.
Next on deck, the terroir of the southwestern subzone and the fantastic farmhouse where we stayed.
Thanks for reading!
You have such great taste in wine….and music. I love the Ramones, one of my all time favourite groups, saw them several times in my teenage years. My brother, Thud, can even be seen on the cover of their live album (London 12/31/77), and also on the ‘It’s Alive’ DVD.
2004 Brunello Prices Plummet http://bit.ly/dtmr2Y Note to Italy, to Tuscany and to Montalcino. This is just the beginning. Brace yourself.
We carried Le Presi’s wines all too briefly in 2008. Ramontalcinos… I like it!
I’m in. Federico and I will both need wigs to pull it off, though. Will bass and backing vocals do?
Congrats on your nuptials! That 2000 Poggio di Sotto is a lovely wine. Have you sampled the 2001 or ‘Il Decennale’ yet?
@Tenbrooks the wine was awesome… but man, I’d love to taste the 2001. What’s the Decennale? thanks for the kind words… :-)
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We have a 2006 Brunello from Le Presi to taste. Has anyone tased it yet