The idea for the Fiorano dinners started when I saw an article with the title by Eric Asimov entitled An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar in the New York Times. In his magic cellar, Boncompagni Ludovisi, Principe di Venosa, had two white wines one made from Malvasia di Candia and the other from Semillon. Both were called Fiorano. What the magic cellar used to contain, but no longer did, was the Fiorano Rosso made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
Mr. Asimov praised the Fiorano Bianco, and rightly so. They are unique wines that can last 30 years or more. When I visited Rome I would drink Fiorano Bianco and even today it can still be found in Roman restaurants as well as in restaurants and wine stores in NYC. There were 14,000 bottles of Fiorano Bianco in the cellar but all of the Fiorano Rosso was gone. I like the Fiorano Bianco, but I love the Fiorano Rosso and would drink it and buy it whenever I could!
After reading the article I realized that Mr. Asimov had never tasted the Rosso. Once when I was invited to the Times to take part in the tasting panel, I told him that I had a few bottles of Rosso and would like him to come for dinner so that he could taste them. It took two years before we could arrange our first dinner. Eric wrote about the first dinner in an article entitled Mysteries With a Menu in the Times’ Diners Journal and another dinner in the same column in an article entitled Bygone Bottles.
Altogether there have been four dinners, the last taking place in April. As far as I know the last vintage of white or red Fiorano was 1995. The elderly prince has since passed away. There was much speculation about what would happen to the property. Luigi Veronelli, a well-known wine and food writer, who had interviewed the prince before his death quoted him as saying that he rather would pull up all the vines than see his son-in-law Piero Antinori get them. When he asked the prince about Piero’s daughters, his granddaughters, inheriting the property, he replied, “they follow their father and not me.” There was talk of building apartment buildings on the property because it was so close to Rome.
All hope was lost – there was no more rosso to be found. In December of last year, Mr. Asimov wrote A Family Gets Back to Their Roots. In the article he wrote,
“Now, though, the deed is done. The estate has been divided among various members of the Antinori family, and the 25 acres or so where the vineyard was planted is now in the hands of the three daughters of Piero and Francesca Antinori. They plan to replant the vineyard. Turns out that when the prince pulled up the vineyard he didn’t destroy it entirely. Some of the vines, which are by nature tenacious and tough, managed to survive. Using cuttings from the surviving vines, the three Antinoris, along with Renzo Cotarella, the Antinori wine director, hope to replant the original vineyard little by little beginning in 2011.”
Two months ago I was invited to a tasting of Antinori wines given by Renzo Cotarella at Eataly. When Renzo walked in the room and saw me, he walked over and said “We have to talk about Fiorano”. I had to wait until the class was over before we could talk. Renzo said that they were able to find a few vines for the red grapes on the property and had produced a 2010. He said that I had more experience with Fiorano Rosso than anyone else. We agreed that we liked the red better than the white. I believe the only bottles of the red that he had in his possession were from 1988. I had a number of questions about how the made wine was made and would it be the same. Renzo said that he would be back in October and I immediately began planning our next Fiorano dinner so we could continue our discussion.
In my opinion, Fiorano Rosso is a unique wine. At the dinner last year we had a 1967 that was given to me by a man from Holland. The wine was 43 years old, the fill was almost to the top, and the wine was fantastic showing no signs of age. The big question for me is, will the Antinori daughters and Renzo Cotarella make a wine that is like other wines, or will they make Fiorano Rosso.