I spent this past Monday, a holiday known as “Pasquetta” or “little Easter” in Italy, with friends in Siena, chatting over a long lunch to which everyone had contributed: a winemaker friend of mine from Umbria brought two bottles from her estate and a loaf of their traditional Easter cheese bread, “crescia.” A neighbor brought me an enormous bouquet of flowers from her garden, including my favorites, lilacs, as well as bacelli (fava beans) to munch on with fresh Pecorino; one family brought us an oversized Italian chocolate Easter egg and there was more than one “Colomba,” the dove-shaped panettone-like Easter cake with a sugar and almond topping. One guest brought a friend of hers who was in town for vacation and whose husband, it turned out, exports Italian wine.
Running into other wine professionals socially can be a mixed blessing: on the one hand, I can talk about the relative merits of different Sangiovese clones or the barky taste that I find a certain cooper’s barrels impart to wines, topics my family long ago forbid. On the other, I often have to grit my teeth at the superficial understanding of the Tuscan wine scene some seasoned professionals have. But Monday was simply a pleasure.
The guy knew his stuff: his portfolio of wines included top Italian producers, some of which I had had in the Italian portfolio I assembled and managed for a U.S. importer from 2008 to 2013. His estates weren’t the trendy ones: there were storied names with impeccable track records for quality along with trailblazers of old, who had by now proven their worth. He was light on Tuscany, but intrigued by two new potential estates.
“They’re making single-vineyard Sangioveses,” he explained. “I think that’s where the future lies.”
It was music to my ears and, unbeknownst to him when he said it, echoed what we’re doing at Fanciulle Vini.
I was dying to hear what he thought of our wines, but I didn’t want to ruin a sunny afternoon among family–both his and mine–with a detailed discussion of winemaking. We spoke about Etna–how trendy the wines from that area had gotten and what it had been like in the “old days.” We traded anecdotes from visits to cellars in France and rued or praised generational changes at some Italian wineries we both knew. Eventually, he asked me about my wine, and then realized he had had a glass with lunch. “Delicate,” was the first thing he said, again, music to my ears–just the style I’m aiming for. He wanted to try the wines again, paying more attention, as he described it, and did. I was nervous–I knew he was a good taster and that we liked many of the same producers. “Very delicate,” he said, “almost like a Burgundian take on Sangiovese.”
A comment like that, spontaneous and spot on, is what I consider success: he read the language I am trying to speak with my wines. Wine lovers may or may not like my wines–ditto wine professionals. But my message coming through means I’m doing something right.
In this, the week prior to the release of the 2020 wines, I wanted to write a post that would help wine lovers choose which of the Fanciulle wines to order. Some are slightly more plush (the 2019 Villaggio), some tangier (the 2019 and 2020 Vigneto Primo), some more floral and evanescent (the 2020 Vigneto Grande). But they all share a delicacy that is unusual for Tuscan wines. If you are fond of rich, tannic wines, they may not be for you!