Up a steep, winding track to the west of the hilltop town of San Gimignano sits the Fattoria di Fugnano. The estate was originally bought by the current owner’s grandfather who fell in love with the area and wanted a property here. Back in those days Fugnano made acceptable bulk wine, but on the passing of her grandfather, and given her parent’s desire to sell up, Laura decided to leave her studies at university and take over the estate. Her first vintage was 2002 and she has never looked back since!
|Laura checking the grapes on their way to the crusher.
Today Fugnano has land of 200 hectares which are a mix of vineyards (26ha) olive groves and woodland. The vines are mostly Sangiovese (red) and Vernaccia (white) though there is a sprinkling of other varieties including Merlot and Syrah. The whole area is now a protected UNESCO site with considerable restrictions enforced on buildings and renovations. The undulating hills provide various different microclimates all of which require separate management. Most vineyards sit at 350m above sea level. Wild boar inhabit the adjoining woodland and the vines are historically trained quite high out of their reach though nowadays the vines also have the protection of a small electric fence!
2011 has been a very hot year and the grapes ripened early. Merlot and Syrah were the first to be picked, followed by the Vernaccia. The younger, earlier-ripening, Sangiovese followed and finally the older Sangiovese grapes were picked.
The 2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano is pale straw in colour and has a distinctive aromatic and slightly herbaceous nose. It receives a long, slow fermentation which is followed by a short time in French oak to make the most of its flavour. It is dry, gentle and subtle in the mouth. I have to be honest and admit that Vernaccia tends to be a variety that I have struggled to like, producing what can be rather unremarkable dry white, but Fugnano’s is more concentrated and has a pleasantly “sappy” feel to it and a crisp, dry finish. Its main problem is not in the quality of the wine, but rather in the wealth of competition that exists at its £10+ a bottle price level.
|The towers of San Gimignano dominate the view from Fattoria di Fugnano
The 2008 Vernaccia di San Gimignano Riserva is darker in colour suggesting a higher degree of concentration and perhaps more oak. The nose is a combination of herbs with a slightly resin-like edge. It has more about it than the straight Vernaccia and, very briefly, my mind skipped to white Rioja. The trouble is that as a variety Vernaccia seems to promise so much with its looks and nose which perhaps leaves one expecting more from the palate in return. Fugnano have made a good job of these though.
The DOCG for red wines here is Chianti Colli Senesi and the 2009 Chianti Colli Senesi from Fattoria di Fugnano is garnet red in colour with a fresh cherry nose. It is a blend of Sangiovese, Canaiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia (very much the traditional Chianti blend though Chianti Classico does not permit the use of white varieties any longer). In the mouth this is fresh and juicy without the game & leather notes so often associated with Sangiovese. It is immediately approachable and has a ripe cherry character which makes it very drinkable! At less that a tenner it’s cracking stuff.
Also tasted though not available in the UK:
2006 Toscana Rosso “Donna Gina”
Made from 100% Sangiovese this has a long maceration and is then aged in oak for 8 months. Its colour is a clean ruby garnet red and there is a textbook Sangiovese nose with notes of violet. In the mouth there are hints of ripe cherry and barely noticeable oak.
2006 Toscana Rosso “Legami”
A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Sangiovese. This is much denser and darker with a mint-and-eucalyptus edge to the nose. In the mouth it’s quite firm and rich but with obvious ripe hedgerow fruit and a dash of vanilla oak. The tannins are well integrated but this could do with another year or so in bottle.
We can obtain the following wines from Fugnano should you be interested – please contact us for details:
2010 Vernaccia di San Gimignano £10.75
2009 Chianti Colli Senesi £9.75
Vintages and prices correct as at 13th October 2011