Fiorano Rosso ” The Noblest Roman of Them All”

Fiorano Rosso: Wine Made by a Prince Fit for a King

 

            When in Rome, I go to wine stores looking for a very rare and special wine, Fiorano Rosso.  I make the rounds of stores like Trimani, Enoteca Cavour, etc., and ask if they have anyThe answer is always the same, “not any more”. 

About ten years ago I got lucky and found the 1991 vintage at Trimani. I brought as much as I could carry. One of my favorite restaurants, Checchino dal 1887, had vintages going back to 1961 but I guess I drank them all!  For a very brief time, the 1982 was imported into the United States.

Once I found three cases of the 1971 at auction. I do not have any more 1971 or 1982 left. However I gave a 1971 away because it was the wedding anniversary year of very good friends. They still have the bottle and I am trying to get them to open it for me. I will be in Rome again in September but have little hope of finding any more Fiorano Rosso.

            Every two weeks for the last few years I would go to the internet and type in the word Fiorano. The response would always be the same.  Two Fiorano Bianco’s were available, one made from Malvasa Candia and the other from Semillon.  They are easy to get — but the red that was a different story. I kept on searching  and to my amazement found a store that listed the Fiorano Rosso ,the 1992 and 1994 vintages.  I called the wine store and the salesperson gave me the third degree, wanting to know if I was familiar with the wine because it was “very particular”?   I told her that I have been drinking the Fiorano Rosso since 1981 and was familiar with vintages as old as 1961.  I asked how many bottles were available and said I would take all of them. However there was a problem, they did not know when the wines would arrive. Finally six months later they called and said the wine had arrived. For some reason I only could purchase 14 bottles.

Fiorano Rosso

 

             Often I am asked if I have a favorite wine. This is a very difficult question to answer, because with different foods and at different times I like different wines. However if I really had to name one it would be Fiorano Rosso. It is a wine made by a prince and fit for a king. This is a full bodied wine with great depth. The flavors and aromas of leather and cherry dominate making it a unique drinking experience.

The wine was made by Alberigo Boncompagni Ludovisi, Principe di Venosa with merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes.  Burton Anderson, in his landmark Italian wine book Vino, called Fiorano Rosso the noblest Roman of them all”.  The Prince’s few aces of vines are planted along the Appian Way about 20 kilometers southwest of the center of Rome and almost right next to Roman’s second airport, Ciampino. It is the best cabernet/merlot blend made it Italy and one of the best in the world!  In my opinion–and I am in the minority here–one of the best places in the world to grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is in Lazio close to Rome.

            The Boncompagni Ludovisi family is one of the oldest in Rome and includes a pope (Gregorio X111 who was born Ugo Boncompagni).  When it comes to wine the Prince goes his own way.  He is a traditionalist and may have been one of the first to practice organic farming.  Marchese Piero Antnori of Tuscan wine fame is the Prince’s son-in-law, but unfortunately, they not get along.  The Prince said he would destroy all his vines rather than see Piero get hold of them.  I do not think he likes the modern methods that Piero uses to make Antinori wine.  When the Prince was asked if he would save the vines for his grandchildren, he said that they learned about wine from their father, Piero, and not from him.  The prince’s wine consultant was the late Tancredi Biondi-Santi, also a traditionalist, of Brunello fame.   The Prince has a passion for his vines and his wines and does not give interviews.  Even the late Luigi Veronelli, the dean or Italian wine writers, had a very difficult time with him.

      Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine columnist, went to Rome and tasted the Fiorano white wines, which he liked very much.  He wrote an article about them, “An Italian Prince and His Magic Cellar” (Dec. 22 2004).   I enjoyed reading the article and also like the white wines.  Not long after the article was printed, I was invited to taste wines at The Times with Mr. Asimov.  I told him that I had three vintages of the red Fiorano from 1991, 1989 and 1986. He was very interested so I invited him for dinner.  It took four years and finally  he came to dinner. Michele made lasagna from the town of Anagni just south of Rome; followed by lamb shanks (The recipe is available in her book, The Italian Slow Cooker.)  We also drank the 1990 Torre Ercolana from Cantina Colacicchi in Anagni, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a local grape, Affilan Cesanese.  This wine is only available at the Trimani wine store in Rome.  The main course was a simple roast lamb, a perfect combination with the Fiorano. This was the first of three dinners over the next two years.

