I have recently become aware of an amazing new reality within Tuscan wine, name of Podere Fortuna. This relatively new venture, which started in 2001, ought not to rate highly in my book, as they completely do without any native Tuscan (or Italian, for that matter) varieties. They have had the amazing cheek to plant only chardonnay and pinot noir, they use barriques extensively and they make no excuses for either grave transgression. At the very least, I ought to be in two minds about this, but I must admit that I have had to surrender completely and unconditionally to the sheer quality of the wines from there. Sorry, and how am I ever to regain credibility? On the other hand, I have to call it as I see it…
There are good reasons why the wines from Fortuna are fantastic. The following sets out the extent of my brief research on the subject.
Podere Fortuna lies some 25 kilometres north of Florence, nestled among the Mugello hills, which forms a large natural amphitheatre at the foot of the Appennines that mark the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Fortuna was one of 12 properties belonging to Castello di Cafaggiolo, the historic centre for the Mugello holdings of the De’ Medici family, which actually originated in this area. Wine production at Podere Fortuna is documented in the Medici Archives to have taken place at least since 1465, when the property belonged to Lorenzo the Great.
The property extends to 31 hectares sited between the banks of the Sieve river and the first Appennine hillsides at an altitude of some 250 metres. Exposure varies from south-east over south to south-west and the climate is characterized by being much cooler than the rest of Tuscany, with the vegetative cycle being some two weeks later compared to the Chianti area, and with thermal excursions that can reach 20 degrees C during summer days.
The vineyards are planted at high density with clones from Burgundy. The famous Andrea Paoletti is the vineyard manager and winemaker, and he employs integrated vineyard management. Red wines are made with an initial 48 hours of pre-fermentation soaking, fermentation takes place in conical wooden vats, using only naturally occurring yeasts, and normally lasts 15-25 days. The wines are then racked into barriques, French oak only, where it stays for 12 months.
I have not tasted the white wine from Fortuna. I have tasted reds from three ranges, starting with “entry-level” Coldaia, moving on to Fortuni, and ending up with top-of-the-range MCDLXV (which stands for 1465). I have by no means tasted everything that Fortuna has ever made, but I think I have tasted sufficiently to make a fairly informed judgement.
The wines, in short, are nothing short of spectacular. The following represents notes from tastings at home as well as at Carlo Merolli’s tasting at La Vela on 30 August 2012. As usual, no colour notes.
Enchanting, juicy nose with raspberries, strawberries, sweet spices, light forest floor. Soft, quite light, elegant and juicy in the mouth. OK length with fragrant light red berries, sweet spices, minerals and hint of forest floor. Not an out-and-out great wine, but elegant and very charming, very drinkable.
Slightly closed, but delicious, charming and juicy nose with cherries, raspberries and a touch of spice. Light and elegant in the mouth, fresh, dry, light tannin. Fine length, sweet berries, dark spice, minerals, hints of forest floor and truffles. Still quite young, but promises great drinkability within fairly short.
Delicious, charming, fragrant and intense full-on pinot noir nose, with cherries, raspberries, sweet forest floor, sweet spices, sweet barnyard, minerals and truffles; complex and classy. Round, lithe, elegant and stylish in the mouth, fine acidity and fine, sweet tannins. Very long, fragrant, complex, sweet and delicious, with intense red berry fruit, minerals, flowers, hints of tar, forest floor and leather. Great wine, world class pinot noir, very charming, yet does not succumb to mere charm, has backbone and a sense of terroir.
Closed, but deep and promising young nose with cherries, forest floor, dark spice, light horseradish (!). Dark, light to medium weight in the mouth, juicy, some sweet tannin. Long, complex, with hint of sweet barrique, tar, cherries, berry sweetness, sweet spices, minerals and flowers. Stilll very young, but very promising. I expect this will develop into something quite like the 2007.
Deep, complex, fine, intense and elegant nose, with cherries, minerals, flowers, marked forest floor and sweet oriental spices. Medium weight, elegant and very well balanced in the mouth, considerable concentration, soft fruit, fine acidity, firm but finely grained sweet tannin. Very long, concentrated, intense, complex, beautiful balance/elegance, cherries, forest floor, sweet oriental spices, touch of barrique is exceptionally well integrated, tapers off with tannic hints of tobacco and forest floor. This is a tremendous wine, still very young, but destined for true greatness.
Pinot noir, of course, is often seen as the holy grail of winedom. In Italy, the goal of making great pinot noir has been elusive, with many of the country’s pinot noir vineyards being planted with champenois clones for sparkling wine production, and what remains of burgundian clones rendering frequently rather disappointing wines. The wines of Podere Fortuna for me represent the first truly successful range of pinot noir wines in Italy. They have truly nailed it. These are world-class wines with great complexity, finesse and charm, and I can see this reaching even greater heights with experience and increasing vine age. So get in while you can, these wines are destined to become unbearably expensive in short order.