Friday, October 19, 2018
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A taste of Montalcino in the Philippines

Giancarlo Pacenti, considered the best winemaker in the appellation of Brunello di Montalcino and son of founder Siro, gives the author a tour of the Siro Pacenti wine cellar in Tuscany.

Giancarlo Pacenti is considered the best winemaker in the appellation of Brunello di Montalcino.

So when Alex Ong of Artisan Cellar and Fine Foods (who created Artisan Cellar Door on Pasong Tamo Extension) mentioned I could visit him during my last trip to Florence, I begged my sister Goldee, who fears no roads no matter how majestic, to drive me to the Pacenti wine estate in the Montalcino region, an easy two-hour drive from the Florence city center.

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Siro Pacenti

We were met by Barbara Torriti, the charming lady in charge of Siro Pacenti’s exports (meaning she determines whether the Manila market is ready to welcome their wines), as Giancarlo was still in the field.

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He comes in a few minutes later, with mud on his boots and rain on his jacket, after personally checking on their grapes.

The weather has become crazy, they explained, so even if it was just early May and should be spring going into summer, the weather was dry, chilly at times and with occasional downpours.

Never mind the weather, I said. I was just incredibly impressed at how hands-on they were with their wines, with no less than the owner of the estate tending to the field.

Giancarlo is the son of Siro Pacenti, who founded the label and planted vineyards in the family estate in 1971. He is a mathematician and physicist. But in 1988, he decided to join his father in the business and started in bottling and production.

In the 90s, he went to Bordeaux and worked in a vineyard. Today, he is recognized as an innovator in wine production in Italy, investing in technology while respecting age-old wine-making traditions.

Montalcino: 250 winemakers

To be considered the best winemaker in Montalcino is not an easy feat, considering there are over 250 producers in the region, each one giving their bottles their own character and history.

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This is probably why Giancarlo took the time to study the agricultural and manufacturing philosophies behind winemaking in Bordeaux before becoming the master winemaker of his father’s fields.

Today, he goes to the extent of studying the evolution of the soils, with the help of his French professor.

“Each plot is different,” explained Barbara. “The rain is different, the soil may be different so the harvest will be different. The same grape that you plant in one plot can result in a very different wine if you plant it in another.”

Giancarlo personally decides what seed to plant and when to harvest in each plot of their land.

At Siro Pacenti, after harvest and the tedious process of the selection of grapes both by hand and by machine (over 200 grape berries are personally selected by staff of around 10 people), they are also very particular about sanitation and control while engaging in the three-week process of fermentation.

Under the Tuscan sun: Siro Pacenti wines

Brunello: Noblest expression

But in the end, Giancarlo shared, the objective was really to bring out the best expression of the grapes.

The Brunello is considered the noblest expression of the Sangiovese grape.

Impressively, Sira Pacenti is highly respected when it comes to Brunello.

They offer Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Pelagrilli, masterfully produced by Giancarlo by joining together the grapes of their main estate Pelagrilli, in the northeast of Montalcino, and their other vineyard Piancornello, in the south area near Sant’Angelo in Colle.

They also produce Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Vecchie Vigne (Vecchie Vigne means old vine, referring to that part of the estate where the vineyard is 35 years old).

And hard to procure is their Brunello di Montalcino DOCG Riserva PS, with its grapes coming only from a special, specific 2-hectare plot.

Half of this plot was planted by Siro Pacenti himself.

The Brunello of Siro Pacenti is known for its elegance and for its great capacity for aging, improving considerably year after year.

The 2009 Brunello, for example, received excellent reviews for its aroma, complex yet elegant structure, perfectly integrated acidity and round tannins, with a dark and fruity expression that’s full in the end.

The 2016, shared Giancarlo, was also an excellent year.

After reading up, I think the best to buy at this time, however, would be the 2011, which even James Suckling rated 97 points, describing it as “a very muscular red with plum, blueberry, walnut and dried mushroom character on both the nose and palate. Full and chewy. Fabulous fruit and intensity. Amazing quality for the vintage. Wow. Better in 2017.”

Rosso di Montalcino

Aside from the Brunello, Siro Pacenti’s Rosso di Montalcino is likewise excellent.

“People in the past thought that Rosso is the poor brother of Brunello,” Barbara said. “But Rosso is also a good wine. We produce our Rosso from the same grapes used to produce our Brunello, the Sangiovese. The only difference is that the Brunello is DOCG and the Rosso is DOC. So the Rosso we can release after two years, while [with] the Brunello, we need to wait five years.”

While some consider the Rosso a good everyday wine, the quality of the affordable Rosso at Siro Pacenti is good enough to be considered for special occasions.

I have to admit I am quite new to Italian wines, having been more exposed to French wines in the past years.

This visit to Siro Pacenti has given me a deeper appreciation for Brunello and Rosso di Montalcino, which I am happy to share is available here in the Philippines at Artisan Cellar Door.

I’ll pair their wine with Italian cheeses, pastas and braesola available at iTrulli at LRI Building on N. Garcia (Reposo) … and—voila!—We’re ready to Mambo Italiano!

Siro Pacenti is available at Artisan Cellar Door. 2276 Narra Bldg., Chino Roces, Pasong Tamo Ext., Makati. For inquiries, call (02) 5217396, 0920-9218870.

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TAGS: Alex Ong, Artisan Cellar and Fine Foods, Artisan Cellar Door, Brunello di Montalcino, Giancarlo Pacenti, winemaker
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