It’s fun (for me) to taste wines, for years, and trying to imagine what the person behind this thing that brings you so much joy is actually like.
Are they like some of the wines that don’t show so well? Are they the same as the wines that blow your mind, and have you searching on your phone’s web browser – mid way through the bottle – looking for more? Like I said, it’s fun to imagine what the person behind the bottle is like, trying to conceptualize what their land is like. In the case of Andrea Cortonesi, and Azienda Agricola Uccelliera, it’s even more fun to meet them.
And if it’s true that no one is more themselves than when they are at their home, with their family, then I’m glad that my first encounter with Andrea (and his wife, Claudia) was at their home and farm.
27 April, 2016 was a very fine day in Montalcino – dry, moderately warm already, clear skies, etc. So that could only mean one thing: it was a good day to get work done in the vineyard, and at 430 pm, that’s what most are still doing, working. Which is to say that Andrea was going to be late to the tasting (good, I’d rather he was in the vineyard than with the likes of me!); with all the wines that Agnes set out to pour (nine in all), plus barrel samples, it was going to take some time to get through them, so really, no worries. That said, the timing of everything worked out perfectly – I even got to spend some moments with Andrea’s wife, Claudia, before she took off to Montalcino for her English lessons (her English is already quite excellent).
(below, some work in progress at the cellars; there’s a lot of investment happening at the property, all of it very beautiful, very precise — I love the work/look that Italy’s stone masons produce. Sadly, this photo does neither their work nor the architecture much justice)
Claudia glows with clear-cut, positive vibrations – she wears a natural, full smile; it’s who she is. I instantly like her. She offers to show me around before I’m to head down to the cellars and tasting room with Agnes, but it’s clear she’s on her way out, and so we just spend a few minutes chatting about life. To be clear though, it wasn’t small talk, I don’t peg her for a small talk kind of person. Which is to say I liked her even more.
Later, when I meet Andrea (I’ve only ever seen him, always extremely busy with customers and crowds, at Uccelliera’s stand inside VinItaly), I find he’s got the same natural smile, the same incontestable and thoroughly positive and cheery nature about him that Claudia had. But before I get into that, I’m going to walk you through the rest of the tasting and some touching background on Andrea and Montalcino zone.
Claudia has another minute or two to spare, so she walks down to the the tasting room with Agnes and I. Agnes has already told her about my visit, and just how much I enjoy the wines of Uccelliera; that I’ve been a long time supporter.
Maybe it’s because Agnes has already mentioned these things to Claudia, or maybe it’s because I’m there in front of her, but it’s clear she senses the depth of my passion for Andrea’s wines, and for Montalcino, too; women are always more empathic than men. And so, the discussion turns to Andrea’s history, back to when he was a child, what he had to endure during startlingly impoverished times, what they all had to endure back then. And it was just 40 years ago.
Claudia can see that I’m a bit overwhelmed with this little history lesson – and being the buoyant and empathic person she is – senses it’s time to get to that English lesson. I bid her farewell, and tell her I can’t wait to meet her again, at their home and farm.
In the next post, I’ll go through the tasting with Agnes, as well as some in-depth history on Andrea/Uccelliera and Montalcino.
(header photo: vineyards near Panzano, just 45 minutes north of Uccelliera)