Owner: Bertani Domains. 2013 was their first 100% control vintage here.
Staff: COO: Andrea Lonardi.
Previous staff: Vineyard manager: Davide Landini (until 2015). Met him with Ian d’Agata at the winery 30th May 2016. Landini also worked for Frescobaldi–Nipozzano (and in Mugello). And for Antinori. Oen: Mario Calzolari plus consultant Fabrizio Ciufoli.
Background: The history of Val di Suga began in 1969, when a company owned by Aldo Moro, who was twice Prime Minister of Italy (1963 to 1968, and 1974 to 1976) bought farmland to the north of Montalcino and built a production and sales unit. That land, used for producing fodder at the time, was gradually converted to vineyards and underwent several changes in ownership. The first vineyard was planted in 1983, by the lake (‘lago’) opposite the winery, in the northeastern area of Montalcino. The vineyard was to produce the 1977 Vigna del Lago Brunello Riserva, Val di Suga’s first vintage to be sold. In 1995 Lionello Marchesi sold the estate to Gruppo Angelini (pharmaceuticals) whose agricultural holdings were grouped under the Tenimenti Angelini banner. In 1999 an opportunity arose to buy the Poggio al Granchio vineyard in the southeast of the Montalcino region. In 2009 Tenimenti Angelini acquired Bertani, and Tenimenti Angelini’s wine holdings became grouped under the Bertani Domains banner. The Bertani team’s supervision was in place from the 2010 vintage here. The 2013 Brunello di Montalcino was the first vintage of Val di Suga for which Bertani Domains was responsible from pruning through harvesting, winemaking, ageing, bottling and selling the wine.
Vineyards: Val di Suga comprises 51ha of vines (200,000 bottles) in Montalcino on both sides of the town and across three distinct vineyards in the three best zones and covering 98ha of land in total. Each has its own botanical landscape, Andrea told me.
The three vineyards are Vigna Spuntali on Montalcino’s south-western side, Poggio al Granchio on the south-eastern side, and Vigna del Lago (winery vineyard) on the north-facing slope. Val di Suga is one of the few Montalcino estates with vineyards in different parts of the hill and the only one with vines on the three most suitable slopes for producing the best Brunello.
Cru project: A cru project here started by Andrea Lonardi (operations director for Bertani Domains) who told me: ‘there is no single template for Sangiovese. Vineyards on three different slopes of the Montalcino hill country: to the north, the Val di Suga vineyard, spreading all around the wine cellar and including the well-known Vigna del Lago planting;
Viticulture: ‘Pruning trials with Simonit and Sirch cordon speronato in a goblet form. In 2014 they began using a de-leafer at flowering to provoke a hormonal reaction to get grapes with more polyphenols. Does soleil levant side. Wants to go organic. Wants new canopy structure. Less direct sunlight on grapes. Better micro-climate in the cluster zone. Higher photosynthetic potential as more young leaves,’ at the winery on 30th May 2014 with Ian D’Agata.
Cover crops: Colza (oil seed rape) and alfalfa. Used to create vitality, and to keep the soil airy, which is seen as necessary for high quality Sangiovese.
Mineral deficiencies: Any kind of mineral deficiency is seen as a big negative for quality Sangiovese.
Harvesting: Spuntali is the first to ripen, then Granchio, and finally Vigna del Lago.
Winemaking: The main theme is to make wines which are more like infusions than blockbusters. Looking to get and retain a kind of floral freshness. For this the aim is to avoid any excess over-ripening. Each of the three terroirs is vinified slightly differently in terms of picking date, fermentation temperature, maceration time on skins, and ageing time and container. For all the wines the main them is that Sangiovese cold soaks for 2-3 days to get colour and soft tannins. Ferment at 25-30°C. Slow ferments. Extraction via pump overs. 26°C for colour. Then when 75% fermented the temperature can rise to up to 28°C max. Want roundness of fruit, no jagged edges. Full, plenty of tannin but ripe tannin: Montalcino is a hot zone, so can go easier on the ferment as do not need to force the tannins or colour out when winemaking. Andrea Lonardi told me that wines that have to age a long time in oak and originate from hot climates should age in Slavonian oak (vats) which is less porous than French oak (barrels), and with minimal racking because the wines need the presence of the lees.
