by Giles Cadman – Venulum
If you have read recent headlines in the world’s international wine magazines, you might realize that though terroir is a key word in all wine regions, it takes on a heightened meaning in Montalcino. At 2,100 hectares, the region is a mosaic of various terroirs, altitudes, and microclimates, some better for growing sangiovese (the only legally allowed variety) than others. A producer can buy land, follow the appellation rules, and label his wine a Brunello, but would it be a good Brunello? Terroir is the deciding factor, and this is the reason that small producers like Jan, and larger, brand name producers like Angelo Gaja, have invested fortunes small and large in the search for terroir.
Geologists have found so many different soil profiles in Montalcino that there is now talk of creating defined sub-appellations, each one to be based on a different soil. In the northwest, for example, one can find compact clay that yields tannic wines and demands carefully chosen rootstocks and hilltop vineyards. In Montalcino proper, the highest vineyards (400–600 meters [1,300-2,000 feet] above sea level) yield the longest-lived and most elegant Brunellos, with rich bouquets. Tavernelle and Camigliano, southwest of Montalcino, have warmer temperatures, 35-degree slopes, and conditions that promise even ripeness as well as structure.
This article leads onto a fascinating story about one couple’s passion for finding the right terroir for growing the kind of grapes they needed to produce the wine they wanted to produce.
Jan and Caroline began their hunt in a rather philosophical way, based on Jan’s belief that the soil is crucial for the character of the wine. With the memory of that 1995 Soldera firmly in mind, he began to make a classification of the soils of Montalcino, striving to define the vineyards in a precise way. Eventually they found a farm (used for vegetables, not grapes) that had several plots with wildly different soil (clay, sand, calcareous Palombini among others) that would allow them to blend wines from different vineyards for increased complexity. Today they make three wines, including Piandorino, which represents the style of the winery rather than the terroir, as it is taken from the clayey parts of all their vineyards. The idea of the Piandorino is to make a Sangiovese that is easy to understand and which helps them stabilize the quality of the other two. The Rosso di Montalcino vineyards are Pian’dell Orino (Calcarenite gradate, fine sandstones and silt, calcareous marlstone and marl) and some from Pian Bossolino (with deposits of arenite, layers of flysch of a fine and medium structure with inclusions of clay-silt layers of a different height and a south-southwest exposition).
One of the great things about the wine industry is the passion that people in it have. It is rare to find a collection of so many passionate people in any industry, and that is why I love the wine industry so much.