Francisco Mulinari L’Aietta Brunello di Montalcino 2013
Winemaker: Francisco Mulinari
Region: Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy
“L’Aietta is the smallest Brunello estate in Montalcino, but… quality-wise this young firm is one of the denomination’s most extraordinary albeit little known gems. L’Aietta’s Brunellos and Rossos are quintessential Sangiovese from Montalcino, with mouthfuls of wild cherry and mineral, and impressive structure and depth… intensely floral and bright with rich, ripe fruit and fantastic, uplifting minerality and hefty structure.”
- Kerin O’Keefe, Brunello Montalcino: Understanding and Appreciating One of Italy’s Greatest Wines
Ahhh, Brunello di Montalcino, one of Italy’s, and the worlds, greatest and most revered wines. I’m not talking about an over-priced, inky black, fruit bomb that parades itself under the Brunello name but should have been relegated to some obscure sub-zone; I mean the real thing, a classically crafted wine that is ethereal and timeless – an Italian cultural icon. Welcome to Francisco Mulanari L’Aietta and his quintessential Brunello di Montalcino; a wine of intense perfume, harmonious, vigorous and elegant. Harvested from the smallest vineyard in Brunello, in the village of Montalcino, and from an alarmingly steep slope that is barely walkable, comes a Brunello’s from one of the top winegrowers in the region. In addition to the L’Aietta, Francesco acquired another 1-hectare vineyard, Castelnuovo dell’Abate, where he now makes Rosso di Montalcino. Because of the miniscule size of his vineyards, Francesco is able to do all of the work himself. While his production is small, his Brunellos and Rossos are classical, elegant renditions worthy of any of the old, established, traditional winegrowers of Montalcino.
Brunello di Montalcino is not only Italy’s most dynamic and greatest wine zone and the country’s first DOCG, it is the spiritual home of the Sangiovese grape and represents its boldest expression. Located 50 kilometers south of Siena and east of the Mediterranean Sea, its 2,000 hectares of vineyards represent one of Italy’s greatest testaments to terroir, or as the Italians call it, ‘tipicità,’ and explains why this incredible wine can be produced only in certain parts of the denomination and nowhere else. Brunello is controlled by Italy’s most strict production codes. It can only be made from 100% Sangiovese Grosso, a larger clone of Sangiovese, and it must be made, aged and bottled in Montalcino. It must have a minimum of 12.5% alcohol and 5 years aging after harvest vintage; 2 years minimum in oak and 4 months in bottle. For Riserva wines it is 6 years aging after harvest vintage with 2 years minimum in oak and 6 months in bottle. There are two schools of thought in regard to aging:
Traditional: This has the wine aged in large well-used Slavonian oak barrels called Botti from northeastern Croatia. These impart little if any oak flavours and are used to encourage tertiary flavour development through oxygen exposure. Wines aged this way will develop more dried fruit, leather and flower flavours, and have long aging potential.
Modern: Other producers use new, small French Barriques (Bordeaux barrels) that impart more oak flavours. These encourage the development of dark fruit, chocolate, sweet and vanilla flavours. Oxygen exposure is much higher than what would occur in Botti and produces wines which are ready to drink earlier.
On the flip side, Montalcino is also arguably one of Italy’s most controversial DOCGs. Unprecedented demand for its wines brought unchecked growth of new plantings in unfit areas. And the desire to produce an ‘international style’ made producers introduce new, invasive winemaking technologies. This resulted in the large production of big, black fruit bombs that taste as if they could have come from any grape from anywhere in the world. Production increased from 800,000 bottles from 13 producers in 1970 to over 9 million bottles from 250 producers today. Many local farmers who never grew grapes, along with some of the biggest names in Italian wine, began churning out wines of inferior quality and a plethora of styles that had little to do with the history and spirit of Brunello di Montalcino. Banfi alone mass-produces over 700,000 bottles.
Brunello also suffered from the Brunellogate scandal (or Brunellopoli in Italy) in 2008. This was an attempt by producers to surreptitiously ‘improve’ their inferior wines thru blending with other grape varieties, which is not allowed under strict DOCG regulations; Brunello di Montalcino must be 100% Sangiovese Grosso. The goal was to produce a Brunello di Montalcino version of a Super Tuscan. Consumers and critics were encountering wines that were easier to drink earlier on, but could not age and did not have the characteristics of true Brunello di Montalcino. Some of the largest names in Italian wine were involved and millions of bottles were declassified from the prestigious DOCG designation down to the lowly basic IGT.
Brunello di Montalcino’s story embodies the quest for perfection. In 1842, on a steep Montalcino slope, Clemente Santi discovered the Brunello vine (Sangiovese Grosso). His subsequent cultivation of that vine created the wine we now know as Brunello.
Our winegrower, Francesco Mulinari, grew up in the old fortified town of Montalcino. L’Aietta, his 1-hectare vineyard located just outside the fortified walls of the town, is in prime Brunello territory and was bought by his parents for the sole purpose of holding family picnics. In 2001 when still in high school, Francisco discovered that the old family property where he had enjoyed many picnics not only had a patch of grape vines but was also in the DOCG of Brunello di Montalcino. Even though he had no family winegrowing tradition to refer to, he decided to turn these few vines into a winery. With an intense focus on his vineyard and grapes and religiously adhering to traditional methods he produced his first vintage in 2001. Francesco went to oenology school after he graduated, took jobs at other wineries and worked on his steep, little vineyard with its 18 terraces. In 2004 he replanted the vineyard in the alberello (bush) method. This did not require poles to be driven into the ground, which was impossible because of its stony makeup. He also chose this method because it would help the vines become more resistant to drought. This method also makes the vines produce fewer more concentrated bunches of grapes and their proximity to the rocky ground and the heat it captures helps them develop. Along the way Francesco also built a small, one-roomed cellar out of stone.
L’Aietta Brunello di Montalcino 2013 “If you want to experience the energy, elegance and age-worthy structure that first drew wine lovers and collectors to Brunello di Montalcino decades ago, then 2013 is your vintage. Energy and elegance are hallmarks of the 2013 Brunello vintage. These wines boast remarkable aging potential, and will greatly reward your patience.” 96 pts Kerin O’Keefe, Wine EnthusiastL’Aietta Brunello di Montalcino 2013 was made from handpicked grapes vinified with natural yeasts in stainless steel tanks with no temperature control. The wine was macerated for 21 days then aged for 40 months in old Slovenian Oak Botti. It was then bottled with no clarification or other filtering and with just a touch of added sulphur. Bright garnet in colour, it’s gorgeous on the nose if still a little on the closed side, this is a pure, stunning, vivacious and glorious Sangiovese, with intense aromas of wild berry, leather, herb and spice. On the palate you’ll find layer upon layer of complex bright cherry, spices, earthy mineral sensations, and refined tannins and a supple, savoury, and juicy mouthfeel, pulsing with energy from the vibrant acidity and an amazingly long finish that just seems to go and on. This wine is about finesse, balance and breading, all wrapped up in an incredibly delicious, mouth-filling package. It can be enjoyed now but will develop further more complexity in the years – no decades – to come. It’s also rare, only 180 cases were produced, and our allotment is small. This wine is not available elsewhere in Canada and in the US sells for $100 or more if you can find it; our Cellar Direct price of $85 represents excellent value that will not disappoint. We recommend that you read Kerin O’Keefe’s review of the 2013 vintage in Wine Enthusiast. Decant this wine for a couple of hours then enjoy in a Burgundy stem at 17˚.