This summer I have been traversing across the great country of Italy on breaks between medical treatments in search of hidden gems and some of the best Italian wines Italy has to offer. As an Italian wine expert I am relentless in the dogged pursuit of top wines that speak of terroir and perfect balance. Many of these wines will be unknown to the American market and is my sincere mission to share these with you. These wine travels will be sandwiched between artisans, restaurants and historical points of interest. I hope that by following me along my travels it will inspire you to live the Dolce Vita here in Italy.
A few weeks ago, the journey brought me to Montalcino in Tuscany and Dr. Alessandro Mori of the famous 100 point Brunello Il Marroneto “Madonna Delle Grazie“. I arrived at the winery and his front gate, which is always closed as he doesn’t accept visits from the public but I had an appointment and yet it was still closed. I called, no answer. I decided to walk down the driveway, which is located beneath the old church from 1200 AD that is on his property and for which his ” Madonna Delle Grazie” is named. I arrived at the base of his driveway on the hill of Montosoli to see if I could find the elusive Dr. Mori.
A shorter man with thick, grayish white, curly hair, a gold necklace and a Toscana cigar perched on his lips appeared and jutted out his hand with the candor of a cowboy in a Western movie. He said, “You must be Roger. Thanks for coming. I will open the gate.”
I ran back up the hill and returned with my car. He walked around to the back of his property, which overlooks the entire valley and its panorama, and told me to have a seat on an eight meter high wall with him. He proceeded to inform me of the entire history of the valley and how Sangiovese came to pass and what areas were more important etc. I learned about his soil composition and he pointed out all the cities and wine regions to me in Tuscany.
We talked about the history of wine and how Sangiovese, Pinot Noir and Nebbiolo are all genetically related. We also discussed how these three grape varieties are the most pure, delicate and noble of all grape varieties in the world (with which I could not agree more). He educated me on the Romans and the history of Sangiovese across Italy. His pride was evident in his vineyard, but also in his land.
Mori originally worked as an attorney as he came from a long lineage of attorneys. Despite this, he always possessed a desire to make Italian wine. More than likely, he discovered his love of wine from his father who purchased the vineyard when he was only 13 years old. We discussed his passion for winemaking and also respecting the tradition and history of his property. It became clear to me that this was a man who enjoyed teaching so I became like a sponge and soaked in every single piece of information he fed me.
Alessandro was both humble (he sincerely enjoys exposing people to something new) and a little cocky, possessing the ego of Napoleon perhaps. I quickly discovered why as his wines back up every bit of his pomp and circumstance. I learned about the age of his vineyard from his single vineyard below the church known as Madonna Delle Grazie. This famed vineyard which has received 100 points on two occasions along with Casanova Di Neri from Giacomo Neri. It is important to mention that his wines are stylistically different that many of the more “modern” style Brunellos and my personal palate prefers Il Marroneto for its purity and balance. After the lecture was over we moved inside his old farmhouse which was a resting place for the weary and used by the old nuns and monks who occupied the property hundreds of years ago. Montalcino sat along the old Francigena road so was traversed by many different people on their way to Rome.
The farmhouse, like many Tuscan older estates, was converted into a winery little by little so that the barrels or Botti were placed in the adjacent stall to sheep or donkeys. In the 1960s-80s many of the Brunello producers were making their wines in native chestnut barrels. He still uses traditional Botti but oak not chestnut. The temperature was perfect inside his cellar and everything was done with minimal intervention resulting in the highest quality Italian wine one might imagine from Montalcino. He was meticulous and quick to point out every detail within his cellar and why it resulted in a more perfect wine.
Perfect tension between fruit, acidity and tannins results in an impeccably balanced wine. We shared a few laughs as we tasted through every single one of his barrels and he gave me two bottles of the soon-to-be released 2016 Brunellos. So perfect in fact are these wines that after 1 week of being open at about 90 degrees they tasted even better! His wines are truly magnificent and probably one of the most complete wines I have tasted in my life from Tuscany. During our conversation, he began a drill sergeant type of approach to asking me about the purpose of different tools such as barrels in winemaking only to be displeased with my answer and tell me “wrong” like a teacher from school. He truly enjoyed this student to teacher aspect of the visit and I realized that this too may have been the approach his father or mentors adopted with him growing up. I had the opportunity to meet his son Jacobo and it was clearly evident that his son was extremely happy working in the winery as well. I can see a GREAT future ahead with him in the decades to come. His son had a great heart that was filled with authenticity and warmth.
If you haven’t had an opportunity to try his wines I would strongly recommend to do so ASAP as they are going up in price daily and highly allocated. They are imported into the USA by WineBow Additionally, these are one of the few wines that have actually received 100 points from here in Montalcino. Yes, Dr. Mori is a proud, boastful man, but his wines back this up each and every time. I my opinion he might make the best Brunello in Montalcino for its purity and balance.
Salute! Here is to you my friend, Dr. Alessandro Mori! I wouldn’t have you any other way.