Montenidoli is an organic estate winery in Località Montenidoli in the San Gimignano region of Tuscany in Italy. It makes white wines under the Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG and red wines under the Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG. The name Montenidoli translates ‘Hill of the Birds’ nests’.
Background: Owner Maria Elisabetta Fagiuoli comes from a family cultivating vines and olive trees since the 1700s in Custoza, near Verona in the Veneto region. Both her grandmother and great-grandmother made wine there. Elisabetta spent her childhood wandering the vineyards of Valpolicella, then studied in Rome, Paris, London, and Tokyo (she is a cousin of William Walton). She arrived in San Gimignano in 1965, buying the then abandoned estate with a legacy from her grandmother. Montenidoli was first planted with vines by the Etruscans (a tower remains). The Romans and the Knights Templar used the site for winemaking, the latter for use at mass. In 1404 the name of Montenidoli appeared in a will. Elisabetta made her first wine at Montenidoli only in 1971. Her late husband Sergio d’Asej wrote poetry.
Vineyards: 30ha estate with 24ha of vines: 66% Vernaccia, 33% red. | 2010 22ha of vines.
Terroir: Valley floor These are Quaternary terrains, where the calcareous sediments left by the Ligurian Sea are used for the white wines. This part of the vineyard lies above what was the shore 5 million years ago during the Quaternary. | On the Crest The higher slopes (at 650 metres – check) consist of Triassic terrain, the oldest in Tuscany (one of only three Triassic mountain terroirs in Tuscany, the others being at Certona and Montemaggio), mineral-rich red earth (250 million years) for the red wines. This is where 8ha of Sangiovese are on iron and manganese-rich clay (protected by a fence from the wild boar).
Organic certification: 2002 First vintage with full organic certification. | 2016 Still certified organic.
Toscana Bianco, Vin Brusco: From 65% Trebbiano Gentile and 35% Malvasia Bianca. Vin Brusco is a tradition in San Gimignano: it was the white wine the farmers made from grapes culled from the Chianti vineyards. Come harvest, they began by gathering the white grapes, Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia Bianca, pressed them in the tank, took the free-run must to make Vin Brusco, and then continued with the harvest of the red grapes, which were then added to the skins of the white grapes. Trebbiano is the latest-ripening of the four grape types that were planted in the vineyards, but people accepted this because the harvest was a single passage through the vineyards, whose timing was dictated by the ripeness of the red grapes. The considerable acidity imparted by the Trebbiano helped the wine keep, but also made it Brusco, in other words “brusque wine.” In 1966 Vernaccia became Italy’s first DOC wine and captured the attentions of both the Sangimignanesi and the market, with the result that Vin Brusco was set aside and quickly forgotten. In 1978 Montenidoli revived this wine: The grapes are harvested when perfectly ripe, the cold must macerates on the skins, fermentation is temperature controlled, and the wine rests on its lees until it is bottled as Vinbrusco.
Toscana Bianco, Il Templare: Around 70% Vernaccia, 20% Trebbiano Gentile and 10% Malvasia Bianca. Made from free-run juice. Barrel fermented and aged (12 months). | 1999 Debut. | 2010 Also ages 12m in cement as well as in wood. Lovely acid and oak. Body, textured, VVG (Real Wine Fair 2016). | 2011 Very Mâcon-like but with different acidity (Real Wine Fair 2017).
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Montenidoli: Described by Rosemay George (2004, p.215) as including both pressed and free-run juice, with grassy, herbal, almond flavours. | 2010 Very good weight and depth, nice, ripe, wide citrus (Anteprima 2013). | 2014 Very focused and interesting flavours, textures (Real Wine Fair 2017). | 2019 17,000 bottles. 13% alc. Lovely depth, creaminess, saltiness (Anteprima 2020).
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Fiore: Vernaccia Fiore is made from the free-run must. It ferments in steel, and is lees aged. | 2010 Vif, ripe, bit of chalk, long (2013 Anteprima). | 2014 Beautiful acid, apple skin texture (Real Wine Fair 2016). Lovely soft texture (Real Wine Fair 2017). | 2018 13% alc. 15,000 bottles. Very bright, salty, mouthwatering fruit (Anteprima 2020).