Enzo Tiezzi told me on 09th April 2015 the Val di Suga winery vineyard [the ‘Val di Lago’] produced wines with only moderate structure, and so when he worked there he looked to lower yields to get concentration into the wine, rather than using techniques like rack-and-return, or bleeding (“you gain in one way and lose in another”).
Rosso di Montalcino DOC, Val di Suga: 2012 60,000 bottles. Garnet colour, faint, decent, sappy-savoury (Anteprima 2014). | 2013 60,000 bottles. Sweet, maybe a bit of funk, fluffy (Anteprima 2015). | 2014 Simple, primary cherry jelly drink, tannin a bit dry, but sapid (Anteprima 2016). | 2018 60,000 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Val di Suga: 2000 Dry and lacking texture (Anteprima 2005). | 2006 Not tasted. | 2007 Not tasted. | 2008 Not tasted. | 2009 130,000 bottles. Nice weight, sapid, balanced, clear, good if a bit flat maybe at Anteprima 2014. Sweet and tobacco-like, nice sweetness, not much structure and a bit warm but savoury and OK. Not a wine I would keep though (Visit 30th May 2014 with Ian D’Agata.). | 2011 Sweet cedar oak/fruit, bit overripe, but cedar too, simple (Anteprima 2016). | 2015 120,000 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Poggio al Granchio: Poggio al Granchio is a magical place for its environment and landscape; it is a narrow valley on the southeastern side of Montalcino that descends down to Sant’Antimo. It is the area with the highest altitude vineyards on the Montalcino hill. It is a vineyard that gets the morning sun (it faces south-east towards Monte Amiata and overlooks Castelnuovo dell’Abate) and is subjected to the strong climatic influence of Mount Amiata (former volcano and sacred Etruscan mountain) which looms opposite. This area of Montalcino has rich galestro soils, which are particularly good for Brunello. The soil structure is described as galestro with a balance of sand and clay. The pH is between 6.10 to 6.20. Around 400-450m. Wine style Andrea Lonardi says ‘on galestro, Sangiovese becomes mineral and sapid, with silky tannins; on the nose it has notes of ripe fruits of the undergrowth, combined with that unmistakable hint of flint that you can smell directly on the schist.’ I describe it as deep and spicy, intriguing, with deep but soft tannins and a deep colour. The name “Poggio al Granchio” comes from the small pond at the centre of the estate, under an imposing holm oak, home to some lively freshwater crabs. Purchase: Poggio al Granchio was acquired after the Poggio San Polo estate was sold to new owners in 1999. Val di Suga acquired the lower lying half of the vineyards (400m ?), whilst the upper half was bought by the Allegrini family from the Veneto who kept the name. Size Poggio al Granchio comprises 19ha and is located in Località San Polo. Winemaking: Poggio al Granchio is is the second of Val di Suga’s three single vineyard sites to ripen and thus be picked I was told at the winery on 30th May 2014 with Ian D’Agata. The wine is fermented at 28°C, upto a maximum of 32°C to get it to finish. It ages in a mix of oak: 50-60hl botti (and maybe some barrels). | 2009 15,000 bottles. Nice sweet fruit rather than florality, richer than the basic Brunello (Anteprima 2014). | 2009 L14038. 15%. Bright light garnet all the way across. Rich ripe nose, currants, dried fruit. Impression of warmth. Very ripe palate. Real impression of sweetness and denseness to both fruit and oak allied to a somewhat confected effect from the oak, which adds a coconut element that jars slightly with the more classic|savoury grape flavours. Quite heavy finish, dense tannins which are ripe and sticky (Consorzio 2014). | 2009 Smooth, spicey, sexy, crowd-pleaser style (Visit, 2014). | 2009 Nice fluid ripe plum red fruit (Anteprima 2015). | 2010 Much more fruit, ‘flatteux’, youthful and oak, bit fluffy vanilla, but savoury too (Anteprima 2016). | 2013 Bertani Domains’ first vintage under their full guidance (see above). | 2015 12,000 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Vigna del Lago: Location The ‘Lake Vineyard’ is located north of Montalcino in the Canalicchio sub-zone in front of the winery. Vigna del Lago is the vineyard that welcomes all the visitors arriving from the north of Montalcino. It gets its name from the lake surrounding it which plays a fundamental role in the microclimate in this area; the soil is a continual