The Wines of Col d’Orcia

Tuscany is a classic wine region home to many well-known sub-regions, including Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino, one of the most famous wine regions. And in Brunello di Montalcino is Col d’Orcia who I wrote about for the Napa Valley Register and share here.

The Wines of Col d’Orcia

One of the most famous Italian wines is Brunello di Montalcino. Located in Tuscany, Montalcino has a long history and has achieved this status through the hard work of the people who believed in the area. One of these people is Count Francesco Marone Cinzano, owner of Col d’Orcia.

Cinzano’s family has a farming tradition that started in the 16th century. But it was in 1973 when his family came to Montalcino after his father purchased the property from the Franceschi family who had owned the property since the 1890s.

At the time, Montalcino was one of the poorest areas in Italy. After the highway was built from Milan to Rome, Montalcino was off the main route and no longer received the traffic of travelers; the population dropped by two-thirds. But despite this, Cinzano’s father believed in the area, and it is because of him and others like him that Brunello di Montalcino has grown to be one of Italy’s more famous wines.

Col d’Orcia means “the hill overlooking the Orcia River.” The Orcia River is on the southwest border of the Brunello di Montalcino region. Col d’Orcia is in the Orcia Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Wines of Col d’Orcia

Montepulciano is a historically diverse agricultural area consisting of almost 80,000 acres. More than half of the land is natural woodland; 35 percent is planted with olive trees, truffles, various grains, and tobacco; 15 percent is planted with vineyards. Montalcino is also one of the largest producers of honey in Italy.

More than a decade ago, Cinzano asked himself, “How could I contribute to this unique place?” He wanted to “bring it back to the way it was done before the introduction of chemicals.”

In 1990, Col d’Orcia began research with the University of Florence on cover crops. In 1995 they started using natural fertilizers and by 2000 they were using cover crops for fertilization. Col d’Orcia was the first estate in the area to use cover crops and green manure in the vineyards. In 2010, Col d’Orcia began to convert to organic farming on the entire estate and received organic certification in 2013. In 2018, Col d’Orcia converted to biodynamic farming. Today they are working on improving their carbon footprint, as well as working on different areas of research to improve the organic material in soil and to better manage water retention in soils to combat heat spikes.

“A winery cannot work without the vineyard,” Cinzano said. “A winery must protect the quality it gets from the vineyard.”

Col d’Orcia wines are artisan wines. “Every bunch of grapes is touched by human hands,” Cinzano said. The wines of Col d’Orcia are traditional wines, using classic methods that include large barrels and long aging. Cinzano added, “Our wines should be the bottle that sits on the dinner table, meant to be enjoyed with food.”

The Wines of Col d’Orcia

Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2017 ($64)

“In a world that is always changing, styles change. This wine is reliable, trustworthy and traditional,” Cinzano said. The Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino is the winery’s most distributed wine and can be found in 70 countries. 2017 was the year of the drought and the first year Montalcino saw two major climatic changes – drought and heat – coming together. As a result, in 2017, the only wine produced by Col d’Orcia was the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG.

The wine spent five years aging, with a minimum of two years in oak and a minimum of four months in bottle. The wine is fresh with plum, cherry, floral and spice notes. Rich red fruit notes continue onto the palate. The wine has structure and is full-bodied. The tannins are smooth, and the acidity is fresh, leaving a mouthwatering finish.

Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino “Nastagio” DOCG 2016 ($90)

In Montepulciano, 2016 is considered one of the best vintages of recent history. “Nastagio” is the name of an ancient farmhouse that traces back to the 1800s from the estates’ original owners who ran the estate under the name “Fattoria di Sant’Angelo.” The “Nastagio” Brunello di Montalcino is a single vineyard within the Col d’Orcia estate. It was planted in 2006 and is located on a hill with clay soils. The wine was first made in 2011 and made in subsequent years, except for 2014 and 2017.

The grapes are fermented in stainless steel and then aged for the first year in tonneaux (500 liter) wine barrels followed by time in large botti and then 12 months in bottle. The wine is full-bodied with intense red and black berry aromas and spice, licorice, and vanilla notes. The wine is fresh yet has a lovely depth to it.

“Poggio al Vento” Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2015 ($173)

“Poggia al Vento” means “windy hill.” This single vineyard, which was planted in 1974, is located on a hill that overlooks the Orcia River. Here the soil is sandier with fossils and stones, compared to the clay soils elsewhere on the property. The first vintage of this reserve wine was in 1982, and it is only produced in the best vintages.

The grapes were fermented in stainless steel and then spent three years in Slavonian and Allier French oak barrels, followed by three years of further aging in the bottle before release. The wine has an intense nose of dark red fruit, earth, spice and tobacco. The wine is full-bodied and complex with impressive tannins and a long finish. This wine has the potential to age 20 years or more.

Col d’Orcia is one of the original producers in Montalcino. They are the largest organic estate in Tuscany. But at the heart, they are grape growers, and they are a family business. Cinzano’s son, Santiago, is the next generation to continue the family tradition of believing in the quality of Brunello di Montalcino.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.