I like to say that the Fanciulle wines are Tuscan wines for Burgundy lovers, by which I mean that the Fanciulle wines have a delicacy and tanginess which, while natural (and, I think, the most delicious) expressions of Sangiovese, are not necessarily typical. I am also consciously using approaches to viticulture and winemaking learned in the vineyards and cellars of Burgundy—managing the growing season by hand, pumping over and racking much less than is typical in cellars here, paying attention to details like CO₂ levels or filtering wines with diatomaceous earth that I learned from wine makers in the Côte d’Or. But using the least interventionist, most natural approaches and techniques is not, for me, an end in itself. My primary goal is not ethical or environmental (although I have those goals, too)—it’s to make great wine, and so, each technique is employed because, having evaluated the alternatives, I believe that it takes my wines a baby step closer to the marvellous potential of Sangiovese, in all its complexity, precision and finesse.
I chose to make wines from Sangiovese because it is Tuscany’s most important indigenous grape, and, while challenging to grow and ripen, it is surely more suited to our long, hot, dry summers than Cabernet, Merlot or Pinot Noir is. Sangiovese gives me a shot at making a great wine, once in a while. Of course I leave it pure—I don’t want any of its characteristics hidden by some other grape variety. I want to see (and smell and taste) how it expresses itself in every vintage, on every soil, so that, when the perfect growing season does comes along, I can fully appreciate the beauty of the wine it produces.
Ultimately, viticulture and winemaking should be evaluated on the basis of the quality of the wines they produce. So you are the real judges of my viticulture and winemaking choices. I can explain what I’m trying to achieve in terms of taste and textures, aroma, but whoever opens the bottle has the final say.
- I like light wines—not so light that they taste diluted, but not heavy, not weighty, nothing that fills me up. I love how lighter wines both make me want to have another glass and also make it a pleasure to do so because they are low(er) in alcohol.
- I like vibrant wines that feel alive on the palate; they have an energy all their own, instead of a flat, contained feel.
- I like tangy wines that make my mouth water, that accompany and complement my meals, that are, as the French say, digeste.
- I like persistent wines whose flavors and texture linger in my mouth and throat.
- I like wines with a sense of place. I hope it’s easy to recognize that the Fanciulle wine are Tuscan and that they are made from Sangiovese, but I would also like each of them to speak its own dialect—to suggest the cool, rocky hilltop where its grapes ripened or the clay-rich, south-facing slope or the high, sandstone outcropping, so that the particularity of those places emerges when my wines are drunk.
Single-varietal (Sangiovese), single-vineyard (grapes from one parcel of land) wines are what Fanciulle makes, in order that the character of the piece of land at the wine’s origina can emerge as fully and clearly as possible. When we are familiar with these different terrains and the wines that emerge from them, we will become conscious of just how rare and precious they are. I get the impression that there is a sense among wine lovers and wine professionals that one Tuscan wine is as good as another, or that the brand name is what makes it good or bad, or that its appellation (Chianti Classico, Brunello, Bolgheri etc.) makes it worthy. Blind tastings have gone a long way toward demonstrating on the one hand that wines from these different Tuscan appellations share virtually all of the same strengths and weaknesses and on the other that brands and wine quality or style are not significantly correlated. Until estates come to a better understanding of what is under their vineyards and let those discoveries inform the way they make wines, most of the wines on offer will continue to be formulaic, cellar-made concoctions with little relation to the land their grapes were grown on.
This post is the third in our April series about what makes the Fanciulle wines different. Here are links to the first two:
1 – What Happened When I Ran Out of Wine (Starting Fanciulle Vini)
2 – Wines with a Sense of Place