HISTORY / Tenuta di Argiano is one of the very oldest, if not the oldest, wine producers in the Montalcino region with a history of winegrowing dating back to the Middle Ages. The estate lies some 8 kilometres (5 miles) south-west of Montalcino, overlooking the Castello di Argiano which was built in 1482 and formed part of Tenuta di Argiano until the latter sold in 1979 to the Sesti family (see here). Tenuta di Argiano’s horseshoe-shaped villa was built by a noble family from Siena in around 1570 to 1581 during the Renaissance. It has remained unaltered since. It has an avenue of cypress trees, a double-arched courtyard, and old underground cellars with vaulted ceilings. Once owned by the Counts of Lovatelli, the estate was rescued from bankruptcy in 1980 by marriage into the Cinzano family, when Noemi Marone Cinzano married Gelasio Gaetani d’Aragona Lovatelli. In 1992 Contessa Noemi Marone Cinzano bought Argiano outright, after her family’s firm Cinzano was sold to IDV. She appointed Sebastiano Rosa (nephew of Marchese Incisa della Rocchetta) as vineyard manager and Giacomo Tachis as winemaker.
FORMER STAFF / Hans-Vinding-Diers (winemaker 2000+ for some wines, 2004-2012 vintages for all wines).
VINEYARDS / Argiano covers over 100 hectares (250 acres) of land, and occupies a high plateau at over 350 metres (1,160 feet).
VITICULTURE / Francesco Monari told me (28 Sept 2018) that they finished picking yesterday. In the 2018 growing season there was an extremely high level of rainfall (45cm), plus a little light hail in July. Monari said ‘I sprayed a little copper after the hail but the vines were very resistant. We have high levels of organic matter and microbiology in the soil now and we have tested how far the vine roots go down. We did this with Pedro Parra, a Chilean geologist. He used a magnet to define where the compact areas were and where to dig soil pits. These pits were two-metres deep and two metres wide. He analysed the microbiology in the soil and on the vine roots. This allowed us to define 16 micro-terroirs which we work and pick as 8 terroirs to make it easier to manage. We sow cover crops in alternate rows. We sow barley on its own in every other row. This gets flattened or rolled, and gives us a carpet to drive down the rows when we need to spray if it is wet. Barley also improves how the soil drains the water. I spray half the permitted dose of copper-based sprays under organic rules. This means that if the copper is washed off by a rain event soon after, I can re-spray and remain within the permitted limits. If I do not have to re-spray it means I use half of what I am allowed and it shows the vines have built up more resistance. The alternate rows are sown always with the same mix of legumes for nitrogen, crucifers whose roots decompact and aerate soils, and grasses (cereals such as triticale, a wheat-rye hybrid, or barley or orzo) to build organic matter. We cut the cover crops just undergruond using a horizontal blade. I want a reductive soil, meaning one which is not continually ploughed and turned and de-structured. Ploughing creates an oxidative soil. Sangiovese, our main grape, is a red wine grape which can oxidise easily (as wine), in contrast to Cabernet Sauvignon which can handle oxygen. We grow Sangiovese, so I do not want the soil to be open all the time. It took seven years of organics for the vineyards to find their feet again after the previous conventional regime. We use no insecticides, not even the organic ones. We use pheromones fof the grape berry moth, and ladybirds as a natural parasite of spider mites. We leave traps [100 in 2018] to catch the vector of flavesence dorée but so far [Oct 2018] we do not have it here. We now have bees who nest in the vines, forming large cones. At replanting we now use our own mass selection clones (two so far, with technical input from CREA) taken from our own vines, in particular from the Vignoni plot which dates from the 1950s. At pruning we collect and compost the prunings and the compost then goes back into the vineyard.’
ORGANICS / 2014 Organic practices adopted. / 2018 The estate had four donkeys.
CERTIFICATION / 2016 Official conversion to organics began. / 2020 First vintage with full organic certification.
WINEMAKING / 2010+ A move away from barrels to larger-sized oak vessels.
NON CONFUNDITUR / ‘Non Confunditur’ is a Latin term meaning, in modern parlance “don’t get confused”; in other words, don’t mistake this with the other wines from Argiano, this one being a mix of both Tuscan and French grapes rather than 100% Tuscan grapes (Brunello, Rosso di Montalcino) or 100% French grapes (Solengo). Each of the four different grape varieties that goes into the blend – Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah – ferments in separate tanks. The wine is then blended and age in French oak (second usage rather than new) and larger wooden vats made of Slavonian oak.
