Marching to his own drum – Az. Agr. Uccelliera, Part III

Winegrowing at Uccelliera has been an experiment from its inception. I think it says a lot about the man, about his vision; he’s willing to admit, up front, he doesn’t have all the answers. He’s saying he’s after a deeper understanding of his land, that he’s not going to take what someone before him says is possible, or necessarily correct.

Andrea’s not trying to reinvent the production of Brunello/wine grapes, he’s not patenting some formula or point-chasing style. Instead, he’s trying to understand his land more, and trying to understand what’s possible; each year is different, and so each year should be treated differently (in the cellar, vineyard, or sometimes both). Obviously not everyone thinks this way, and in my experience, not everyone should; the world needs innovators, risk takers, and pioneers just the same as it needs those committed to strict tradition.

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(above: the dirt road leading from Lisini toward Uccelliera)

This type of vision, of thinking, is very evident in Andrea’s wines. There tends to be a darker color to the 100% Sangiovese bottlings, the edges a little less severe, when compared to many of Uccelliera’s peers. But, there’s also the acid and other structural components that are essential to enjoyment today or years from now – and, I think, always in the context of having these wines with food.

Some might get trapped in the old, tired game/discussion/whatever of modern vs. traditional winemaking. Please don’t fall into that trap, with Uccelliera or other winegrowers; taste what’s in the glass, decide if you like it, discussion over. Maybe there was a time where that discussion had something worthy of dialogue – when many adopted, too quickly, and too fully, the methods that veered so wildly off the paths of tradition for short-term gain and/or recognition/points; most have realized this was a serious mistake (the wines themselves have served a the ultimate proof), and have corrected accordingly.

This southern tier of Montalcino has a refined wildness that appeals to me more than the groomed, wide expanses of much of the northern tier (and I love the northern tier, it’s beautiful, it just strikes different cords). Maybe it reminds me of something from my youth, of going into the woods and down the dirt roads during a time when there really was no sign that this was man’s domain, it was nature’s.

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(in case you’re wondering, Uccelliera means a little bird cage)

Let’s get back to the 2011 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino for a moment. The summer and fall were quite warm, extraordinarily so, in fact. In order to preserve the aromas and structure that Brunello is known for, Andrea did something he doesn’t normally with grapes coming from the lower part of the vineyard, down by the river – he used dry ice, cold soak and an altered controlled temperature. In addition, a rare event for his Brunello di Montalcino, the malolactic happened in oak. These are but a few of the choices available to winemakers if in fact they’re listening to what the grapes are telling him/her is required in order to maximize the freshness and structure that’s possible. There was no Riserva wine produced in 2011; as I said before, only in the best years.

Getting back to the balance of the tasting, beginning with the 2012 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino which has recently been blended and is now resting in stainless steel tank prior to bottling, “Great nose, very fresh, with perky red fruits and detailed purity. Each sip better than the one previous. Long finish, really nice structure. (BUY!). 15,5% abv. (resolved).  highly recommended

After the very impressive 2012 Brunello, comes the 2008 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino Riserva, “Maybe my favorite wine from the extensive tasting. Everything’s here, and while this can be enjoyed now with some air, the tannins really beg for additional bottle rest. Magnificent nose, balance and structure. One for keeping. €70 at the cellar, max 6 bottles. 14,5% abv.(resolved).  highly recommended

And the final Brunello tasted this day is the 2009 Uccelliera Brunello di Montalcino, “Full, fresh and structured with just the slightest edge of darker red fruits. The tannins are fine and sweet, the finish is medium(+). 15,0% abv. (resolved); let this rest a few more years yet for some tertiary development to take hold.  recommended

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The final wine of the tasting is Andrea’s 100% Sangiovese IGT wine, the 2009 Uccelliera Costabate Toscana IGT, “produced only in magnum (300 bottles). From three different vineyards, each with different soil characteristics, micro-climates and altitudes. This has been de/reclassified from Brunello (though it is 100% Sangiovese), to IGT because Andrea wanted to – or he got tired of people asking for one, not sure. The wines from each vineyard are vinified separately, 10-12 days on skins, spontaneous fermentation in tank, then 2yrs in new Fr. barrique. 15,0% abv. (resolved), this needs 3-5 years to settle down then come together as right now, the tannins are pretty fierce. (no rating/recommendation, it’s just too young)

At this point the tasting has concluded, Andrea and Agnes say our goodbyes until next year’s VinItaly and my follow up visit to the cantina and farm.

(header photo: playing around with some lighting and a new lens, sliced apple)

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