Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Very Warm and Heartfelt Visit to Fuligni Winery

(Jan. 7, 2013) - The sun had just set as we left Casanova di Neri Winery to drive the short 10 minute distance to Fuligni Winery. The sky had turned to a lovely orange and the tall cedar trees were dark silhouettes against the sunset colors.

Unfortunately as we wound our way down the hill, we missed the sharp left turn into Fuligni and had to go to the bottom of the Montalcino hill before we could turn the bus around. Then once we arrived, the bus was too large to enter the narrow driveway without scrapping against the long row of ancient olive trees. So all 29 of us alighted from the bus to walk down the gravel driveway as the first stars began twinkling in the dark sky above.

We couldn’t have had a warmer welcome than we received at Fuligni. We were met by Mr. Fuligni himself, as well as his marketing manager, Michael. We stood outside in the beautiful night next to vineyards as Mr. Fuligni described the 8 hectares of Brunello and 3 of Rosso that he had farmed here since the 1960’s. He described how the old wide spaced vineyard rows of 12 x 4 feet had been replaced with tighter spacing and new clones, but that half of the vineyard was still planted to the old Brunello Santi clones.

Visiting the Old Cellars of Fuligni

Next we walked through the vineyards to the cellar, which was situated about ¼ of a mile downhill. It was a beautiful experience to walk through the cold clear night with millions of stars shining overhead and know we were in such a special Montalcino vineyard. When we arrived at the old stone building, we were all inspired to see that they had raised the American flag to welcome us.

Fuligni believes in producing Brunello in a traditional fashion, and they limit their production to around 40,000 bottles. They still use old Slovenian casks for much of their aging, but have recently added some larger French oak casks as well. They export 85% of their wine, with the US being the largest customer at 35%.

Tasting Fuligni Wines With a Warm Fire, Bread, Salami, and Olive Oil

After the cellar tour, Mr Fuligni invited us into his warm house with a fire crackling in the fireplace in the living room and a large boar’s head on the wall. He served us bread, olive oil, and salami with the wines, and regaled us with stories of the old days. Everyone said this was one of the warmest and friendliest visits we had on our trip.

We tasted the 2010 Fuligni Rosso Di Montalcino, which appears to be an excellent vintage. It was beautiful with ripe fruit, approachable tannins, and a long finish. Michael told us we should be able to find this wine at the Wine Warehouse in California.

Next we tasted both the 2008 and 2007 Fuligni Brunellos. There was a large difference in vintage variation with the 2008 much lighter and more elegant with black cheery and smoke flavors. I preferred the larger and more concentrated 2007 with its larger tannins and dense dark fruit and earthy notes. To me, it was more of a classic Brunello.

It was difficult to leave Fuligni with all of the warmth, the crackling fire, the wine, food and good company, but we were already way behind schedule and still had to drive to Siena and check into our hotel for the evening. So eventually we said good-bye and walked back to the bus under the twinkling stars.

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