Yesterday, I had the great fortune to spend the better part of the day with Stefano Cinelli Colombini (above), owner and legacy winemaker at the Fattoria dei Barbi, one of Brunello di Montalcino’s historic estates and wineries.
It was a beautiful day in Montalcino and Stefano was at the top of his game.
Whether entertaining a group of giddy British visitors at lunch with his tales of pork ranching and winemaking or touring his top vineyards with his Japanese importer, Stefano seemed to speak only in mellifluous aphorisms and unforgettable anecdotes as he shared nuggets of knowledge and wisdom gleaned from a lifetime as Montalcino’s sage and scribe.
At sunset, as we made our last turn in the vineyards, he spoke at length to his Japanese merchant about what makes Tuscany and Montalcino, in particular, so unique in the panorama of Italian winemaking today.
The Tuscans have a singular ability to compete and to work together simultaneously, he said, noting that winemaking traditions in Montalcino and Chianti Classico stretch back farther than in most of Italy’s twenty regions.
“We are a young nation made up of old countries,” he told us, as he explained how viticulture continues to evolve and change in Italy.
He was referring to the fact that Italy was united as sovereign country only in the second half the nineteenth century. Until that time, the city states and principates vied with one another for power and prestige.
It was as if he were trying to illustrate how Montalcino is a metaphor — a synecdoche, if you will — for this still youthful nation in fieri.
Later, yesterday evening, as I enjoyed his 2010 single-vineyard designated Brunello di Montalcino Vigna del Fiore, I couldn’t but think how brilliant the man and intelligent the wine. Yes, it’s one of the highest rated wines of his, from one of the appellation’s best vintages in recent memory. But the fact that he grew and raised it seemed to make it all the more rich on my palate.
Thank you Stefano, Sveva, and Raffaella, for the wonderful visit. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the spring.