Ciacci Piccolomini D’Aragona | Estate winery in Località Molinello in Castelnuovo dell’Abate in the far south-east of the Montalcino region in Tuscany, near the 14th-century Romanesque Abbey of Sant’Antimo.
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. In 1988 Bianchini hired Roberto Cipresso (who was MD here between 1987 to 1995). Nicolas Belfrage MW (2013, p.124) says Cipresso advised that the 1989, 1991 and 1992 vintages be ‘downgraded, after the tremendous success of the 1988 and 1990 vintages.’ Under Cipresso, the estate was one of the first in Montalcino to plant Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah (see Ateo, below). Giuseppe Bianchini died on 08th February 2004 and was succeeded by his children, Paolo and Lucia.
Staff | Oen: Paolo Vagaggini (in 2018). Replaced Roberto Cipresso.
Landholdings | 2018 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) on cretaceous tufa purchased in 2018 (450–550 thousand euros per hectare) purchased from Tenuta La Togata (Vini Italiani da Sogno). 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.
Rootstocks | 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 (visit 2018): ‘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. Our Sangiovese clones 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.’
Organic certification | 2017 Converted to organics, from IPM. | 2020 Full organic certification due for the first time.
Winery | There is an underground cellar in Castelnuovo dell’Abate, beneath the palazzo, formerly the bishop’s seat, dating 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 concrete tanks 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 concrete tank 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.
Ateo | The idea of this French blend came from Roberto Cipresso (see above), with the name Ateo meaning atheist, ‘one who does not belive in the gods of Montalcino who decree absolute subservience to Brunello,’ (Nicolas Belfrage MW, 2013, p124). | 1989 Debut. 1989 came between two excellent years but was a tough year. 60% 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 and like Ateo directly above, was inspired by Roberto Cipresso. | 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 at 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 (At the Brunello consorzio with Ian d’Agata and others on Tuesday 28th May 2014). | 2016 14% alcohol. Nice crunchy fruit (Visit 2018). | 2018 50,000 bottles.
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 (Visit 2018). | 2018 50,000 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Ciacci Piccolomini D’Aragona | 2000 Exotic chocolate which seems atypical (Benvenuto Brunello 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 (Montalcino consorzio 2014 tasting). | 2013 15% alcohol. Lovely evolution, savoury, wild fruit (Visit 2018). | 2014 One of the better Brunellos from 2014, with plenty of bright red fruit with a lightly succulent feel, and an overall impression of well managed fluidity (Benvenuto Brunello 2019). | 2015 70,000 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Vigna di Pianrosso | From a site last replanted in the 1980s. See above. | 2015 35,000 bottles.
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 and harmony. Brief impression of sweetness, ripeness on entry, then a middle dominated by chunky fruit and tannins followed by a brief finish. Dry, bitter licorice (Montalcino consorzio 2014 tasting).
Other products | Extra Virgin Olive Oil is made from around 40 hectares of Leccino, Moraiolo, and Olivastra trees. Piccololio is a single variety extra virgin olive oil from lower yielding, hand picked (early morning) Frantoio olives. 100kg of Frantoio olives produce around 9.5kg of oil. Grappa di Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Pianrosso is distilled using marc from the Pianrosso vineyard. It is made using the discontinous ‘bain marie’ method of distillation. It is aged 18 months in French barrels.
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
Nicolas Belfrage MW, From Brunello to Zibibbo—The Wines of Tuscany, Central and Southern Italy (2nd edition, London, 2003), p.124-5.
Visit to the winery 22nd May 2018.