Vineyards surrounding the picture-perfect hilltop town of Montalcino are currently – at more than EUR2M per ha - the most expensive in Italy. Prices for wine from this, arguably Italy’s most exclusive DOCG, have correspondingly sky-rocketed, more than doubling in the last 10 years alone. It was therefore the most pleasant of surprises to discover Fabio Gianetti, the utterly charming and modest owner of La Fornace, a 7.5 ha estate in the heart of the zone (his neighbours are Costanti and Casanovi di Neri). Given the location of his vineyards I was expecting high prices and a cellar full of new French barriques but I was wrong on both counts. Fabio is an arch-traditionalist who favours macerations of 20 days for his Rosso (sadly, all sold) and more than a month for his Brunello. The long macerations combined with the firm acidity that Brunello in this north-eastern corner always seems to preserve gives his wines an elegant structure perfectly suited to 30 months in Slavonian botte. Which is not to say La Fornace’s wines are delicate, quite the contrary. Gianni’s wines are full-bodied and sumptuous but the fruit is underpinned by both finesse and structure which, frankly, is what Brunello should be about.
Tasting with Fabio is always a pleasure – he’s as far from a prima donna as it’s possible to be – and each bottle is accompanied with a refreshingly frank account of both vintage and vinification including what he likes, what he doesn’t, and where he sees room for improvement. No hero worship in this cellar. His exceptionally modest prices are a reflection of his personality. I asked him why he had never exported to the UK before and he replied ‘I don’t have huge scores from the critics so I assumed that the UK wasn’t interested in wines like mine.’ How far from the truth. Needless to say, the 180 bottles of 2012 evaporated and we are eagerly awaiting our allocation of the perfectly poised 2013 which is due to arrive early next year.