Our first contact with Italian wines was, presumably, with a Chianti wine. In the memory lane there is a wine called Leonardo, one of those coming in a straw basket that you can find in Italian restaurants everywhere. But the first serious Italian wine we enjoyed was a Brunello di Montalcino. It sounds like a beast for starting discovering wines from this country, but hey! You go to Tuscany on holidays and that’s what you get!

Our holiday quarters were based in the lovely small town of Montalcino. We were driving around but we always came back at dusk to this town. We had done our homework about wines, visited the local wine shops that in Montalcino are everywhere, and asked our hotel manager for his favorite Brunello wines. A funny story about Brunello wines comes to mind: In a grocery shop in Rome they had behind the counter a wall full of wines, with a great selection of Brunello. We were paying close attention to them over the shoulder of the manager for making our selection. Then we pointed to one of them and he took a look like “what is this tourist pointing at?” When he saw our selection, he turned to us with his mouth open and he said: “Oh!, bravo, bravo!” with a smile in his face. He liked our choice a lot.

So back to Montalcino, one of the local wines stood up among the rest. It was recommended to us, and we had read that the American magazine Wine Spectator had selected it as the best wine of the year. So it had to be something. And off we went chasing it.

Azienda Agricola Casanova di Neri is a family–run winery located in the outskirts of Montalcino. It was founded in 1971 by Giovanni Neri, who acquired 12 hectares that have grown to the current 63. Fifteen years after its birth, they started earning international trophies, such as the Grand Prix and Gold Medal in Bordeaux in 1986 and the aforementioned Wine of the Year trophy in 2006.

Nowadays the 63 hectares of vineyards are subdivided into 5 plots: Pietradonice on the Southeastern side of Montalcino, Le Cetine on the Southern side, Cerretalto on the Eastern side, Fiesole located near the new cellar and the homonymous farmhouse opposite to the town of Montalcino and Podernuovo on the highest position of the estate at 450 above sea level.

They produce three Brunello wines with different characteristics. The Brunello Di Montalcino spends around 45 months in Slavonian oak barrels and then six more in the bottle. The 2008 is marked as the 30th vintage of this wine. The Brunello Di Montalcino Tenuta Nuova spends between 27 and 36 months in oak, depending on the year, and at least one more year in the bottle. Finally, the Brunello Di Montalcino Cerretalto ages in small oak barrels a little longer than 2 years and at least 24 months in the bottle.

They also produce the IB Bianco, produced with Vermentino 50% and Grechetto 50% and the IR Rosso, produced with Sangiovese and Colorino. These two wines are aged in oak barrels for around 42 months and 6 months in bottle. The Sangiovese Rosso di Montalcino is aged in oak barrels for around 15 months and the Pietradonice is a Cabernet Sauvignon aged in oak barrels for around 19 months and 6 months in bottle.

The fermentation of the wines is usually done without use of yeast additives and the maceration takes place in open conical vats at controlled temperatures for 2 to 3 weeks.

And you know what? We still have a Tenuta Nuova 2008 in our cellars waiting to be enjoyed.

Soon we will talk to Casanova Di Neri’s winemaker about their wines and philosophy.

Photos © by Azienda Agricola Casanova Di Neri

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