A fantastic visit to Il Palazzone in Montalcino….

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Last year I visited Montalcino for the first time. Whilst I have been to Chianti close to a dozen times, I had up until that point, never visited Montalcino. This seems crazy now but whilst I have admired Chianti, it was not until I had a 1979 Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino that made me realize that I was missing out on something special.

So on my visit last year, I visited the cellars of Fuligni (which is imported by my good friends over at Trembath and Taylor) and also stopped by a small estate called Il Palazzone. My intention was to just try the wines, meet Laura and Marco and have a bite to eat. Well, after returning to Australia I knew that I could not let an estate like Il Palazzone go and made the decision to import the wines.

Well it is close to a year since we first starting importing the wines via Mondo Imports. We started with the classic 2006 Bruneloo di Montalcino and it has been so well received in Australia. As a wine that is seven years old. it is just starting to enter it’s drinking window but with 10-20 years left in the tank. We are very lucky to start with such a great wine from the 2006 vintage.

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This year, it was nice to return as the import of Il Palazzone into Australia and have a more in depth look at the operations and speak to Laura and Marco about the philosophy behind Il Palazzone.

Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino is made from three distinct vineyards sites:

The estate has three separate vineyard in quite different areas of Montalcino. The microclimate and extraordinary variety of terroirs means that we are able, on blending the three vineyard harvests, to have three complementary aspects of Montalcino in our Brunello.

The Due Porte vineyard, our youngest vineyard, is 530 metres above sea level. The three small plots are north west facing. Documents indicate that vineyards have been planted in this area since the 13th century; a clear indication of the suitability of the area for quality wine production. In fact, in spite of the altitude and the exposition, the grapes from the Due Porte are high in fruit and sugars and benefit from the excellent ventilation and day/night thermal excursion. The galestro or good clay gives good drainage.

The Vigna del Capa, located down below the hamlet of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, is quite different. Over 200 meters lower in altitude and south facing, the vineyards here are over thirty years old. The harvest is distinguished by lovely saline and aromatic components, thanks to the presence of marine fossils in the soil. The third vineyard, also over 30 years old, is also close to Castelnuovo dell’Abate, in an area with iron, magnesium and manganese in the soil. The grapes from this vineyard have an incredible mineral component. Il Palazzone

It was fascinating visiting each vineyard site and hear Marco (via Laura!) tell us the differences between each site and how it contributes to the overall make up of Il Palazzone Brunello di Montalcino. Tasting the wine is one thing: seeing why it tastes as it does is priceless and this is one of the key reasons why visiting each estate makes so much sense.

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We also visited the new cellar and barrel room. In the years to come, this will play a big part in the continued improvement at Il Palazzone and whilst it is a massive investment, control is everything. To be able to control every aspect from the vineyard into barrel with the best equipment available will make a big difference in the overall quality of the wines.

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We tried the 2009, 2010 and 2011 pre-releases and whilst all slightly different, you can see the upward trend in quality as the years progress. Marco is a big believer in nature and not messing about unless you have to and it shows in these wines. They are distinctively Sangiovese Grosso  and speak of Montalicino with a purity of fruit and complexity that has given Montalcino the reputation for producing such amazing wines.

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Speaking of amazing wines, the 2008 Brunello di Montalcino absolutely blew us away. Already sold out at the winery, we have begged and pleaded for some for Australia and fingers crossed this happens. In a line up over dinner that included Soldera and Salvioni, the 2008 Il Palazzone Brunello held it’s own and two weeks after returning to Australia, through my mind I can still taste this wine. It is ethereal and powerful in the same breath and has the length, tannins and complexity to never die. This wine showed to me the direction in which Il Palazzone are heading and I am so glad that I am able to join in on the ride.

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A fantastic 24 hours in Montalcino

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Well in reality it was less than 24 hours, arriving at 4pm on the 11th and leaving at midday on the 12th of April.

Shocking wifi means that I will post about my time at Il Palazzone (which was so good, thanks Laura and Marco!) and Biondi Santi when I return to Australia in a couple of days.

However below are just a few photo’s of a fantastic 24 hours.

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Dario: the best butcher in the world…

Today was our first free day of the trip with no appointments. With a night booked in Florence, we decided to take a little detour and stop by Panzano in Chianti to visit the best butcher in the world: Dario Cecchini.

Not only is Dario a butcher specialising in traditional cuts of Tuscan beef, but he is also a showman and has a restaurant above his shop serving meat prepared by his staff. I wouldn’t say it was the best meat I have ever eaten, but the theatre behind it all was worth the visit alone. See pictures below.

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The hills are alive…

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After a fantastic five days in Verona, it is time to head to Tuscany with a quick stop in Florence before we spend the night in Montalcino visiting Il Palazzone and Biondi Santi.

Driving through Valpolicella was amazing yesterday with vineyard aspect and altitude the real key aspects. We spent the afternoon at Dal Forno which was very different to what we expected.

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Whilst I am a traditionalist at heart, seeing the workings of Dal Forno really had to he seen to be believed. Does all this futuristic equipment help make them better winemakers, those who like Quinteralli would probably say no. But hey, who are we to argue.

A celebration of a life lived to it’s fullest: Franco Biondi Santi

Today we had a number of appointments during the day which is normal during Vinitaly. However, it was the hour spent at Biondi Santi which showed me just how humble and special it is to be involved in Italian wine.

Yesterday at 3pm, the news spread through Vinitaly that the great man, Franco Biondi Santi had passed away aged 91. In a few days time, we were to visit Franco at the estate in Montalcino and as is the case with all visitor’s to Biondi Santi, all correspondence (via email) was from Franco Biondi Santi himself. At 91 years of age, he was the winemaker, the marketer and the tour guide and looked after every aspect of the estate.

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Today those working at Biondi Santi opened up a bottle of the 1983 Riserva in his honour and tomorrow they will open up one of his favourite vintages: 1987.

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We also tried the new 2008 Brunello di Montalcino plus Franco’s personal favourite, the 2009 Rosato which he drank every day for lunch with his wine. On Friday we will visit Tenuta Greppo in Montalcino and again honour the man that showcased everything which was great about Brunello di Montalcino.