“Hungry as the Sea” by Wilbur Smith stands as an irresistible novel that ensnares readers, much like how I found myself engrossed, devouring its pages in a single night. This captivating tale, rich with pathos and suspense, kept me entranced until the very last word was consumed. However, you may wonder, what connection does this gripping narrative have with Francesco Mulinari’s L’Aietta Winery in Montalcino? Intriguingly, the sea holds an enduring link to Montalcino, as previously explored. 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.

🇮🇹 Italiano

Francesco Mulinari exudes a distinct vibrancy in his gaze that leaves an immediate impression. It serves as his signature, signaling an individual of keen intellect, unwavering determination, and a wealth of knowledge. His reserved nature naturally guards his inner world, making access a privilege he bestows selectively. I discovered that our friendship organically blossomed through the lines of this very blog, to my surprise.

Francesco’s approach to identifying skilled wine writers with an independent perspective mirrors his meticulous winemaking philosophy. Writing about wine, the terroir, and a specific winery carries significant weight. Therefore, prior to entrusting me with his narrative, Francesco meticulously assessed my identity and scrutinized my body of work. This deliberate process stands to his credit, evoking my delight, albeit placing me at a distinct disadvantage. My knowledge of him is limited to the rumor that he crafts an exceptional Brunello di Montalcino.

A short walk takes us beyond the town walls, leading to Francesco’s realm. L’Aietta, nestled in Montalcino, boasts the smallest domain, comprising a mere 3.7 acres, of which 2.5 acres are under current cultivation. This tiny parcel yields approximately 7,500 bottles, encompassing five distinct labels—a testament to Francesco’s nuanced winemaking ethos. On this chilly day, the clear sky unveils a breathtaking wiev. We stand in the northern Montalcino, gazing westward toward the ridge of Poggio Civitella, with the proud cypress trees of Corte Pavone Winery standing tall on the horizon.

A playground that unknowingly carried the legacy of a Brunello vineyard

Here, the conventional notion of meticulous vineyard layouts is cast aside, making space for Nature’s artistic geometry, skillfully orchestrated by Francesco. The vineyard, an exquisite rarity in Montalcino, features steep terraces stabilized by dry stone walls, nurturing Sangiovese vines. On this 0.66-acre expanse, head training is the best option, ensuring an optimal planting density.

This small patch of land is literally sacred to him far beyond what it produces today. Originally acquired by his father as a playground for their children, this land unknowingly carried the legacy of a Brunello vineyard. Subsequently, Francesco embarked on an arduous journey, apprenticing with esteemed wineries such as Casanova di Neri, Il Marroneto, Marino Colleoni, and Castello Romitorio, further solidifying his expertise.

While receptive to sage counsel, Francesco carves his own path, unafraid to tread new ground. He boldly embraced financial commitment, leveraging a mortgage to establish his vineyard and craft an essential, unadorned winery. In his quest for excellence, Francesco defies mediocrity—a feat especially noteworthy in Montalcino, a realm of elevated standards. He ventures where eagles soar, pursuing a distinctive style that remains anchored in the terroir’s essence. L’Aietta’s wines eloquently articulate the language of Montalcino.

The profound love and respct for Nature and its gifts

Aligned with revered Montalcino winemakers, Francesco’s profound affinity for the land harmonizes with a deep reverence for nature. He draws parallels between tending a vineyard and navigating the open seas—a domain where one submits to Nature’s formidable forces, necessitating knowledge, skill, and respect.

Just as seasoned sailors don’t fear the sea but recognize its potential hazards, vineyard tending mirrors this ethos. The force of Nature, often unleashed through climatic patterns, shapes the vintage. Attempts to manipulate or standardize it prove futile, akin to challenging the sea’s might without caution.

When a sudden hailstorm ravages grapes intended for sweet wine, Francesco crafts a superb white dry blend instead—Malvasia di Candia, Vermentino, and Zibibbo—unveiling “Grandine” (Hail), choosing a ladybug for the label, symbolizing fortune and the winery’s organic essence.

And then, the talk of the town—a remarkable Brunello di Montalcino. An intense, balanced, and enveloping masterpiece, this exquisite wine is regrettably scarce, with a mere 2,000 bottles, swiftly snatched by enthusiasts.

Francesco harbors a treasury of projects and innovations, eagerly experimenting, refining amphora use for Rosso di Montalcino. While it’s too early for judgments, we eagerly anticipate its evolution. Craving space for creative expansion, he’s acquired an estate in Ponte degli Abeti, slated for a new winery and residence. L’Aietta’s future unfurls vividly in Francesco’s vision, even including a detailed preview of its inaugural celebration—a front-row seat I’ve earned through our bond.

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