The other Fiorano & the voice of the prince himself

fiorano white

Above: The 2010 Fiorano Bianco is made mostly from Viognier, which dominates its aromatic profile. I thought the wine was stunning, with great balance, acidity, and nuanced stone fruit flavor. The wines are not yet available in the U.S. but I recently tasted a bottle that had been brought here by Philadelphia-based wine professional Jason Malumed, who had bought them in Rome.

Few members of the New York fine wine scene — myself included — will forget Eric “the Red” Asimov’s excellent 2004 article “An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar” for the New York Times.

The piece described the long-lived white wines of Roman prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi and Eric’s visit to his mysterious and magical cellar with its large-format casks covered by foamy mold.

It was such an important moment for Italian wine in New York and the nation. The Italian wine renaissance was just beginning to take shape here and Eric’s essay was one of the first to be devoted exclusively to one of Italy’s great white wines.

In those years, when Friuli was just beginning to emerge as a leading producer of fine white wine and you could still find Verdicchio in a fish-shaped bottle at the super market, most looked to Italy only for reds.

But Eric’s tale — and the subsequent arrival of the wines in the U.S. — spoke loudly to many of us, especially because it took note of Italian whites. Eric was already a champion of Italian wine (he often writes about his passion for the category today) and the story bolstered our belief that Italian wine would be delivered from the dusty obscurity rendered by its 1970s marketing blunders.

fiorano red

Above: The 2006 red, a Bordeaux blend in which Cabernet Franc dominated the tasting profile, was also excellent, with earthy and goudron notes on the nose and vibrant acidity and austere red fruit in the mouth. I’d love to revisit this still youthful wine in another 5-10 years. I can’t thank Jason enough for sharing them with me.

A few weeks ago, Eric wrote about the wines again in an article entitled “Fiorano Wine Estate in Italy Making a Comeback.”

Have a look at his piece for the background on the estate but to sum it up briefly here, it’s an Italian story as classic as it is tragic: after the prince died, some of the historic vineyards became the property of his son-in-law Piero Antinori and the winery, trademark, and other vineyards went to a biological heir, “Alessandrojacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi, a cousin of the prince, who had been living on the property and who had bought several parcels on the estate from the prince.”

Again, see Eric’s piece for background and see also Charles Scicolone’s excellent post on his recent visit with Alessia Antinori (the prince’s granddaughter) who now manages the vineyards and is planning to relaunch the wines under a new Fiorano label.

I had the good fortune to taste the wines made by Alessandrojacopo on my recent trip to the east coast (thank you, again, Jason!). And I thought they were excellent.

They had been purchased at Trimani, the famous wine shop in Rome.

I was told that the owners of Trimani believe that Alessandrojacopo’s wines represent the prince’s true legacy.

Many in the Italian wine trade believe that the prince attempted to destroy his vines before his passing because he feared that Antinori would use them to make a modern-style wine.

It’s probably true (see the translation below) but does it really matter anymore? When the prince — a pioneer of chemical-free farming in Italy — died in 2005, Italian wine was at a crossroads and it appeared that modernism (note the -ism) would prevail over the classic. But today, that trend has been reversed.

The only thing I know for certain is that it makes for a great story.

Here’s my translation of Luigi Veronelli’s 2001 interview with the prince…

Since 1934, when I [Prince Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi] was sixteen years old, the use of industrially produced chemicals in land management has never seemed wise to me.

The Fiorano estate began to produce wine around 1930 using local grape varieties. In 1946, when I received the property from my father, I judged the wine to be inferior and consulted with Dr. Giuseppe Palieri who was producing wine on the Maccarese estate about 20 kilometers southwest of Rome. Dr. Palieri suggested that I graft Cabernet and Merlot to my vines for the reds, 50% of the one and the other, and Malvasia di Candia and Semillon for the whites. I continued to rely on Dr. Palieri for the rest of his life. Dr. Tancredi Biondi Santi subsequently became my enologist and continued to work with me until his passing.

I pulled out almost all of my vines because of advanced age and poor health and the advanced age of the vines. But I still produce a small amount of wine from Cabernet and Merlot grapes, blended in equal amounts.

My three granddaughters [Albiera, Allegra, and Alessia] have inherited their interest in wine not from me but from their father Piero [Antinori], an eminent producer of fine wine.

10 thoughts on “The other Fiorano & the voice of the prince himself

  1. Thank you Jermey for sharing your notes on the striking and authentic wines of Alessandrojacopo Boncompgani Ludovisi, as well as bringing forth Trimani’s comment that “Alessandrojacopo’s wines represent the prince’s true legacy.” Anyone who has met and tasted with Alessandrojacopo in person will not doubt that claim.

