SIRO PACENTI SANGIOVESE DE MONTALCINO (TOSCANA - ITALIA)
Giancarlo Pacenti is one of the leading exponents of the modern school of Brunello di Montalcino, crafting wines of great texture and refinement. His Brunellos are usually a blend of different vineyards from both the south and north sides of the Montalcino hill, giving them great richness and structure as well as freshness. They are aged in French oak barrels yet show very little wood character, and their crystal clear style is one that ages extremely well.
Giancarlo Pacenti is one of the most progressive winemakers of Brunello di Montalcino. His fame has been steadily growing over the last two decades. Pacenti, who took over his family’s estate in 1988, ages his wines entirely in barrique, with the aim of making clean, rich and intense wines. His fruit is sourced from two family-owned vineyards in very different areas of Montalcino: one to the northeast of the town, Pelagrilli, where the wines show great fragrance, silkiness and relatively soft tannins, and one in the hotter southwest area near Sant’Angelo in Colle, known for full-bodied, powerful, and structured wines. His ‘Pelagrilli’ Brunello, though a single vineyard, is his entry level cuvee, and one of the best values in all of Montalcino. Coming from slightly younger vines than Giancarlo’s Brunello “Classico,” the ‘Pelagrilli’ is a more approachable wine. His 2010 Brunello Riserva “PS” was awarded 97 points by James Suckling. Pacenti’s bold style and commitment to excellence puts his wines among the best of Italy.
- The Pacenti family and its history: The Pacenti estate was established in 1970, with the purchase of the property north of Montalcino (Pelagrilli) by Siro, who then proceeded to plant some important vineyards, which are still there today, in the fresh, clay soils of the land overlooking Siena. In 1988, management passed into the hands of Giancarlo. This was the year of the harvest in which Rosso and Brunello di Montalcino Siro Pacenti were bottled for the first time.
At the beginning of the Nineties, the estate expanded to include land south of Montalcino (Piancornello). Here, in soils rich in minerals, at the end of the Sixties Giancarlo’s maternal grandfather had planted five hectares of vineyard which were to prove particularly important in determining the characteristics of Siro Pacenti wines. This is now where the Sangiovese rootings used in the estate’s new plantations are reproduced. The Nineties were also marked by the start of the partnership with the University of Bordeaux and the first experiments on phenolic maturity applied to Sangiovese (Yves Glories). The new cellar was built between 2001 and 2004, combining technology and experience with respect for the grapes and the land.
- Earth: Clay and sand characterise the soils at Pelagrilli, where the vineyards are situated at the foot of Montalcino hill, at an altitude of 350 m, exposed to continental winds. The wines are elegant and aromatic, with an evident personality.
In Piancornello, the vineyards are planted in soils rich in minerals, pebbles and ground rock. The climate is hotter and the wines are structured and potent, with the sweet, round tannins typical of Sangiovese.
- Sangiovese: The twenty two hectares of vineyard are all planted with Sangiovese, which, in Montalcino, achieves its maximum expression vinified as a single-grape wine.
Where great soil and exceptional climate and exposure meet man’s skill, Sangiovese is capable of making a wine which is not only great but absolutely unique.
The devotion and experience of the people who work in the vineyards are essential in order to obtain impeccable quality bunches, which are harvested by hand at the end of September and transported whole to the cellar.
- Vinification and ageing: Broom and lavender grow along the walls of the cellar, where the grapes from every parcel of land are meticulously selected and checked berry by berry. Each vineyard is vinified separately, in order to bring out the different characteristics.
During the first months of the ageing process, the wines are racked and tasted several times before reaching the final blends of the various parcels in February. The only exception is PS, which comes from a single parcel and is aged and bottled separately.
This is followed by long months of care and slow evolution, during which the vigour of the tannins gives way to the finesse and complexity that are the essential characteristics of their wines.
REQUESTED VISIT AND TOUR
Tour of the winery with an explanation of how to make wine. The tour takes about 30-45 minutes at no cost. A reservation by e-mail or telephone with contact information is required. They will reply to confirm you the requested tour.
They are pleased to receive guests for wine tours and tastings, from Monday to Friday, from 9:00 to 12:00 in the morning and from 14:00 to 17:00 in the afternoon (last entry allowed : at 16:00 pm, tour 1 and 2 , and at 14:00 pm only for the third tour).
- Rosso di Montalcino DOC: The greatest care goes into the production of Siro Pacenti Rosso di Montalcino. The grapes used for the Rosso di Montalcino come from vines between 15 and 25 years old. Average annual production is around 30,000 bottles.
- Grapes: 100% Sangiovese from vineyards between 15 and 25 years old.
