A magic circle connects four wine gems of central Tuscany. Montenidoli in Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Castell’in Villa in Chianti Classico, Sanguineto in Nobile di Montepulciano and Le Chiuse di Sotto in Brunello di Montalcino. I feel honored to share the story of four “vignaiole toscane women wine producers from Tuscany” who lead these wineries: Elisabetta Fagiuoli, Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa, Dora Forsoni and Laura Brunelli.
Tales of women with character who dedicate their lives to making majestic wines, based on native grape varieties such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano and Sangiovese, through organic viticulture and environmentally sustainable practices. All these estates are located in beautiful spots, reachable by an easy drive for a wine travel itinerary.
Elisabetta Fagiuoli – Montenidoli Winery – Vernaccia di San Gimignano
The first of these four ‘vineyard heroines’ is Elisabetta Fagiuoli. Her story with the Vernaccia di San Gimignano started in 1965 when she bought 500 acres of woodlands in the tophill of Montenidoli in front of the town of San Gimignano, with her husband Sergio Muratori who then passed away in 2012. Sergio the Patriarch, the ‘Magister’, was a simple teacher but a great healer for children, youngsters, adults, elderly folk. In 2014 Montenidoli set up Sergio the Patriarch Foundation, to continue the heritage of the great teacher. To go beyond borders and be together, to understand we are all part of the same family on our small planet, this is the aim of the foundation (www.sergiothepatriarch.org). Elisabetta, with love and passion, continued the work of restoring the wild area and started her wine production by using a strictly organic approach to her farming. The soil at Montenidoli is mainly chalky and full of marine fossils and shells, a perfect condition to produce great white wines. The property is surrounded by the forest, vineyards are planted with great attention to the terroir and in a full respect to nature. The land and its wines reflect the soul of Elisabetta in all her elegance and strong character. Her farming has been consistent throughout the decades, she has kept planting and growing the native varieties of Vernaccia, Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano Gentile, and Malvasia Bianca… the traditional grapes of the Chianti area. Her method has paid off as now her Vernaccia di San Gimignano reached a cult status in the Tuscany white wine market.
They say that the grapes there have everything they need. The sun and the clean air is what makes the Montenidoli vines healthy and resistant. 100% hand-picked Vernaccia, that macerates long on the skins, is pressed just before the fermentation to enhance the character and flavors of the land. Montenidoli Vernaccia has always been considered the ‘red’ of white wines because of the body, the climate in which it is sprung, and the aging potential. At Montenidoli, Elisabetta produces three different Vernaccia di San Gimignano, all pure, 100% Vernaccia. Tradizione is made in concrete tanks, it must macerate at length with the skins, then be pressed as soon as the fermentation begins. Fiore is made entirely in stainless steel and only from the freerun juice. Both Tradizione and Fiore are aged 12 to 16 months. Carato is fermented in French barriques up to seven or eight years; after 12 months in barrel, it ages another year in cement vats and two in bottles before release.
Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa – Castell’in Villa Winery – Chianti Classico
The princess Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa lives in a 13th century castle in a medieval hamlet on the Northeast side of Siena. She is the guide and the vibrant heart of the 300 hectare property atop the hill of Castelnuovo Berardenga, dedicated to the flagship Tuscan variety–the Sangiovese. The bottles from Castell’In Villa are highly renowned by the lovers of this variety. The owner, Coralia Pignatelli della Leonessa, has always been consistent in her traditional approach to winemaking, in fact the estate is known for producing some of the most classically crafted and long lasting wines in the appellation of Chianti Classico. The estate represents the territory and different microclimates in 8 vineyard sites. The soil is predominantly sandy, alluvial, and rocky, with the exception of the Poggio delle Rose vineyard, where there are also concentrations of clay and calcareous rocks.
The biggest part of the winery production is made up by the Chianti Classico and the Chianti Classico Riserva. Both of these wines are made entirely with Sangiovese, using traditional methods and aged in the traditional wooden vats. The resulting wines are authentic, long ageing, and outstanding proof of the great potentials that Sangiovese holds given the right conditions. Poggio delle Rose is the most iconic wine from Castell’In Villa; it comes from a single vineyard and expresses a classic, elegant wine with a balanced structure that can last at least 40 years.
Dora Forsoni – Poderi Sanguineto – Nobile di Montepulciano
Dora Forsoni is an authentic person, she is a wild boar hunter that runs the Poderi Sanguineto I & II winery, taking care of 100% of the viticulture in her 6 hectares of vineyards. She works the soil, crops the vines, and takes care of the entire production process from plant to bottle. She is a true force of nature and waves you with all her spontaneity and passion, completely devoted to her land and countryside life. Today, Dora shares her passion with Patrizia Brogi, her life and business partner, maybe the one and only person she trusts with her precious vineyard. Everything started from her desire to maintain the commitment of her father, Federico Forsoni, to grow native red varieties such as Prugnolo Gentile, Mammolo, Canaiolo, and white varieties such as Malvasia, Trebbiano, and Grechetto. Their farming was always based on a strict organic method and with a real respect to the land’s potential. Dora Forsoni’s Sanguineto makes one of the best Montepulciano of the denomination. She and her wines have the same spirit: a strong and tenacious character.
The red wines age in concrete barrels or Slavonian oak, one year for the Rosso di Montepulciano, two years for the Nobile wine, and three years for the Riserva. There is no use of pesticides or synthetic plant protection. We are talking of land that was feeding vines since the Etruscans; there is no doubt that those old wild hills, with the help of its guardian Dora, can reflect that of the amazing terroir onto the wines.
Laura Brunelli – Le Chiuse di Sotto – Brunello di Montalcino
Laura’s first step in the Siena territory was made with her husband Gianni Brunelli. In 1979, they opened together Osteria Le Logge restaurant with the intent to bring about a local cuisine of a high quality, careful and respectful of the great resources that those lands could offer. Osteria le Logge became famous quickly for the passionate service and the standard of their food. The couple, motivated by the charm of this territory’s possibilities, decided to restore Gianni’s family winery Le Chiuse di Sotto in Montalcino. Laura and Gianni committed themselves to the farm life, growing their own produce and cultivating their famed Sangiovese. The winery is located in one of the most outstanding spots of the Montalcino area, to arrive at le Chiuse di Sotto is like to travel back in time, you feel yourself in an old landscape painting. Since Gianni’s passing in 2008, Laura has continued to uphold their values and methods in winemaking. She believes in an organic approach since the land meets all the needs of her beloved vines; with respect and care, natural processes follow. Le Chiuse di Sotto’s popularity skyrocketed in the past fifteen years, nowadays their wines are among the most desired Brunello di Montalcino.
The possibilities of this winery are endless. Their sites cover the appellation from north to south, allowing them to blend their Brunello di Montalcino and Brunello di Montalcino Riserva into balanced and complex wines. The vineyards of Le Chiuse Di Sotto, Vigna Quercia, Vigna Oliva, Vigna Gelso, Vigna Olmo; represent all the possible microclimates and soils that converge into the perfect and charming glass of fine wine.
The Magic Circle in the middle of Tuscany