Uccelliera Rosso di Montalcino
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Having been to the winery Uccelliera three times now, there are couple of things that always strike me.
First, Andrea Cortonesi, the owner and winemaker, is a powerfully built man of the land. While not tall, he is stocky and muscular with giant hands that resemble lobster claws, stripped through with years of scars from farm work. He was born into a sharecropping family on this land and now owns it. He is a man that clearly, physically embodies his chosen occupation of working on his land, morning until night, vintage after vintage, year after year. He makes one of our favorite Brunellos that in its own way resembles its creator: powerful, of one singular place, and with such a presence that it always commands respect and attention. Or, in Andrea’s own words:
“I became a farmer by deliberate personal choice. Although I come from an agricultural family, I could have chosen a different path. I was in time to catch only the last, setting rays of the "old-styIe" farming, when one still heard little of Brunello. Then everything changed. But I nevertheless learned that world's essential theme: love for the earth of which we respectfully ask its fruits for our life. When I began to work the land that was now mine, I realised that I was perhaps seeking to live a relationship with this earth that went beyond simple business principles. Whatever I am creating that is new will have roots as deep as my olive trees, almost a millennium old. I found an ancient farm, almost a ruin, a land that had always been fertile, a landscape familiar to the many generations who preceded me here; I want my labour to enrich this heritage, and I shall be able to say that I have preserved it as a living thing for the future.”
The other striking thing is the tasting of his wines. Really, truth be told, Andrea should make just one wine: Brunello di Montalcino from the ancient aviary (Uccelliera) of the Abbey of Sant'Antimo. But in tasting with him, things get a little crazy. Each time I’ve been there, we’ve tasted no fewer that 30 different iterations of what could be his Brunello: Sangiovese Grosso from the three different plots of his farm; Sangiovese Grosso in up to five different types of wood, with three different sizes among them; at least five vintages aging in the cellar at any one time, all encompassing the above-noted variants. In other words, as much time as he spends in the vineyard, Andrea is constantly and meticulously focused in the cellar as well, raising his wines like an Italian father would his children – strict to the adherence of family traditions, and warm with familial love. The result is here in this glass:
The wine (the Rosso) opens with Brunello’s pulchritudinous nose of cherry, wild flower, savory herbs, and subtle earth notes. This wine will transport you straight to Andrea’s aviary at the Tuscan sunset, when all the transition from daytime breezes brings warmth and the smells of gardens and farms; to just at the start of dusk, with its more cooling blue tones settling in. The palate is as it should be – stern with its tannin character and decisive in its acidity. There is a sheer sense of intensity in the glass. An undeniability of posture, elegance and grace. This is commanding wine to drink now, but I have also had his Rosso back to 1996 – it will not tire or flag in your cellar, but will always be waiting for you to create a special night just by uncorking it.
Andrea really only makes one wine: Brunello. Yet because of Italian wine law, a portion of his production has to be “declassified” into a lower legal grade, hence, this Rosso di Montalcinio. To me, it has everything a Brunello should have, from first sip to final glass.