As I said last year in our first release - there is nothing more exciting for us than introducing a new estate, particularly if it is one that traces its history back to 1290. By “new” I meant re-born, re-focused.
Brunello di Montalcino has always been a region we have kept close tabs on. In Ridolfi what we have found is a very specific, quality minded estate with finesse at the heart of what they do. The number of wines is logical, each having its place. The property’s trajectory is upwards, and at some pace.
A quick refresher on how the relationship started: first, we were approached by Arber Shabani (Sales Manager) for possible representation in Hong Kong where we proudly represent both Soldera and Il Marroneto. Thibaut Mathieu our French Italophile MD in Asia kindly set up a call and tasting with Arber at the estate. Before we knew it, we were having a Zoom tasting together; Arber in Montalcino, the Hong Kong team at their office and me in London - all very “Covid” friendly. Then, with a chink in the armour of Covid restrictions appearing, I was on my way to Italy – this trip was also followed up by a visit in September 2022 with Thibaut!
With Arber already having visited Singapore, London, north of England and Scotland as well as Thibaut and I having tasted from botti in the barrel cellar (where 4 different coopers are used), it is safe to say the whole company is rather taken with the estate. I just hope I can convey the sense of the excitement the team and I feel around these wines.
Enjoy the offer and most of all – get involved!!
Will Hargrove, Head of Fine Wine
History and the estate
The estate’s history traces back to 1290. Three Ridolfi families stem from an ancient Tuscan lineage. One of these – the Ridolfi of Borgo – originated the Sienese branch called “dalla Contrada”. That is the Ridolfi family that gives their name and crest to this estate in Montalcino.
The estate was bought in 2011 by Giuseppe Valter Peretti, owner of the Rocchetto estate in Larciano in Chianti, about twenty kilometres south of Pistoia. 2014 Gianni Maccari joined as winemaker after a long time (14 years) working at the esteemed Poggio di Sotto. He is now joined by his son Filippo who has just finished his winemaking and vineyard studies. In 2021, this estate was named by the Gambero Rosso as one of Italy’s “up and coming estates”.
The Estate is situated in the locality of “Mercatali”, which during the 5th and 6th centuries marked the hub of a large annual market. In fact, a three-floor section made of stone that dates back to that era is still preserved in one of the farmhouses. It rises on the slope of a hill in the very heart of Tuscany, 300 metres above sea level near the famous “Brunello Road”.
The estate comprises 30 hectares of land, 11.4 of which dedicated to Brunello vines, 6.5 hectares to Chianti Colli Senesi and 1 hectare to Rosso di Montalcino, plus 700 olive trees of the Correggiolo variety.
All the Ridolfi vineyards are on the North-East slope of the Montalcino hill. Medium texture soils rich in clay, marine fossils and, in the highest part, Alberese (weathered sandstone). The clones used are mainly suited for long ageing. Vines that are more than 15 years of age are trained with the spurred cordon system using the two-bud pruning with four spurs technique. Vines planted after 2013 are trained using the simple Guyot technique. The bunches are thinned three times throughout the season: during the setting phase, the véraison phase and towards the end of the ripening. Full organic certification is well underway.
In 2014 the Ridolfi wine cellar was completely renovated and extended, while respecting the original configuration of the village of Mercatale. All the grapes are picked by hand and selected firstly in the vineyard and then in the cellar on a roller table after being destemmed. The berries are not pressed but fermented whole in controlled temperature stainless steel tanks that never exceed 27°C. Only native yeasts are used.
The high quality of the grapes allows a very long maceration period: at least 60 days. The aim is to gently extract the colour and polyphenols, using only pumping over and delestage operations (around four times for each tank, spread out over 24 hours). Malolactic fermentation is carried out in steel tanks. Each wine is raised a little differently in terms of timings, so I have put the differences against each wine in the tasting notes.
WHEN AND HOW TO DRINK THE WINES OF RIDOLFI
Personally, I feel the biggest missed opportunity occurs when people assume these are bold, rich wines that “have” to be aged for extended time.
Brunello especially when aged in botti rather than barriques gives wines that are gorgeous at almost any stage of their evolution. Tasting from botti convinces me of that. They will age exceptionally well but to not drink these wines in youth, as well as with age, is an error. The Rosso offers a real chance to get a feel for the estate but should certainly not be viewed as “Junior”.