- Harvesting: Only by hand on a production for strain of 800/1000 gr. Manual sorting of grapes on appropriate tables before and after the destemming.
- Wine-Making In steel at controlled temperature. Ageing In french oak by 225 lt. for 12 months and then in bottle.
- Vintage 2014. Total Production 15.000 Btg da 750 ml.
- Main data analysis: Alcohol 14 %; Dry extract 29,6 gr/lt; Total acidity 5 gr/lt; PH 3.5
- Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Pelagrilli: Balanced, fresh and a very elegant structure. It is produced in their vineyards, which range from 25 to 35 years old, mostly on the north side of Montalcino.
- Grapes Sangiovese 100% coming from Northern area (Pelagrilli),from vineyards of over 25 years old.
- Harvesting: Only by hand on a production for strain of 800/1.000 gr. manual sorting of grapes on appropriate tables before and after the destemming.
- Wine-Making: In steel at controlled temperature. Ageing In french oak by 225 lt. for 24 months and then in bottle.
- Vintage 2011. Total Production 12.000 bottles of 750 ml.
- Main data analysis: Alcohol 14 %; Dry extract 30,2 gr/lt; Total acidity 5,3 gr/lt; PH 3.5
- Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vecchie Vigne: Structured and elegant, with silky tannins and a long finish. This wine comes from two vineyards with vines over 35 years old; annual production is around 30,000 bottles.
- Grapes: Sangiovese 100% coming from our vineyards of over 35 years old.
- Harvesting Only by hand on a production for strain of 800/1.000 g., manual sorting of grapes on appropriate tables before and after the destemming.
- Wine-Making: In steel at controlled temperature. Ageing In french oak by 225 lt. for 24 months and then in bottle.
- Vintage 2011. Total Production 25.000 bottles of 750 ml
- Main data analysis: Alcohol 15,5 %; Dry extract 33,6 gr/lt; Total acidity 5 gr/lt; PH 3,5
- Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva PS: PS is made from the grapes grown in a single vineyard planted by Siro Pacenti on the north side of Montalcino at the beginning of the Seventies. Bottled only in exceptional vintages. It is not filtered and requires long ageing. PS is well structured, elegant and potent, possessing the unique character of the land where it is born.
- Grapes: Sangiovese 100% coming from 1,50 ha in the Northern area (Pelagrilli) of over 40 years old.
- Harvesting Only by hand on a production for strain of 800/1000 g., manual sorting of grapes on appropriate tables before and after the destemming.
- Wine-Making: In steel at controlled temperature.
- Ageing: In french oak by 225 lt. for 24 months and then in bottle.
- Vintage 2010. Total Production 2.000 bottles of 750 ml. 800 bottles of 1500 ml.
- Main data analysis: Alcohol 15 %; Dry extract 29,4 gr/lt; Total acidity 5 gr/lt; PH 3,52.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
- Brunello: Conventionally the name for a strain of sangiovese particularly well adapted to the vineyards of Montalcino in Toscana in central Italy producing most notably, therefore, Brunello di Montalcino. Today, it is accepted that Brunello is a local name for the Sangiovese grape, and that six to eight different clones of Sangiovese are planted in Montalcino.
- Brunello di Montalcino: Youngest of Italy’s prestigious red wines, having been invented as a wine in its own right by Ferruccio biondi-santi, the first to bottle it and give it a distinctive name, in 1888. Conventional descriptions of the birth of the wine stress Biondi-Santi’s successful isolation of a superior clone of sangiovese, the Sangiovese Grosso or Brunello, but enthusiastic descriptions of the wines of Montalcino by Cosimo Ridolfi (1831), and the fact that a wine of Clemente Santi, described as a ‘select red wine (brunello), had been a prize-winning entry in the agricultural fair of Montepulciano in 1865, indicate that genetically superior material was available in the zone at an earlier date. (And some records show the wines of Montalcino referred to as Brunello as early as the 14 th century.
Climate is perhaps a more significant factor than specific clones in creating the characterisrics of the wine: the town of Montalcino, 112 km/70 miles south of Florence, enjoys a warmer, drier climate than the various zones of Chianti. Indeed, it is the most arid of all Tuscan DOCG zones, with an annual rainfall of about 700 mm/28 in (compared with over 900 in central Chianti Classico). In addition, a cool maritime breeze from the south west ensures both excellent ventilation and cool evenings and nights. Sangiovese reaches its maximum ripeness here, giving fuller, richer wines than anywhere else in Toscana, whose alcoholic strength is frequently over 14 per cent and whose levels of dry extract approach 30 g/1.
