In this article I will introduce you to one of the major personalities of Montalcino. I am sure 90% of you heard about him, but maybe not everyone knows his history and the history of his amazing wines. But before diving deep into this topic, I need to make an introduction.
Talking about Montalcino and its wines sometimes may seem easy, indeed it’s one of the most important DOCG of Italy, where some of the best wines from Montalcino live up to the highest expressions of Barolo and Burgundy wines. Brunello wine is generally very well rated and positioned among the rankings around the world.
What is really difficult about Montalcino is to truly understand its territory. How is it possible that some of the greatest red wines ever are made in such a small and far-from-everything piece of land? Which are the elements that play a role in making such amazing wines?
The events and the elements that make Montalcino what it is nowadays are multiple and need to be taken in consideration always. The geological aspects, the climate, the biodiversity, the sub-areas, the political and the historical events, the vintages and the main characters, (just to name some of them) can’t be ignored when talking about Montalcino wines.
I made my mission to share with you some of my knowledge and my discoveries about the key elements of this special place and its wines and I hope that in my articles, in the Montalcino section of my blog, you will always find your references, both if you are a wine lover interested in knowing more about this area or an expert. My own reflections always come from studying, talking with producers and personalities, living here, engaging with wine makers and, of course, from tasting and tasting and tasting the wines. I recently had the pleasure to meet Alessandro Mori and discover il Marroneto wine’s history throughout his own words, so today I would like to talk about one of the most controversial figures in Montalcino.
The view from il Marroneto terrace is breathtaking. There are many beautiful landscapes in Montalcino but every little corner of this small hill always shows a different side of its beauty. Facing North, from Alessandro’s winery you can clearly see Montosoli and its vineyards, and almost all the ones from the Canalicchi down to Buonconvento.
He explained to us how different it can be not only the micro-climate but especially the soil composition between the Creste (so the highest parts uphill) and the valley down. That’s why having a proper zonation in Montalcino is very hard, in his opinion but not only, because inside each of the micro-areas considered a sub-zone of Montalcino there are truly different origins and compositions of the soils. This area where il Marroneto is, has generated millions of years ago from the erosion of the water when the ocean has withdrawn, and it’s very rich in mineral composition. Today, the vineyards extend over the mineral-rich, coarse sand soils that lead up to the hilltop town of Montalcino. The slopes face north and reach heights of approximately 350m above sea level.
Knowing Alessandro Mori and visiting his wine estate at il Marroneto is probably one of the most desired events for a wine lover especially for those who are passionate about Brunello di Montalcino.
I had the pleasure to visit him and to hear the history of his wines directly from him, which has been absolutely intriguing and exciting.
Of course a huge dose of admiration was involved, talking with the person who reached some of the highest international recognition with his wines.
Alessandro talks about Montalcino, about his vineyards and his wines with an unbeatable passion. It is for sure this passion that led him to the results he obtained in the past years, together with a tireless seek of perfection.
His first 100 points with Monica Larner went with the vintage 2010 of Madonna delle Grazie and after that other many times he reached these ratings with other critics and journalists.
“How did you feel the first time you received 100 points and how did you feel the last time (which was for its Madonna delle Grazie 2016 in December, the day before I went visit him)?” I have been asking him.
“the same feeling: crazy” Alessandro answered.
I can imagine how exciting it can be for a producer to have your wine recognized at the highest level possible, crowning all your hard work.
The history of il Marroneto started in the 70s when Giuseppe Mori (the father of Alessandro) bought this small country house near the village of Montalcino, The Mori family’s winery started out as two small rooms that had once been used as drying rooms for chestnuts (marrone is a local name for chestnuts). The original wine cellars date back to 1246 and were expanded throughout the years. Originally, the estate was supplied by a tiny 0.3 hectares (0.7 acres) of vineyard planted in 1975 now they are 7 hectares.
Il Marroneto faces directly the northern side of Montalcino with the hill of Montosoli just in front of the patio of the cellar. Close to the house there is an historical small church dedicated to the Madonna delle Grazie.
Alessandro and his brother Andrea were very excited to start making their own wine when they were teenagers. Alessandro moved to Rome at a certain point, as he worked as a lawyer for a period of his life and he said he tried to stay away from Montalcino and his wines, but it did not last.
In 1994 he went back to their family country house, with a lot of family and wine memories from his youth and he was already convinced that with Il Marroneto wines he was going to play the top players game. And that’s how it went.
He still has those memories on how they used to make wine in that period when he and his brother were just teenagers and that activity was part of a family routine.
That’s an important part of his history and in all his work, he always tried to be faithful to that concept of making wine. Family, tradition, no use of chemicals, respect for the land, respect for Sangiovese, these are the key factors that are involved in his concept of how to make a great wine.
Wine at il Marroneto has always been made in the vineyards first and with a huge respect for the grapes and for the wine, when working in the cellar. No herbicides or man-made chemicals are used on the vines and intensive farming methods are disregarded in favor of natural grassing and longer pollination times. He uses big oak barrels for the aging and still uses some of their first old barrels from when they started to make wine with his father and his brother.
“Alessandro, how was Madonna delle Grazie born?”
The first vintage of Brunello il Marroneto bottled was 1980. When he came back and decided to run the winery himself in 1994 Alessandro was very convinced that il Marroneto wines were special. But the critics and the general taste at that time was more into big bold wines, very extracted and concentrated, that was the period when barriques and tonneaux arrived in Montalcino and all the other producers were gaining a lot of international interest with those wines.
Their consultant winemaker at that time suggested Alessandro to remove his old big barrels to make space for some barriques, that was the way to make a great Brunello and moreover a Bruenello more into the style of the journalists.
“I didn’t sleep for 5 days after talking with our consultant,” Alessandro replied “But at the end of the five days I realized that I wanted to be loyal to our family tradition and I was sure that Il Marroneto wines had a great potential the way they were made.”
So no barriques, but a new special selection from one of the most vocate vineyards of their estate, the one around the small chapel, and that’s how Madonna delle grazie wine was born in the year 2000. Ten years later that intuition took him to his first 100 points.
Wines from Il Marroneto for me are one of the best expressions of Sangiovese from Montalcino, they have a unique style that can be recognized for its smoothness and elegance. They for sure became a worldwide icon of the greatness of Montalcino wines.
Il Marroneto Brunello 2015 – very complex and deep wine. Body and acidity alternates in the mouth in a never ending research of balance which is itself the balance of this wine.
Madonna delle Grazie Selezione 2015 – Unrivalled elegance and complexity. The palate is still austere and at the same time ingratiating, silky tannins and extremely fresh thanks to a cutting and sharp acidity.
Il Marroneto Brunello 2016 – A wine that comes out for it’s purity and its transparency. This wine has a beautiful path in front and a very long one, indeed this vintage 2016 will be a real long-live vintage.