La Fiorita Estate: History, Savoir Faire, Passion & Style
Anna Caidan meets up with Natalie Oliveros, wine producer and owner of La Fiorita Estate in Montalcino, Italy
What could you tell me about the history of La Fiorita?
‘La Fiorita, which means blooming flower or flower in bloom started in 1992 by three friends, including Roberto Cipresso, a rising winemaker at the time. It was established in 1992, and the first vintage was in 1993, there is a three-star Michelin restaurant in Florence called Enoteca Pinchiorri, and when they released the first vintage, Enoteca Pinchiorri bought the whole lot! The beauty of what these three men did, was find two incredible plots of land, Montalcino is like a magic mountain, and I say that because there are so many different soils, and Sangiovese, the grape variety of Brunello di Montalcino, and it really is a match made in heaven, and it reacts so differently in all these soils, and all the different microclimates, and of course there’s the instinct of the winemaker. I came on board, in 2011, and I started a little journey through Italy, discovering some not so well-known grapes, to make a line of wine called Sogno. My first vintage was 2004, made from Cesanese, Sangiovese and Montepulciano from Tuscany, and on to Campania, made Sogno Due, which was a Falanghina, and on to Piedmont, made Sogno Tre, from one of the more feminine grapes of Italy; Barbera. We picked the grapes at three different times during the harvest, and then blended back together. But I didn’t own anything, I would only buy a portion for that vintage. Not only was La Fiorita Roberto’s original baby, but he was a consultant of wines. So with him I made these other wines, and I decided I wanted to make a Sogno Vero, a true dream, somewhere to call home. Out of the blue, the phone rang, and it was Roberto saying that he wanted to sell La Fiorita, would I be willing to buy them out. So my whole journey came full circle right back to La Fiorita and Brunello di Montalcino.’
What is your favourite step in the winemaking process?
‘Gosh, it’s so alive, and within each year I learn something more, and I become a part of something more. My first hands-on experience at La Fiorta, well first was bottling, but the one that really touched my heart was the harvest of 2012, from a vineyard called Pian Bossolino. I was pretty much in the way, because there’s a team there, who are so efficient, and then, there I was checking all the grapes, picking all the ripe ones, getting in the way, but the smell of the fresh cut leaves, and sitting under the olive tree, knowing I’m a part of something was extraordinary, so I loved that. But it’s also wonderful to see the buds when they first come out, but the problem is, they sometimes get too hot too soon, and you’re just wandering what is this harvest going to be like? Even in the most difficult years, with all the love we give, will make it great, sometimes its God-given, but when the buds first start showing themselves is really quite special.’
What is the secret to making your wines?
‘First of all, there is a team of excellence. There are my cellar boys, Vincenzo is a young oenologist, I have a consultant of wine, but Vincenzo will make an extraordinary winemaker one day. Michele does all the work, Luigi who really is the rock of La Fiorita, Francois, the manager. And I think the secret is the care and the love and the passion that goes into it. We don’t make wine according to what the press says, we make it according to the grape. And the secret is to extract the most from all these diverse soils with a lot of care to make a unique Brunello.’
What is your best memory since starting at La Fiorita?
‘I guess that first harvest. I just sat under that tree, completely overwhelmed, but I just knew that I had something that my son could be proud of.’
… and your most challenging?
‘The 2014 harvest, the whole year actually, was challenging. There was a lot of rain and a lot of rot and the most challenging part for me, being a dainty little girl, were the fruit flies! The rot was so bad, and I was so afraid it was going to be awful, but you just have to cut through that stuff and pick the best grapes.’
How would you define your wines in three words?
‘Succulent, seductive and tantalizing!’
How do your wines differ from others in the region?
‘It’s funny because when I first came on-board, the wines were made in a certain way, and I wanted to make them a little more in a traditional style. And how they’re different is that we have four vineyards, and in each plot there are so many different soils, so my oenologist, they call him the king of Sangiovese, and he wants to extract the best expression from the earth, rather than the most expression from the grape.’
How are your wines best served?
‘It’s kind of a guilty pleasure drinking them on its own, or with friends. I often pull samples, and instead of selling them, I often drink them with my friends. But it depends on the vintage. Some vintages will be tight and have a lot of age ability and potential, so I don’t normally say you need to decant wines, but if you are drinking something young, from an excellent year, it is a good idea to do so. But the 2014 vintage, for example, it’s so easy and approachable to drink now, there’s no need to save it. But its awesome with pasta, steak, but also chicken and fish! I once had it paired with swordfish, and it was incredible!’
‘La Fiorita is an estate in Tuscany, Italy, driven by the constant evolution of its know-how. This property has been able for decades to enhance its terroir through the distinctiveness of its wines. Brunello di Montalcino 2015 has an intense ruby red colour, aromas of ripe forest fruits, tobacco and leather. Ample on the palate, silky and persistent revealing notes of fruit on the finish.’ Anna Caidan