🇮🇹 Italiano

“Hungry as the Sea” is an overwhelming novel by Wilbur Smith, so captivating I remember reading it all in one night! One of those books so full of pathos and suspense that it is not possible to put it down until the very last word has been devoured! However, what does it have to do now with L’Aietta Winery of Francesco Mulinari, vigneron in Montalcino? The Sea has always something to do with Montalcino as I have already explained here, and even more so with Francesco because, in addition to wine, we share the same passion for sailing. But there is a lot more to it, just bear with me.

Francesco Mulinari has that lively sparkle in his eyes that strikes you right away. It is his calling card, and you know for a fact you are dealing with a sharp, determined and well-educated person. He is diffident and reserved by nature, and does not let just anyone into his world, and has confessed that I had to pass a thorough admission test first! I have discovered indeed that our friendship has originated and developed between the lines of this blog without my knowing.

This is his approach to identify trained wine writers who also retain autonomy of judgment. Writing about a wine, a territory and even more about a single Winery is a serious business! Therefore, before entrusting me with his story, Francesco needed to figure out who I was and read all my articles. All this does him credit, fills me with joy, and puts me at a total disadvantage. I know nothing about him other than the fact that the word out is he makes a spectacular Brunello di Montalcino!

Only a few steps and we are outside the town walls. Francesco’s kingdom is the smallest in Montalcino as L’Aietta has only 3.7 acres of which just 2.5 are currently in production. The bottles poduced are about 7,500 with 5 different labels. Yes you read that right, 5 labels, and that alone says a lot about Francesco and his approach to winemaking. The day is cold, the sky is clear and the view is spectacular! We are in the northern part of Montalcino looking west toward the ridge of Poggio Civitella with the cypress of Corte Pavone Winery rising proud on the horizon.

The concept of a rigorous planting layout is totally disregarded here, leaving room for those artistic geometries that only Nature can create, and that Francesco has indulged in, creating a vineyard that is truly one of a kind in Montalcino. Steep terraces supported by dry stone walls house the vines of Sangiovese in the only sensible training method for an extension of only 0.66 acres: head training which guarantees a reasonable planting density.

This small patch of land is literally sacred to him far beyond what it produces today. It is the land purchased by his father for the sole purpose of letting the children run free on holidays.  Besides, Francesco so wanted a dog! Only much later did it turn out that this piece of land was registered as a Brunello vineyard, and everything else is an aftermath for a young man who had chosen to study agriculture and trained long and hard working with several excellent wineries, including Casanova di Neri, Il Marroneto, Marino Colleoni, and Castello Romitorio.

Francesco does listen to those who are truly experienced, learns from them, takes advice, but then he has to have things his own way. And this is how he decided to marry the Bank by taking on the mortgage that has allowed him to plant his vineyard and build the tiny winery where you will find only the essentials and nothing more. And the essential is all you need to produce excellent wines. He is creative, does not want to remain average, although the average in Montalcino is truly high! He dares where the eagles fly and pursues his unique and unmistakable style yet remaining true to the territory. L’Aietta wines speak decisively the language of Montalcino.

Like all great winemakers in Montalcino he is in love with this land and deeply respectful of nature as working a vineyard, he tells me, is a lot like sailing. When out at sea you are at the mercy of Nature’s powerful forces, forces you have to know, manage and respect. Those who know the sea do not fear it, but they know that challenging it without judgment can be awfully dangerous! All this applies equally to the vineyard.

You cannot defy Nature, which manifests its full force particularly through weather events and the climatic pattern of the seasons. There is no point in trying to take away from a hot vintage or add to a cooler one. The vintage must always be managed and interpreted of course, in the vineyard as well as in the cellar, but to try to distort it in the attempt to make it somewhat standard will only lead to trouble.

And what do you do when a sudden hailstorm hits and damages the grapes destined to produce the sweet wine? You harvest what is left of the good bunches and make a white dry wine that turns out to be superb!  A chorus of three voices between Malvasia di Candia, Vermentino and Zibibbo. A ladybug on the label as a reminder of good fortune on one hand, and the fact that this is an organic winery on the other. And the name could only be Grandine of course, literally Hail.

And what about this spectacular Brunello di Montalcino everyone is talking about? Well, it is truly a spectacular Brunello, intense, balanced and enveloping. Very hard to find however, with only some 2,000 bottles, and they go so fast!

Francesco has many projects and many new ideas. He loves to experiment and is perfecting the use of amphora for Rosso di Montalcino. It is too early to make any judgement, but we are curious to follow its evolution! He needs more space to develop his creative verve, therefore he has acquired an estate in Ponte degli Abeti where he will build his new winery and house. The future of L’Aietta is extremely clear in his mind, including the opening party he has described to me in great detail! It was a bit like being there already, because I have earned my front row seat indeed!

© Riproduzione riservata

Enjoyed this article? Subscribe to this Blog to support us, join the other 1,180 followers and receive more content like this in your mailbox. Thank you!