Whether to decant or not is often a personal choice. There is, until the wines are at least decade old, no practical (sediment) reason to decant. I would serve from the bottle but pour early and enjoy the wine developing in the glass. As I always find myself saying, it is better to start with the wine a shade cool, 13-14 degrees.
In terms of glassware, I would say that a relatively rounded bowl works best, but both Bordeaux and Burgundy shape are suitable, slight personal preference for the latter.
2019, 2020 & 2021 is certainly an exciting trio. The 2020 vintage is one that shouts loudly of elegance and pleasure. It was a warm and relatively dry vintage but one where there were, crucially, cooler nights which helped to preserve freshness and offer balance to an abundant natural ripeness.
ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2020
I truly wish the production here was so much bigger. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented in stainless steel tanks with about 50 days of maceration. The ageing is 12 months in large Slavonian oak barrels with a capacity of 25-35 hl, and then at least 4 months of bottle ageing. Translucent, almost raspberry red in colour to the core. The fruit jumps out of the glass, redcurrant and other fresh red fruits and real lift. Lovely open texture with good livening acidity. Some spice on the mid-palate. Refined and fresh with good length. Awesome value. 14.5%
Corney & Barrow Score 17
Recommended drinking from 2023–2026
A relatively cool and showery start to the season turned extremely warm and dry. This dryness and warmth continued into the summer and it promised an early harvest although thankfully the beginning of September did bring some rain to add an element of plushness to the small crop. Hands on producers with rigorous selection (as here) are the ones to follow.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2017
Fermented and macerated for 60 days in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 26 degrees. The ageing is 36 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and then at least 12 months of bottle ageing. Clear translucent colour again with red and tawny. Wonderful lifted expressive nose. Good red fruit, some more slightly degraded fruit. A really nice succulent character. Complex and long, a good bit of grip. Some tar and warmer fruits with a certain easy sweetness. Really very good. 14%
Corney & Barrow Score 17
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 - 18
Recommended drinking from 2023–2031
£85/CASE OF 1 MAGNUM, IN BOND UK
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO “DONNA REBECCA” 2017
The best selection of grapes which are picked, fermented and aged separately. Winemaking Vinification Intégrale process with full berries placed in specific small barrels expressly made by Tonnellerie Baron. Fermented and macerated for 90 days at a controlled temperature of 26 degrees. Daily bâtonnage through barrel rotation. 30 months in barriques and 18 months in bottle. Very much a different “beast”. A fair bit more colour as expected, still translucent and bright. Warmer spices and herbs, full mulled fruits but not lacking precision. This is a contemplative wine for wallowing in. Iodine, menthol and almost a kick of quinine with a little dash of coconut. The tannins are rounder and fuller. A wine for the hedonist. Sweet attack allied to good acidity. 15% - to be allocated
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 +
Recommended drinking from 2024–2032
2016 started with a high level of rain in January and February bolstering water reserves. Budbreak started in mid-March. April was cool but dry. The end of April into May was rainy, more than average then June continued to be wet. Luckily, temperatures were cooler than usual, which slowed the growth of the vines. This, along with breeze, kept potential rot at bay. 2016 had very even temperatures and no dramatic swings, other than the strong, healthy, shifts between day and night. Late summer and early autumn continued with moderate temperatures and dry conditions. There was a large rainstorm in mid-September but this did not pose too big a problem as producers in warmer sub regions could pick just before these rains, others could wait for calm to return.
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO RISERVA “MERCATALE” 2016
Fermented and macerated for 60 days in stainless steel tanks at a temperature of 26 degrees. The ageing is 55 months in large Slavonian oak barrels and then at least 12 months of bottle ageing. Very pale, tawny more than anything. A little dash of lifted mint freshness. In the margins I wrote “matter and elegance…be patient” texture and deep fruited freshness. A resinous intensity strikes me and belies the pale, elegant colour. A real sweetness to the nose, a lift then a slight tang of mint and some herbs. “Refined pungency” my notes read. More weight comes through on the palate, succulent. 14% - to be allocated
Corney & Barrow Score 17.5 -18+
Recommended drinking from 2023–2035+
- ABV 14.0%
Drink now / lay down
2022 - 2026
- ABV 15.0%
Drink now / lay down
2022 - 2028
- ABV 14.0%
Drink now / lay down
2022 - 2029