Mastrojanni, Montalcino – They made Sangiovese big

Elegant and memorable wines from Tuscany’s indigenous variety, from the Mastrojanni Winery.

From the kitchen table to the world of salons

In the middle of the 19th century, Clemente Santi, a local pharmacist, came up with the idea that he would make a noble wine from Sangiovese that could be aged for a hundred years. In the end, it was his grandson, Ferruccio Biondi-Santi, who worked out the recipe for ennobling the wine characterised by its lively acidity and sticky tannins. The two key elements were separating the Sangiovese Grosso, or Brunello clone, and the introduction of the several year period of barrel ageing. The first Brunello di Montalcino, as we know it today, was made in 1888, and until the end of the Second World War, only three other vintages of it were released onto the market. For the international breakthrough, it had to wait until as long as the last decade of the 20th century.  

 

Montalcino: from a sleepy wine village to a wine capital

During the last two decades, Montalcino has become a wine capital firmly on the radar of tourists and investors alike. For the 5,000 locals, there are two million tourists annually. In 1967, one hectare of vineyard cost 900 euros in today’s money; these days, the average price is 500,000 euros for the same size. Success has also had its pitfalls: a few big wineries tried to take the lean and uniquely aromatic Brunello in the direction of a more popular style, and to do this they used means that were not permitted. The experience ended in a spectacular flop and as the ending point in the fight between the traditionalists and the populists, the wine community even strengthened the ban on other varieties in the case of the Rossos. According to the current regulations, Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino are both 100% Sangiovese. Brunello can be put onto the market on the fifth year following the harvest and after a minimum of two years of barrel ageing. In the case of the Rossos, one year has to pass after the harvest and barrel ageing is not compulsory.    

 

 

The winery that introduced Montalcino: Mastrojanni

In 1957, Gabriele Mastrojanni, a lawyer from Rome, purchased the territory that lies in the southeast corner of Montalcino, where there was no grape growing at all back then. In 1992, Andrea Machetti was appointed as the director of the estate. When in 2008, the winery was up for sale, it was photographer Francesco Illy, the eldest of the grandchildren who ran the coffee group Illy, who convinced his brothers to jump on the opportunity. Francesco had been a fan of the Mastrojanni wines, and had even built a small cellar in the vicinity of the Mastrojanni estate and had often asked for advice in oenological questions from Machetti. After the change in ownership, Machetti remained the estate manager, the cellar was modernised, but the style remained unchanged: faithful to the spirit of the place and the variety, the Mastrojanni wines are still elegant and taut with long ageing potential.