    This current prince Boncompangi Ludovisi comes across as a very sincere and modest man, and what he quietly and diligently learned, directly and over many years, from the prince Alberico deserves the utmost admiration and respect. Until his death, prince Alberico guided Alessandrojacopo in revitalizing Fiorano’s vineyards, using the same natural methods that he had always practiced himself. Alessandrojacopo has also continued, in the original cellar, the unbending, traditional winemaking practices of Alberico. It is not difficult to imagine that the exacting prince saw in Alessandrojacopo a new hope for Fiorano wines. Though it was late in his life, Alberico did find the heir to whom he could share and impart his authentic view of wine.

    Alessandrojacopo clearly has the attitude – and the wines to match – to ensure that the unique legacy of prince Boncompagni Ludovisi lives on at Fiorano.

    Matthew L. Fioretti

  2. I went to Trimani when I was in Rome a brought back a bottle of the 2006 made by Alessandrojacopo(he does not have the vigna storica.) We tasted it against a 1994 and a 1978 made by Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi and found the 2006 to be lacking, it was a pleasant wine but without any distinctive characteristics. The wonderful cherries soaked in leather character which made the Prince’s wine unique was not there. Alessia Antinori will not release the 2010 until 2014 or 2015- we can only hope!
    Charles Scicolone

  3. Ciao Jeremy- thanks for the kind words and mentioning me in the same sentence as Eric. Next time you are in NY will can taste the
    Fiorano Rosso – I still have the 1991,1992 and 1994 and with a little help from my friends a 1982

  4. Matthew and Charles, thanks for being here and the insightful comments. As Charles noted on Facebook, it’s a “byzantine” story. The one thing we know for sure is that it makes for great reading. Looking forward to the next time I get to taste with both you. And Charles, I will take you up on that offer! For sure! Thanks so much. :)

  5. Jeremy and Charles, I think you both might find interesting the following link that Alessandrojacopo just sent me (like Jeremy’s post, the article was printed yesterday):

    In addition to an interesting tasting of the Sassicaia vs Fiorano Rosso (including the 2006s) in HK, the last two paragraphs give pertinent info regarding the extensive guidance prince Alberico gave Alessandrojacopo in replanting the Fiorano vineyards, as well as the passage of the original cellar and cellar master to Alessandrojacopo.

    Buona Lettura,

  6. Fiorano is an obssesaion. That a Malvasia can age 25+years and still be vibrantly alive is imcredible. The estate is so close to me yet I habe never visited. Mostly because I have tasted and enjoyed whites and reds from 1970-1995 and I am frightened of disappointment. Maybe I need to give the new ones a chance?

  7. For your info, Prince Boncompagni Ludovisi’s wines and Alessia Antinori’s newer wines are available in very limited quantities from Italian Wine Merchants in New York. Sergio Esposito (the owner of IWM) is one of the three inheritors (two Italian and Sergio) of the 14,000 wines that were left in 2005.
    I went to a wine tasting (1 Oct 2012) of some of his wines (1988 rosso botte 30 88/100p, and 1987 Semillon 92/100p, 1995 Malvasia di Candia botte 45 89.5/100p, and 1995 Semillon 89.5/100p) and one of Alessia’s wines (2010 rosso 89.5/100p, not yet available in the US) at the store. We had a good background of the estate (and also of Piero Incisa della Rocchetta’s Argentinian Bodega Chacra, very good Argentinian red wines).
    The 1987 Semillon was by far the best, with a slightly brown tone.

  8. As far as I knowThe Italian Wine Merchants only has the Bianco from the Prince- they do not have the Rosso. Alessia’s Rosso will not be released until the end of 2014 at the earliest. Alessia does have some bottles of the 1988 Rosso which I tasted we I visited the estate.

  9. Matthew, thanks for sharing that link. It’s actually not a editorial piece but a press release that gets aggregated on that blog for the Corriere. But it’s great to have it here. And the info is highly useful. It’s great to see you here, friend. Your insights are always welcomed.

    Charles, we have a date to taste all the wines together! I can’t wait. :)

    Henrik, I worked at IWM when the wines first came in. It was such an incredible moment for Italian wine in New York and the U.S. I’ll never forget it. Thanks for the info.

  10. Pingback: Shelley Lindgren: paying homage to the woman who started it all | Cantele USA

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