I have visited Poggio di Sotto and tasted their wines a few times now, after spending my last two years in Montalcino, but it is with a great emotion that I am writing about them here today.
I am not going to tell you how long the maceration lasts, how many months the Brunello stays in the big oak barrels, nope, for these information I warmly recommend you to visit the winery, Luigina is one of the best hosts and she will give you all the detailed information about the family, the work in the vineyard, the wine making, the aging and everything you will ask her for.
Today, I would like to tell you a little bit more about how Poggio di Sotto became a worldwide iconic wine and who were the protagonists at that time.
Piero Palmucci is considered a true legend, not only in Montalcino, but among Brunello experts and wine enthusiasts from all over the world. A man who, together with a few other protagonists of the world of wine in the ’90s, marked a new page in the History of Brunello wine and Montalcino in general, identifying himself and his own wine with a very specific style and giving light to a new way f perceiving the Sangiovese from Montalcino.
Originally from Maremma, he lived abroad for most of his life and it was in these years that he met Eliabeth, wife and life companion but especially fundamental accomplice in the creation of the myth of Poggio di Sotto. Another key figure in this story is undoubtedly Giulio Gambelli, who collaborated with Piero in the conception and creation of the style of his wines, as his consultant but mostly as a friend, for many years, until his death.
After having searched for a long time for the “perfect” place to start his Ilcinese adventure, finally in 1989 Palmucci decides to stop, a few km from the historic center of Castelnuvo dell’Abate and the Abbey of Sant’Antimo, on the South-East side of Montalcino, the one that looks towards the Orcia river and the Amiata Volcano.
An extremely suitable are, over decades the cradle of some of the greatest Brunello that have been made in Montalcino, the one chosen by Piero is a warm and sunny area but strategically sheltered from excessive heat, thanks to the presence of the Amiata mountain and the winds, which blow there without break all year long. An area definitely suited to creating something big and this was exactly what he had in mind from the very beginning.
The first bottle, the first vintage of Poggio di Sotto was the 1991. Palmucci since the very first exit, he immediately created division, on one hand it met with great success and very quickly, this is well know now, like it’s history, but on the other hand there were also many, in the early years who criticized his style, judged too thin to be considered worthy of a great Brunello.
Piero’s approach to viticulture was very simple but rigorous, natural, no chemical intervention in the vineyards, spontaneous fermentation with wild yeasts and no use of additives in the cellar, but lot of discipline, rigor, cleanliness, low yields and a very meticulous selection.
Around the year 2000, the hectares belonging to Poggio di Sotto had reached 12, from which a maximum of 40.000 bottles were produced every year.
The iconic wine, what indissolubly made Poggio di Sotto wines a myth for all wine lovers was undoubtedly the Rosso di Montalcino. Because Piero’s Brunello is a great Brunello, there is no question about this, but what immediately started to cause a sensation was his Rosso. Rosso and Brunello have always followed the same aging process in the vineyard and in the cellar, but what was happened is that, after at least two years of aging in large oak barrels from Garbellotto (the process has still not changed nowadays) the wines were tasted from each barrel, in order to judge which of them were suitable to remain other 3 years to become a Brunello and which were instead ready to go in the bottle and come out as a Rosso. Their Rosso from Poggio di Sotto, since the beginning, used to came out later than the disciplinary requirements and it always has been considered from the critic a young Brunello rather than a true Rosso, due to its exceptional qualities, both in the nose and in the mouth.
When Piero sold the property in 2011 to the Colle Massari group, many of the procedures that he and Giulio Gambelli used to made, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, were deliberately kept identical, in order to respect and maintain as much as possible the style that has made Poggio di Sotto wines among the greatest Montalcino wines, known and appreciated all over the world.
Of course in my very modest opinion, a great wine comes from: first a great place and so a great vineyard, secondly a respectful winemaking in the cellar, but the third element which may be involved or not, are the people. An iconic wine from such great personalities like Piero and Giulio raised unique emotions at that time, nowadays, it is still a great wine, but some of those emotions, are of course not the same anymore. This is a value that cannot be measured.