CIACCI PICCOLOMINI D’ARAGONA is an estate winery in the south-east of Montalcino, near the medieval village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate and teh Romanesque Abbey of Sant’Antimo, which dates to the 14th-century..

OWNER Paolo Bianchini (who is really into cycling) and his sister Lucia. Their late father was Giuseppe Bianchini and their mother is Anna.

BACKGROUND The estate has origins that date back to 1672, when Fabius de Vecchis, who was then Bishop of Montalcino and Abbot of Sant’Antimo Abbey, built the “Palazzo” (Palace) or main building here. After this death, the Palace and the surrounding estate were auctioned according to the Italian law regarding ecclesiastic properties and on 16 September 1868, they were purchased by the countess Eva Bernini Cerretani. On 31 December 1877, the countess Cerretani sold the entire estate to the Ciacci family from Castelnuovo dell’Abate. After the marriage between the count Alberto Piccolomini d’Aragona, a direct discendent of Enea Silvio Piccolomini or Pope Pius II (1405-1464) and Elda Ciacci, the Bishop’s Palace became the Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona Palace. In 1985 the noble house of the Ciacci Piccolomini family ended when the Countess Elda Ciacci Piccolomini died, having bequeathed the entire property to Giuseppe Bianchini, who had farmed and managed the estate for her, developing both vineyards and a market for the wines. Bianchini hired Roberto Cipresso (who was MD here between 1987 to 1995). Giuseppe Bianchini died on 08th February 2004 and was succeeded by his children, Paolo and Lucia.

STAFF Oen: Paolo Vagaggini (in 2018).

LANDHOLDINGS IN 2018 There are 200 hectares (494 acres) of land of which 57 hectares (141 acres) are vines (see below) and 40 hectares (99 acres) are olive groves. The remaining 103 hectares (254 acres) of land is semi-wild, woods and pasture.

VINEYARDS 2018 22 hectares (54 acres) are Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, including 2.5 hectares (6.2 acres) purchased in 2018 from Tenuta La Togata (on cretaceous tufa) in 2018 for between 450 to 550 thousand euros per hectare. These vines are on water-retentive soils (good in hot vintages). There are also 10 hectares (24.7 acres) of Rosso di Montalcino DOC and the remaining 25 hectares (62 acres) is Sant’Antimo DOC or Toscana IGT. Altitude range of 240-360 metres above sea level. Eocene soils with good levels of marl. A mix of whiteish galestro and darker-looking soils. The vines overlook the Orcia river.

ROOTSOCKS The main rootstock is 1103 Paulsen which is adapted to the Sangiovese clones they have.

VINEYARD NAMES Vigna di Pianrosso is the main vineyard with 11.69 hectares (29.22 acres). Other important vineyards are Vigna Fonte which faces south-east, Vigna Ferraiole, Vigne Egle, Vigna Contessa and Vigna Colombaio.

ORGANICS Paolo Bianchini told me ‘We get good airflow here from marine winds. We also have very well drained soils, consisting of galestro over water-retentive clay. We plough the soil but only to a very shallow depth. This encourages deeper vine rooting, as the vines are encouraged to seach for water. The clones we have of Sangiovese include VR5, R24 (an Emilia-Romagna clone) and VR. They give various bunch shapes giving tighter or looser bunches which we have adapted to the drainage capacity of our soils. We invested in more efficient spray machinery and under-vine weeders. We ensure in spring the vine canopies allow a good flow of air and light to prevent diseases. Sensors have been placed in the vineyard to track humidity levels.’1At the main winery on 22nd May 2018.

ORGANIC CERTIFICATION Were IPM. 2020 Full organic certification due for the first time.

WINERY There is an underground cellar in Castelnuovo, beneath the palazzo, formerly the bishop’s seat, which dates back to the 1500s but its cellars here are even older. This cellar was first used by the owners in 1972, and is still used for visits and dinners, but no longer for winemaking. For this, there is a more modern winery west of the town called Il Molinello. It is located nearer the vineyards and dates from 2004. It has a visitor centre, an area for cyclists to stop (and shower), and various airy rooms for tasting. These rooms were partly constructed using wood from old wooden vats, and are full of cycling memorabilia.