Popular myth has is that Brunello di Montalcino is the only important Tuscan red wine whose Sangiovese has never been blended with other varieties but this is not true. Prior to 1968 when doc regulations, written largely by Biondi-Santi, were introduced, it was common for the few producers to augment their Sangiovese with other varieties in the zone. Biondi-Santi was an exception, so his monovarietal view prevailed. Following the earlier tradition, some producers currently add Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon to their wines in order to give them an appeal they have been unable to achieve in either the vineyard or the cellar.
The oenological practices of first Ferruccio Biondi-Santi and then his son Tancredi Biondi-Santi (prolonged fermentation and five to six years cask ageing for the superior riserva) established a model of Brunello as a full, intense, and long-lasting wine. Only four vintages (1888, 1891, 1925, 1945) were declared in the first 57 years of production, contributing an aura of rarity to the wine that translated into high prices and, in Italy at least, incomparable prestige. The Biondi-Santi were the only commercial producers until after the Second World War and a government report of 1932 named Brunello as an exclusive product of the family and estimated its total annual production at just 200 hl/5,280 gal.
Even in 1960, there were only 11 bottlers, rising to 25 in 1970, 53 in 1980, 87 in 1990, and 175 in 2005. The total area planted was a mere 63.5 ha/157 acres in 1960, but it had jumped to 626 ha in 1980, 1.250 ha in 1993, and was almost 2.000 ha in 2004. Substantial amounts of outside capital have gone in to restoring vineyards and wine-making facilities and many small peasant proprietors also began to bottle their own Brunello in the 1980s and 1990s. Although the better wines have been widely in demand at high prices, quality levels have undeniably been irregular. The dubious condition of many of the casks and the lengthy obligatory ageing periods regardless of the characteristics of the vintage were sometimes deleterious.
The DOC regulations of 1960 established a minimum period of cask ageing of 42 months, confirmed in 1980 by the DOCG rules. The minimum cask ageing period was lowered to 36 months in 1990 and then to two years in 1998. Total ageing before release, however, remains 48 months, four months of which must be in bottle prior to release. Barrique ageing has become standard in Montalcino, as in other parts of Toscana. Some producers balance the oak with the wine better than others.
Stylistically, the zone can be split in two. On the Galestro soils in the northern part of the zone, the vineyards tend to be at a higher altitude than those in the south, whereas around Sant´Angelo in Colie the soil has more clay and the average temperature is higher. As a result, the harvest in the southern part of the zone is usually a week earlier than in the northern part, and the wines are fuller and more forward than the more aromatic wines from the north. As a result, some of the zone’s producers have vineyards in both the north and south to give them the balance they seek.
The financial burden imposed by the lengthy ageing period has led to a corresponding increase in the production of Rosso di Montalcino, a red DOC wine that can be marketed after one year, with over 1.6 million bottles produced in 1995. (Brunello di Montalcino production totalled 3.5 million bottles in the same period, only 40 per cent of the theoretical potential of the zone.) The availability of a second DOC into which lesser wines can be declassified has, despite the quibbles expressed above, had a positive impact on the quality of Brunello, in addition to its obvious advantages for the cash flow of producers.
SANGIOVESE GRAPE VARIETY
Qualitatively variable red grape variety that is Italy's most planted and is particularly common in central Italy. In 1990, almost 10 per cent of all Italian vineyards, or more than 100,000 ha/247,000 acres, were planted with some form of Sangiovese. In its various clonal variations and names (Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, Morenillno, Nieluluccio), Sangiovese is the principal vine variety for fine red wine in toscana, the sole grape permitted for Brunello di Montalcino, and the base of the blend for Chianti, vino Novile de Montepulciano, and the vast majority of Supertuscans. It is, in addition, the workhorse red grape of all of central Italy, widely planted in Umbria (where it gives its beat results in the DOCG wines Torgiano and Montefalco), in the marche (where it is the base of Rosso Piceno and an important component of Rosso Conero), and in Lazio. Sangiovese can be found as far afield as Lombardia and Valpolicella to the north and Campania to dth south.