Fiornao Rosso and "friends" at the dinner in March 2010

            Sadly, the prince stopped making wine commercially in 1995 because of his age and that of the vines. When I ask friends in the wine business in Rome about what has happened, they tell me that the property is so close to Rome that there might be pressure to build condos.

            Some wine writers have compared Fiorano Rosso to Bordeaux and others to Sassicaia.  I can see the comparison to great old style Bordeaux but not to Sassicaia. Fiorano Rosso was made with great passion and with no concern for the opinion of wine writers, the wine market, or economics.  It is a traditional wine which brings out the terroir and the true character of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes. 

There is mixed opinion on which is the better wine the white or the red.  A few years ago, the prince sold off 14,000 bottles of his white wine but none of his red. When he pulled out his vines he only left a small amount of Cabernet and Merlot. Which wines do you think the prince preferred!?

Fiorano and "friends" and the first dinner

          Last year I was invited to Montefalco for a tasting of Sagrantino.  Wine writers and buyers from all over the world attended the event. At dinner the first night, I was talking to a gentleman from Holland and he mentioned Fiorano Rosso and was surprised when he heard that I know about it. He had never tasted it but had read Sheldon Wasserman’s book Italy’s Noble Red Wines.  After a long discussion he mentioned that he had two bottles and would send me one. I could not believe my ears. The difficult was that he could not send it to the United States. I told him I would be in Italy in Dec. and he could send it to the hotel. He was as good as his word and a bottle of 1967 Fiorano Rosso showed up at the hotel.

        A few months ago I was in La Pizza Fresca in Manhattan and I began talking to a man and his wife who were customers of a wine store where I had once worked. He said that he read my articles and that he had a few bottles of Fiorano Rosso. I said we should have dinner together and asked him for his card. He did not have any with him, so I gave him mine and told him to contact me. So far he has not. So if you read this, please contact me so we can have dinner and drink Fiorano Rosso together.

28 Comments

Filed under Italian Red Wine

28 responses to “Fiorano Rosso ” The Noblest Roman of Them All”

  1. Well, I think you covered that rather well

  2. charlesscicolone

    Ciao Alfonso
    Thank you-I just wish I had more of the wine!

  3. Charles:

    I remember you telling me about this wine previously, so it was nice to read your wonderful writeup. If I ever find a bottle, I’ll grab it for us to share.

  4. Interesting article. I will also want to have it.

  5. Charles – I, too, purchased some of the 1992 and 1994 rosso (6 of each)…I’ve had one of these so far and, well, it doesn’t compare to the 1971 in any way or manner (which was one of the greatest wines I’ve ever had). Er, I have a few other rossos, and picked of a couple of cases of the whites when Sergio originally offered them. We should talk some time. And, enough publicity on these wines…they’re impossible to get already – let’s not make it harder for us.🙂

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao Jack -I have had the 61,67,71,78,82,86,89,91,92 and 94
      The 1971,78 and 82 have been my favorites and I have had a number of bottles
      The best was the 1967 but I only had one bottle -43 years old and terrific
      I think the 92 & 94 need more time – we should not only get together and talk
      but also drink Fiorano

  6. Steve Simon

    Thanks for the article. I have some of the 1971 Rosso. It is indeed a great bottle of wine. Get ahold of me if you would like to share one.

  7. Steve Simon

    Are you based in the States or Italy? I’ll be in rome in February.

  8. Peder Byberg

    Dear Charles.

    I too have tried to get hold of the wines of Boncompagni. But alas! I seems ironic that the only place to obtain them these days are in the USA. If you by chance have knowledge about where to find any of his wines in Europe ( the whites would do just fine, really) please let me know.

