I proudly introduce Melissa Mendez, wine girl extraordinaire, one of my favorite wine geeks, and one of my most treasured friends. Her passion for Italian wine is as unparalleled as her love of Italian food and culture. I feel fortunate to give her a platform here to express her account of the Tale of Fiorano. Enjoy!
In life, the saying goes “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”, but sometimes, maybe a few times in your life if you are really lucky, there is a ‘part’ that stands alone.
In my life, my love affair with Fiorano is the part that outweighs the sum. More than likely this is because, as they say…the wines of Fiorano are a mystery wrapped in a riddle stuffed inside an enigma.
To understand my fascination, you must know that very few wine nerds can boast that they have tasted this magical wine. However on one particularly fortuitous day in August I became part of this winery’s intriguing history…not in Lazio near Rome where the story begins, in fact not even in Italy….at 105 Madison Ave, on the lucky 13th floor at the Domaine Select Wine Estates Headquarters NY, NY, where I was fortunate enough to taste more than 10 vintages of these bewitching wines.
The story of Fiorano truly begins with a reclusive prince, Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi who inherited his family’s estate. Upon consuming a bottle of 1946 Biondi Santi Brunello the Prince set out on a mission to hire Tancredi, the legendary winemaker himself, to assist him with the planting of his very own vineyard. For the next ten years of his life Biondi-Santi’s Tancredi would assist the Prince in the planting and tending of these magical vines.
They planted Bordeaux varieties, as well as the area’s indigenous Malvasia di Candia. Vintage after vintage these grapes would be transformed in massive botte, bottled and stored in the cellar. There they rested, blanketed under a peculiar white mold, protected from consumption and judgment.
The third Italian Wine Legend in this tale is famed wine writer Luigi Veronelli, who became transfixed by the Fiorano wines, which inspired him to write “…to obtain the Prince’s cru is practically impossible, if I lived in Rome, I’d beg for them at his door every morning.”
Shockingly, Veronelli discovered in 1998 that the vineyard of these life altering wines had been uprooted in a jealous fit of rage.
The Prince’s daughter had married Piero Antinori. Apparently this caused some familial discord, as the Prince is famously quoted in saying “I destroyed the vines myself; I could not bear the thought that another might mistreat them.”
In response, Piero Antinori is quoted as saying “He [the prince] is madly in love with his estate, sometimes when you are so in love you are also a bit jealous.”
For years Veronelli sought to acquire a couple of these stunning bottles. Eventually the answer he received was that he could have nothing…..or everything. It was his choice.
The Prince was eager to bestow on Veronelli his greatest honor, appointing him as keeper of the bottles left in the cellar. After that Veronielli would partner with Sergio Esposito and Paolo Domenghetti to manage the distribution of these enological treasures. They have always been careful to see that the wines are received by people who would be appropriately mystified and enchanted by them. People who would recognize the magic in this tale.
Which is where my part of the story begins…
I would add that these wines enchant us all so completely because they appear to age differently than all other wines. In some cases, as they get older they actually taste younger. And nobody knows why the original plantings of the humble Malvasia grape expressed such finesse, and such striking minerality in this particularly barren zone.
The legend lives on as long as there are precious few bottles floating around the world, just waiting to be discovered.
Grazie, di cuore, Melissa! Bravissima!
Tasting Notes by Melissa Mendez: August 2012
1995 Malvasia Botte #45: Dark, deep golden yellow, lightly sulfurous, slightly maderized, stewy apricot, fuzzy full mouth/ acidy.
1995 Malvasia Botte #32: Golden caramel color, racier acidity than the other bottling, more complex aromatics with dried flowers and an interesting tannin quality on the palate
1994 Malvasia Botte #44: Golden yellow, butterscotch, sour acidity, tart, lime zest and mossy
1994 Malvasia Botte #26: Waxy, candied citrus, very focused acidity, much less tart than other bottling
1993 Malvasia Botte #32: Straw yellow, white peach and apricot, more expressive fruit than older vintages, full and lush on the palate,viscous with an attacking acidity that could last for days, marzipan and citrus
1993 Malvasia Botte #25: Straw yellow but cloudy, dense and weighty, roaring acidity, juicy and tart, hitting on every palate sensation
1992 Malvasia Botte #47: Golden yellow with an even more powerful acidity, white peach and a rustic herbaceousness and an interesting minerality that was absent on younger vintages
1992 Malvasia Botte #26: Golden yellow, mint, honey, balsamic, lush and elegant with a weighty viscosity
1995 Semillon Botte #48: Golden, saffron, eucalyptus, herbacious, bees wax with a roaring acidity….white bordeaux meets garganega
1994 Semillon Botte #47: Maderized and slightly off in comparison to other wines on the table
1993 Semillon Botte #22: Straw yellow, honeyed, bright and herbal. Calvados esque with a roaring acidity
1992 Semilon Botte #46: yellow with a green tea aromatic, racy acidity on the palate but not as generous aromatically
1988 Semillo Botte #47: deep yellow, musky and dark, lush and racy with a marked herbaceousness..rosemary and thyme
1987 Semillon Botte #48: if I were presented this blind I would have called it an Amaro, menthol, licorice, full textured and weighty
1987 Semillon Botte #42: menthol, minty and eucalyptus..very complex, spicy acidity and fresh
1986 Semillon Botte #39: Cloudy with particles, waxy and sour…sweettarts and honey