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Cerbaiona Rosso di Montalcino was produced by a Brunello vineyard that Cerbaiona had rented from Marco Lazzeretti, about 1KM from Cerbaiona and very close to the Casanova di Neri winery. There the soils are very clayey and although noteworthy, the wine is very different (more black fruits than red and more round) from those made from the soils in Cerbaiona. So after a year and a half of aging Atto become Brunello di Montalcino, Cerbaiona decided to downgrade to Rosso di Montalcino instead of making a second Brunello.
Diego Molinari, Cerbaiona's founder, retired from a career as an Alitalia commercial pilot at the age of 46. He and his wife, Nora, began looking at vineyards in 1977 with the dream of pursuing a new phase of life as winemakers, eventually becoming enamored with the Cerbaiona estate and its ancient farmhouse, Renaissance era garden and private chapel. Cerbaiona is situated in the middle region of the Montalcino appellation, representing the balance between southern Montalcino's ripe fruit characteristics and the north's fresher, more-structured reds.
Adamant about maintaining the winemaking traditions of Brunello di Montalcino, Diego consulted with the region's top estates—particularly Biondi-Santi—but also with the small growers that surrounded his new estate. The locals had always honored the historic and ideal setting of Cerbaiona's viticultural past and local growers were hired to replant and expand the estate's vineyards in 1978. Commercial production started in 1981, and the following vintage established the wine as distinctly different from other Brunello. 1982 marked Cerbaiona worthy of a unique status as a small, but notable, vineyard and estate within the larger region. And this prestigious distinction has continued to today as Cerbaiona's wines receive high praise around the world.
1.6ha of the estate's Sangiovese yields 6,000-7,500 bottles a year of Brunello di Montalcino. 4.5k bottles of Rosso di Montalcino come from about 0.6ha, and the remainder of the 3 total hectares is devoted to the Toscana IGT release. The vineyards were expanded and partially replanted in 1986 and 2000; but 2015 brought about a true moment of growth when Cerbaiona transferred hands to a new group of investors.
Cerbaiona came under the leadership of wine collector and venture capitalist, Gary Rieschel, and partner and director of Cerbaiona, Matthew Fioretti. Additionally, La Serena owner, Andrea Mantengoli, who has been instrumental to Cerbaiona since the 1980's assumed a role as active board member and shareholder. This new leadership has brought on Ruggero Mazzilli as a viticulture specialist and Paolo Caciorgna as an enological consultant. A new hectare of Sangiovese was planted and a progressive replanting program for the existing plots began in early 2016. The plan includes a more focused selection of clones better suited to the site and more resistant to disease, as well as a higher vine density than the previous 3,600 vines per hectare.
I've been having a hard time keeping up with samples from Cerbaiona. The management prefers to release the wines a bit later and shies away from the classic en primeur or critics' tasting events. Indeed, most years I just end up buying the bottles that I review, when I can find new vintages in retail. It's a true pleasure to return to a simple, honest, fresh and pretty wine such as the 2015 Rosso di Montalcino. It offers enormous purity and finesse, despite its rather simple and straightforward construction. What you get here is the purity of Sangiovese with some dark plum, crushed flower and tilled earth. The wine presents a glossy, silky quality of elegant tannin. This is one of the best Rossos I tasted this year. Rating: 93+