Sanguineto

Poderi Sanguineto 1 & 2 is the family estate of Dora Forsoni in Montepulciano, the legendary hill town of southern Tuscany. Dora and her partner Patrizia Castiglioni continue to do all the work on the farm where Dora's father taught her from generations of knowledge how to tend the old vines of true Prugnolo Gentile, Mammolo, Canaiolo, Nero Toscano and Sangiovese and how to make the wine as it has been made for generations.

If you want to make good wine you need to work in harmony with the vines,
to listen to them to take care of them.

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Basic Information

Story

Dora has been working on the farm since 1968. Vines have always represented a small part of the 35 h property (4.7 h as of 2013), and up until 1997, the wine had always been sold indiscriminately in bulk. In 1996, while cleaning up some of her father's old belongings, Dora found one of the very few unmarked bottles he had kept for himself. While the vintage was unknown, it was most probably from the late 70's. More importantly, the wine was so good that it inspired Dora to start bottling independently. There are no herbicides or pesticides used here. The fermentations are done using indigionus yeasts in either concrete vats or old botti of slavonian oak. The results are an exciting revelation of focused, clear terroir wines from a region most people associate with a forest of spoof.

Dora Forsoni runs the Sanguineto estate with her life and business partner Patrizia Castiglioni. Dora does all the viticultural work alone, taking care of 100% of the vine maintenance: she works the soil, prunes and ties every vine of her 3.5 hectare estate by herself, and the only time someone else ever steps foot in the vines is during harvest when a small team of friends helps out. As you could imagine, Dora is one tough cookie.

For starters she is a renown hunter: the season just started and she's already nabbed four 70 kilo deer. In her own words: "4 deer, 4 bullets. I shot each one straight in the heart! Only males, because they make the best trophies." Please don't read into that as some kind of feminist thing: Dora showed us the heads (trophies), which she simply explained make better mantle pieces because of the antlers. Obviously she eats every last bit of each animal, and butchers them herself. She's been working the family farm her entire life, and learned everything she knows about agriculture, viticulture and vinification from her father; her work in the vineyards therefore leans less on philosophy and more on tradition; a tradition that results in much purer, honest wine than 99% of her neighbors. She can't weigh more than 110 pounds. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Ali, the dog pictured above. His specialty is catching rabbits, and they can't let him loose on the farm, otherwise the free roaming chickens and geese would be in for it. Dora let us in and told us she was glad we were here. In the kitchen she was roasting freshly picked chestnuts and preparing a wild board stew (from meat she'd hunted a few days earlier) with polenta. 

Besides the food and hilarious 90's movies references, Dora keyed us in on some interesting aspects of her work and that of her neighbors. First of all, I've never met a grower who so passionately expresses how much they love their wine. With every bottle opened, Dora exclaimed how "fantasic" and "beautiful" and "delicious" it was without a shred of pomp or attitude. In the context of our meal, it was hard to disagree. I really think my father was on to something when he wrote that a to truly understand a wine, you need to understand the person who made its personality. Dora is as much part of her terroir as the indigenous grapes that grow from her sandy clay soils: she emanates a sense of place and local tradition, and you can taste her passion in each bottle. A poignant example would be her choice to vinify and bottle a Toscana Bianco. At dinner, she explained that traditionally Nobile would be blended with up to 10% white grapes to lighten the color and alcohol. But she loves her grapes so much (both the whites and the reds), that she refuses to blend them so that they can better express themselves on their own. She pointed to her glass of white and said: "This is MY Nobile!".

Most of the vines on the estate were planted in 1963 by Dora's father. "He taught me that you make good wine by working well in the vineyard. To work in harmony with the vines, to listen to them to take care of them. To make a good broth, you need a good chicken!" The vines are all selection massale and franc de pied due to a technique that Dora learned from her father where she allows a shoot to come off from the base of the vine, which eventually caps off the old stump and lets the new shoot take over as the producing vine.

As far as vinification goes: maceration on the skins and alcoholic and malolactic fermentation occur in large concrete tanks. You could hear the 2011's still fermenting. Dora exclaimed: "They are singing to me and to each other!". The song went something like this: "Bloop. Bloop. Bloop Bloop. Bloop." The wine is then then racked to large oak vats (30 hl) and aged for a minimum of two years, then bottled. Dora's father bottled his wine independently and his last vintage was in 1978 (Dora says they are still delicious to this day). For reasons unclear, Dora sold her grapes to the cooperative until 1997 when she bottled her first vintage herself. The red wine is always a blend of Canaiolo, Prugnolo Gentile (a type of Sangiovese characterized by big, juicy berries) and Mammolo. The blend varies each year but is the same for each cuvée, which are bottled according to years aged in wood. One exception is the I.G.T Rosso Toscano. This wine is made with a strain of 40 year old Sangiovese called Nero Toscano, sees 6 months on average for alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in concrete, and is then aged two years in oak. We tasted a few 2010's, but more importantly the 09's which are about to be bottled. Though the fruit is young and the tannins are strong, there is already a great balance on the palate with pronounced minerality and sharp acidity. It's definitely drinkable now, but should start showing its' full potential in 5 years.

At the moment our producers, being “traditionalist”, are in vogue. It is flattering to see the press and mass consumer body increasingly acclaim this list of producers as top of the league. However I have seen wine trends come and go, and the ratings are not what counts. Important is how these people work day in and day out, their sacrifices, how great their vineyards are, long-term focus on what’s best for the wines, and certainly the character of the person also plays a part in the equation. Whether because the wine is rude, dirty, over-priced, all of these human attributes lend their weight to the final product which is wine. Lately it is no longer enough for me that the wine is natural or extraordinary, the holistic picture of the winery that emerges must make sense. I am not a star chaser and I pride myself slightly narcissistically on having a pretty good nose for the next wine revelation. It’s really not that difficult. It’s a sum of parts that, if they come together, create magic. If any nascent wine producers happen to read these remarks, please don’t be put off. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it’s the overall methodology of trying to reach for the stars that separates the wheat from the chaff.

I.G.T Bianco Toscano

Grapes: Malvasia Verde, Malvasia Bianco. Biancame, Trebbiano, Grechetto. Vinification: these white grapes were traditionally blended into Vino Nobile to lighten its' color and body. Dora thinks they have something to express as a white wine, effectively making this bottling to highlight its' potential. Fermented and aged in concrete tanks.

D.O.C Rosso di Montepulciano

Grapes: Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo. Vinification: Fermented in concrete aged in small oak barrels.

D.O.C.G Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

Grapes:Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo. Vinification: Fermented in concrete and aged in small oak barrels for two years

D.O.C.G Vino Nobile di Montepulciano "Riserva"

Grapes:Prugnolo Gentile, Canaiolo Nero, Mammolo. Vinification: Fermented in concrete and aged in small oak barrels for 3 years.

I.G.T Rosso Toscano

Grape: Nero Toscano (local strain of Sangiovese). Vinification: Fermented and aged in concrete for 1 year.

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