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, Carato: Vernaccia Fiore is made from the free-run must from the best sites. 12m in oak. Described by Rosemary George MW (2004, p.215) as barrel fermented. | 2000 Honeyed and fresher than 2001 with a lot of brightness and mineral on Monday 14 Feb 2005 at the winery. | 2001 Well made, harmonious and clean (Ristorante Il Pino, San Gimignano, Sunday 13th Feb 2005). | 2010 Nice colour, very rich and lightly honeyed, deep (Anteprima 2013). | 2016 14.5% alc. 5,000 bottles. Creamy white fruit, intense but lithe, wonderful (Anteprima 2020).
Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG Riserva, Montenidoli
IGT Toscana Rosato, Canaiuolo: 1989 First produced in 1989 from red-stemmed Canaiolo grapes. | 2004 Nice and fresh from tank. Will be bottled in Feb 2005. | 2016 Lovely fresh pink fruit flavours (Real Wine Fair, 2017).
Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, Montenidoli: 75% Sangiovese, 25% Canaiolo.
Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG, Il Garrulo: The name Il Garrulo came in part from the noisy chirping of the birds, which brings to mind the happy talk that rises up around the table after a few good glasses of wine, and in part to honor the Garrulus, the mischievous bird that struts about the roofs of Montenidoli during the winter months. | 1989 75% Sangiovese, 3% Trebbiano Gentile, 2% Malvasia del Chianti, 20% Canaiolo. The 1989 vintage produced a cold rainy summer and the grapes were dilute and unripe. “We collected the best bunches and set them to dry on trellises, then pressed the remaining unblemished grapes in the cellars, racked the must off after a brief maceration on the skins, and refermented the must with the grapes we’d dried on the trellises, using the traditional “governo alla toscana” technique. The result was a huge success: a pale ruby, richly perfumed wine that was light, fresh, and extremely pleasant to drink. It was barely 12%,’ says Elisabetta. | 2015 Very savoury, lovely red and black fruit (Real Wine Fair 2017).
Toscana Rosso, Sono Montenidoli: 100% Sangiovese. The name means “I am Montenidoli” meaning a wine whose style is the terroir, not the consultant. Aged in Taransaud casks. Elisabetta told me (Visit 14 Feb 2005) she preferred short macerations, being a fan of Henri Jayer. | 1971 Debut. | 1995 Destemmed. 12m in barrel. Lovely wild herb and red fruit and mint, with a lovely aftertaste (Visit 14 Feb 2005).
Toscana Rosso, Triassico: ‘Made from Sangiovese grapes grown at a plot called Le Pianore of Montenidoli. At 450 metres above sea level, it is San Gimignano’s highest vineyard, situated amidst oak woods with a soil composed of deep limestone rich in iron and magnesium. There was no turning over of the soil or breaking up of the sub-soil when the vines were planted. The vineyard has never seen fertilisers of any kind nor even green manure. The grass cover is spontaneous and the earth around the plants is worked entirely by hand. Spraying is restricted to a limited number of treatments with traditional Bordeaux mixture. The vines are trained on the Goblet system, with the young shoots supported by four wires fixed on chestnut poles prepared on the estate. There is neither cane topping nor green harvesting. In these conditions the vines grow very slowly, only beginning to produce their first grapes after five or six years and the yields per vine are extremely low. All this might seem uneconomical, but in fact it is the only way to ensure a healthy, robust vineyard which will last for many decades. Only in this way is it possible to extract the maximum from the terroir, because growing slowly the roots of the vines explore the soils meticulously, seeking out its moisture and very minute detail of its mineral composition,’ says Maria Elisabetta Fagiuoli.
From Moraiolo and Correggiolo olives; here acid lower than 0.20% at pressing (a sign of top quality). This oil is unfiltered, so bottled in spring after natural settling. For visits call ahead as there are no signposts: “the best wines do not need a sign post”.
Visit on Monday 14th Feb 2005; and in 2016 with Christopher Barnes of GrapeCollective.
Montenidoli, Loc. Montenidoli, I-53037 San Gimignano (SI = Siena), Italy | Tel+39 0577.941565 | Website www.montenidoli.com
Agritourism La Fidanza | Loc. Cortennano, I-53037 San Gimignano (SI = Siena), Italy | Tel+39 0577.941565 | GPS Nº43 27.961 E 11º 03.983
www.sergiothepatriarch.org [foundation in honour of the late Sergio d’Asej]