On a recent trip to Italy, we discovered Fattoria Montellori and the estate's enthusiastic, serious-minded proprietor Alessandro Nieri. Fattoria Montellori is located off the beaten track, away from the glitz and glamour of the well-worn wine road that winds its way from Florence to Siena. Instead, Montellori is tucked away in the Montalbano zone of Chianti to the west of Florence, near the stately Tuscan town of San Miniato. San Miniato is renowned for its wealth of beautifully preserved Romanesque and Renaissance churches that thrust their many spires skyward, savory truffles, and heavenly wines. The latter treasures constitute some of Tuscany's most hedonistic pleasures.
The Montellori estate, which is also known as Castel Rapiti, dates from 1293. Yet, the Nieri family has been the guardian of this outstanding property only since 1895, a mere 111 years, which is a relatively short time when one considers the entire eight centuries of history that Fattoria Montellori shares with posterity. Giuseppe Nieri purchased the villa and surrounding grounds at the end of the 19th century from profits he had realized from his leather trade. He quickly set about planting vineyards and upgrading the property. Giuseppe's son Mario continued the pioneering spirit and renovation at Montellori that was begun by his father. However, it was not until Giuseppe Nieri, Alessandro's father, took control of the estate in the early 1980's that it expanded to its present 170 acres and began fashioning wine as smooth and fine as the Florentine leather his forbearers' once crafted. Today, the estate houses a modern winery, hundreds of oak barrels, great and small, and some of the finest hillside vineyards in Tuscany. Moreover, it fashions wines of great character, distinction, and personality.
Thanks to the foresight of Giuseppe Nieri, Fattoria Montellori owns six distinct vineyards, all of which possess a unique soil, microclimate, exposure, and altitude. Red wine is king here, as it is throughout Tuscany. Nonetheless, Alessandro crafts several excellent white wines, too, including Mandorlo, an artful non-traditional blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairette. Not surprisingly, Chianti remains the estate's most important wine in terms of quantity. It is a traditional, medium-bodied wine that is wonderfully representative of the Montalbano style of Chianti. However, it is Montellori's Moro, Salamartano, and Dicatum (the estate's three distinct Super Tuscan reds) that make us want to shout for joy. Moro is a single vineyard offering that is closest to Chianti in style. It is a blend of primarily Sangiovese to which small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malvasia Nera have been added. Salamartano on the other hand is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that has been aged in small barriques. Meanwhile, Dicatum is the most decadent and quintessentially Tuscan of this estate's offerings. It is 100% Sangiovese from the property's finest hillside vineyard Cerreto Guidi; this is the last vineyard that Giuseppe Nieri personally planted. Dicatum spends about eighteen months in a combination of oak barriques and 500 liter barrels, which intensify the wine's structure, without impeding its elegance and aromatic fireworks – a staggering statement indeed.