alternation between clay and strips of very fine galestro. The northern slope of Montalcino didn’t use to be covered in vines, but was farmed with cereals, olives and cherries. In this area influenced by the Apennines, the seasons are more distinct, continental and the north wind significantly lowers the temperature in winter. Therefore it is the coldest Brunello area in this season, but also the wettest. This northern slope is a gentle hill: a feature more reminiscent of the Crete Senesi area, right next to it, than the two more rigid, steeper and warmer southern slopes of Montalcino. The climate and origin of the soils make this area of Montalcino the last to be harvested. Size Vigna del Lago comprises 17ha of vines. Soil The soil is calcareous clay interspersed with friable shale. Altitude At 270-320 metres (feet) this is the lowest lying of the Val di Suga vineyards. Aspect North-east. 270-280 metres. Picked last’ I was told at the winery on 30th May 2014 with Ian D’Agata. Winemaking The last of the group’s three vineyard sites to be picked. Wine style The Brunello Vigna del Lago is a historic cru of the Val di Suga winery, which the owners decided to bring back after years; it is a Brunello of old, before the arrival of barriques and technology, an authentic product that there is a renewed and significant demand for. It is a wine with a lower alcohol content, pale colour, with very fine and almost imperceptible tannins; a floral nose with citrus notes, especially myrtle-leaved orange, and fresh cherries. It is a Brunello with great plushness, roundness, lightness, with a salty and mineral finish. David Landini told me that as Vigna del Lago gives a lighter, more perfumed (aromas of violets), more ‘Burgundian’ style thanks to the site and the type of clay soils here. It is fermented at around 26°C, to maximise these inherent characteristics, of being only moderately structured, and never a blockbuster. It ages in 60hl wooden vats. | 2009 10,000 bottles. Firmer tannin compared to the Spuntali 2009, with creamy grapes skin plus a bit of caramel and vanilla and little florality (Anteprima 2014). | 2009 Get some of that clay freshness, very different tannic expression here. More vertical. He says he likes this best as it is more old style. Crunchy tannins (Visit May 2014). | 2009 15%. L14042. NHB. Bright light garnet all the way across. Open nose, not much in the way of aromatics, sense of ripeness and cedariness and concentration rather than mass. Entry is full, round, rich, ripe, and somewhat sherried from the oak. This gives an impression of weight when really the fruit was more inherently lithe. Nice combo (Consorzio May 2014). | 2010 Quite evolved garnet colour, fruit needs time to flesh out (Anteprima 2016). | 2013 Bertani Domains’ first vintage under their full guidance (see above). | 2015 7,500 bottles.
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Vigna Spuntali: Acquired in 1988. Size ‘14ha (1997|2001) + 3ha planted in 2014 (Guillaume and one other). Vigna Spuntali is historically known as the best area of the southwestern slope of Montalcino, the slope facing the sea. The sea plays a decisive role here, mitigating the warm summer nights and cold winters. This enables an early reawakening of the plant in spring and an important day/night temperature swing in summer. These climatic conditions make this the very first place the grapes are harvested in the whole Brunello di Montalcino area. Location Sant’Angelo in Colle, in the south-west of Montalcino, 40km from the Mediterranean coast with no mountain or hill range between the coast and the estate. Aspect South-west facing, on the southwestern slope. Altitude 270m, 300m 315m. Terroir Mediterranean climat. Hot zone, among the sunniest and driest in Montalcino. Best in cooler vintages, Andrea Lonardi told me. Soil: Andrea Lonardi told me the soil here was ‘pietra forte, tufaceous’. The winery blurb says ‘the soils are of marine origin. When the sea receded it left a sandy component–a beach of white sands–as well as marine debris and fossil shell remains’. Mediterranean vegetation.’ Cover crop: Broad beans (Vicia faba) or ‘favino’, a nitrogen fixer or legume. pH 5.8. Rootstocks: 110 Richter mainly, 420A and SO4. Two: 1.5 x 0.90 for 7.5ha. Also 2.20 x 0.9. Old vines at 3m will be ripped up,’ I was told at the winery on 30th May 2014 with Ian D’Agata.
