Fonterenza is an old farmhouse in the small village of Colle in south Montalcino, and takes its name from a spring that flows from the hill under the house. It is now owned by twin sisters Margarita and Francesca Padovani, whose family bought the estate in 1975. The sisters are originally from Milan, but spent much of their youth here and fell in love with it. In 1997 they moved from Milan for good, initially to produce olive oil at Fonterenza (as they continue to do) from their five hectares of olive orchards. But they soon became interesting in wine production as well. The first vines were planted here in 1999, starting off with organic methods before moving on to biodynamic principles. They increased the number of their vines in 2002 and 2005, and now have 4.2 hectares of Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Along the way, they have been helped to develop their abilities with the help of winemaker friends, such as Thierry Puzelat and Pierre Overnoy, leading the sisters to create some truly great Brunellos.
The Padovanis say that they are constantly looking for new ways to balance their work with their exceptional natural environment. They describe this respect for nature as “a duty to future generations”. As they try new methods to reach these goals, their wines vary by vintage, affected by the nuances of their natural habitat.
The vineyards are on the hills sloping down from Il Greppo towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate, standing at 420 to 450 metres above sea level, and bathed all day in sunlight. They are surrounded by thick woodlands that offer protection from the weather. The vines are also swept with sea breezes from the southeast and winds travelling from the north and northeast. There are a wide variety of soil types for the vines, such as limestone, crumbly marl, quartzite and clay. This mixture of soil types leads to a high level of complexity of wine. The local abundance of water is also vital in years of drought.
The vines are left untreated by potentially harmful synthetic chemicals, with any diseases tackled with natural treatments, such sulphur and copper, with camomile, nettle, willow and other herbs used to prevent mildew.
When the grapes are harvested – manually, in tune with the lunar and biodynamic calendars – they are taken to the farmhouse for de-stemming, before they are put into barrels or vats. Fermentation occurs due to the indigenous yeasts found on the grape skins, without any further additives or unnecessary physical manipulation. They are then aged in barrels of oak, tonneaux or small barriques.
With this amount of care and attention, no wonder the wines of Fonterenza evoke such clear, exciting expressions of the land from which they came.
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