SUOLO / This wine was created in 2000 by Hans Vinding-Diers. ‘Suolo’, which means ‘soil’ in Italian is made from Sangiovese grapes from Argiano’s oldest vineyards, last repanted in the 1950s. These provide much smaller-sized grapes than is usual for Sangiovese, meaning there is a high proportion of grapeskins to grape juice, giving the potential for naturally concentrated wine. A high percentage of uncrushed grapes do intothe vats at the start of fermentation, allowing as slow and gentle a fermentation as possible, often for more than 21 days. Malolactic fermentation occurs in new French barriques (225-litre) from oak with the tightest grain for accentuates Suolo’s textural smoother tanninsdepth, giving the fruit. Around 3,000 bottles and 60 magnums are made annually. / 2004 Fermented and blended by Hans Vinding-Diers. Will be about 3,000 bottles. / 2009 100% Sangiovese. Aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. / 2012 The 2012 was the last vintage of Suolo Hans Vinding-Diers fermented, blended and bottled.
SOLENGO / Solengo is a Tuscan term meaning ‘lone wild boar’. The wine is a blend of French grapes: one third each Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hand picked. Each grape variety ferments in separate vats. Time on skins varies: 12 days for Syrah, 14 days for the smaller-berried Merlot, and 16 days for Cabernet Sauvignon, with the smallest berries of all. Aged for 14 months in new French oak barriques (225-litre).
ROSSO DI MONTALCINO DOC / 2003 Blended but not fermented by Hans Vinding-Diers. / 2004 Fermented and blended by Hans Vinding-Diers. Fermented with Argiano yeast. No oak, either barrels or foudres. Egg fined. Bottled in Sept 2005. 80,000 bottles. Released at €5 ex cellars and around €12-14 in the shops. ‘The idea is to have something lively, young, fresh, easy to drink, fruity,’ says Hans ‘as we believe this is what the Rosso should be. It has some autumn flavours. I made it on purpose with a not too tannic finish. In future this wine may spend 4 months in old foudres. This wine is one year old to the day and I do not think one year is enough for a wine like this, so a bit of ageing in older wood will soften it still further,’ speaking at the estate on Saturday 8th October 2005 (with Hans, NK Wong, David Guell and Silvana). My tasting note that day was “Bright mid-ruby colour, limpid, smells of forest fruit, nice firm acidity and elegant tannins, but can get the fruit a little bit cleaner but nice Sangiovese style / 2012 43,400 bottles. Nice, simple, bright fruit, bit primary, then quite structured, youthful at Benvenuto Brunello Feb 2014. / 2013 45,000 bottles. The 2013 was the last vintage of Rosso Hans fermented, blended and bottled. Light and fruity, decent and fresh at Benvenuto Brunello Feb 2015.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG, ARGIANO / 1979 Slightly dirty when tried with Pepe, Hans, Jamie Nyholt and NK Hong at Argiano on Wednesday 10th Nov 2004. / 1999 On the way to oxidation combined with atypically sweet fruit when tasted in Sant Angelo in Colle with Silvana in Nov 2006 (bottle a Christmas present in 2005 from the estate). / 2002 Blended but not fermented by Hans Vinding-Diers. / 2003 Blended but not fermented by Hans Vinding-Diers. / 2008 108,000 bottles. Decent weight at Benvenuto Brunello Sunday 24th Feb 2013. / 2012 14.5%. / 2013 14%.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO DOCG RISERVA, ARGIANO / 2010 The 2010 was the last Riserva vintage Hans Vinding-Diers fermented, blended and bottled.
The olive groves surrounding Argiano’s villa are mainly composed of two varieties: the distinctively peppery Frantoio and the more buttery-tasting Leccino. Once fully ripe – usually from mid-November onwards – the olives are picked by hand, during the early morning only (‘Extra Virgin’ oil must be pressed only from olives picked that day). The olives are cold-pressed in a continuous system belonging to the Franci family in nearby Montenero d’Orcia.
Visit to the estate on 16th Oct 2018.