Editor’s Note: Although The International Wine of the Month Club does occasionally offer a wine from an individual estate every couple of years, on only one previous occasion can we recall offering to our members the same wine from the same vintage. In the case of the 2001 Fattoria Montellori Salamartano, we sent this wine to our reds only Collector Series members in 2007. After tasting the wine several times again with various panels, it became quite apparent that the outstanding 2001 Salamartano was not only still at the top of its game, it was even better than ever. Consequently, when we learned from Alessandro Nieri, the estate’s proprietor, that he had held back several hundred cases of this wine, we felt compelled to ask him for more, so that we could share this excellent Super Tuscan with a larger number of our members. We trust you will enjoy this special wine as much as we have! Unfortunately, by the late 1960s, the demand for Zinfandel and other traditional California varieties was on the wane in favor of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other French grape varieties. White wine became the craze throughout the 1970s, which sent red Zinfandel to the proverbial backburner among consumers. The Trincheros responded by creating the world’s first white Zinfandel in 1972 as an outlet for their award-winning Zinfandel grapes. White Zinfandel was an immediate sensation, and most other Napa Valley producers followed suit. The rest is history. However, the Trincheros’ quest has always been to produce only the finest premium California wines – a dream the family revived with the Trinchero Family Estate and a host of small family vineyards.
A couple of years ago, we discovered Fattoria Montellori and the estate’s enthusiastic, serious-minded proprietor Alessandro Nieri. Shortly afterwards, we met Dr. Marco Razzauti, Montellori’s exuberant 30-year-old viticulturist and oenologist, and it quickly became clear to us just how committed this estate is to making world-class Chianti and Super Tuscan reds. What is happening at Montellori is nothing short of enthralling. And, instead of smoke and mirrors leading the way, as is sometimes the case in the world of wine, it is a solemn revitalization of the estate’s vineyards and a complete dedication to natural, sustainable agronomy that has pushed the quality quotient at Montellori to ever-higher levels. This estate’s total makeover is due to the vast improvements in viticultural practices that Dr. Razzauti instituted several years ago and Montellori’s decision to limit production. Needless to say, the results speak volumes, loudly and clearly.
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, which thrust their many spires skyward. This pretty town is equally celebrated for its savory truffles and heavenly wines. The latter treasures constitute some of Tuscany’s most hedonistic pleasures.
Thanks to the foresight of Alessandro Nieri’s father, Giuseppe, Fattoria Montellori owns six distinct vineyards, all of which possess a unique soil, microclimate, exposure, and altitude. Red wine is king at Montellori, as it is throughout Tuscany. Not surprisingly, Chianti is the estate’s most important wine, at least in terms of production. And what a Chianti it is! However, in recent years, Montellori has fashioned three outstanding Super Tuscan offerings: Moro, Dicatum, and Salamartano. Moro is a single-vineyard offering that comes closest to Chianti in style. It is a blend of primarily Sangiovese to which small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malvasia Nera are added. Meanwhile, Dicatum is the most traditional of this estate’s offerings. It is 100% Sangiovese from the hillside vineyard Cerreto Guidi, the last vineyard that Giuseppe Nieri personally planted. Salamartano, on the other hand, is a classic Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot that has been aged in small barriques. It is Montellori’s most expensive and age-worthy wine. In addition to the estate’s exemplary reds, Montellori turns out several excellent white wines, including Mandorlo, an artful non-traditional blend of Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, and Clairette.