    By the grace of Baccus , somebody just gave me the offer to by one og his red – the 1957 vintage I believe. Do you have any ideas about its drinkability?

    All the best from Copenhagen

    Peder Byberg

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao Checchino 1887 inRone has the white wine on the list for less money then you can buy it for in the US. The 1957 Rosso – this wine is 53 years old – I do not know how well it is holding up. I suspect it is still drinking. If you tell me where I can get the 57 I will by a bottle and tell you if it is still drinking

  9. Peder Byberg

    Thank you, Charles!

    Another fine reason for going to Rome

    As for the red: http://www.historia-wine.com/index.php/details/010119573000253/Fiorano-Boncompagni-Ludovisi

    I think they may only have one bottle. Feel free to grab it if you want… A loveaffair with Boncompagni Ludovisi spanding over almost 4 decades im my book simply means that you deserves it.

    Alle the best

    Peder

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao Peder tried the site but when you try to buy the wine it is not listed. I sent them an e-mail but they
      never answered me!

  10. Gino Composto

    Dear Charles,

    I am sorry I didn’t contact you regarding the Fiorano. I unfortunately missplaced the card and have no other excuse than to say I didn’t follow up. I, however, do still have the Fiorano rosso-I have a 1967, 1985 and 1988.. I am dying to open them and experience them once again. Like you Fiorano Rosso has always been my favorite. I tasted a 1978 once that blew me away. I used to get them from Trimani in Italy, as well as in the USA through Trebon Imports-who used to sell it for $10 dollars a bottle!!!! I bought and drank a ton-I never thought it would be over. Anyway, it was like the girl that got away and I am still not over my love affair with this wine. I also, when in Italy look everywere for the wine, I had some luck a few years ago when one of the salesman at Consantini told me they had an old one but it wasn’t drinkable–so we went back to the cage and he gave me this old moldy bottle, I could not even get the year at the time-the label was almost gone -I brought the wine home and opened it while still in Italy-it was amazing-absolutely stunning–but lately no more luck of that kind.

    Anyway, if you want to set something up I would be happy to bring one of the wines so that we can again get a glimpse of what was, could have been, but no longer is.

    • Armando Castagno

      Il was 1969, Gino. I perfectly remember the bottle in the “Sancta Sanctorum” at Costantini’s.

      • gino

        Wow what a Memory. My deepest thanks for providing me with another bottle to dream by. I wish we could find more

  11. Dear Charles,

    I came across one bottle of 1994 Fiorano in a gigantic cellar we bought. It is in immaculate condition, the fill is into mid-neck. Perfect label, etc. We told our customer we would sell this bottle for $50. Would you like to buy this? Thank you and Merry Christmas!
    John B. Truax
    Chambers St Wines
    (212) 227-1434

  12. I picked up 6 of the rosso’s from Crush NY. The one I had was very uninteresting (I scored it an 80). This differs from the 1971 which was one of the greatest reds I’ve ever had.

    • charlesscicolone

      Ciao – I also picked up some bottles from Crush- the 1992 and 1994. I agree with you on the 1971- if you want to sell the ones ( uninteresting) from Crush ,I wll take them.

  13. Gino Composto

    When did Crush have this wine?? I am constantly on their Web site and I have never seen Fiorano????

  14. charlesscicolone

    Ciao Gino
    It was over two years ago. They had the 1992 and the 1994
    I wanted to buy all of it but could only get 14 bottles,

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  17. Took the 1978 Fiorano rosso to Bontå (Hampton, NH) two nights ago (bottle #23 out of, as I recall, 1366 total). Had to be decanted through cheesecloth (cork nearly disintegrated). Color was vibrant; almost no bricking–the wine looked virtually new. Nose was superb and grew more profound with air. The mouth improved as well over almost two hours, though it never quite lived up to the transcendent promise of the wine’s aroma. The ’78 should drink beautifully for another decade or two, so the rest of our case should see us through, if only our bodies will.

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