WINEMAKING The Brunello wines ferment and do their malolactic fermentation in stainless steel, are then aged in oak botti, then are moved to cement before bottling so they can settle the wine in a clean and natural way (low thermic transfer, and they can chill if ambient temperatures are too hot). The cement idea came from Lucia and Paolo’s father, Giuseppe Bianchini.

ANNUAL PRODUCTION Around 300,000 bottles of which 90,000 bottles are Brunello (this is set to grow).

SALES 2018 40% USA, 30% Italy, 30% rest of Europe.

RED WINES

ATEO 1989 Debut, between two excellent years. 1989 was a tough year. Sangiovese plus Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot.

SANT’ANTIMO ROSSO DOC, FABIVS Dedicated to Fabuis de Vecchis (see above). One of the first Syrah reds from Montalcino. 2009 Syrah.

MONTECUCCO SANGIOVESE DOC This is now an IGT Toscana. 2009 85% Sangiovese, 10% Merlot, 5% Syrah.

ROSSO DI MONTALCINO DOC 2003 Decent clean Merlot-style bright fruit with not too much oak in June 2005.2At Il Leccio in Sant’Angelo in Colle on Thursday 2 June 2005. 2011 Deepish ruby core with a crimson rim; smells like it is still on skins, has that blackberry cordial freshness about it, unusual. Something not quite right on the palate too because there is carbon dioxide, the wine is still working (some malic acid converting to lactic, maybe?). But if you like natural wine this is a good one because it is very individual, with pure fruit overlaid by funk in May 2014.3At the Brunello consorzio with Ian d’Agata and others on Tuesday 28th May 2014. 2016 14% alcohol. Nice crunchy fruit in May 2018.4Tasted the main winery on 22nd May 2018.

ROSSO DI MONTALCINO DOC, ROSSOFONTE 2014 First vintage of this wine. 5,000 bottles. 2015 8,000 bottles. Selection of grapes. Aged in botti. 14.5% (maybe 14.7% alcohol). Good vintage. Plenty of structure, like a baby Brunello in May 2018.5Tasted the main winery on 22nd May 2018.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, CIACCI PICCOLOMINI D’ARAGONA 2000 Exotic chocolate which seems atypical.6 at Benvenuto Brunello 19 Feb 2005. 2009 14.5%. Deepish mid-rub garnet. Evolved nose, hint of funk in there too. Dryish entry, seems stretched with a bitter licorice edge to the tannins. Dry short end.7At the Brunello consorzio with Ian d’Agata and others on Tuesday 28th May 2014. 2013 15% alcohol. Lovely evolution, savoury, wild fruit in May 2018.8Tasted the main winery on 22nd May 2018.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, VIGNA DI PIANROSSO From a site last replanted in the 1980s. See above.

BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, SANTA CATERINA D’ORO VIGNA DI PIANROSSO 2007 14.5%. Deepish mid-rub garnet. Evolved nose. Bit flat. Green/stemmy notes allied to freshly baked raspberries and freshly unbaked press wine. Seems to lack a centre/harmony. Breif impression of sweetness/ripeness on entry, then a middle dominated by chunky fruit and tannins followed by a brief finish. Dry, bitter licorice in May 2014.9At the Brunello consorzio with Ian d’Agata and others on Tuesday 28th May 2014.

EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL From around 40 hectares. Leccino, Moraiolo, and Olivastra. PICCOLOLIO This is a single variety extra virgin olive oil from lower yielding, hand picked (early morning) Frantoio olives. 100kg of Frantoio olives produced 9.5kg of oil.

GRAPPA, LA GRAPPA DI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO, RISERVA PIANROSSO From the Pianrosso vineyard. Discontinous ‘bain marie’ distillation. Aged 18 months in French barrels.

CONTACT Azienda Agraria Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona, Via Borgo di Mezzo, 62 / Fraz. Castelnuovo del Abate / I-53024 Montalcino (SI = Siena), Italy / Tel+39 0557 835616 / www.ciaccipiccolomini.com