Winemaking Spuntali is the first vineyard to be picked. The site gives a big wine, so there is no need to overdo the winemaking with hot or aggressive ferments. Spuntali ferments in cement tanks, a relatively cool temperatures. This encourages a slow end of fermentation, and Bette integration. It ages one year in 300-litre French oak tonneaux and then in 25hl Slavonian oak vats. Wine style Andrea Lonardi told me ‘Spuntali produces a Brunello with spicey balsamic and menthol notes, with iron and blood orange notes, candied orange candy in hotter years, with rosemary and menthol. On the palate it shows richness and depth with soft, round tannins and a creamy, almost chocolatey texture. It is never a muscular, raging bull Brunello. It is best in cooler vintages when it shows ‘chinotto’ or bitter orange notes’. | 1988 The first vintage of Spuntali. Picked 30 Sept 1988. 18 day fermentation 30-32°C. 13.94% alc. 26,60% dry extract. Aged 24m in 300-litre French oak ‘cigares‘. Bottled March 1993. 6,130 bottles. | 1995 Picked 20th September 1995. 18-day fermentation at 30-32°C. 24m in 300-litre French oak ‘cigares’. Bottled December 1999. 14.77% alc. 19,363 bottles and 252 magnums. Chunky but agreeably fluid at the winery in 2020. | 2001 Picked from 23 Sept 2011. 14.38% alc. 20 day ferment 30-32°. 24m in 300-litre French oak ‘cigares’. Bottled June 2006. 12,980 bottles and 150 magnums. Earthy-tasting at the winery in 2020. | 2009 15,000 bottles. Rich, menthol (Anteprima 2014). | 2009 15%. L14041. Garnet middle with a watery-garnet rim. Broad open but not heavy nose, marked by vanilla, cedar and all spice. Sweet fruit-oak and savoury grape-oak tannins make for an interesting mix. Sweet fruit end with marked alcohol, then quite dense oak coming through. Needs time or patience or both (Consorzio May 2014). | 2009 Spuntali: Ripe, full, again on the palate savoury-sweet cherries (Visit May 2014). | 2010 Picked 22 Sept 2010. Fermented 18 day ferment at 30-32°C. 15.36% alc. Aged 24m in 300-litre French oak ‘cigares’. Bottled March 2015. 10,400 bottles and 150 magnums. Bit raisined, needs a bit more flesh, starting to dry a little (Anteprima 2015). Bit evolved at the winery in 2020. | 2011 Bright garnet, deepest and ripest of the three in 2011, and most complex and interesting in terms of palate weight, silky-rich (Anteprima 2016). | 2013 Cooler season. Thus a good vintage here. | 2015 12,000 bottles. 300 magnums. Picked from 16th Sept. Fermented 20 days in concrete vats at 20-25°C. 3 weeks on skins. 12m in 300-litre oak casks. 12m in 25hl oak vats. Unfiltered. Bottled June 2018. 12,000 bottles and 300 magnums. pH 3,17. 14.81% alc. 29.6% dry extract. Warm, very ripe fruit at the winery in 2020. | 2017 Hot vintage. Risk of over-ripeness.
Motuproprio, Toscana Rosso IGT: See Motuproprio.
Val di Suga Società Agricola
Loc. Val di Cava, I-53024 Montalcino (SI = Siena), Italy
Tel+39 0577.804101 | www.valdisuga.it | www.bertanidomains.com
Andrea Lonardi, ‘The Soul of Sangiovese Soils, presentation at Tenuta Trerose 14th Feb 2019.
Tasting 30th May 2014 at the Consorzio with Ian d’Agata and others.
Visit to the winery on 30th May 2014.
Walter Speller, ‘More 2009 Brunello, and some older wines’, www.jancisrobinson.com 31 March 2014.