Reconciling a perceived preference with reality can be a humbling, powerfully educational experience. For instance, if someone were to ask me about my preferences for wine/winemaking, I’d include, among other things, the lack/restraint of oak usage in the cellar as an important factor. Or, if oak is used, I’d say I (generally speaking) prefer older oak to newer oak.
But oak is like salt in the sense that a skilled hand can find the proper balance – too little or too much typically results in a less than memorable experience – just the right amount, and it’s a dish to savor. Agostina Pieri’s use of oak is a complement, a delicious and very careful touch that delivers broad, deep flavors but never at the expense of freshness or grape/place character.
In the past I’ve talked about preconceptions, and how they largely work against you. If I’d walked into the cellar at Agostina Pieri, knowing nothing about the wine, and seen all of the barrique/oak, I’d have decided the wine’s not for me – it doesn’t meet my traditionalist sensibilities (read: snob, fool). That said, I first visited having had the wine a number of times, and in fact, it’s what prompted me to fix a visit and learn more about what they’re doing, having has nothing short of great, memorable experiences each time I’d had the wines.
The area/land of Località Piancornello (or Sant’Angelo in Colle) in the southernmost region of Montalicino zone begins to flatten out as it approaches the Orcia river, located just south of the vineyards of Agostina Pieri. The (steep-er) hills, winding roads and pockets of thick, wild forest that many/most of their winegrowing neighbors to the north are endowed with, are less prevalent in this area; it’s less dramatic/aesthetic, but the soil and conditions for farming wine grapes is as good as anywhere in the zone – if it’s done properly. The exposure, ideal, all south-facing.
Agostina Pieri is doing it properly, in my opinion; it’s something I can smell, can taste. But, I still had to know what that looked like so I could get my head around it. What I learned centered around a few things: study the soil, study the plants, listen to both, taste, improve where needed/possible.
These things – the study of land/soil, vines, etc. – may seem like common sense, or it might seem that they’re things that everyone does, i.e. how does that make them special? As with most things, it comes down to vision and ability to execute that separate those that want to do, and those that actually do. Francesco Monaci is one of the sharpest guys I’ve met in some time.
Francesco Monaci, the vision behind these vineyards, acquired the property in 1991 – just four years later, the wines had already created a stir, a buzz for those looking for the next great thing in Montalicino. From the Importer, The Rare Wine Company “the 1995, caused a sensation with its amazing concentration and persistence—it easily outpaced most Brunellos and set a new benchmark for the appellation.”
The initial fermentation was in stainless steel; controlled temperature of 24C-27C. The maceration was a total of 30 days. After pressing the skins, the wine passed directly into wood: the first year the choice fell on the 600-liter Demis Muid, while the second year iit was in 20-hectolitre French oak barrels. After 2 years in oak, the wine was placed back into stainless steel for six months (preparation for bottling, August 2009), then held to rest in bottle for an additional 16 months prior to release. 100% Sangiovese.
13 January, 2018 2006 Agostina Pieri Brunello di Montalcino “Pours a med>med+ brick red, clear. Initial aromas are of damp and dusty soil, some vitamin B, plum, savory, blackberry, talc, and on the fringe, the prettiest blue and purple flowers, bright and fresh. The entry is medium-bodied, the palate is both broad and deep. There’s a touch of warmth on the long finish (served this at 62F), but it’s more a warm blanket than a stoked fire; it caresses. By the one hour open mark, some citrus and red apple skin, and lactic had emerged on the nose, with the palate continuing (still) to add depth, layers. Red>Black fruited, very good sense of place, with just enough acidity to keep the firm tannins and fruit in balance. This can go another decade+, but it’s also really good right now; structured, balanced. Superb value, and a true beauty at the 2 hr mark; better with aeration (2-3 hours). Could be enjoyed on its own, but really(!) shines with food. 14,0% abv., thru 2029. recommended+
A tiny production here compared to some of the bigger wineries in the area, I hope you can find some. Oh, and their Olive Oil is outstanding.