Sangiovese is widely thought to be of ancient origin, as the literal translation of its I name (‘blood of Jove’) suggests, and it has been postulated that it was even known to the Etruscans. Yet in 2004, researchers Vouillamoz and Grando at San Michele All´Adige identified the parents of Sangiovese: The Tuscan ‘cherry grape’ Cigliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo, an obscure variety found in Campania though probably originating from Calabria. Other Italian researchers had established a direct link between Sangiovese and Ciliegiolo in 2002, but the parentage remained incomplete until Calabrese Mon tenuovo was DNA-typed by chance at San Michele All´Adige and identified as the othed parent. As a result, Sangiovese’s DNA is probably half Tuscan and half southern Italian. Ciliegiolo was already cited in Toscana in 1590 by Giovanvettorio Soderini under tha name Ciriegiulo. In his book, Soderini also mentioned the variety Sangiogheto. This is a commonly accepted as the first historical mention of Sangiovese, but there is no evident that Sangiogheto actually was Sangiovese. In deed, when Soderini writes about the ways tfl make a very good wine, he says ‘beware of Sangiogheto, who thinks to make wine from it will make vinegar’. Moreover, Sangiovese was rare or almost unknown in Toscana prior tol 1700, whereas trebbiano and malvasia were the most widespread grapes. This is consistent with Sangiovese’s probably being born some time before 1700 from a spontaneous cross between Ciliegiolo and Calabrese Montenuovo. Calabrese Montenuovo is not a registered variety, and its true identity is still not known, but researchers were prompt to make it clear that it is not nero d’avola from Sicilia, a variety often called Calabrese. In fact, the name Calabrese is commonly used for several distinct cultivars in Italy, even for Sangiovese.
Cosimo Trinci, in 1738, observed that wines made solely from Sangiovese were somewhat hard and acid, but excellent when blended with other varieties, a judgement echoed by Giovanni Cosimo Villifranchi in 1883. Bettino Ricasoli found a way to tame Sangiovese´s asperity (a substantial addition of sweetening and softening canaiolo) which became the basis of all modern Chianti and of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (although Ciliegiolo, mammolo, and colorino as well as the white grapes Malvasia and, especially, Trebbiano were subsequently added to the blend). The use of small oak barrels, begun in the 1970s, can be seen as a modern solution to the same problem of excessive asperity.
Conventional ampelographical descriptions of Sangiovese, based on the pioneering work of G. Molon in 1906, divide the variety into two families: the Sangiovese Grosso, to which Brunello, Prugnolo Gentile, and the Sangiovese di Lamole (of Greve in Chianti) belong, and the Sangiovese Piccolo of other zones of Toscana, with the implicit identification of a superior quality in the former. Current thinking is that this classification is too simplistic, that there is a large number of clones populating the region’s vineyards, and that no specific qualitative judgements can be based on the size of either the berries or the bunches. Significant efforts are at last being made to identify and propagate superior clones; mass selection in the past sought principally to identify high-yielding clones without any regard for wine quality. The variety adapts well to a wide variety of soils, although the presence of limestone seems to exalt the elegant and forceful aromas that are perhaps the most attractive quality of thel grape.
Sangiovese’s principal charactenstic in the vineyard is its slow and late ripening (harvests traditionally began after 29 September and even today can easily be protracted until or even beyond mid October) which gives rich, alcoholic, and long-lived wine in hot years and creates problems of high acidity and hard tannins in cool years. Over-production tends to accentuate the wine’s acidity and lighten its colour, which can also oxidize and start to brown at a relatively young age. The grape’s rather thin skin creates a certain susceptibility to rot in cool and damp years, which is a serious disadvantage in a region where rain in October is a frequent occurrence. Too often Sangiovese has been planted with scant attention to exposure and altitude in Toscana, where the vine is often cultivated at up to or even beyond 500 m/1,640 ft. A good I part of contemporary viticultural research in Toscana (which involves increased vine density, lower yields per vine, better clones, more appropriate rootstocks, lower vine-trining systems, small oak barrels, more suitable supplementary varieties for blending, different temperatures and lengths of fermentation) is dedicated to resolving a single problem: how to put more meat on Sangiovese’s bones, how to add flesh to its sizeable, but not always sensual, structure.
Throughout modem Toscana, Sangiovese now often blended with a certain proportion of the Bordeaux grape cabernet sauvignon, whether for Chianti (in which case the interloper should not exceed 15 per cent of the total) or a highly priced vino da tavola. This highly successful blend, in which the intense fruit and colour of Cabernet marries well with the characterful native variety, was first sanctioned by the doc authorities in carmignano.
In umbría, the variety dominates most of the region’s best red wine, as in the Torgiano. But in terms of quantity rather than quality, Sangiovese is most important in Romagna, where sangiovese di romagna is as common as the lambrusco vine is in Emilia, Sangiovese di Romagna wine is typically light, red, ubiquitous, and destined, quite properly, for early consumption. The most widely planted Sangiovese vines planted in Romagna appear to have little in common with Toscana’s most revered selections, although there has been some careful clonal selection in Romagna with promising results, and two of the best clones currently being used to repopulate Tuscan vineyards, R24 and T19, are in fact from Romagna. Some Sangiovese is grown in the south of Italy, where it is usually used for blending with local grapes, and the success Supertuscans has inevitably led to a certain amount of experimentation with the variety to the north of Toscana too.