Elisabetta Fagiuoli is a force to be reckoned with, that’s for certain. As proprietress of the breathtakingly beautiful winery Montenidoli, Elisabetta has single-handedly taken Vernaccia di San Gimignano out of the ranks of lowly whites to produce what many consider some of Italy’s finest white wines. I felt a twinge of nerves at the prospect of meeting her in New York last January at the same conference where I spent time with Ambra Tiraboschi from Ca’Lojera. By this point, I had heard and read so much about Elisabetta, I understood I was about to meet a wine legend. Not helping the nerves were the several exchanges I had with other Italian winemakers prior to meeting Elisabetta, who responded with awe in their voices when I let it be known that The Wine House was the California importer for Montenidoli. It’d go something like this, “Oh, you know Elisabetta!” and then a quiet pause. Elisabetta is a rock star among Italian winemakers; highly respected and revered. When I came up to the Montenidoli table, I introduced myself to Elisabetta and asked to taste through her wines. Thinking she would give me a lengthy explanation for each wine, she poured the sample with little said and watched my reaction. By the time I got to the last wine, she knew that I knew her wines were the bomb! My face said it all. Montenidoli is situated in the hills overlooking the medieval town of San Gimignano (and home to the most awesome wild boar salami you’ll ever eat, I might add). In a promotional pamphlet the winery passes out, the historical evolution of the soil upon which the vineyards of Montenidoli are grown are described going back 5 million years ago and then 250 million years ago. That’s just crazy! Elisabetta started the winery with her husband, not quite so far back but in 1965, and never in that time have they used any insecticides and use copper and sulfur only in rare instances to treat infection. From the beginning they have been devoted to organic farming and hold the philosophy that it is the soil (terroir) that produces great wine and that they are only there to guide the grapes into wine. I get the idea that great wine is made from great grapes, not made by human hands. But I also know that without the guiding hand of a great winemaker, wine is just wine, and not something magical, as are the wines that Elisabetta makes.
The recently arrived 2007 Vernaccia di Gimignano “Fiore” is made entirely from free-run juice and sees extended time on the lees before bottling. It is bright, lively and has a long, lingering finish. It is AROMATIC without being perfumey and RICH without being unctuous or flabby. The body has roundness and fullness from the sitting on the lees, but it is this driving mineral thread that comes in half way and sizzles on the palate straight through to the finish that really perks up the taste buds! I have had the pleasure of drinking this wine on several occasions lately and each time that acid backbone is so surprising and satisfying. The 2007 Fiore is the ideal springtime wine, matching perfectly with peas, tender greens, and artichokes. This week I drank a glass with a pasta with rapini and Little City Market sausages. A red would have overpowered this dish, but the 2007 Fiore had enough fruit and depth to hold up to the sharpness of the rapini and the fattiness of the sausage. Are you getting hungry or thirsty yet? I sure am! On Montenidoli’s website they write “Our wines have strong personalities. They are clear and brilliant, with intriguing bouquets whose complexities reveal their significance; a sip unleashes powerful, savory, mineral structures that fill the mouth. Their aftertaste is broad and very long, and the aromas that arise from an empty glass again reveal their great body.” I couldn’t say it any better. —Anya Balistreri
Here is a link to a wine blogger who in his article on Montenidoli says that the 2007 Fiore is “excellent” and “worth the search”: Amazing Vernaccias
The photo above was taken from the Montenidoli website.