San Miniato is a small town lying in the province of Pisa. In medieval times, San Miniato lay on the famed Via Francigena, which was the main connecting route between northern Europe and Rome. As a result, San Miniato was regularly exposed to a constant flow of friendly and hostile armies, traders in all manner of goods and services, travelers from near and far and a flood of religious monks making the pilgrimage to Rome.
The ancient Via Francigena passes directly through what is now the Pietro Beconcini wine estate. Religious pilgrims on their way to Rome arrived from all over Europe, since the two main routes of the Via Francigena originated in Canterbury England and Santiago di Compostela in Spain. Customarily, priest and monks, in addition to their religious charges, were also responsible for overseeing agricultural undertakings. Wine and digestives were medicinal aids often administered by those in charge of religious doctrine. New vineyards were started in those days by planting grape seeds, primarily because over long journeys it was easier to carry a small container of seeds rather than an awkward, heavy bundle of vine cuttings. This line of supposition is the most logical and universally accepted explanation for how Spanish Tempranillo ended up in Tuscany. The hypothesis is further strengthened by the results of Beconcini’s DNA research, which indicates that a high percentage of tested genetic material is identical to Spanish Tempranillo, but with small obvious evolutionary differences expected in a vine that was started from a seed and not from a mature cutting. Oh, those crazy monks!
Vigna alle Nicchie takes it’s name from the Tuscan word “Nicchie” which means a bed of fossilized sea shells; the dominant component in the soil of the vineyard. Despite the incredible story of how Tempranillo came to Tuscany in the first place, Vigna alle Nicchie is unique for many other reasons as well. The vines are ancient; they are pre-phyloxera with massive trunks that reach deep into the soil resulting in the production of complex and intensely flavored grapes. Secondly, the manner in which Leonardo Beconcini vinifies the grapes is also interesting as he employs a partial process of appassimento, or allowing the grapes to dry for up to 4 weeks before fermentation. During this time, like Amarone, the sugars concentrate in the grapes and they lose almost 25% of their weight.
Today we’re looking at the latest release of Vigna alle Nicchie, the 2011. Leonardo Beconcini calls this his “most ambitious wine” and fully believes that the vineyard is capable of making wines that can age for 30 or more years. Since Vigna alle Nicchie was first produced in 2004, there’s a way to go before that claim can be verified.
Fermented for as long as 10 days in lined cement vats, the wine is then moved to a combination of new barrels, 70% of which are French and 30% American. The wine matures for 2 years in oak and then 2 years in bottle before release. The 2011 is not yet fully released.
Deep ruby in the glass with purple reflections, the wine gives off complex aromas of ripe cherry jam, toffee, and mountain herbs. After about one hour of air, the wine blossoms further on the palate . Silky, full bodied flavors of black cherry and plum are joined with savory herbs, trace minerality and a sapid, mouth watering quality that allows the wine to retain its freshness. It’s delicious now, but has plenty of reason to expect further development over at least the next 5-10 years. 92 points. Not reliably imported to the US. EU readers will be able to find it easily. Disclosure: This bottle was a producer provided sample.
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Salute! And stay tuned for more new reviews coming from this estate.