Often people will ask me what is my favorite red wine. This is a difficult question to answer because there are so many that I truly enjoy. However there is one that comes to mind right away and that is the Fiorano Rosso Vino da Tavola from Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi Principe of Venosa. I first had the 1961 at Checchino dal 1887 in Rome in 1983. The Prince began making wine in 1945 and stopped making it around 1995. It was said that he had destroyed all of the vines, but this was not true. I was so impressed with the wine that I tried to buy all that I could find.
When the Principe died a few years ago, he left half of the estate to his daughter, who is the renowned winemaker Piero Antinori’s wife. Mrs. Antinori gave her share of the estate to her three daughters. Alessia is the daughter who lives in Rome and since the winery is only twenty minutes away, just across from the Ciampino Airport, she took over the management of the Fattoria di Fiorano estate.
The other half of the Boncompagni Ludovisi estate was left to a distant cousin of the Principe. His first release was the 2006 Fiorano Rosso with the original Fiorano label under his own name, Principe Alessandro Jacopo Boncompagni Ludovisi. He also made a white Fiorano, but is using different grapes than the original.
An agreement had to be reached between the cousins about the rights to the Fiorano name. The result is that Alessia can use the name Fiorano in Italy for her wines but in the U.S. she had to change the name on the label. She chose the name Alberico, which is her grandfather’s first name, for her US wine. She is also planning to release an entry-level wine in the U.S called Appia Antica 400, which is the address of the winery.
I have visited Fattoria di Fiorano a few times and became friends with Alessia. When Alessia is in the US she has an apartment only a few blocks from where I live. I periodically have what I call “Fiorano dinners” and last week I invited some Fiorano lovers and Alessia over for something different — a Fiorano lunch.
We spoke about her grandfathers’ wine and the wine she is making on her part of the estate.
Alessia said a few years go she was visiting a neighbor on the property who had worked for her grandfather and noticed in the garden next to his house an uncultivated plot of disorderly vines. She was told that the vines were planted many years before by her grandfather and it was Semillon. This was an opportunity that she could not pass up and she decided to make take care of the vines and produce a wine from the grapes.
Alberico Bianco 2013 100% Sémillon
After a careful manual selection, the best grapes were destemmed and soft pressed. Fermentation in casks and the wine completed its six months of aging in puncheons. The wine was aged in bottle for a minimum of 24 months.
This is an exceptional balanced wine with complex aromas of subtle tropical fruit, hints of citrus fruit and a slight touch of vanilla with a very pleasing finish and a long aftertaste.
It is a very special wine. Alessia said it is a white wine that will age and I agreed. In fact I told her it was a white wine as good as the Sémillon or the Malvasia di Candia that her grandfather made!
As for the Rosso she said she found on the estate eight vine rows, four of Merlot and four of Cabernet that were planted over half a century ago by her grandfather and farmed organically. These are the vines which produced the legendary Fiorano Rosso.
Alberico Rosso 2012 made from 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Once the two varieties had been separated, the grapes were destemmed and fermented in temperature-controlled cement tanks. Alessia said this was to fully bring out their aromas and flavors. After being run off the skins, the wine goes into large oak casks for a minimum of 12 months. She said this is done to assist the full expression of the exceptional character conferred by the old vines of her grandfather Alberico Boncompagni Ludovisi, and by the singular volcanic soils created by an ancient lava flow. The wine completed its 24 months of oak aging in puncheon barrels and was then bottled before completing the process with a period of bottle aging, which lasts over two years.
There are about 14 hectares of vine planted on the estate now: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Sémillon are the vines which come from a “massal” selection (propagated from old vines).
Then we had 6 vintages of the Fiorano Rosso produced by her grandfather. The profile of the wines as you taste them is always consistent. They all have leather, smoke and cherry aromas and flavors with a hint of balsamic. They were very complementary to the food that we served. The wines, even the 1971 and 1974, had such high fills that one would think it was a very young wine. I have never tasted one (but I should not say tasted, I drink these wines) that even had a hint of oxidation.
1994 — We tasted this wine and it seemed so young that we did not drink it and the person that brought the wine recorked it and said he would try it again in a week.